Can Europe hear me? Towns as a driving force for youth participation
During the 2018 EU Regions Week, a workshop was organised by the "Europe for Citizens" Unit of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). It brought beneficiaries, EU Institutions representatives, journalists, students and municipalities from different parts of the EU together, who all had the opportunity to discuss and reflect on the civic and democratic participation of youth, both at local and Union level. As young Europeans represent the future of Europe, it is essential that they get more involved in current EU affairs, understand how the EU functions and what it stands for. The grants awarded by the "Europe for Citizens" Programme enable local authorities to build on both local and transnational collaborations and thus enhance European Citizenship and youth participation in democratic life.
The workshop was organised around a lively discussion, actively engaging the audience. Participants were invited to use the interactive Slido tool, provide ideas, suggestions for discussion. The key questions mainly addressed the challenges that the EU and our municipalities face to strengthen the dialogue with youngsters and boost their participation in the political life.
Several successful initiatives were presented from across Europe which all built upon a local or transnational network of municipalities. The project "Europe in the Future- Multifaceted and Unified" explored possible ways to get youngsters involved in EU policymaking. It engaged young people in debates about the future of Europe through international meetings, round table discussions and creative art contests. The second project presented, "Building Actions of Guidance Services for Youth Employment Network", aimed to raise awareness by focusing on self-entrepreneurship and the promotion of the employability of young citizens. Therefore, an important link has been established between local authorities and the EU level. The project, "Remembering the future", encouraged youth to take ownership of their European identity and contribute to its future. Throughout interactive workshops of this project, young citizens had the opportunity to reflect on the EU together, express constructive opinion about it and share their own experiences. This enabled them to develop a sense of belonging to the European Community and make their voice heard at EU level.
The projects presented all highlighted the "human face of the EU" along with its cultural diversity and contributed to citizens' better understanding of the EU.
Take away message
The need to create deeper ties between the EU and its citizens has never been stronger. Initiatives on the local level as well as volunteering can enhance wider involvement and can improve communication between local authorities and the EU institutions. The EU needs to listen and build on the power of youth to engage local communities.
"If we don’t listen to young people, how can we expect them to listen to us?"- Karin Skold, Head of Job and Knowledge of Linkoping Kommun (Sweden)
"…grasp the fundamental values of the EU, to learn to live together and to develop a sense of belonging to a community of the future." (Genevieve Hetroy, Vice-President "Europe en Berry Touraine", France)
"…the power of young people to change the local community and their role in policy-making process on the local level." (Neli Petrova, Project Manager, Municipality of Aksakovo, Varna, Bulgaria)