By Amy McAuley
I and nine other young people represented NYCI at the “Young People Shape the Future of Europe” virtual event. The key message for the day was that change starts with young people.
The first session of the day focused on brainstorming policy recommendations. Participants were divided into working groups based on topics of interest. These ranged from climate change to European democracy. I was in the digital transition and education working group which was split into the areas of digital accessibility, combatting fake news and disinformation, education for digital skills and technological infrastructure and development. In smaller breakout rooms, we proceeded to delve deeper into each topic by asking some leading questions and prioritising the main needs of young people. Each subgroup drafted three policy proposals which were then presented to the main group. I worked in the topic area of digital accessibility where we discussed the promotion of digital mobility programmes and stronger broadband facilities for rural areas. It was great to share experiences and best practices with a variety of young people from different countries and it was clear from other groups that more information and funding is needed to ensure Europe is a stronger and safer for its young people.
The afternoon session featured a discussion with European Year of Youth Coordinator, Biliana Sirakova from the European Commission. She highlighted the European programmes already available to young people such as Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps and mentioned some of the goals of the European Year of Youth. These included introducing a European student card, more accessible funding for grassroots organisations and the introduction of a global Erasmus programme with alumni mentoring.
The final part of the day focused on presenting our draft policy proposals to Conference on the Future of Europe plenary members. My group got to interact with Ms Laurence Farreng from Renew Europe. She reiterated her commitment to working with young people to promote education and a solid European identity. There were calls to promote digital exchanges and awareness of cybersecurity, as well as ideas about European-wide recognised qualifications and the necessity of non-formal education for youth work. It was inspiring and reassuring to hear her support for our draft policy recommendations.
Following the day’s discussions, we formulated thirteen policy recommendations which will go before MEPs who are members of the plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Each young person received a certificate of participation and an information booklet containing all of our ideas will be distributed in the near future.
Over the past 10 months the National Youth Council of Ireland has been working in association with the 25 Percent Project. Collaborating with a strong consortium led by the European Youth Forum which includes 4 other National Youth Council, 5 International Youth Organisations, 1 academic partner and 1 outreach partner This initiative aims to give young people a voice as part of The Conference on The Future of Europe. With over 300 young people engaged nationally and over 1,000 ideas collected, Irish young people have made it clear they want to see a better future for Europe. The international event took place in February with 150 young participants, with 10 youth representatives from Ireland. Young people came together to present their ideas and proposals to the Conference on the Future of Europe and other decision makers. Several MEPs attended the event including Alice Mary Higgins representing Ireland. A number of proposals have been put forward including tackling climate change, digital transition and job security. See the full report more information.