European Youth Week brought together young people, project participants, youth organisations and policy-makers in an European event held in Brussels at the European Parliament on 29th and 30th of April. It was organised by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture in partnership with the European Parliament and involving other Directorates-General of the European Commission. Maria G. and I had the opportunity to represent Léargas at the event, along with Vasiliki from Crooked House Theatre Company, Emma and Paul, both from Depaul.
The launch of the European Youth Week was filled with artistic performances, #EUandMe tent activities and an exhibition of exemplary projects on democracy from Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps 2014 – 2020. Maria and I were both taken by surprise to find the DYS volunteering project printed on a banner bigger than us! Getting to explore what projects the other countries were engaged in made us aware of the incredible effort put into making a change in the European community.
The 2 days youth event was filled with break-out sessions meant to make young people mindful of how important it is to get involved in their community. Following the launch, I participated in ‘How can the European Parliament better support and communicate with educators?’ – a discussion with teachers or non-formal educators on what tools would we need to better educate young people on democratic participation & what obstacles have we encountered when talking about it. The session was engaging, everyone present got to share their ideas on how to make the communication on democracy with young people easier.
‘THIS TIME ME AND MY FRIENDS ARE VOTING’
The second day began with an interactive session in the Hemicycle of the European Parliament to discuss how to make a difference. It felt inspiring to see the courage and determination when talking on subjects that matter to them. To stand up and have a say in how our future will look like represents one of the first steps for change. The ‘DEMOCRACY AND ME’ flagship event that followed was a moderated debate about democratic participation, all of us present being invited to share our own stories.
‘MAKING A CHANGE MEANS THE EUROPEAN SOLIDARITY CORPS’
Latter in the day, Commissioner Navracsics hosted a debate to gauge the impact of the European Solidarity Corps for young people, NGOs and local communities. The event showed how much it has already achieved in the first 2 years of its existence, allowing young people to learn and experience what it is like to be a volunteer or contribute to society as a trainee or young worker.
The biggest youth political festival in Europe took place outside the Parliament. It was organised by the European Youth Forum and their member organisations. From the packed programme of activities and entertainment, the Digital Activism stood out to us with some very interesting workshops on digital democracy, how to spot fake news, best practices for political campaigning & civic engagement. Time well spent!
Walking around Brussels
Although our schedule was pretty full, we still managed to take a few hours to stroll around the city. Admiring the impressive architecture of Grand Place, eating chocolate at one of the wee chocolateries in Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert or admiring the views from Mont des Arts Gardens made the trip even more enjoyable.
Time flew very quickly and it wasn’t long until we arrived home, giving us time to reflect on all the events we got to participate in. With the European Elections on 23-26 May being right around the corner, celebrating the youth week @the European Parliament with our peers from all over the world was a good reminder of how change is brought about in a democracy – by voting.