Empowering Youth: Unveiling Europe’s Potential and Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders Through European Youth Week 2024

Culture - February 29, 2024

Do young people know what Europe has to offer? More importantly, do they know their own potential in European affairs?

An answer to these questions may be offered, to many, next spring.

In fact, from April 12 to 19 2024, the European Youth Week will take place, yet another way to involve youth within the decision-making process at the European level.

One of the Commission’s focuses, in fact, is precisely the massive involvement of young people, up to and including children, in the active and political life of member states, starting from the local realities and working up to higher levels.

Organized, therefore, by the European Commission, the initiative takes place every two years and aims to reach as many young people as necessary for a confrontation, as we said, dynamic and democratic. This year also takes up the legacy of the European Year of Youth, which took place in 2022 where more than 13,000 activities were carried out in 67 countries.

Debates, festivals, exhibitions, there are different facets of this event that aims to analyze and give voice to the diverse world of youth, looking for the right communicative key to relate to the new generations.

The goal is, without a doubt, to want to involve young people within a proactive and decision-making process that is both virtuous and “contagious” at the same time, such that we can count on the fresh and unfiltered voice of young people, who find themselves, in many cases, coming to terms with a social and work reality that requires their independence.

Wanting to paraphrase the soccer jargon so dear to our Continent, a kind of “twelfth man on the field,” that is, that extra factor needed to give the right and effective push to “win the game” even when the situation may be worrisome.

But the purpose is also to listen, to catch and discover the habits, different ways of thinking, passions, and new languages of Generation Z.

And it is no coincidence that this year, that event will take place about two months before the European elections scheduled for June 6-9 2024, in all member states.

A way, in short, to remind children of the importance of being resourceful citizens, attentive even to those issues that might, seemingly, be far removed from everyday life.

Indeed, one of the problems that the European Community encounters most often is undoubtedly the “remoteness” that citizens themselves, young and old, perceive from European affairs. A concept, the latter, which is too distant, at times abstract, and which, according to many, seems to have little impact on the daily experience to which they are accustomed. And it is precisely this fallacious consideration that needs to be interrupted by initiating, as quickly and effectively as possible, a reversal of course.

Europe Direct centers, in this specific case (more than 400 throughout Europe) have precisely the task, through front-office services, online and with activities and seminars, of bringing citizens closer to Europe by acting as spokespeople for the Union, providing detailed information and answering the questions of those who require support for Europe in the field of work or simply for traveling or living abroad.

Very often, it is precisely the young people, the famous digital natives, who turn out to be poorly informed about what is happening outside their national borders. Young people, mostly of school age, while taking advantage of the benefits offered by the Union (projects, guided tours, funds), remain marginally involved in the information and organizational process, being passive beneficiaries of opportunities designed specifically for them. The same can be said for those who have decided to enter the working world, full of great expectations for the future, but little oriented on the path to take and above all little aware of the plans put in place on the Continent for those who have a desire to explore and learn about new cultures and new possibilities.

Fortunately, however, the instruments put in place by the Parliament and the European Council are gradually inserting themselves, in the dense web of the younger generations, beginning to weave the threads for a more participatory discourse. If a part of young people, the vast majority, is still uninformed, in fact, there are those who are entering the multicultural landscape with clear ideas and firm goals, fully representing that slice of active citizens so much in demand on the international scene. But if we were to ask two simple questions to young people, aged 20 to 30, with respect to the opportunities offered by the European Union today, dwelling also on the expectations they have from the Community itself, what would they answer?

Probably because there are many things to look forward to in Europe. First of all, to see a greater commitment to the environment (respecting what is written on the 2030 agenda that proposes a greener Europe) and general well-being, especially in critical times such as the pandemic we have recently experienced. Promoting peace and solidarity, envisioning Europe as a place where people can live in safety, which offers opportunities to improve professionally and contribute to a broader community that is increasingly inclusive of cultural and gender diversity.

And again, Europe is expected to continue to promote cooperation among member countries, address common challenges and provide opportunities for economic growth and sustainable development.”

And if, on the other hand, still with young people, to whom the Commission wants to give important specific weight within its affairs, we were to analyze what opportunities Europe is able to give young people today, we would almost certainly be told that Europe has a diverse and dynamic labor market. There are internship programs, scholarships and initiatives that make it easy to enter the professional world. Free movement within the European Union also facilitates job mobility, allowing young people to explore opportunities in different countries without too much red tape. Or that with Mobility programs such as Erasmus+, the EU allows young people to study, work or volunteer in different European countries. These experiences not only enrich one’s cultural background, but also provide opportunities for learning and personal growth. In addition, The EU is committed to combating youth unemployment through programs that aim to provide skills, training and job placement opportunities. Last but not least, news in recent days is about the intention of the Parliament to want to abolish free internships, so that everyone who wants to seize a job opportunity, can participate in them. But is this really the case?

It is precisely for this reason that an event like European Youth Week acquires fundamental value in this regard. First, because the young people themselves can propose, suggest, invest in their own ideas and make their voices heard by aiming high. At the same time, institutions can listen, to draw that common thread between politics and citizens, bringing them ever closer to community life and bridging that gap between public affairs and voters.

Taking place, as we anticipate, two months before the elections, one of the objectives is undoubtedly to get young people more involved in decision-making and democratic choices, inviting more and more citizens to vote, a fundamental tool of participation. Being part of this type of event, moreover, allows one to learn about and be inspired by success stories of peers or simply to recognize oneself in someone else’s stories; to learn about all the opportunities made available by the EU and not limit oneself to just learning about Erasmus+ (among the programs that young people benefit from the most, it is not by chance that Italy ranks second among the countries participating in the program); debate topics that may be particularly close to one’s heart or that affect the community in which one lives; understand the importance of one’s vote; engage in concrete dialogue with policymakers.

To participate or propose your own idea to European Youth Week, simply go to the European Youth Portal, official website of the European Union, click on the dedicated button and log in or register with your account.