Delegates from a 2024 visit to Cardiff by the European Economic and Social Committee gather in the Senedd Chamber for a photo

Strengthening Wales – EU youth mobility and engagement

Published: 29/02/24 | Categories: Influencing, Author: Charles Whitmore

Charles Whitmore, coordinator of the Wales Civil Society Forum project reflects on a recent visit by the European Economic and Social Committee to Cardiff, part of work to strengthen youth connections with the UK. 

Organisations in Wales have long had a special perspective on European affairs due, in part, to the significance of EU structural funding here. Indeed WCVA itself is unique amongst the voluntary sector national membership bodies (SCVO, NICVA, NCVO) in having had a role in facilitating access to this EU related information and funding. 

It comes as little surprise then that there is an appetite in the sector to maintain Wales’ international outlook and connections with the EU. 

In this vein, on 10 and 11 January 2024 WCVA and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre hosted a third post-Brexit visit from the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) to Wales. 


The EESC is an institution of the European Union and its role is to convene organised civil society groups to have a formal input into EU law and policy making. Post-Brexit, it has also played a role in helping to build bridges between EU and UK civil society, particularly at the devolved level. 

This visit was set against the backdrop of this EESC opinion drafted following a previous visit to Wales in 2022. The piece highlighted concerns that the loss of freedom of movement, as well as the UK decision to not participate in key EU programmes was having a negative impact on opportunities, especially for young people. 

As a result of these findings, the visit focused on Wales – EU youth engagement, collaborative working across areas of shared interest and on exploring options to strengthen Wales – EU youth engagement and mobility. 


On the first day we participated in a meeting between the EESC and the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee represented by committee chair Jayne Bryant MS, and member James Evans MS. During the exchange Wales and EU participants swapped examples of good youth engagement activities. 

EU participants also provided some examples of steps taken to keep the EU inclusive to young people from Wales. 

EESC Committee Chair Cillian Lohan noted for example that they had fought to keep the Your Europe, Your Say initiative open to young people from the UK – had previously also worked to keep the EU Civil Society Solidarity competition open to UK based organisations – and had supported UK applications for young staff members to participate in the EU Visitors Programme. 


WCVA then organised two three-hour sessions aimed at collecting views to feed into an upcoming EESC opinion on strengthening UK / Wales – EU youth mobility and cross-border educational opportunities. 

The first session included organisations like Taith, CWYVS (the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services), Children in Wales, Disability Wales, Welsh Centre for International Affairs, Wales Arts International and TGP Cymru, and discussed how it had undeniably become more difficult to maintain Wales – EU connections. 

That said, efforts were still being made to do so. Sometimes this is with funding provided by Taith, Welsh Government’s new mobility programme which was universally praised. That said, there were concerns about its financial sustainability, having recently seen its budget cut significantly. 

On this, participants noted that rejoining inter alia, Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps, would be very welcome as these provide stability and guaranteed continuity over longer periods. 


On the second day, the EESC met with organisations and advocates from a cross-section of areas ranging from rural affairs and young farmers to the environment and climate change. This included Keep Wales Tidy, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Youth Forum – Stand for Nature, WWF Cymru, National Farmers’ Union’s Next Generation Group, the Federation of Young Farmers, and Farmers’ Union of Wales Academi. 

Discussions this day echoed the desire to maintain relations but focused more on the everyday challenges faced by young people in rural Wales, from the rural exodus and transport to the rural economy and labour shortages. EU participants noted that many of these are being discussed in EU fora as well and that structures to share ideas in the future would be welcome. 


The EESC’s opinion on this will be published and voted on later this year, with a view to using it to inform policy at the European level. Considering that there are both European and UK elections due later this year, it is to be hoped that this work may inform future positions. WCVA will share the opinion when it is available. 

If you’d like to stay updated please join Wales Civil Society Forum mailing list. 


The Wales Civil Society Forum is a joint project between Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre and WCVA that is funded by the Legal Education Foundation.  

Its aim is to provide information, support and coordination to the sector on the legal, administrative and constitutional implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.