The Romanian Ministry of YOUTH refuses to talk & to listen to YOUNG People
In the Programme of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (1 January – 30 June 2019) – page 62, our country committed itself to the following:
The Romanian Presidency will aim at contributing to increasing the quality of the dialogue between public authorities and the young, at all levels (local, regional, national and European), by promoting the active participation of the young, including those from disadvantaged areas, in the European Union’s actions. This, in fact, is a significant parameter in the activity of the current Trio, with Finland and Croatia lined up to continue the debates on improving youth inclusion and the structured dialogue process. On the brink of the European elections of May 2019, young people’s involvement in community life is an important dimension of the Romanian Presidency to the European Union Council. […]. The young people play a critical role in promoting these values – intercultural dialogue, solidarity, volunteering, equal opportunities and active citizenship – and in promoting a unified message on European identity, based on their creative potential and high level of interest in new information and communication technologies.
But, the reality is exactly the opposite
In the light of the EU Youth Goals we consider that the mission of a Youth NGO that represents young people is to stand up for their interests and rights and when the public authority ignores and breaks them, the NGO has no other choice, but to put YOUTH above all, as always! These are the reasons for which we have continued our advocacy process (which only this year has consisted of official requests, public statements, online petitions, national public campaigns), even though only the National Institutionalised Young People Council made the same choice (YOUTH above all!) and stood up for the same cause:
Since the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union has started, The Romanian Ministry of YOUTH and Sports:
- PUBLISHED false national budget for the youth sector;
- REFUSED to apply the mechanism of (structured) dialogue with young people and youth NGOs before deciding the priorities, the procedures and the beneficiaries of the public budget for the Youth sector;
- HID the National Survey related to Youth’s status & expectations, being offended by the answers of the young people in Romania;
- CUT OFF the dialogue and consultation with the National Working Group members (7 Romanian NGOs) with regard to the Youth policy that the Presidency is dealing with;
- REFUSED to publish at least the basic information related to the Presidency on Youth Policies;
- For the sake of exclusivity, ORGANISED the EU Youth Conference with very big delay and involving and keeping the information only to very few people (some from the public sector and 2-3 from one Romanian NGO). Until the very last minute, when some particular situation needed to be saved, some of us were called for help, with little things (design, website or volunteers, without any other details – even if needed);
- REFUSED, in front of many NGOs, to allow the President of the National Institutionalised Young People Council to speak about and find solutions with this ministry, to the drama that youngsters in the Romanian orphanages live currently – 1/3 of them are daily SEDATED, without being ill and against their will (few days ago, also a 45 min investigation about this issue was released by a national television).
Even though there are very few key-people who keep all information for themselves, remember that in Romania there are aprox. 5 million young people. Who is entitled to speak for them if there is no public information, if nobody calls them for discussions, if their answers are still hidden, if the national federations don’t receive information (we can easily check who published what and who from their members at local level are aware of what is going on at the top)?
Simulating top level meetings only for checking the European wave of dialogue, but cutting off the connection with the grassroots, ignoring the masses and keeping young people in the dark, ensures fast adopted policies, but they are not legit.
Who has the courage to declare is representing the Romanian YOUTH? The Ministry? It does not inform its own direct subordinated regional offices (we can easily check what they know about what the Ministry is declaring during this Presidency by looking at what this directorates inform the young people about). In this situation, how could we expect the Ministry to inform us, the civil society?
It seems that too many key-persons have forgotten that NOTHING should be decided FOR YOUTH, WITHOUT YOUTH!
1. The Ministry of YOUTH lies about the annual BUDGET for the YOUTH sector
On February,13 the Ministry of YOUTH and Sports published on its own website the budget for 2019, which consisted of the finances for the YOUTH sector, as well. We are talking about the budget that got approved by the Parliament. On February 18, 2019, the Ministry met several youth NGOs, at the National Advisory Council on Youth Affairs. During this meeting, some NGOs representatives claimed the fact that the numbers are NOT REAL. The CFO of the Ministry told, without any remorse, that “I send the material to the PR department, but they presented it wrongly”. Today, March 21, the Ministry of YOUTH and Sports is still keeping public the fake numbers (e.g.: for its own 35 youth centres, on the website is written that the Ministry will allocate, in 2019, 4.5 million RON = aprox. 1 million EUR, while at the meeting, we all found out that the budget is only 500.000 RON = aprox. 110.000 EUR).
2. The Ministry of YOUTH refuses the dialogue with young people and youth NGOs
This year, without precedent, the Ministry released, at once, 10 proposals of the Youth Programmes Guides (e.g.: for organising, implementing and financing youth & students local and national projects, youth centres, youth camps, students cultural & sports houses etc.).The Ministry announced a deadline of only 10 working days for all 10 proposals – clearly not enough time for analysing, comparing them with the previous ones, formulating the corrections and identifying the legal provisions for these amendments. In a wanna be application of the Romanian Transparency Law process, the Ministry called for a consultation meeting with the National Advisory Council on Youth Affairs (several NGOs).
One tiny detail: In the call for the meeting, the Ministry wrote that the agenda of the meeting will be received only by those who registered, and only after the deadline for registration. When we saw the agenda, we understood immediately that the Ministry intends to assimilate this meeting to the public debate. Therefore, we asked officially to the Ministry to organize a public debate and the Romanian Transparency Law says that in case an NGO asks this to the Ministry, It is obliged to comply.
During the meeting, on February 18, after the State Secretary on Youth Affairs (Remus MUNTEANU) expressed his opinion that a public debate with young people and youth NGOs on this topic is a waste of time, eventually, he announced, in front of the youth NGOs, his decision – There Will Be A Debate! Therefore, any other discussions on the guides were interrupted by the Secretary of State. But, after few days, the minister himself announced us in an official letter that there will not be organised any public debate.
Today, after one month (plenty of time to organise an open process of dialogue with young people and youth NGOs), the Ministry of YOUTH officially adopted 8 out of the 10 Youth Programmes Guides, without these being the result of open and deep discussions on how the Ministry will use the budget for the Youth Sector, through which mechanisms and based on what priorities. This is a first, after many years of democratic decisions making process.
3. The Ministry of YOUTH keeps hiding the answers from the National Survey about YOUTH status & expectations
The Authority is obliged, every 2 years, to order this kind of survey. Therefore, in October 2018, The Ministry payed almost 15.000 EUR for it to be done by the specialists. On January 31, 2019, the Ministry of YOUTH and Sports published the results of the National Survey. But, because the Ministry disliked the answers of the young people in Romania, It withdrew it from the website, few days later. During the same meeting (February 18), the NGOs asked the Ministry to republish the National Survey and the State Secretary on Youth (Remus MUNTEANU) promised they will publish it (at that time, his personal counselor, Catalin-Nicolae LAZAR promised this will happen the next week after the meeting). Today is March 21 and the Ministry still did not publish the Survey.
4. The Ministry cut off the dialogue with the National Working Group (NWG)
For choosing the composition of the NWG, the Romanian Ministry launched an open call and 23 NGOs applied. According to the points received for the applications, the following 7 youth NGOs are part of the NWG:
- 91.00 points: Romanian Youth Council – CTR
- 83.33 points: Timis County Youth Foundation – FITT
- 72.66 points: National Alliance of Student Organisations in Romania – ANOSR
- 66.33 points: Romanian Youth Forum – FTR
- 63.67 points: Romanian Students Union – USR
- 62.00 points: Youth Branch of the National Trade Union Bloc – OT-BNS
- 61.67 points: Young Men’s Christian Association Romania – YMCA Romania
The biggest achievement of this NWG was the Country Report for Cycle VI. In order to create this output, the following contribution were made by each of the NWG members:
FITT created all 3 designs for the workshops (WSH) to be applied by all members (1 design for 2 days WSH + 2 designs for 5 hours WSH), together with all the support materials. The NWG organised 5 WSH for 2 days with 205 young people and 38 WSH for 5 hours with 888 young people, as follows:
2 days Workshops (WSH):
- FITT + ANOSR organised 5 WSH with 205 young people;
5 hours workshops (WSH):
- FTR + USR organised 18 WSH with 497 young people (FTR: 11 WSH = 277 young people; USR: 7 WSH = 220 young people);
- CTR organised 17 WSH with 303 young people;
- YMCA organised 3 WSH with 88 young people.
Online questionnaires: for 3 weeks in a row, all the NWG members applied the online questionnaire among young people and they collected as follows:
- FTR+USR: 1.167 answers;
- ANOSR + FITT: 303 answers (ANOSR = 230 answers; FITT = 73 answers);
- CTR: 135 answers;
- YMCA: 11 answers.
The rest of 249 answers for the Country Report were collected by the County Youth Directorates subordinated to the Ministry (41 answers), by the National Network of Communicators for Structured Dialogue (22 answers) and by others (186 answers).
At the end, FITT gathered all the information from the members and created the final version of the Country Report, very appreciated not only for the quality of its content, but especially for the impressive number of young people consulted.
Because of this achievement, the Ministry decided that the same composition of the NWG should be also during the Romanian Presidency for the EU Council, being aware of the fact that the NGOs could bring precious input with regard to youth policy, not only because of the know-how, but also because the capacity to connect directly with so many young people, at the grassroots, at once.
But, unfortunately, after the European Conferences in Sofia and Vienna, the Ministry choose not to co-work with the members anymore. The leadership responsible for the Romanian Presidency related to YOUTH policy ignored the NWG, chose not to gather us at least once and the meetings and the communication with their 2nd level representatives have been chaotic:
- they organised last minute informal meetings only with some of the NWG members;
- ignored FITT’s request, as member, to take part via Skype to these last minute meetings;
- forgot to prepare the formal meetings that had been set way before (and we traveled by plane to a meeting where no one from the NWG showed, because the Ministry forgot to prepare it);
- ignored our requests to be consulted about the policy proposals that Romanian Ministry of YOUTH makes etc. There is one exceptions, though: we have been consulted, in the last minute (with one day before) related to the Presidency proposal with regard to the EU Youth Dialogue and we gave feedback, but, we still don’t know the final form of the document, because it is not uploaded on the EU Council website.
- negotiated a lot with us, because the Ministry didn’t want to allow to all 7 NWG members representatives to take part in the EU Youth Conference in Bucharest, even though we invoked our past contributions, the fact that our country organises the Conference and that we are willing to cover all our expenses (we knew for sure that if one NGO from the NWG covers its expenses, is able to be in a European Conference, besides the 3 usual participants / country – FITT covered its expenses as the 4th Romanian representative in the European Conference in Vienna). Eventually, we convinced the Ministry to make this exception and all 7 of us will take part in Bucharest.
The NWG members are different and belong to different national networks. The Ministry refuses to take advantage of our diversity and our capacity of reaching young people at the grassroots. One thing is sure: no matter what is the Ministry’s strategy to communicate with who from the youth NGO sector, NO PIECE of INFORMATION has been passed back to the local NGOs, in order to be promoted to the young people.
No national youth or students federation has had the resources (info), therefore no one was able to send info packs to their members, in order to inform young people about what the Ministry is doing during this Presidency.
5. The Ministry hides who, how and what is proposing in the name of the Romanian Youth during the Presidency of the EU Council
It has been almost 3 months since the Romanian Ministry of YOUTH and Sports leads the Presidency of the EU Council, related to the YOUTH policy. The communication about this process is extremely rare, nonexistent, and we (to be able to dedicate a special heading to informing young people about the Presidency) have been forced to collect the information from the precarious press releases posted on the Ministry’s website, from the information posted on the Presidency website and those on the EU Council website.
- the uncertainty about Romania’s priorities for YOUTH in the exercise of the Presidency (since there are, currently, 3 official versions – one in the press releases of the Ministry of Youth/the Facebook page of the EU Youth Conference, one in the Programme of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and one on the website of the EU Council) ,
- the lack of preparation of an informational package aimed at informing and training young people with regard to the Presidency for the YOUTH Sector,
- the permanent lack of dialogue with us (members of the National Working Group) and our beneficiaries regarding Romania’s positions in the youth policies field,
- the lack of collaboration and the creation of opportunities for young people and organizations during this period,
we considered it appropriate to point out that, all this needs measures, immediately implemented, in order to avoid drawing an example of poor practice in piloting the new Dialogue with Young People, example that us, Romania – the country that holds the Presidency – may give.
So, on February 19, 2019, after repeated insistence to receive information, we sent a request, to the other members of the National Working Group (NWG) for Structured Dialogue and to the attention of the representatives of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, related to the Romanian Presidency at the EU Council, the main points of our demand being the following:
- Retroactive Fulfillment of Pre-Open Public Communication Procedures for the Presidency of the EU Council for the Youth Sector
- Up-to-date information on each stage of the exercise of the EU Council Presidency for the YOUTH Sector
- Urgent development of NWG Strategy and Action Plan
- Organizing opportunities for young people and NGOs during this Presidency
Unfortunately, so far, we have not received any response or feedback (neither from the Ministry nor from any NWG member).
Currently, as well, the Ministry’s website does not contain a special section dedicated to the Presidency, but we can find (amongst routine posts) just some loose press releases, which check in 2-3 lines the events attended by the minister or the other representative.
So, with regard to the YOUTH Sector, during the Presidency of the EU Council, the Romanian Ministry of Youth does not show any transparency either, with regard to the following:
- Who are the Romanian Team members responsible for the YOUTH Sector (name, picture, position, attributions, description of relevant expertise, contact);
- The process and actors with an important role at the EU level, with particular attention to the YOUTH sector (technical description, but in a youth-friendly way);
- Romania’s priorities (in an accessible language);
- Romania’s priorities for YOUTH, together with the story of the selection process (when it started, what were the stages, the seminars and youth information sessions, the consultation contexts, their timetable, locations, number and participant profile – if any, the results the debate exercises on the selection of priorities for youth, their analysis and the argumentation of the quantitative and qualitative relevance of the final options);
- The existence of an informational tool kit for NGOs to be disseminated to young people;
- Takeover of the Portfolio from Austria: Event (description, actors, who and why participated from Romania, protocol / custom, etc.); Heritage taken from Austria – YOUTH policy in process: Files (brief presentation, importance, impact on the daily life of young people, challenges in completing them, etc.);
- What opportunities the Ministry prepared for YOUTH and for NGOs;
- Events organised by and for youth: title, location, description (history, importance, profile of participants, etc.), participation methods, methods of organisational involvement;
- Communication of the progress at each stage (article on site, Facebook, press release);
- Explaining transparently and in an accessible language the next steps so that young people understand the importance for them and the stakes of Romania’s opportunity to exercise the Presidency on the YOUTH component;
- Articles on the website about: workshops, conferences, meetings (articles, not just press releases ticking only 1-2 rows on the subject, profoundly useless to the youth’s understanding of the importance of a minister attending a meeting and, even less, of its impact on youth’s daily life);
- Articles dedicated to the Youth Working Group in Brussels: calendar of meetings, short description of agenda items (for accuracy, attached documents), uploading, as soon as available, the documents related to each meeting (to be available in Romanian, as well), follow-up etc.;
- The current EU Council agenda related to the YOUTH Sector;
- The main files in the process of legislative negotiation;
- European themes/files that are of prime interest to us and which Romania will propose for debate to the other countries;
- The status of the following topics announced before the Presidency exercise for the EU Council’s Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (EYCS) agenda: The European Area of Education, The Erasmus + Program Regulation, Global approach to language teaching and learning, Active participation of young people in EU actions (youth inclusion and structured dialogue), Adaptability of young people to the labor market, Developing creative, intercultural and communication skills of young people.
Through this passivity and lack of transparency, the Ministry defies young people and youth NGOs, whether they are or aren’t members of the National Working Group (contrary to the understanding between the Ministry and NGOs since the formation of the NWG).
We, FITT, put a lot of effort in collecting information in order to dedicate a special place on our website main page to the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council for the YOUTH sector and to inform also before (since October 2018) young people and our youth & students organisations about the activity of the Ministry of YOUTH. Still, even if the info is not complete, we have written 25 articles, on this topic, in the last 6 months – a way bigger job than of other NGOs and of the Ministry’s itself (which failed definitely its mission of informing the civil society, being completely overwhelmed by this task).
6. The Ministry turns the EU Youth Conference into the most disorganised youth event in the Presidency of any country
On the website of the Romanian Presidency, the Ministry of Youth and Sports is indicated as responsible for the organisation of the EU Youth Conference.
In connection with the funding for this event, which could also come from a European funded grant, in February 18, 2019, Undersecretary of State CRISTINA ANDRONIC (responsible, apparently, on behalf of the Ministry for the Presidency) admitted with incredible serenity that “usually in the October-November the grant projects are submitted, we have delayed MAXIMUM 2 weeks. We submitted the final form in January “ (serious maths issues). Therefore, the Youth Minister, BOGDAN MATEI, made the following statement: “I want to make sure everything is fine. We have taken action, if the EU comes tomorrow and tells us that they do not give us the money, we have the money, so we have no problem if they give us the money or not.” OK, we have understood – the money is the problem. Then what? We all witnessed the Ministry’s capacity to organise, by itself, in good time, national events (e.g.: the first public communication on the Youth Gala in Romania appeared 6,5 weeks before the event). Our question is – what happens now, when we are dealing with an even bigger event? Why the delay and the bad organisation?
Taking into consideration that the Conference was announced on the Romanian Government Presidency website to take place on March 25-28, 2019, let’s rewind the preparations and the public communications:
- February, 22: Open Call for 4 facilitators (deadline: March, 3). The results were published on March, 8;
- February, 22: Open Call for 10 facilitators that can introduce and train the participants (deadline: March, 3). The results were published on March, 13 – only 6 applications;
- March, 5: Announcement the grant for the EU Youth Conference was signed on March,1 by the European Commission and the Romanian Ministry of Youth;
- March, 12: the online form for registering the volunteers for the EU Conference by the NWG members was posted on the NWG Facebook group. There were needed 2-3 volunteers / member. After launching a call inside our federation, to give the possibility also to other members to participate to this kind of event, we registered 6 young people;
- March, 13: Open Call for another 4 facilitators that can introduce and train the participants (deadline: March, 16); The results were published on March, 17.
- March, 14: the official Facebook page of the EU Youth Conference was taken over by Romania. Even though there was plenty of time to prepare this Conference, eventually, the organisers had to be saved by the volunteers from Bacau (county) Youth Federation, who made the design of the visual identity of this Conference. But, in the end, also the Ministry announced the EU Youth Conference in Bucharest (only on its Facebook page, not on its website, as well);
- March, 15: Open Call for one volunteers coordinator (deadline: March, 18); The results were published on March, 20 (even though the chosen coordinator was already communicating, via email, with the volunteers – before the results had been published)
- March 20 (very late in the evening): on the Facebook page of the conference was announced that the official website of the EU Youth Conference was launched. The Ministry didn’t do the same, maybe because It was not able to host the Conference’s website, therefore, ANOSR (The National Alliance of Students Organisations in Romania) had to do it.
- March, 21: the volunteers coming from other counties in Romania still don’t have an infopack, don’t know where they will be accommodated and they Ministry did not confirmed the travel expenses (in country & in Bucharest) will be covered. But, they were requested to wear smart-casual outfit (this dress-code falls on each volunteer, regardless they can afford it or not).
As an overall, we are aware of the fact that the EU Youth Conference, in general, is not a very open event, but, we are very disappointed of the following:
- the opacity with regard to how the main topic of the conference was chosen,
- how this conference is related to the other conferences in the TRIO (not even the NWG was informed nor consulted about this),
- the final agenda of the conference was published 4 days before the conference,
- still, we don’t know who are the speakers.
In the end of this topic, there is no more to say about the fact that the Ministry did not even publish a piece of information about the Meeting of Directors-general for YOUTH, which we know only from the Romanian Government Presidency website that it will take place on March 28-29.
7. The Ministry of YOUTH refuses to pay attention to the young people in orphanages
During the National Advisory Council on Youth Affairs meeting in Bucharest on February, 18, the minister BOGDAN MATEI addressed, in front of all the present NGOs representative, to the President of the National Institutionalised Young People Council that he is not willing to meet nor to answer to any further emails coming from this NGO.
The topic on the agenda is a very dramatic one: in the Romanian Child Protection System are registered almost 60.000 children and young people. 20.000 of these are living in orphanages and 1/3 of this number are being SEDATED daily, without being ill and against their will. And all this happens because of the lack of personnel and lack of extracurricular activities. Therefore, these children and young people are put to sleep, instead of being engaged in all kind of activities, breaking entirely the European Youth Goal No.5 – Mental Health and Wellbeing.
The Ministry of YOUTH not only that can finance national programmes specially dedicated to these vulnerable people, but it has also the infrastructure – summer and winter camps – where they can, periodically, take part in non-formal activities.
Last year, the Ministry run a dedicated project for them, financing with very little money, the participation of only 160 young people. Way below of that is needed.
On March, 17 there was released, by a big national television, a 45 minutes investigation about the situation of young people in the Romanian orphanages. Being alarmed of their situation, FITT decided immediately to support the National Institutionalised Young People Council and we have launched a national raising awareness campaign, called “Pills are not candies” (“Pastilele nu sunt bomboane!”), we opened our Facebook inbox for those in need (in order to redirect their messages to the National Institutionalised Young People Council).
Even though Romania declares its interest and focus on young people from disadvantaged areas, on social inclusion, youth participation and dialogue, in reality, the Romanian Ministry of YOUTH looks in the opposite direction and refuses to practice in Romania what it preaches in front of the other countries.