Between April 16th and 18th, our association hosted its most important yearly event, which is the European Youth Debate. It consisted mainly of a discussion divided into four roundtables, each one of which had a different topic to talk about, all regarding the EU’s current states and politics.
Experience as a first-time participant
Having joined European Generation only last October, this was my first time taking part in this event: in fact, ever since I have learned about this event that gives us the chance to join forces with students and people from all over Europe to actually create and build something for our future, I was extremely interested in what it would concretely consist of.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect and what to hope for: I have to say, I was also quite worried that it would be very tiring and strenuous to spend a lot of time in front of my computer while dealing with serious topics, even such interesting and relevant ones like the ones that were chosen. Gladly, I can say that all my worries proved to be unfounded.
First of all, I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised in learning about the opening conference’s guests and listening to their interventions. All our speakers – among which we had important names like Carlo Cottarelli and Alessia Mosca - brought forward remarkable and fascinating facts, ideas, opinions, and food for thought.
Personally, the intervention that struck me the most was Valentina Parasecolo’s: as a member of Gen Z and someone very keen on media and communication, I found her presentation of the Union’s way of interacting and engaging with the younger generation particularly fascinating. Understanding how the EU acts towards the media outlets and how it reaches out to its citizens was definitely a useful experience and stimulus for what we later elaborated in our roundtable, Speaking European.
In general, something that really fascinated me and made me glad of being part of such an event was something I noticed especially while working in my roundtable, which is the multiculturalism and diversity of the participants in this event. It was wonderful to see how many people from different countries and with such variant backgrounds chose to take part in this project and work together with others who share their same passion and dedication for Europe and its politics, even if limited by the technological “field of work”. In my roundtable, there were people from Germany, Portugal, Poland… all of which had such interesting backgrounds and were experts on diverse topics. This was thus a great occasion to debate and exchange ideas, thoughts and advice while also getting to know new people and creating connections, which seem so hard to build at this time. Therefore, I must say that this was definitely my favourite part of the event because I had the chance not only to learn something new but also to build new relationships and find new friends that I wouldn’t have met in any other way.
Our work at the Speaking European roundtable
Being among the most pressing issues of our Union, the topics we covered at the Speaking European table are nowadays not only very relevant and engaging but also, in some way at least, quite controversial and debated. As pointed out by the Guidelines we were given, the complex multilingual and multicultural identity that characterizes Europe can be both a resource and a problem, especially in a multi-linguistic time like ours, in which communication and media play a pivotal role. The three main points which we especially focused on were: Multilingualism vs. Primary Language; Languages and International Mobility; European Media System.
The main goal of our roundtable while working with these topics was to elaborate on how the Union could actively improve and promote a feeling of being European through language and communication, in order to create a stronger bond between its citizens not only on an administrative and political level but also on a cultural and personal one. Therefore, we had a pretty intense debate regarding all these topics and their relevance in our society.
Although all these themes were discussed and elaborated on, something I noticed when we explained our work to all of the participants was that we didn’t deeply focus on the role languages and the knowledge of other cultures play in the labour market. This is an issue I have always found very compelling and close to my own experience, as I have studied languages in my high school years and for me and my schoolmates it was always quite challenging to understand how these skills and knowledge can be used even after we stopped studying. Many of us did, in fact, choose not to keep studying languages after high school ended: this could be caused by the common conception of languages as a “plus”, an addition to other skills and knowledge that one should have in order to get into the labour market. As reported by the Guidelines we worked on, this also means that languages are often only seen as a means to an end and they are becoming requirements, rather than advantages in the labour market.
In our society and being part of a Union that is based on cultural diversity and multiplicity, I personally feel like it would be good to focus and work even more on how languages are considered both in the labour market and in our everyday life.
Another point that I found really interesting and that would maybe require a further examination (maybe in future EYD’s?) is the role of mobility in the EU. The main focus, in this case, would, of course, be the role of programmes like Erasmus+ and DiscoverEU, which of course are getting more popular every day but are also still considered “elitist”, meaning that it is still very difficult for lower-income citizens to actually benefit from them. Therefore, I think that a further discussion on these themes and how they can effectively make a difference in the lives of many people is still very much necessary.
In conclusion, I would like to say that despite the limitations of online platforms and the complexity given by the lack of face to face contact, limitations that are still pretty much needed, the European Youth Debate was an incredible experience that I will always value greatly, both for its food for thought and the occasion to build connections and get into contact with many different people and background.
Hence, I encourage everyone who has the chance to become part of such an incredible experience.
Cover picture: Pixabay