Report and video: EU Petition Committee discussion – 15 June 22
The Chair of the Committee on Petitions, M.D. Montserrat opened the discussion by introducing the Managing Director of the International Au Pair Association (IAPA), Patricia Brunner.
Patricia Brunner´s speech on behalf of IAPA
In her speech, Patricia highlighted the devastating situation for young people interested in going to the UK as au pairs or on other youth exchange programmes.
“Since 01 January 21 many young people from the EU have been left with no viable visa option to enter the UK as au pairs or on other cultural exchange programmes such as internships, work and travel or volunteer work.”
She reminded the EU representatives that even though the UK had denied free travel for young people to participate in youth exchange programmes like au pair the British government had shown to be open to another solution: ” However, in various statements, the UK Home Office has expressed its willingness to extend its Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) Tier 5 to other countries, or even the EU as a whole, on a reciprocal agreement principle.”
She pointed out that, at the moment, there was an imbalance in reciprocity as UK citizens can become au pairs in many EU countries whereas the route for EU youth to the UK is blocked. The few options that do exist are mainly for enrolled college and university students, but not for other young people seeking a cultural exchange experience during a gap year abroad.
She reminded the politicians of the importance of cultural youth exchange as an integral part of peace and understanding between nations, and ended her speech with an urgent request: “We hope that the EU and its member states will speak to the British government on behalf of their youth and do their utmost to open the doors again to each other´s young people.”
A full transcript of Patricia’s speech can be found here
Statement from the EU Commission
After Patricia’s speech, a representative of the EU Commission delivered a statement on behalf of the Commission on the topic.
The EU Commission always tried to include a free mobility option, especially for youth, within the agreement. However, the UK had refused to implement opportunities for youth mobility between the EU and the UK:
“In the absence of specific provisions in the trade and corporation agreement, the parties domestic rules on short stay, travel and mobility of longer durations apply to all third-country nationals, irrespective of nationality.”
At the moment the Commission is not recommending any new negotiations but will stick to the agreement with the UK that is in place. However, the EU has only recently decided to explore new options for young people:
“In this process, the commission will test different options to open up possibilities for young third-country nationals and young Europeans to live, travel, work and gain new experiences and skills in third countries while fostering cultural exchanges.”
In particular, one of the aspects that will be explored will be the possibility of establishing such youth mobility schemes based on reciprocity with third countries.
Statement MEP Mr. L. Vincze
(Group of the European People’s Party)
Mr Vince stressed that the topic of the petition had been one that had been raised many times in negotiations with the UK. He regretted that the UK denied integrating free movement of youth for cultural exchange like au pair into the Brexit agreement.
One of the aspects to be examined will be, in particular, the possibility of establishing reciprocal programmes with third countries to promote the mobility of young people.
The EU was and is very open to establishing movement options between the EU and the UK. He agreed with the Commission’s position. Attracting skills and talent to the EU may open new opportunities. He recommended that the petition stay open, and that the PETI Committee should give strong support to this initiative to explore new youth mobility options.
Statement MEP Dr.D. Ruiz Devesa
(Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EU Parliament)
Dr Ruiz Devize supported the comments of his previous speakers. He confirmed that the EU is generally open to youth mobility opportunities and will support them. But he also pointed out that the EU should not be the one begging for a solution if the UK government shows no interest.
He, therefore, recommended being patient as there may be a change in attitude e.g. with a different government or leadership. In which case, the EU should be open to negotiations.
Statement MEP Ms U. Müller
(Group Renew Europe)
Ms Müller very much supported IAPA´s petition expressing her disappointment over the fact that there is no more movement option and proper cultural exchange for young people between the EU and the UK.
“It’s only through culture and exchanges that we can maintain a good relationship. In our motion for a resolution in October, 2021, we’ve made this very clear.”
She agreed that a reciprocal Youth Mobility Scheme could be an option to reopen the doors for these kind of exchanges. Also Ms Müller asked to keep the petition open and that the PETI Committee shall regularly monitor the developments and receive feedback from the EU Commission and Committees in charge.
The Chair Ms Montserrat thanked the commenting PETI Committee Members and the petitioner. She confirmed that the petition is to stay open.
“We’ll, ensure that, this petition reaches both the Council and the Commission and both Council and Commission should be aware of what European citizens are requesting.”
The PETI Committee will wait for the written reply from the EU Commission. As the negotiations with the UK are ongoing, the AFET (Foreign Affairs Committee), responsible for negotiations with the UK, will be asked to keep the youth mobility aspect in mind in its conversations with its UK counterpart.
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- The full recording of the PETI meeting can be found on the website of the European Parliament: