2.5 Cross-border mobility programmes
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European Solidarity Corps
The European Solidarity Corps creates opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in projects that benefit communities and people around Europe. It runs from October 2018 till the end of 2020. In the period 2018-2020, the European Solidarity Corps has a total budget of € 375.6 million. For the period 2021–2027 there is a total budget of € 1.009 billion.
JINT was founded in 1989 by the Flemish government, in consultation with the Flemish youth organizations. From there, JINT was given the task of stimulating and supporting the international mobility and cooperation of young people and youth organizations. JINT is structurally financed by the Ministry of the Flemish Community, Department of Culture, Youth and Media and by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Education and Culture as a National Agency for the implementation of the European Programs. JINT vzw is the Flemish coordinating body for international youth work and implements the European Solidarity Corps in Flanders. . This European volunteer work component involves information and promotion, allocation of funds and evaluation.
Inclusion is one of the spearheads of the European Youth Programs. Young people and youth workers in a socially vulnerable situation or with fewer opportunities can count on extra support or more flexible conditions to participate. JINT also offers extra guidance to organizations that work with these groups. The SALTO-YOUTH Inclusion & Diversity Resource Centre, housed at JINT, supports the entire Network of National Agencies to make European Youth Programs inclusive.
Research-based analysis and monitoring of the European Solidarity Corps is addressed to the RAY Network (report). Besides JINT monitors also the Flemish participation in the programme (report in Dutch). JINT has a budget of € 4,846,458.02 (period 2018-2020) for the European Solidarity Corp. In the period 2018-2020, JINT allocated funds to a total of 161 projects in the European Solidarity Corps. In this period there were a total of 898 participants. Of the Flemish participants in the European Solidarity Corps, 253 (29%) came from disadvantaged groups and 7 with a disability.
There is the Bel'J programme, supported by the three Belgian ministers responsible for youth and implemented by the national agencies, where young people can be supported to do an exchange or volunteering activities in another community of Belgium. Bel’ J focuses on young people between the ages of 16 and 30 and gives youngsters of the three communities the opportunity to meet each other. Through Bel'J, the Flemish Community gives youngsters financial support for accommodation, meals and transport. JINT vzw is the coordinating body for the Bel’J programme in Flanders.
The Act on the Rights of Volunteers (2005, Vrijwilligerswet) provides the legal framework for voluntary work in Belgium. With regard to foreign volunteers, the Act stipulates that only people from the European Union and people who are married to a Belgian/European citizen can participate in voluntary work but, all people with a valid residence permit and certain asylum seekers are allowed to volunteer without any problems.
The High Council of Volunteers (Hoge Raad voor Vrijwilligers) has evaluated the law of 3 July 2005 related to the volunteer’s rights. This evaluation included two appendices about youth volunteering. The first one addressed foreign young people volunteering in Belgium and the second one focused on Belgian volunteers abroad.
About young Belgian volunteers going abroad, the High Council observed the following issues:
- The upholding of family allowances and unemployment benefit while volunteering abroad.
- The terms used in the law about what can be considered as volunteering are confusing and must be clarified.
Regarding the issue about young volunteers coming from abroad, the High Council of Volunteers discussed the following points:
- Volunteering doesn’t confer the right to get a visa according to the law of 15 December 1980 related to the territory access. Volunteering in Belgium for a period longer than 3 months is then compromised regarding the rules to obtain a visa;
- The hosting organization provides accommodation to the volunteer and is in charge of his/her daily expenses. In specific programmes such as the European Volunteer Programme, the volunteer can also receive a small allowance. Two problems arise in the fields of tax and labour law:
- If this amount (accommodation, meals) exceeds the yearly maximal sum allowed by the law of 2005, the fees must be justified. This is a tedious process especially when it comes to long-term volunteering.
- The provision in kind can be considered so that it is taxed and the volunteer runs the risk of losing his/her volunteer status. The hosting organization would then be considered as an employer with all the obligations it involves.
- The law of 2005 must clarify that the provision in kind (accommodation, meals) is included in the volunteering activity and is not compensation.
JINT coordinates all discussing points and prepares policy notes.