European Solidarity Corps 2021 – 2027: the Council and the European Parliament strike a provisional agreement

The German presidency of the Council and the European Parliament’s negotiators reached a provisional agreement on the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) programme for 2021-2027. With a budget of over 1 billion euro, the programme will allow around 350 000 young people from the EU and partner countries to engage in voluntary actions in two areas: solidarity activities addressing societal challenges, such as helping children and the elderly or assisting in centres for asylum seekers, among others, and humanitarian aid related solidarity actions.

I am extremely pleased that together with the European Parliament we secured the future implementation of the European Solidarity Corps for the next 7 years. The programme is a fantastic opportunity for young people across the EU to engage in solidarity actions and at the same time to acquire precious skills. The new set of actions in the humanitarian field will strengthen the much-needed solidarity with victims of crises and disasters in third countries. With this programme, young people will be on the frontline to promote European values such as freedom, democracy, equality or human rights in and outside the EU.

Franziska Giffey, Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth


The provisional agreement provides that the programme will be open to people aged between 18 and 30 for solidarity activities and 18 and 35 in the humanitarian aid area, who have registered in the ESC Portal. They may do that as of the age of 17, but should be at least 18 and not older than 30 or 35 (humanitarian aid), depending on the area of action, at the moment of commencing the voluntary activities. The agreed programme also provides that all activities should be implemented with due consideration of the impact of unforeseen circumstances such as environmental crises, conflicts or pandemics.

European Solidarity Corps will be accessible for public or private entities and international organisations, provided that they have received an ESC quality label. The label will be attributed by the competent national implementing body on the basis of certain criteria, such as the principles of equal treatment, equal opportunities and non-discrimination.

Participating countries

All activities under the programme are open to the participation of the member states. Third countries (members of the European Free Trade Association, which are members of the European Economic Area, acceding countries, candidates and potential candidates, countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy and other third countries, in accordance with the conditions laid down in a specific agreement) may also take part in the programme with some exceptions, in particular volunteering in humanitarian aid actions. 

Countries of activities

The programme provides that the voluntary solidarity activities addressing societal challenges may take place in a country other than the country of residence of the participant or in the country of residence of the participant (in-country). In-country volunteering shall be open to the participation of all young people, and in particular of young people with fewer opportunities.

Volunteering in support of humanitarian aid operations may only take place in third armed conflict-free countries where humanitarian aid activities and operations take place. 

Background and next steps

The ESC was announced by Commission President Juncker in his September 2016 State of Union speech. Phase one was launched in December 2016, followed by Phase 2 for 2018-2020. On 11 June 2018 the European Commission proposed a stand-alone programme for Phase 3 of the ESC covering the years 2021-2027. On 26 November 2018 the Council agreed its position for negotiations with the European Parliament which began on 2 October 2019.

The provisional agreement will now be submitted to EU member states’ ambassadors for endorsement. The adoption of the European Solidarity Corps regulation for 2021-2027 will happen at a later stage.