In the framework of the project #EngagEU, TEPSA organized the 2nd Young Citizens’ Convention – Debate with Members of the European Parliament on the Future of Europe, which took place in Brussels on 24 September 2019.
The event gathered Members of the European Parliaments (MEPs), several Civils Society Organizations, and over a hundred young citizens with an interest in European politics. Funda Tekin, Director of the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP), opened the event with some insightful remarks on the 2019 European Parliament elections. Ms Tekin praised the high turnout and the high level of engagement among citizens. In that regard, she explained how the project #EngagEU aimed at making the voices of young people heard by introducing the Manifesto “Young ideas for the Future of Europe”.
Subsequently, Pedro Silva Pereira, Vice-President of the European Parliament, proceeded to deliver the keynote speech. His intervention emphasized climate change, inequalities, poverty, and migrations as the biggest challenges the European Union will need to tackle. In the face of adversities, he explained, listening to the youth is a political responsibility, especially in light of the increased level of political participation among young people. After the Vice President’s intevention, the Convention moved to the interactive debate, where the audience had the opportunity to discuss their ideas for the Future of Europe in a lively debate with the following Members of the European Parliament:
- Brando Benifei from the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament;
- Svenja Hahn from Renew Europe;
- Niklas Nienaß from the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament;
- Katalin Cseh from Renew Europe;
The first topic of the debate was “European Identity”. #EngagEU Rapporteur Philipp Raab first gave an overview of the proposals of the Manifesto regarding the strengthening of a common European identity. The aims of the Manifesto were to:
- Increase the visibility of the EU by introducing pan-European ID cards and by establishing a European TV channel that would cover similarities and history of the European Union, rather than national differences;
- Increase cultural exchange and foster mobility between EU countries;
- Introduce mandatory service in the EU Solidarity Corps.
While Niklas Nienaß was supportive of all three suggestions, Svenja Hahn and Katalin Cseh were less enthusiastic about the mandatory nature of the last proposal, as they argued it could backfire by damaging the image of the European Union. Either way, they also agreed that the best solution would be to make the European Solidarity Corps a more attractive option to EU citizens, albeit not a mandatory one.
Regarding the environmental policy of the European Union, Rapporteur Gustav Spät highlighted three main proposals of the Manifesto:
- Further inclusion of environmental education in schools;
- The improvement of the matching process between research outputs and the demands of companies;
- The introduction of a Common European Refund System to harmonize the best waste treatment practices at the European level.
The MEPs warmly welcomed the proposals, with Svenja Hahn even promising to share the idea of a Common European Refund System with her Committee. The panel also stressed the importance of education in the fight against climate change and suggested that the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework could promote projects targeted at European teachers and schools. Finally, the MEPs explained the need for EU Member States to be financially incentivised to contribute more to this cause.
First, Carolina de Albuquerque clarified that the “Integration policy” of the Manifesto did not focus merely on the management of migratory movements but also on the need to help people integrate. To this end, the proposal of the Manifesto included:
- The promotion of diversity;
- The improvement of social cohesion starting from an intercultural dialogue by providing language centres at the local level;
- The improvement of integration into higher education and later into the labour market through a “test semester”.
These key points led to a fruitful discussion on the value of immigration to the European Union and the perception of this phenomenon among EU citizens. As far as the three proposals were concerned, the MEPs praised the inclusive nature of the Manifesto, although they were not as confident about the introduction of a “test semester” which would only apply to immigrants.
The main proposal of the Manifesto with regard to foreign policy, presented by Klajdi Kaziu, stated that “the first step towards a safer Union must be done through the harmonization of military procurement”.
The discussion quickly evolved into a debate over the need for a united European Army. Brando Benifei argued that the role of NATO’s StratCom was limited and that the European Parliament needs to step up its efforts in the fight against fake news and disinformation. Niklas Nienaß also hypothesized that a European Army would be the next step of the harmonization of military procurement. This led him to agree that the EU should speak with one voice, but he emphasized that the Union’s foreign policy should focus on trade negotiations more so than common defence. Svenja Hahn, on the other hand, corroborated the creation of a European Army under the control of the Parliament, and Katalin Cseh also suggested that the EU needs to defend European common values in trading negotiations by reinforcing its foreign policy with military power.
Civic Engagement Hub
Following the debate, a Civic Engagement Hub took place, where several civil society organisations presented their work and how young Europeans can get engaged in civil society.TEPSA had the honour of welcoming the following organisations:
- The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS);
- AEGEE– European Students’ Forum;
- The Young European Federalists (JEF);
- The European Solidarity Corps;
- The #EngagEU Rapporteurs.
About the project
#EngagEU aimed to mobilise and empower young citizens to participate in European politics by developing concrete recommendations for the future of Europe. To this end, over 600 young Europeans came together from September 2018 to April 2019 to discuss and to contribute to the Manifesto “Young ideas for the Future of Europe”.
The #1stYoungCitizens’Convention took place in Berlin on 30 April 2019, where the manifesto was presented to the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and discussed by six young candidates to the European Parliament ahead of the European elections.
Read more about the project here.