EYE – What’s Behind the Themes?

By Matti Lötjönen • 26 huhtikuun, 2016

Together we can make a change. The second edition of the European Youth Event will be run under this motto, in cultural, political and social terms.

The event is a unique opportunity for young Europeans to exchange perspectives and ideas in order to develop new solutions to the most pressing and pertinent questions of Europe. The participants get to meet and hear high profile speakers, current decision makers and other stakeholders as well as to discuss with each other whilst participating in debates, panels, role plays, digital games and many other educational and cultural activities. The ideas presented by EYE participants will be discussed in several parliamentary committees later this year.

The academic part of the weekend-long event is built upon five core themes (that are represented in more detail below) :

War and Peace – Perspectives for a Peaceful Planet

The European Union was first established as a peace project, fundamentally. Its predecessor, the European Coal and Steel Community, helped extinguish the rivalry between the powerful states of France and Germany, and went a long way in establishing peace in Europe. In 2012, the European Union was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in promoting human rights and “transforming most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace”. However, the current, ongoing military activities in Ukraine, the rise of Isis in Syria and the horrid acts of terrorism all over Europe and the world have brought the effects of war closer to Europeans than in decades.

Euro-Russian relations, terrorism, refugees, migration, peace negotiations, cybercrime… All these and more are among the topics discussed under the theme of War and Peace. In addition, the theme takes a glance at peaceful coexistence, the relationships between people. Topics range from combating hate speech and discrimination to meetings and discussions with minorities and refugees. The road to a peaceful planet is not merely to end all war, but also to support the people affected by it, and understand those worst off in our society.

Psst! EYP Finland organises an activity under this theme! In our workshop, participants get to discuss and debate about economic sanctions against Russia, and in the end draft and present a resolution in true EYP manner.

Apathy or Participation – Agenda for a Vibrant Democracy

More or less, we all want to make this world a better place to live in. But, to make this possible, the structure of the society needs to be at its best. In Europe, this structure is called democracy. However, democracy cannot exist on its own: informed and engaged citizens are crucial for maintaining it.

The turnout amongst young voters in the 2014 European Parliament elections was alarming: only 28% of all 18-to-24-year-olds cast their ballots, and in general the voting rates in many countries have been declining for years. Politics shouldn’t be considered as something distant and complex, but unfortunately this seems to be the case for many people. Civic engagement and community participation should rather be a part of our weekly lives.

The new era of digitalisation has brought new benefits and challenges to democracy. The impact of social media has grown, but can one hashtag change the world? How important is the role of youth organisations (such as EYP!) on integrating young people to a socially active lifestyle and how can one person make him- or herself heard? How could civic engagement be made more attractive and how to foster a culture of democratic participation? In Apathy or Participation workshops the participants get to learn about existing ways of participation and discuss the future structure of politics.

Exclusion or Access – Crackdown on Youth Unemployment

Motivated, well-educated people unable to find employers who can afford to hire them, or unlucky souls fallen off the high-stakes, high-standards school environment? Whatever the causes, youth unemployment is an issue that plagues the whole of the EU, with nearly half the people under the age of 25 unemployed in Spain and Greece, the countries worst off. This theme digs deep into the causes of unemployment and takes a critical view at many of the solutions the EU has offered.

Exclusion or Access, those truly are the key words in today’s employment. If your degree or diploma does not match the requirements of the changing work environment – exclusion. If you are of the wrong gender or have a handicap of some sort – exclusion. To gain better access to the work market, the EU has established the Youth Guarantee system which promises all under-25s a job offer or apprenticeship in four months after leaving school or becoming unemployed – but does this system really work? Further access is promised through massive investment packages for companies and schools, as well as through the European Union’s Erasmus+ exchange programme. How should their limited funds be spent and what objectives should they aim at? Participants get to have their say in these difficult questions and challenges that might one day be an unfortunate reality for some of us.

Stagnation or Innovation – Tomorrow’s World of Work

Especially in a competitive economy like ours, it is essential to keep developing new business ideas all the time. Digitalisation and the revolution of smartphones are the goldmines of the 21st century which have an incredible amount of welfare and business opportunities to provide. The development has indeed been so fast that legislators and big corporations have yet to understand everything it has brought with it.

Our concept of the workplace and the business has changed almost overnight. In a world where booking someone else’s room for a night or calling a passer-by to pick you up is done with a swipe of a screen, and where the word Panama does not any more associate with the place that connects the Atlantic with the Pacific, businesses and decision-makers need to innovate and adapt quicker than ever. This theme looks at the opportunities and challenges of sharing-economies, the perils of tax evasion and the modern culture of entrepreneurship and the workplace. Participants also get thrown into a debate on one of the biggest, most controversial topics the EU is currently working on: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) scheme with the United States.

Collapse or Success – New Ways for a Sustainable Europe

Joint Research Centre’s study PESETA concluded in 2009 that the climate could cause 190 billion (that is nine zeros more) euros worth of damage in Europe. Extreme weather conditions, rising temperatures and river flood damages will further on have direct and indirect impacts on human health: allergies, asthma and water- and vector-borne diseases will become more common. In addition, due to heat and rising sea levels, tens of thousands of people in the third world will be forced to leave their homes and become environmental refugees.

No wonder why sustainable development has become one of the key focuses of today’s politics – matching environmental and economic values is a topic of many debates. The fact is that the resources of the planet are not endless, and therefore something in our consumption habits has to be changed in order to secure the life of future generations.

The challenge is to learn to do more with less: improve the competitiveness of Europe, at the same time reducing waste and emission amounts while maintaining the high quality of life of European citizens. Many new solutions from structural changes to raising awareness on grass roots level are needed in order to integrate the environmental sustainability with economic solutions. Besides prevention of damages, developing sustainable growth and moving towards eco-friendlier economy creates new “green” jobs and can make the quality of life even better.

EYE participants get to learn about circular economy and study the cosmic context of our planet. They can brainstorm how to spread information of eco-friendly daily acts as well as the impacts of human behaviour on the world. The EU has set itself ambitious targets to be achieved by 2020 – by which means will these targets be achieved and what is to be done next in order to make this globe remain green?

The world is a vivid, vibrant organism where nothing is constant except the presence of change. Since the days of ancient Greece and Rome, we humans have been obsessed with making things better and improving everyone’s life through the means of discussion and cooperation. Politics, for short. EYE is yet another fantastic opportunity for us young Europeans to show that our generation is just as interested in common affairs as those before us.