There has been an increase in criticism toward the European Union in recent years. The rise of nationalistic politics has been an obvious barrier for the future of the EU. In a post-Brexit and post-Trump decade, it is more important now than ever that we support the European Union and its future. Its future is us! It’s future is the young people in the European Union.
The 21st century youth have found themselves in a position no other generation has encountered; there’s widespread communication – the internet, social media, even mobile phones. We’re more informed and connected than any generation, and the young people are the EU’s biggest supporters. This is clear if you look at the way the youth voted in Britain during the EU referendum. According to The Guardian there was a 64% turnout of registered youth voters, with more than 70% of those voting to remain in the EU.
One aspect of the European Union that I am involved with and highly support is the European Youth Parliament (EYP). Specifically, the EYP in Ireland. So what is the EYP?
“The European Youth Parliament (EYP) Ireland is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation that runs a number of weekend long conferences every year for young people. EYP Ireland is one of 36 national committees of the European Youth Parliament International, the European umbrella organization of our organisation”.
I have been involved with EYP Ireland since November 2017, when I attended the regional session for Connaught & Ulster in Galway. From this I qualified for the National session which was held in Cork during the Easter holidays. Both sessions were, excuse the cringe, eye-opening and have genuinely changed me and my interest in politics.
As members of our school’s debate team, myself and three other students attended the regional session in Galway, with two of us qualifying for the National session.
Through both sessions I have gained an indescribable appreciation for the work that the EU does, from trade and business, peace and defence to gender and social equality.
The sessions are broken up into the committees of the European Parliament. Every committee dealing with a different topic outline. EYP focuses on a non-formal way of approaching global politics, as a means of getting young Europeans interested in the goings on around them.
Through its activities, EYP aims to raise awareness of European issues, encourage active European citizenship and motivate young people to get involved in European politics. This means debates around the current socio-political issues that the continent is facing, ranging from environmental and energy questions to the refugee crisis, border control and surveillance. By bringing young people from diverse backgrounds together, EYP promotes international understanding, intercultural dialogue and diversity of ideas and practices.
In addition, EYP contributes to the personal skills development of European youth and continues to provide a forum in which young people of Europe can express their own opinions, without reverting to role play.
There are numerous benefits to youth being involved in politics. For example, if they are engaged in politics, they will be more inclined to serve in their communities in areas such as health, education and charity work. This level of involvement will continue as they grow older and the years of experience will refine their understanding of how civil engagement in the EU and their own countries works — especially when they are able to vote, sign petitions, and even run for office themselves.
Following the sessions I was inspired and felt an urgency to become more politically active and aware, keeping myself up to date with the workings of the EU. I’ve become very vocal online in regards to Irish and international politics, engaging with many people on social media discussing everything from gun reform in the USA to the referendum regarding the 8th amendment here at home.
It’s hard to describe how elated I was to find out I had been accepted as a new alumni of EYP Ireland. Knowing that I’ll be able to spend the next few years helping to inspire more youths to engage in politics is a very exciting prospect and I look forward to the years ahead.
None of this would’ve happened without the EU, and over 50,000 people like me wouldn’t have had the same level of political engagement without organisations like EYP.
We’re at a point in time that will long go down in history signifying huge political shifts for us as not just individual countries, but as one human race. Organisations like the EU are uniting us more than they divide us. The youth of Europe are its future and organisations like EYP are helping to ensure that future is a united one.
However EYP can only provide a platform for the European youth to speak from.
The teenage generation in the EU are the leaders of tomorrow. Their political attitudes are shaped by unique experiences and diverse backgrounds, so it’s essential that they learn more about politics and get involved so they can channel their energies towards effecting a positive change. EYP provides the youth with the place to experience the diversity of their generation.