5.3 Youth representation bodies
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In Estonia, the term “youth parliament” is not defined legally. Therefore, the term has been used as a project name (for example a cooperation project to support youth participation in Estonia, e.g. see Lastekaitse Liidu Noorteparlament; or session of European youth parliament in Estonia) and also as a name for some local youth councils (for example, Narva Noorteparlament).
Estonian National Youth Council (Eesti Noorteühenduste Liit - ENL)
Structure and composition
ENL is governed by the general assembly – representative body for all the member organisations, which elects the council (5-9 members) and the board (3-5 members).
Roles and responsibilities
ENL promotes cooperation between youth associations and active participation of young people in society. ENL is working for recognition and participation of young people. ENL represents, includes and supports youth organizations through creating opportunities for cooperation and development. ENL mission is to be an organization with a large, active and strong membership, an opinion leader on youth matters and a reliable partner in a society, where the ideas and activities of the Youth are valued and decisions are made in cooperation with the Youth.
ENL is also coordinating and supporting the development and activities of youth councils. In order to support the youth council, ENL provides training and guidelines for new and already active youth council (for example a manual to support youth councils) and financial support for youth councils. Public funding is available for youth councils via ENL in order to start a new youth council and in order to support projects of youth councils.
ENL itself is also receiving yearly public funding as a union of youth associations from the grant scheme dedicated for youth associations administered by the Ministry of Education and Research and Education and Youth Board.
Local and regional youth councils
There are local-level youth participation councils (osaluskogu) in Estonia. Estonia National Youth Council, who is coordinating and supporting the development and activities of youth councils defines the terms as follows:
- By “youth participation council” we mean different institutions where young persons can take part in decision-making.
- County youth councils communicate the opinions of young persons from the respective county to the county’s decision-makers, i.e. enable young persons to take part in decision-making processes and protect their interests in the fields concerning them at the county level - note that starting from 2017, the county municipals were demolished, so there are not that many county-level youth councils left.
- Local youth councils are youth participation councils attached to local government councils. The objective of local youth councils is to take part in local governments’ decision-making.
The legal framework exists for the youth councils at a municipal level only. The Youth Work Act amendments in 2010 established the regulations for the youth councils as follows:
- A youth council is an advisory participation council consisting of young people which operates in rural municipality or city council;
- Youth council can be established at a rural municipality or city council.
- The objective of youth council shall be the discussion of issues concerning young people which are in the competence of the rural municipality or city and the making of proposals to the rural municipality or city council and rural municipality or city government in connection therewith proceeding from the needs and interests of young people.
- Youth council shall be elected democratically by the young people of the rural municipality or city pursuant to the procedure established by the rural municipality or city council.
- The bases for the activities of the youth council shall be established by the rural municipality or city council.
- The rural municipality or city shall support the sustainable activities of the youth council in their administrative territory pursuant to the procedure established by the rural municipality or city council.
- Upon the request of the youth council, the rural municipality or city council shall forward the drafts of their hearing agendas and draft legislation regarding young people to the youth council and before the taking place of the rural municipality or city council hearings.
The Act does not imply an obligation to establish a youth council, but an obligation to support the proceedings, activities and consult the existing council.
There is no parliamentary legislation in Estonia concerning the number of the council or board members, the age range (apart from the general definition of youth in Estonia i.e. persons between 7-26 years old), the election process, the duration of the mandate, the frequency of the council/board.
Starting from 2019, ENL has a new financial scheme for 40 local municipalities in the amount of 1,000 euros, in order for them to develop the participation of young people, support the active participation and inclusion into decision-making processes. For that support, a municipality can create new participation forms, eg. youth councils, youth actives, regular meetings with young people and deciders, new e-participation solutions, etc.
There were 42 youth councils in 2019.
Eesti Üliõpilaskondade Liit (EÜL) - Federation of Estonian student unions - was founded on 23. November 1991, shortly after Estonia regained independence. EÜL had 27,964 members in 2017. In 2020, there were 12 universities under EÜL.
EÜL’s main decision body is the EÜL council where all of our member student bodies are represented. The council decides main future plans and policies, is in charge of the budget and elects the board and different committees. The council is elected by the local unions, all students of all members are eligible to be elected as a member of the council or the board. The board currently consists of 3 persons – the chairperson and two vice-chairs. They are responsible for the following fields: social policy, educational policy, democracy and financing of higher education. The current board has a mandate of 24 months. The board is helped by a staff of about 15 employees who work in the office every day and 2 committees who gather a couple of times a year.
There is no overseeing body of the students union in Estonia.
In 2020, EÜL had 12 members. Membership to EÜL is voluntary for a student body but all Estonian students are automatically members of their HEI student body. There are no membership fees or special obligations for the students.
The age range of students is mostly 19-30 years old.
Role and responsibilities
In Estonia, the Acts concerning higher and vocational education, define the legal framework for student bodies and student councils in the education institutions, e.g. the Vocational Educational Institutions Act (2013).
Generally, the definition of a Student Body defines the body as an institution which exercises the right of the students to self-government – to decide on and manage independently, be active on the issues of student life based on the interests, needs, rights and obligations of students, also to establish a student council.
EÜL’s main goal is to represent students’ interests on the national level. The main issues are student rights, educational and social issues. EÜL works closely together with the parliament, the government, different ministries, higher education institutions and other partners. EÜL is also a leading NGO in Estonia and sometimes also represents students in schools, youth in general or just NGOs in different committees. EÜL is recognised as a partner for policy-making by the Ministry of Education and Research and the government.
EÜL also distributes the ISIC card which is an identity card for students, teachers and youth in general. The ISIC card is the main source of revenue for EÜL.
EÜL is receiving yearly public funding as a union of youth associations from the grant scheme dedicated to youth associations administered by the Ministry of Education and Research.
The main union for school student councils is Estonian School Student Council Union (Eesti Õpilasesinduste Liit – EÕEL). EÕEL, founded in 1998, is a non-governmental politically independent organization, which represents through the member councils approximately 90 000 school students in Estonia. 186 general education schools are members of the union in November 2020.
The Union is governed by the board that is selected on yearly bases at the general assembly of the union. There are voluntary and paid workers supporting the activities of the EÕEL.
There is no overseeing body of the students union in Estonia.
The school student council union members are school councils.
The age range of school students is 7-18 in Estonia.
Role and responsibilities
In Estonia, the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act (2010) defines the legal framework for student bodies and student councils in basic and upper secondary schools. The Act defines, that the student body of a school has the right to decide and independently organise the matters of student life in accordance with acts and legislation adopted based on acts. A student body has the right to:
- form unions and organizations with other student bodies
- become a member of Estonian and international organizations or pursue cooperation with them through a student council
- decide and organise all the other matters of student life, which fall within the competence of student bodies.
- elect a student council who represents the student body within the competence of the student council
The main aims of the EÕEL are to:
- represent school students and their council's interest
- support the work of councils in the schools;
- protect the rights of school students and their councils;
- support the quality of education and the school environment, raise the motivation to study
- support the leisure time of school students and their cooperation
- inform school students
- increase youth participation and support the development of civil society.
EÕEL is a recognised partner for policy-making for the parliament, Ministry of Education and Research, Ministry of Social Affairs etc.
EÕEL is receiving yearly public funding as a union of youth associations from the grant scheme dedicated to youth associations administered by the Ministry of Education and Research.
There are no other important top-level or lower-level bodies for youth representation that are particularly prominent or important for youth participation.