EU support for volunteering should be increased to €10 million, as part of the 2011 European Year of Voluntary Activities Promoting Active Citizenship, said the European Parliament on Thursday. The EU programme is intended to support exchanges of good practice, research, conferences and information campaigns at EU, national and regional levels.
Parliament made its request for an increase in the planned budget for the Year's activities in a report by Marco Scurria (EPP, Italy), adopted by 551 votes to 19, with 10 abstentions. The initial proposal from the Commission was for €6 million, not counting €2 million earmarked for preparatory action in 2010. The Council, which has the final say on this proposal, has meanwhile indicated that it might agree to €8 million.
Not a substitute for paid work or social services
Parliament also 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 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".
"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.
They also urged that the funds be used to set up a database of volunteers and voluntary organisations in the EU, and to create an EU internet portal to promote volunteering. The EU should also make more effort to mark International Volunteering Day (5 December), they added.
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