More EU support for volunteering

EU support for volunteering should be stepped up to €10 million, as part of the 2011 European Year of Voluntary Activities Promoting Active Citizenship, said the Education and Culture Committee on Monday evening. The programme will support good practice exchanges, studies and research, conferences, information and promotion campaigns and other activities at EU, national and regional levels.

The initial budget planned for the year's activities - €6 million, not counting €2 million earmarked for preparatory action in 2010 - should be stepped up to €10 million said the committee, in an amendment to the proposal . The Council, which has the final say on this proposal, has meanwhile indicated that it might agree to €8 million. A co-ordinating body will have to be appointed in each EU Member State.

Not a substitute for paid work or social services

In further amendments, the committee called for more recognition and support for voluntary activities, especially within new democracies of the EU. Noting that voluntary work "has not been formally acknowledged" at EU level, MEPs called for recognition of competences and skills acquired through the EU's YOUTHPASS and EUROPASS non-formal learning programmes, as a complement to formal training.

At the same time, however, they warned that volunteering should not be regarded as "a substitute for paid work", "a means of meeting basic needs normally met by social services" or "a substitute for action by the public authorities".

Refugee volunteers

"Asylum seekers, refugees and legally resident immigrants should be increasingly enabled to play a role in volunteering activities, particularly when they are unable to be employed", which would also help combat discrimination, said MEPs.

MEPs also urged that the funds be used to set up a database of volunteers and voluntary organisations in the EU, and create an EU internet portal to promote volunteering. The EU should also make more effort to mark International Volunteering Day (5 December), they added.

The report was unanimously adopted in committee on Monday evening, and is scheduled for a plenary vote at noon on 26 November.

Last June, the European Commission decided to propose that 2011 be designated as the "European Year of Volunteering". The Council and the European Parliament are expected to endorse this proposal by the beginning of 2010.