Young people from all over Europe travelled to Sibiu, Romania on 8 May to discuss the future of Europe with European Union leaders ahead of the historic summit of 9 May. They brainstormed and discussed for a full day about five key topics: engagement, democracy, fairness, digital Europe, and climate change.
The purpose was to speak about these ideas with leaders who would attend the summit in Sibiu. The day ended with a plenary Citizens’ Dialogue with Commission President JeanClaude Juncker and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Each participant went to one of the five workshops: one in the morning and to a different one in the afternoon. They presented their conclusions to Commissioners Navracsics (morning) and Thyssen (afternoon). Commissioner Navracsics also joined one of the workshops.
The participants brought tremendous enthusiasm during the workshops and had very passionate discussions. They produced a range on recommendations and ideas, which they shared with high-level officials. They were united in their call for more common intervention at European Union level.
President Juncker and President Iohannis of Romania held a Citizens’ Dialogue with 350 young people in Sibiu, Romania, the day before the Sibiu summit.
The discussion represented a symbolic link between the voices of young people from all over Europe and the high-level discussion at the Sibiu summit. Both leaders attended the summit and the Citizens’ Dialogue gave young people the opportunity to lend their voice to shaping the future of Europe.
The Dialogue was kicked off with an introduction by the Commission’s Director-General for communication, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen. The ensuing debate with the Presidents covered a wide range of topics.
The young participants asked about migration, lowering the voting age to 16 years in Romania, lobbying, preservice democratic values through new IT tools, environmental protection and protecting young people in a changing labour market.
During the discussion with the two leaders, participants had the opportunity to not only share their views, but they also had the space to learn from experienced leaders.
As one participant remarked to President Juncker: ‘When you were a minister, many of us were not even born’. Reflecting on his time as minister, President Juncker said that ‘(…) the European part of the world is a better part to live in than it was in the past’. He said that what is different now is the issue of environmental protection, which the European Union has addressed and must continue to address as one of the most important issues today.
President Juncker noted that young people must also look to themselves and to their own democratic responsibility.
President Iohannis echoed a similar point when asked if he would support lowering the voting age to 16 years. He said that if we were to lower the voting age, then we would also have to teach democracy sooner. In this way we can avoid the situation of today, where ‘we vote at 18, but learn about democracy at 38’.
The young people were passionate about their participation in the future of Europe, as one participant asked, ‘You claim to talk to young people, but why do you not invite any at the summit tomorrow as you did in Gothenburg?’
President Iohannis answered: ‘We do not go by our own will. We go because we were elected’. He emphasised how important participants’ feedback was and underlined that through them they were already addressing two participants at the summit.
The two Presidents were united in their commitment to democratic values, to listening to people, and to the importance of voting in the upcoming elections for the European parliament.
President Iohannis ended the Dialogue stating: ‘If you want good leaders, go and vote for them’.
CITIZENS’ PROPOSALS PER WORKSHOP
Workshop ‘Democracy and me: engaging in the European democratic life’ Better communicate what the EU does (e.g. 10’ programme broadcast by the EU Institutions in all Member States), do more to fight fake news (e.g. legislation, fact-checking certified agency, providing citizens with the ability to report fake news) and improve engagement opportunities (e.g. lower requirements for the European Citizens’ Initiative).
Workshop ‘Society and me: how do I want to get involved and build communities?’ Expand Erasmus+ to help less skilled people, establish an EU Civic Education Agency with branches in each Member State, make an application to extend connections between teachers, and introduce co-management of young people into EU policy.
Workshop ‘Fairness in the EU: illusion, reality or unfinished business? Reduce inequality (e.g. minimum and equal pay for the same work, more taxation on wealth, reduce gender pay gap) and increase social protection to respond to the challenges of the 21st century (e.g. improve conditions for precarious and short-term jobs).
Workshop ‘Digital Europe and me: will our lives and jobs change for the better?’ Strengthen and promote the EU cyber security agency, provide mandatory education on responsibility in social media, and create a charter of digital fundamental rights, and internet campaigns on cyberbullying.
Workshop ‘Fighting climate change: what difference can Europe and its young people make?’ Change European economy to support sustainable development (support for small-scale farms, promoting organic food, promote zero-waste and local products, invest more in carbon-neutral forms of transport) and re-direct subsidies to more environmentally-friendly industries. Implement carbon tax and invest returns in organic farming and renewables.