A crisis can also be an opportunity. It is up to us to make the EU work and make Europe a successful and happy continent.
- Commissioner Tibor Navracsics
On 3 September the Europa House in Vienna hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Tibor Navracsics and Juliane Bogner-Strauβ, Austrian Minister for Women, Family and Youth. The lively discussion with a roomful of participants, many of them young people both from Austria and other parts of Europe, went well beyond education and touched upon issues related to civic participation and the role of parents and schools in this respect, fighting Euro-scepticism, and the better engagement of young people through the Commission's new Youth strategy, just to name a few.
The Dialogue started with the short introductory words of Christian Zoll, Chairman of the Austrian Youth Council, who briefly reported to the audience about the discussions of the Youth Conference and about the Youth Goals.
An opening snap vote among the audience revealed that Erasmus is regarded as one of the best tools to bring young Europeans together. In her reaction Minister Bogner-Strauβ acknowledged that the current programs are on a good track, and explained that the next step should be working together to develop and reinforce the European identity of young people. Commissioner Tibor Navracsics recalled that Erasmus was not always accessible to everyone due to Europe’s political division, but 2018 is a good opportunity to restart Erasmus more than just a student mobility program, and rather as a community building exercise. He also warned that the biggest threat young people may face today is isolation, and Erasmus can help young people find their places in society. “We’ll double the budget for Erasmus to EUR 700 000 after 2020 and we’ll extend its social and generational scope”, he said.
Some participants shared their positive experiences about Erasmus while others were wondering whether there were plans to harmonise secondary education in the EU similarly to the “Bologna process”. There were also calls for teaching more about the history of EU and the basic values it represents in schools all over Europe. Commissioner Navracsics explained that the European Education Area can be established by 2025, which will be a network of interactions between national education systems which can then facilitate further cooperation.
The discussion turned towards the perception of the EU and opinions differed whether the older or the younger generations tends to be more EU sceptic in the different EU countries. While some participants were calling for a better involvement of young people in shaping the future, others pointed out the challenge social media manipulations can pose particularly for young people, including for the European elections. There was general agreement, however, that the benefits and values of the EU need to be reminded and explained to everyone. Commissioner Navracsics expressed his trust in the EU as a network of political institutions which is able to influence its faith, and referred to the recommendation of EU education ministers to teach students about the origins and the basic values of the EU.
In his closing words the Commissioner reminded participants that “a crisis can also be an opportunity. It is up to us to make the EU work and make it a successful and happy continent”
The event in Vienna was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.