We often say that young people are unaware of –or could not care less about– politics, economics or even European affairs in general. The Young European Council (YEC) proves us wrong. This mind-growing and soul-shaping series of events and workshops are organised by the non-for profit and non-partisan organisation, the Young European Leadership (YEL). Based upon three key words: brainstorming, networking and leadership, YEC united over 100 of the brightest and most passionate young people from all over Europe.
UNITEE got the chance to meet these European affairs-savvies who discussed, negotiated and debated together for four days in order to find innovative solutions to global issues. This year’s issues were: education to employment, digital revolution and technologies, and sustainable development in cities. The Young Eur0pean Council can be defined as a constructive dialogue in which both young people and experts are given a chance to learn from one another.
Education to employment
With unemployment rates reaching high levels, how can young people believe in their future and want to fight for it? And how can Europe meet Europe 2020 benchmarks, focusing on the skills mismatch?
The panel of young experts, led by its chair, Nadia Tjahja, met Cheryl D. Miller, Founder & Director of Digital Leadership Institute, to whom they presentented their solutions as follows:
High-quality education has to be constantly developed. The emphasis is put on how radically different skills taught at school and those required on the labour market are. The change is to be operated at the grassroots level. This means at schools, where an impulse to adapt their educational strategies to an ever-changing society is really needed, notably through further support of education professionals provided at all levels to cater for the needs of today and tomorrow. Students will indeed become professionals. This explains the importance of learning entrepreneurial, intercultural and digital skills – thus aligning the mismatch between course-induced skills and those required to overcome the job market’s challenges. The access to information was also considered crucial so as to enhance future professionals’ independence and self-confidence.
The importance of traineeships and practical trainings that should be integrated into the curricula through a better use of educational institution’s networks and partnerships with public and private entities. This would lead to a healthy balance between theory and practice, and to building a connection between young people and the labour market. A standardised quality of practices assessment amongst Member States should also be implemented to the Europe 2020 Quality Framework for Traineeship.
Awareness on skills mismatch needs steadily raising. How? By appointing ambassadors or delegates to promote European initiatives, by continuing to encourage mobility (of students or of workers) further supporting programmes such as Erasmus+, and by acknowledging informally-acquired skills by urging businesses to appraise them in the recruitment process.
Digital revolution and technologies
The second YEC panel focused on the Digital Revolution and Technologies and how Europe can maximise the opportunities associated with information and communication technologies. One of the delegates, Stefanie Antonian, was the designated head of the panel. Three questions were discussed and presented to Matt Dann, Secretary General of think-tank Bruegel and by Mara Krikou, Unit Growth and Jobs, DG Connect.
How citizens can be protected from this new digital environment. The panel recommended that the Member States include compulsory digital classes in their national education curriculum, with a focus on personal security, online rights of the individual and online ethics. They also suggested the development of social media campaigns in order to collect more data on online solutions, as well as increase citizen participation, and the establishment of a Digital Justice Committee.
How the EU can increase transparency and citizen confidence amid the growing lack of trust in the EU. The panel recommended that the EU adopt Open Data access via a single online platform through making information about the EU institution’s activities more available and effectively explaining to citizens how the EU budget is allocated. Also, they proposed for improving functionality and categorisation of EU documents online and providing comprehensive and easy-to-understand legal texts for guiding citizens.
How to improve e-government systems in order to “ensure fast, easy, cost-effective and environmentally friendly methods of communication with citizens and businesses”. They recommended the creation of a single e-government portal incorporating all existing and future government e-services, with services such as revenue and customs digitalised and the installation of an online petitions system. They also suggested giving citizens and businesses the power to choose which method of communication to use with their respective governments and safeguarding the safety and security of personal data through an e-identification system.
Sustainable development in cities
The last panel focused on Europe’s expansion and urbanisation. How can Europe solve problems such as poor air quality, high levels of noise, greenhouse gas effect, water scarcity and waste? This panel, led by Pierre Manenti, presented to Connie Hedegaard, former-EU Commissioner for Climate Action, and Edith Hofer, Assistant to the Director General for Energy three issues:
Transportation systems are inefficient, thus altering the air quality. Green, innovative and efficient means of transport are the key. By implementing more eco-friendly means of transport, by cutting out their prices and by giving financial subsidies to green (public) transport companies, CO2 emissions will be reduced and the air quality improved.
Immediate actions for greater energy efficiency are to be taken by Member States. This could be done through different approaches: passing eco-friendly laws, even at a local level; encouraging green and public means of transport: public bikes, car-pooling; and finally by raising awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency improvements (especially on public and private buildings) at a socio-economic and environmental level.
Sustainable agriculture and living should be promoted –thus reducing energy, water and food waste. In order to do so: urban and peri-urban spaces should be dedicated to agriculture, reducing food transport and pollution; local food production should be promoted for its socio-economic and environmental benefits; and food and water circular use should be highlighted and initiatives to reduce their waste encouraged (redistribution to more vulnerable social groups, …).
Europe should not leave anyone’s voice unheard. Innovative, surprising and I-would-never-have-thought-of-that ideas do not always come from politicians. You would be amazed by the power of the young generation. Just pay more attention to them, and you will see society is going to change –for the best.