On 9 July 2018, YouthProAktiv joined a public hearing about The Next EU Youth Strategy at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The EESC is currently drafting an opinion on this issue and organised this event in order to give stakeholders the opportunity to express their different opinions and points of view. Among the participants were young people, social partners, representatives of the European Commission and members of the European Economic and Social Committee.
Joanna Siewierska, youth advocate and rapporteur´s expert on the EESC, opened the event welcomed the session and moderated the first panel called “Young Voices”, a really inspiring conversation with three proactive youngsters: Deborah Fakeye, youth advocate, member of Youth Work Ireland´s National Youth Action Group; Zuzanna Adamska, a secondary-school student from High School in Gdansk; Rania el Mard, President and Spokesperson, Vlaamse Scholierenkoepel (Flemish school students´ umbrella organisation); and Viktoria Nagy, ETUC Youth Committee President.
They talked about the local context that they live in and addressed, among others, young people’s experience of moving from secondary education to university/tertiary education, and transition from education to the labour market. They stressed that changes to the school curriculum are absolutely needed in order to prepare people for digitalisation and the changing world and equipping them with practical knowledge. “What happens when I finish my degree?” wondered Rania el Mard, worried about the disconnection between knowledge and skills acquired at university and their application in the real world outside of university. They also admitted that, just as the majority of young people, they are worried about their future because it is uncertain and unpredictable. In the words of Zuzanna Adamska, “Young people have a difficult challenge because we have to chose our future for the next 50 years, and it is a difficult decision.” They believe that they do not have enough information about a lot of important issues needed for making the correct decisions about their future.
During the second panel, on points of view EU institutions and social partners, the moderator Gerhard Riemer, president of the study group, emphasised that “young people have an important role in this discussion”. In spite of the implementation of EU youth strategy being different in each country, help and dedication of the government on the national and local level is crucial for successful implementation of any youth policies – but participation of young people and their contribution to the policies and the institutions is needed too, as said Liva Vikmane, Policy Officer Youth Participation, Youth Policy, European Youth Forum. The remaining panellists were Ignacio Doreste, Advisor, ETUC; Guillaume Cravero, Senior Advisor, Business Europe; and Katherine Heid, member of the EESC president’s cabinet in charge of culture and youth.
The event also featured closing remarks by Florencia van Houdt, Head of Unit, DG EAC, European Commission, Michael McLoughlin, rapporteur of the EESC opinion, and Adam Rogalewski, corapporteur of the EESC opinion, and it provided space for open discussion of all.
All of the participants and speakers agreed about the importance of discussions such as this for the future, not only young people’s future, but also for the future of Europe.
The event was open to all interested people and allowed the various stakeholders to express their opinions and to listen in four different languages. It supported an important message that YouthProAktiv promotes as well: young people have to be proactive, fight for their rights and their future and shape it themselves, while policy-makers and those with executive powers need to make sure to give young people the opportunity to inform policies and practices to make them as effective as possible.