7 reasons why the European Youth Event is what Europe needs

, by Juuso Järviniemi

7 reasons why the European Youth Event is what Europe needs
EYE 2014 participants in the European Parliament plenary chamber in Strasbourg. Photograph: European Youth Event // Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The weekend that thousands of young Europeans have been looking forward to is finally here. On 1 and 2 June, for the third time, the European Parliament in Strasbourg will host thousands of under-30s for the European Youth Event. Whoever has attended EYE before would agree that getting thousands of young people together into the European Parliament building – the more beautiful one of the two – for workshops and debates is a brilliant idea. Here are just a few reasons why EYE, taking place biennially, is genuinely making Europe a better place.

1. EYE brings bright minds together

At the very core of EYE is the exchange of ideas. This takes place at the sessions, ranging from panel talks to debates, artistic workshops and beyond. But in fact, much of it happens informally in the pleasant corridors, cafés and canteens of the European Parliament building. Everyone leaves EYE having met a new friend. These friendships then develop into partnerships for projects that contribute to society. Thanks to the heavily European setting where it all started, a European dimension for such partnerships is nearly inescapable!

2. EYE creates life-changing experiences

Some EYE attendees are already convinced Europeans before they arrive. Others, however, come because they have been engaged in civil society otherwise, outside the realm of Europe-related projects. Many of the latter group leave as Europeans. Everyone talks about bringing the EU “closer to the people”. When you are seated in the European Parliament plenary chamber, debating Europe with hundreds of others, you could hardly be any closer. And it’s an experience you won’t forget. After her return home, whenever an EYE attendee sees news footage from the European Parliament chamber, she will think it comes from her parliament, not someone else’s.

3. EYE motivates youth organisations

It is a matter of pride and honour for many youth organisations to send a delegation to EYE, and perhaps to organise a workshop at the event. Even if an organisation doesn’t arrange trips abroad very often, EYE may motivate them to do so. That’s what ensures that thousands of people turn up to EYE every time. Thousands of hours have been put into organising travel to EYE and more – that is valuable experience that countless young people across Europe are gaining, and will be ready to apply in their other pursuits!

4. EYE is Europe’s biggest language café

When people speaking different mother tongues meet, language practice takes place. Many cities have language cafes whose main purpose is to help people learn another language. Well, in Strasbourg they will soon have a cafe for eight thousand people! What’s more, the European Youth Event forces you to use your language skills for discussing things that matter. It’s not empty small talk you learn at EYE, but instead you get to practice discussing themes such as security, the environment, unemployment and more.

5. EYE enables young people to make proposals for a better EU

An integral part of EYE is the opportunity for young people to present their ideas for making the EU a better place. In 2016, it was through an idea box and through a space on the EYE app; in 2018, this is done through an online forum. Young people are given an opportunity to think about what they want to change in the EU, which is a valuable exercise as such. What’s more, though, the best ideas are compiled into a report that is given for MEPs to read. Good incentive to go further in formulating the idea! And who knows, maybe some of the MEPs strolling around the EYE village will stop by to discuss your idea with you if you ask?

6. EYE attendees are Europeans first, anything else second

At many international sporting events, among others, people are forcibly fitted into nationality-based silos that feel artificial to increasingly many people. At EYE, this is not the case. Participants are members of groups that can be based on any common interest. This is not a world of rigid country quotas, but one where people are treated as individuals. EYE helps us imagine a Europe where people are defined through what they are interested in, not through what lines on a map they were born between.

7. EYE creates a positive narrative around Europe

At EYE, Europe is not a source of problems, and not even necessarily a solution to our problems. Instead of dwelling on problems, the underlying spirit of EYE is centred around hope, around the future. EYE turns clichés about “building a new generation of Europeans” into something tangible. The photo albums from the event are full of pictures of determined-looking young people looking ahead into the future, and of smiling people enjoying themselves. EYE helps us associate Europe with positive things – which is what Europe deserves!

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