European Youth Centre in Budapest

Doc. 7501
8 March 1996

Rapporteur: Sir Russell JOHNSTON,United Kingdom, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers' Group


            The Assembly seeks to promote the recently created European Youth Centre in Budapest by ensuring that its facilities are fully used for youth and related activities, including meetings of the Assembly itself.

I. Draft recommendation

1.         The European Youth Centre in Budapest came into operation (in December 1995) as an additional base for the expanding youth activities of the Council of Europe carried out so far in the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg.

2.         The building in Budapest has been generously made available by the Hungarian authorities. It is centrally located, with residential meeting facilities renovated to Council of Europe specifications.

3.         This is the first institutional step the Council of Europe has taken into the new democratic countries of central and eastern Europe.

4.         In addition to the usual co-managed youth activities, the Budapest Centre might also offer possibilities for wider cultural and political Council of Europe activities.

5.         A Management Group has been set up by the Governing Board of the European Youth Centres to monitor developments and the Assembly is associated with this Group.

6.         There are many ways in which the Assembly might make use of the facilities of the centre, in particular through such activities as hearings or conferences related to young people.

7.         There will inevitably be at the outset a number of practical problems. These must be progressively but resolutely overcome. In particular, full use of the premises must be secured as soon as possible as on this the economic viability of the centre depends.

8.         It is important that this exciting new initiative succeeds. The support of all member states is highly desirable.

9.         For these reasons the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers

i.          release the full budgetary allocation for the Budapest Centre in 1996 and establish an appropriate budgetary mechanism for the future;

ii.          establish a secretariat for running the centre at full occupancy, taking account both of European and of current local employment conditions, and relate the administration of the centre to local market practice;

iii.         invite the European Union to enter into a formal agreement for the holding of joint activities in the centre.

II. Draft order

1.         The Assembly wishes to support the new European Youth Centre in Budapest and encourage the facilities it might offer for the development of political dialogue with young people.

2.         It has set out proposals to this effect in Recommendation ... (1996).

3.         To enable its own participation in activities in the centre, it decides to add the Budapest Centre to the places where the Assembly can meet.

III. Explanatory memorandum

by Sir Russell JOHNSTON


1.         After an experimental phase, the European Youth Centre was set up in Strasbourg in 1970 as a residential centre for youth activities. The European Youth Foundation followed in 1972 in order to fund youth activities in member countries. Both of these bodies concentrated on activities conducted by recognised youth organisations. These moves were strongly supported by the Assembly which in 1968-9 debated at length the situation of young people in Europe following the unrest of 1968.

2.         The needs of young people have however changed since 1968 and the area covered by the Council of Europe doubled.

3.         There have been significant changes in the situation of young people as a result of the political evolution in central and eastern Europe since 1989. The Committee on Culture and Education has reported on this (see Mrs Terborg's report Doc 6665 and Rec 1191 of 1992). There have also been changes in the attitudes of young people in western Europe. The Committee on Culture and Education is now conducting a more general survey (rapporteur Mr Elo).

4.         One of the factors to be taken into account is the declining involvement of young people in organised youth activities. This is particularly true of central and eastern Europe following the democratic reforms.

The origins of the Budapest Centre

5.         The idea of a European Youth Centre in central and eastern Europe was at the outset based on the need to extend the facilities provided by the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg. Care was taken not to describe it as a "second" Centre, or one for "second-class" east European young people. Its activities and its organisation were to be seen as a simple extension of the activities carried out at the Centre in Strasbourg. One and the same Governing Board (co-managed) was to have an overview on both centres.

6.         The Assembly (Committee on Culture and Education) has supported from the outset the moves initiated by European Youth Ministers in Luxembourg 1990 for a new European youth centre in central and eastern Europe. In Opinion 157 (1991) the Assembly called for budget support; in Recommendation 1216 (1993) it listed such a centre as a priority area for cooperation; in 1992 the chairman of the Committee on Culture and Education, Mr Günther Müller, was a member of the Board of Assessors that visited the various sites proposed for the location of the new centre; in October 1994 a parliamentary question was put by myself on the subject of funding to the Committee of Ministers.

7.         After agreeing in 1992 to set up a "decentralised youth centre" in central and eastern Europe, the Committee of Ministers decided in 1993 to accept the offer of the Hungarian Government to locate this in the Hotel Ifjusag in Budapest.

8.         After delays over property ownership and conversion, the new Centre was finally opened in December 1995. The Assembly was represented in the meetings that accompanied this opening by Mr Martinez (President), Mrs Fischer (Chairperson of the Committee on Culture and Education) and myself (Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Youth and Sport). Our responsibilities have of course since changed - but not I hope our support for the Budapest Centre.

The value-added factors of the Budapest Centre

9.         In addition to enabling an extension of the sort of activities provided by the Strasbourg Youth Centre, the setting up of the Budapest Centre is an important step in the development of European integration. It also provides a Council of Europe meeting point in central and eastern Europe. This is relevant for the Council of Europe as a whole, but also for the Assembly, where several committees have already indicated their interest.

10.        The use of the Budapest Centre has been discussed by almost all Council of Europe bodies that might be involved. There is broad agreement that it should be used in accordance with the general objectives of Council of Europe youth work. Proposals have been made for partnership activities in related fields: for example questions involving young people directly; education and training; intercultural issues (such as minorities or the campaign against xenophobia); and reconstruction of former Yugoslavia. In this latter context we would very much support the Council of Europe's initiative for a Democratic Leadership Programme within which the first pilot project for young political leaders from Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb is proposed to be organised by the International Institute for Democracy.

11.        Another new role for the Centre is the development of a programme of activities with the European Union. It will be interesting to see if a formal agreement can be reached on this, for example in the context of the "Youth for Europe" programme.

12.        The Centre should also be opened in some way to the majority of young people in Budapest who are not involved in organised youth work. Links should be established with universities and with local youth activities such as those conducted by the Soros Foundation and European Union. This is an understandable priority for the Hungarian authorities.

The problems

13.        A primary problem is budgetary. The Committee of Ministers cut substantially the requested 1996 budget for the Budapest Centre. It stands now at 3.25 m FRF (with 1 m in reserve). The contrast with the 13 m FRF for the Strasbourg Centre is explained by the fact that the Budapest Centre is to pay its way whereas the Strasbourg Centre is subsidised. Why is a similar system not possible for both Centres? If not, can activities be transferred from Strasbourg to Budapest?

14.        Who decides on the day to day management of the Centre? This question should surely be left as open as possible until the full use of the Budapest Centre can be assured.

15.        A third problem area is that of administration. Here again the Committee of Ministers has introduced severe cuts in the level of staffing requested. We should hope on the contrary that the Committee of Ministers will apply procedures, salary scales etc appropriate to the developing market situation in Budapest in order to equip the Centre and recruit competent secretariat so that it can function at full capacity.

16.        A fourth problem is the change in the centre of gravity of the Council of Europe. It is surely inevitable that this should now shift eastwards. To encourage this, the Assembly should derogate meetings held at the Budapest Centre from those held outside Strasbourg and Paris. Ideally the condition for such meetings should be (a) the inclusion of youth representation, as argued in the past by the Assembly and (b) participants staying in the Centre itself.

17.        We can after all ask nothing more of the Hungarian authorities than is provided by the French authorities in Strasbourg and Paris.


18.        We want to support the Budapest Youth Centre as a relay of that in Strasbourg, but also as something more. It should reach out to young people in central and eastern Europe and it could be a meeting point for the Assembly. It is urgent that it be given the means (finance and personnel) to carry this out. The Assembly should give its unilateral support.

Reporting committee: Committee on Culture and Education

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None.

Reference to the committee:  Doc. 7448 and Reference No. 2051 of 10 January 1996.

Draft recommendation: adopted unanimously by the committee on 7 March 1996.

Members of the committee: Sir Russell Johnston, (Chairperson), MM. Berg, de Puig (Vice‑Chairpersons), Árnason, Asciak, Banks, Bartumeu Cassany, Bauer, Baumel, Berti, Mrs Bieliková, MM. Decagny, De Decker, Mrs Fleeetwood (Alternate: Mr Billing), MM. Galanos, Gellért Kis (Alternate: Hegyi), Mrs Groenver, Baroness Hooper (Alternate: Sir Keith Speed), Mrs Isohookana-Asunmaa, MM.  Ji_í Karas, Kirsteins, Kollwelter, Kouck_ (Alternate: Kalus), Legendre, Lopez Henares, Mrs Machaira, Mr Ma_achowski, Mrs Maximus, Mrs Mihaylova, MM. Mocanu, Mocioi, Mrs Naoumova, MM. Oliynik, Paunescu, Probst, Pulaha, Rhinow, Rivelli, Mrs Schicker, MM. Serra, Siwiec (Alternate: Piatkowski), Škol_, Sofoulis, Szakàl, Mrs Terborg (Alternate: Zierer), Mr Vangelov, Mrs Veidemann, Mr Verbeek, Mrs Vermot-Mangold, Mrs Verspaget, MM. Vogt, Walsh, Ms Wärnersson, MM Widmann, Yaroshynsky (Alternate: Kapustyan), Zingeris.

NB: The names of those who took part in the vote are in italics.

Secretaries to the committee: MM. Grayson, Ary and Gruden.

[1]. by the Committee on Culture and Education