2011 EU-China Year of Youth: new horizons for cooperation and dialogue

Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth and Wang Xiao, President of the All-China Youth Federation, will open the EU-China Year of Youth in Brussels today, in the presence of 200 young people from the EU and China. They include the EU-China youth ambassador, Britta Heidemann, Germany's 2008 Olympic fencing champion in Beijing. Commissioner Vassiliou and Mr Wang Xiao will sign a joint declaration establishing a policy dialogue in youth affairs. The EU-China Year of Youth aims to strengthen and expand people-to-people contacts, intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and cooperation. It offers opportunities for young Europeans and Chinese to meet, exchange and learn from each other during 2011 and beyond.

Androulla Vassiliou declared: "The EU-China Year of Youth will open up new horizons for our young people by enabling them to share experiences and learn from each other. I hope that such exchanges will inspire concrete ideas for cooperation and establish long-lasting partnerships."

Wang Xiao said: "The Year will provide an interactive platform for European and Chinese young people to enhance mutual understanding and friendship through creativity, tolerance and openness. We hope they can open a new page of people-to-people contacts between Europe and China."

The opening ceremony for the Year takes place in the Charlemagne building (14:30). It will be followed by the signing of the joint declaration and a panel discussion on 'the EU-China Year of Youth as a tool to promote dialogue and mutual understanding'.

The EU-China Year of Youth 2011 was designated at the 12th EU-China summit held in Nanjing in November 2009. In October 2010 Commissioner Vassiliou and the Vice President of the All-China Youth Federation signed a joint action plan for the EU-China Year of Youth. This defined a general framework for the year, which will include several flagship events in the EU and China.

It also lays the basis for a policy dialogue with regular exchanges on youth-related issues including voluntary activities, in particular linked to the 2011 European Year of Volunteering, youth employment and entrepreneurship, youth involvement in society, and youth work development. Seminars, workshops and expert meetings will be jointly organized in the future. The joint declaration complements previous accords in education and vocational training (2007), culture (2007) and multilingualism (2009).

Youth in Action

The EU Youth in Action programme, which has an annual budget of around € 140 million, offers funding for non-formal learning, volunteering abroad and the development of the youth sector beyond the EU borders. Every year more than 140 000 young people benefit from it. Since 2007, around a dozen projects involving young people from the EU and China received support. The projects promote dialogue, tolerance, intercultural awareness and solidarity, aimed at breaking down prejudices and stereotypes. A € 3 million call for proposals for international youth projects, which will include a special focus on China, will be published in February 2011.

The EU-China Year of Youth is the start of a series of themed years in EU-China relations. 2012 has been designated as the EU-China Year of Intercultural Dialogue.