You are a historic generation, you are the future and education is the most important activity at this age.
- Commissioner Tibor Navracsics -
On 15 December, the Home for Cooperation, the community centre located in the heart of Nicosia hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Tibor Navracsics. The lively discussion with about 100 young people from both the Greek and the Turkish Cypriot Communities touched upon various aspects of education and culture, including employment outlooks for young people, apprenticeships and entrepreneurial skills, European values, the role of schools in transmitting information about the EU, helping refugee children etc.
The Dialogue started with a voting question "Do you think your voice is heard in the EU?" to which none of the participants responded with a "Yes". Commissioner Tibor Navracsics explained, in his reaction to the question that it is all the more important to have direct contacts, such as this Dialogue, with European citizens. The Commissioner emphasised that the European institutions are there for the citizens, they are based on their faith in the EU and encouraged participants to share with him their thoughts.
Several participants expressed interests in learning more about EU programs and opportunities to participate in volunteering activities. They stressed that schools should provide more information about the EU for young people but they felt that the motivation of Cypriot teachers to promote the EU seemed to be lacking.
In his response the Commissioner talked about the possibilities under the Erasmus+ program, and encouraged everyone to take advantage of the 30th anniversary of this successful EU program in 2017 and participate in it.. The Commissioner also drew attention to volunteering and the possibilities open to young people under the newly launched Solidarity Corps, which allows young people to make a contribution to society and gain important experiences at the same time.
Turning to questions related to education, participants expressed their concerns regarding the youth unemployment and what outlook today's generation has in the labour market. A young participant explained that at the age of 17 it was difficult to decide about a future career and proposed that young people should have the opportunity to try out some jobs for a short period of time. Some other participants asked the Commissioner why in some countries the Youth Guarantee scheme works less than in others and whether the EU is planning to introduce entrepreneurship skills in European schools so the EU can compete with the US and Asia.
Commissioner Navracsics explained that in the new skills agenda the EU encourages the transformation of national education systems to be more skills oriented. "We need more social, entrepreneurship and digital skills that help young people to find good jobs and also their place in society. The next step is the national implementation", he stressed. He also drew attention to the Youth Employment Initiative scheme, whose budget was increased by 2 billion euros to address youth unemployment and to support young people find a job or have more opportunities for apprenticeships or to continue their education. At the same time he also pointed out the need for closer cooperation between businesses, education and research institutions to match skills with the requirements of the labour market.
During the discussion participants also wanted to know about how the education system of the future will look like, whether radicalisation can be prevented through education and how the EU is supporting refugee children to better integrate in schools and later on in society. A participant asked the Commissioner "Do you think schools are preparing us to be EU citizens?"
In the debate participants also voiced their concerns regarding the EU program Creative Europe, and pointed out that small countries, such as Cyprus are struggling to be competitive and meet the guidelines of the program. They were wondering if an increase in the program's budget would be possible in the future.
At the end of the Dialogue the Commissioner and the participants continued the discussion informally for some time and took several selfies, visible enjoying the opportunity for such direct exchange of ideas.
The event in Nicosia was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.