We all have a responsibility for the environment. I see that young people are increasingly active in putting their ideals into practice. That is what inspires me.
First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans
On 15 March, the NHL Stenden Hogeschool in Emmen hosted a Citizens’ Dialogue with First Vice President Frans Timmermans. Approximately 90 students and 40 regional entrepreneurs took part in the lively discussion on climate change, the plastics strategy, youth in politics and the future of Europe.
Many questions from participants touched upon the environmental challenges Europe is facing right now. Two students wanted to know why the Netherlands should be a frontrunner in sustainable innovation and how we could motivate other countries to follow the European example.
Mr. Timmermans explained to the students that sustainable innovation is the only way forward if we do not want to run out of what our planet has to offer us. “If we manage to implement EU-norms, I suspect other countries will follow”, he said.
He further explained that we have developed a strategy in the European Union on how to handle plastic. “We have looked at the entire circular economy. That is unique in the world. The rest of the world is very interested in this. With our model, we can share our values with other countries. The sooner we make the switch, the cheaper it will be.”
He emphasised how important it is for all countries to translate climate proposals into what this means concretely. Everyone who has to participate should be involved in this process.
A student asked Mr. Timmermans whether he thought that the choice of digital platforms to not post or to restrict certain content goes against the freedom of speech. He explained the importance of the copyright directive and that it is extremely important to protect peoples’ intellectual property.
A student was wondering why the European Parliament still travels to Strasbourg every month and whether this does not contradict the current discussion on sustainability.
A final question from the audience focused on the importance of sustaining one’s mother tongue in a world, and in a Europe, where English is spoken everywhere.
During the closing moments of the Dialogue, Mr. Timmermans appealed to the audience by stressing the importance of youth in politics: “You should never be indifferent to what happens around you”, he concluded.