The European Union was founded after the second World War with the aim of ensuring peace across Europe. The six founding countries are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Past Taoiseachs of Ireland, Sean Lemass and Jack Lynch argued that Ireland's future lay in Europe. Ireland joined in 1973, after the Treaty of Accession and a subsequent referendum in Ireland.
Personally, I love to travel. The EU has given me and many other young people opportunities to do so, cheaply too! The EU has given people the opportunity to move abroad, live where they want within the EU and travel across borders freely. There is no need to wait for a visa before getting on that plane, train, car or bus. You have such freedom of movement. What can be of great benefit to young people is that they can study across Europe as they are not only citizens of their own country but citizens of the EU. There are over 14 million people living in another EU member state. Now think about that for a second considering there are only 4.7 million people living in Ireland!
EU initiatives for young people
The Youth Guaranteed Employment Initiative established in 2014 ensures that all young people under 25 “receive a good offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship within 4 months of leaving school or losing a job.” This scheme has meant that there are now 1.4 million fewer young people in unemployment. Due to the success of the programme, an extra 2 billion euro was recently added to this scheme, bringing the total budget to €8.8 billion for the period 2014-2020.
The Erasmus+ program in the EU has a budget of €14.7 billion. The program aims to provide European students with opportunities to study abroad. However, it does not just cater for students but for people of all ages. In 2016, 725,000 people studied, trained and volunteered abroad under the Erasmus+ program. 1.5 million people have completed some part of their studies in a different EU state. This program has an 84% positivity rating among people who have gone on Erasmus.
The European Commission are currently trying to implement their free pass for people turning 18 to go interrailing. The target is to get over 20,000 young people to travel across Europe. Interrailing has been described as a great way to discover European cultures with firsthand experience. Many of my friends and family have gone interrailing, I hope to do so sometime soon.
Make your voice heard in Europe
I have no doubt that there are great advantages to being an EU citizen and there are many more than I haven't even mentioned. The European elections are coming up in 2019 and it's your chance to elect members of the European Parliament. These elections only come about every 5 years. Currently Dublin has 3 Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the Midlands-North-West and South has 4 MEPs. Familiarise yourself with candidates who are going to run in your area and question them on their policies, as they will have an impact on how the EU runs which in turn impacts all young people. I would urge young people to use their vote!