Article submitted by Olga Ambrosiewiz from Eurodesk UK Partner Momentum World.
On February 7th, to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of The Maastricht Treaty, this most European Dutch city hosted YO!Fest (the Youth Opinion Festival), an event organised by the European Youth Forum that welcomed over 3,000 young people. A diverse programme attracted participants from different backgrounds and a wide representation of youth focused organizations. In 2016 YO!Fest took place as part ofthe European Youth Event (EYE) in Strasbourg.
Momentum World was invited by Eurodesk UK to take part. The entire Eurodesk delegation consisted of young people and Eurodesk multipliers from all across Europe, representing Croatia, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and Finland.
To ensure a comprehensive selection of topics, the festival was structured around six themes: Health, Inclusion, Participation, Peace, Rights, and Sustainability. YO!Fest offered its participants a variety of workshops, lectures, discussions, networking opportunities, documentary film screenings and cultural events filled with live music performances. People could exchange European experiences, good practices and share information. A key message we took away was that Europe’s future depends on its young people and their determination to keep this ambitious political project going and move it forward in years to come.
During the early hours of the morning on February 7th the UK delegation was eager to join the lively and at times heated discussion organized by the Maastricht Students for Liberty. The title of the discussion said it all, namely: “Was Brexit Democratic?”. Two panellists representing opposite camps presented core points on the issue. The audience engaged actively by asking informed questions and got involved through social media and by responding to a live survey. Young Europeans in Maastricht demonstrated a genuine interest and concern to UK voters’ decision to quit the EU.
One of the fellow Eurodesk delegations from Italy invited us to take part in a role playing game. The main goal of the game was to come up with an idea for a project that would make Moloch city (a fictional city in the scenario) the most popular tourist destination. Each participant had a role to play, and everyone had a say in the debate on the common strategy. Obstacles had to be overcome, secret agents tried to sabotage the plenary meeting of the citizens, and dismantle all attempts to develop the tourist industry. Very challenging but we achieved our goal in the end!
Later on during the day, we presented Europeers UK and were joined by the Finnish and the Dutch Europeers representatives. Together we promoted our international efforts, and spread the word about the diverse aspects of the Erasmus+ programme. Each Europeer had their own experience and developed different skills because of it., The young people who came to the workshop had a unique chance to discuss all possibilities offered through Erasmus+ with us.
When asked what being a Europeer meant to her a Dutch Europeer, Farhana said: “Being a Europeer means having a passion for promoting mobility in Europe amongst young people and a passion for offering them tailored information about many possibilities whilst drawing from personal experience, whenever an opportunity presents itself”.
Emilia from Finland said of her experience at the festival: “Attending YO! Fest was an amazing opportunity for a young person like me to develop my views about Europe via this experience and connect with other European people”.
During the closing ceremony the organizers chose to treat the participants with a panel of star guest speakers. Maastricht’s acting mayor Annemarie Penn-te Strake gave an inspiring speech and shared words of solidarity with young people. The audience gathered in the venue was encouraged to participate in an active online survey and ask questions via twitter to the panelists. The entire festival in fact, embraced technology to a large extent. Twitter, facebook, online surveys all helped to stimulate the debates and to involve the participants.
There is a number of difficult topics going round in the EU: Brexit, the rise of the far right, xenophobia, the refugee crisis, youth unemployment and more. That is why a high quality debate about these issues is very important. YO!Fest 2017 was a perfect space to discuss them and exchange ideas while building a pan-European dialogue. Getting the right information and finding new ideas in 2017 as a young person can be a daunting task. YO!Fest 2017 in Maastricht presented a unique opportunity for young Europeans to get ahead of the game. Our peers are our best filters while scouting for information and opportunities that are interesting or important to us.