EYE Day 2: “Young people can see light – even in darkness.”

Paul & Ian, SpunOut.ie’s European Youth Event reporters describe the final day of #EYE2016

Written by Ian Fahey


Even with a tram-strike, we had it lucky. There’s nothing glamorous about walking along the Red-Line to work; we had red stone boulevards, 26 degree-heat and stunning architecture. The Saturday schedule was no different from Friday’s full day of activities, lectures and presentations. It was always going to be impossible to cover every event – so we parted ways, as we had on Friday, in order to maximise our coverage. Ian covered events within the European Parliament Building (for the most part) and Paul covered events outside in the YO!Fest Village. 

Ian began his day in the Press area of the European Parliament Building. There was a lot of interview coverage to upload from the previous day: Mairéad McGuinness MEP’s comments on Mental Health; Michael Ward’s story about EVS giving him a great opportunity; and Joey Kavanagh’s opinion on Social Media as a tool for empowering young people. 

“We are not Afraid” was participant-focused activity group that centred around the fear of terrorist attacks. It was fascinating to watch – due to the unique demands that the Chairperson demanded from the participants. A “speed-debating” session allowed participants to introduce themselves and briefly throw out suggestions on how to achieve a peaceful Europe and/or to reduce the level of fear within Europe. The event was a three-hour event, so Ian stayed for an hour. Many ideas were presented to #EYE2016 from these groups: Making every nation a Welfare State; Removing all borders in Europe; Erasing history so that people don’t learn about why nations hate each other; Basic wages in every state; Common police-force in Europe; and many more, which will be examined and dealt with in our final report. 

“The Rise of Robots” was held in the Winston Churchill wing of the European Parliament. The purpose of the lecture was to examine whether or not the rise of super-intelligence technology was creating a barrier for the human work-force. An engineer from the European Space Agency was part of the panel and gave some very interesting statistics on the challenges that robotic-engineers and that developments and barriers are discovered every day. The conversation covered topics such as “Humanity within Robots” and whether humans should fear the day when and if electronic machines are programmed with a conscience – this is where the session became a bit “I-Robot-ish” and focused more on man-killing robots, rather than the future of technology. There were, however, some very interesting in comments about Legal Autonomous Robots (LARs) and the future that they can play in the areas of warfare, workforce and daily-lives. 

“Above the Earth: My 200 days in Space:” was held in the HemiCycle Chamber and focused on astronaut, Samantha Cristoferetti’s change in attitude of sustainable development. The idea behind it was that the 200 days that she spent working on scientific experiments and manual adjustments on the International Space Station, whilst gazing at our Blue Planet; prompted her to become an activist for saving our planet from ourselves. Questioned ranged from the work that she carried out above the Earth; her belief in extra-terrestrial life; and the routines of an astronaut. All of her answers were out-of-this-world and will be dealt with in our final report. 

“Mental Health: The last taboo” was held outside the Parliament Building in the YO!Fest Village. The focus of this was to discuss mental health in the workplace and in society. There was a small audience of about 70 people, but that didn’t stop interesting debate and suggestions being discussed. Consensus was reached among participants that European nations needed to address their own failings in mental health within their own countries. It was positive, however, to hear many of the European delegates use Ireland as an example of a country of social change – signalling the recent appointment of Helen McEntee as Minister for Mental Health and the Elderly. 

Paul began his day in a workshop on advocacy and lobbying for beginners, at which Mairéad McGuinness was guest of honour. Having learned the basics of advocacy and lobbying campaigns, and how to target them to a specific audience, we were split into smaller groups and given a sample advocacy campaign to present to the Ireland Midlands, North West MEP. She then offered feedback on where each campaign group excelled, but more importantly, where there was room for improvement. The workshop was very constructive and informative, and gave its participants some invaluable insights into advocacy and lobbying. Mairéad really stole the show, however; sharing her experience and advice with young people and speaking briefly on the migration crisis. She set a challenge for the participants to “stand up, speak up” about the crisis and her closing remarks included the phrase “the biggest borders being built across Europe are in the hearts and minds of some Europeans”. This left us with a strong and passionate enthusiasm to talk to our peers, demystify the causes and effects of migration and to drive towards a more prosperous Europe for all.

Next on the agenda was a discussion on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (adopted in 2015). There was a brief background given on the 17 targets that all UN member states have signed up to, and an array of ideas shared on how they can be developed – but more importantly, how young people can be catalysts for change. The group came to a conclusion that as young people, there is not a lot we can do individually – we need to act collectively, as a generation. Young people need to educate, motivate and challenge our peers to act progressively and responsibly so that the SDGs can be achieved before the 2030 deadline.

After a quick gathering of the #IrishEYE crew, Paul attended a presentation on the EU Youth Guarantee, from Isabelle Deganis, Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission. She outlined the background of the Youth Guarantee, and mapped its progress over the last few years. The audience was in almost unanimous agreement that despite the good intentions of the Guarantee, its implementation has been…inconsistent (for want of a better word) from country to country. 

The Parliament building is vast in size and often dizzying to navigate. By complete accident, Paul stumbled across a fascinating debate on migration in an over-capacity HemiCycle. Although he only caught the conclusion, it featured some very emotional arguments from both sides of the debate, which ensured an electric tension between a whopping turnout from far-right and far-left groups. Refugee speaker, Mohammed Nour Machlach, was given a standing ovation several times from liberals…and met a chorus of boos from the anti-immigration groups. Whichever side of the migration debate you fall on, this event was both powerful and moving.  

The closing Ceremony was held in the HemiCycle Chamber. Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairéad McGuinness chaired the proceedings, which involved the presentations of the reports on the 5 main themes of the events: War And Peace; Stagnation And Innovation; Exclusion And Access; Apathy And Participation; and Collapse And Success. Ms. McGuinness responded to each of the reports – and all documents were ceremoniously presented to her in the European Parliament’s Box of Ideas, on behalf of the European Parliament. Her closing remarks were met with a strong standing ovation, which brought an end to one of the most #EYE(2016)Opening weekends of our lives. The European Youth Event returns to Strasbourg in 2018 – we will have more remarks on this in our final report, due in the coming days. 

Thanks a million SpunOut.ie and thank you to all those who followed our journey on Facebook/Twitter/SnapChat and on the website. And thank you to those who didn’t unfollow us! 

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