Young Europeans ready to take next step at EYE

, by Angelique Truijens, Juuso Järviniemi

Young Europeans ready to take next step at EYE

On the second and concluding day of the European Youth Event, the collection of attendees’ ideas for a better Europe intensified. With the “last-chance” European elections looming, the perpetual task of ‘engaging young people’ in EU politics was discussed with a certain sense of urgency. Whether or not the tens of millions of young voters in Europe suddenly become active next year, it is clear that the 8,000 who had made their way to Strasbourg are ready for Europe to take the next step.

EP elections 2019: Next test for Europe

At EYE, the European Parliament announced its official campaign for boosting youth voter turnout, called “This Time I’m Voting”. The rationale for why turnout matters was presented again: if the Parliament has a mandate from the great majority of the people, it can be more courageous in exercising power in the EU system.

The campaign is asking young people what values they will be voting for in 2019. “I will be voting for democracy” was one answer overheard in the corridors where participants were interviewed for short campaign videos. A federalist might conceive that as greater visibility for the top candidates for Commission leadership, including TV debates. To a federalist’s delight, this precise issue was highlighted by one of the speakers at the big plenary debate on the elections in the afternoon. Remarkably, the speaker was not - to the authors’ knowledge - from JEF. An indication of the resonance of the #ourVisionforEurope campaign, perhaps.

Feeling European, not being afraid to say it

Saturday also marked the coronation of Young European of the Year Madeleina Kay, well-known for her campaigning against Brexit. As can be expected from an activist who has tattooed the “Toujours européenne” text on her arm, the laureate made a forceful statement for the European project through her ‘Pulse of Europe’ song, performed in the award ceremony as well as on the main stage of the outdoor Yo!Fest area. The selection of an artist as a Young European of the Year offers variation, as past winners have often come directly from organisations, rather than the field of culture.

Apart from questioning, discussing, group work and activism, the EYE also had a busy cultural agenda where participants (and journalists :) ) could relax both inside and outside of the building of the EP. On both days, artists from all around Europe and beyond have performed classical music, theatre, dance and even circus. The themes of the European spirit and recognition of a personal identity, but also the position of a ‘foreigner’ in Europe were artistically expressed and appreciated with huge applause. Though the EYE had a clear and quite serious topic of democracy, freedom and so much more, the cultural performances showed that we are all connected by a common culture and we can all understand the language of music and theatre.

Outside, on the Yo!Fest grounds, various topics were discussed in specific workshops. Participants were asked to adopt an activist approach to topics such as gender equality, LGBTQIA+ rights, climate change. The rights-based reasoning in these issues showed how young Europeans do not only respect human rights, but expect it also from their policymakers, along with real action on finally protecting the fundamental rights of all individuals in the European Union.

Overall, the EYE was a busy event, where young Europeans came together to discuss their view on the future of the EU as well as the current challenges that the EU is dealing with. Relevant questions were posed, ideas discussed, activists triggered. However, maybe most importantly, young European citizens were able to interact with policy makers and show them what Europe means to them and debate with them on how they envision the future of their home continent.

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