Young Active Citizenships - Report

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Marjana Garzarolli

EU Presidency Youth meeting
Hyvinkää, 1 – 4 July 2006

I think I wasn’t the only one who would conclude the meeting with the words: “It was fun to have the opportunity to meet young people from the whole Europe, but the discussions we have had, lacked of focus and weren’t as fruitful as they could be.”

The main discussion the youth participants had at the pre-meeting was who should be involved in the presidency meetings. Some of the participants, mainly older and more experienced, claimed that youth delegates should be chosen by the key of how they are involved and informed about the European institutions, dealing with the youth policy. This is for them the only way to continue the work started at former conferences and meetings and have long term results. But that also means that representatives are chosen only regarding their position in a national or European youth policy institution. Other participants have pointed out that this kind of selection would easily exclude participants working at regional or local levels. Local organisations are often also regarding the very varied financial schemes, not directly under national organisations, so the dialogue is not necessarily implemented between them. That does not only mean that local youth workers cannot attend these kinds of meetings, but also that local problems are less represented and real issues, with which only locally active represents deal, aren’t discussed. This is why we all find that a better dialogue between the local, national and European structures is necessary, because only with a good dialogue between these structures delegates from local organisations can be actively involved in these events.

In the closing points of the working group Openness, transparency and democracy in the EU youth policy was pointed out that the dialogue between the local and national organisations should be stronger, so the representatives from local organisations would be prepared for events at a European level and, what I find very important, the selection process should be opened to everybody. This is a kind of compromise we agreed on and I was glad that our conclusion wasn’t that locally active workers should be excluded from these meetings. I personally think that one of the main goals of these meetings is to give voice to locally active youth, because that’s the sphere where the real issues come from, confront different experiences with youngsters from all European countries and discuss about our experiences and from them write down conclusions. So, it wasn’t only a question of who should attend these meetings, but also how the youth politics should be built. It is normal that representatives from youth organisations are at least partly involved in policy at quite high levels, so the question is whether they are capable to think out of the schemes. On the other hand, it is true that newcomers (I was one of them myself) had quite a lot of problems with participating in the discussions, especially regarding the vocabulary, the use of short names etc. But this problem was quite easy to overcome. It would be also very unfair to think that the newcomers were less active. Some of the experienced participants didn’t say a word during the discussions, so preparation about the topic doesn’t necessarily also mean their preparation for work. But we shouldn’t forget that a badly prepared delegate also gives the impression that there is a lack of interest for EU youth policy in his sending country, so the national organisations should really prepare representatives better.

In one of the working groups, where the debate about who should attend these kinds of meetings has actually begun, we have tried a different approach of working. The youth participants were divided in two groups, regarding their knowledge about EU youth policy. The group with more experienced participants was discussing the questions on a more theoretical level, and the other group with participants involved in more or less local activities or at least not having experiences on the European level, was discussing through concrete experiences and good or bad examples of youth policy from their own countries. The working results of that day were much better and the participants were feeling less frustrated. I was a bit sorry that the both groups didn’t have time to create a single report about the pre-meeting.

Many of the youth participants shared the idea, that the pre-meeting could have been more productive, the facilitators should expect more from us. We should for example pass through the questions given to the working groups by the organisers more carefully through both days, not just the last day, to be better prepared for the actual meeting. We are all students after all and we are accustomed to active mental work. It would be surely easier for us to actually work and not just listen to (I’m sorry to say that) boring speeches, full of nice words which didn’t say nothing new and just repeated the ideas of the White paper or Youth pact. I would only expose the speeches of Mr Jan Kreutz, Ms Fatmire Feka and Mr Pierre Mairesse. As far as I think, they were the only one who succeeded in being critical and still enthuisiatic, a quality that I personally missed in the meeting.

The crucial question is, whether the youth participants were equal partners. The fact that we didn’t know (not until just a few hours before the conference) who will represent us at the conference held with Mr Jan Figel was just scandalous, because we didn’t have the opportunity to prepare some outgoings from our part. We were informed that we can ask him questions at the last moment, so none of us was prepared for that. I think it was unfair, because we all had more to say than we had the opportunity to.

Marjana Garzarolli
youth participant from Slovenia, representing the Youth Network MAMA and YC Podlaga