Following an 18-month work cycle and two European Youth Conferences held in Rome (October 2014) and in Riga (March 2015), youth representatives, together with representatives from European Union (EU) Member States meeting in Luxembourg from 22 to 24 September 2015 for the fourth cycle of Structured Dialogue, adopted 15 Joint Recommendations on “Empowerment of young people for political participation in the democratic life in Europe”. Luxembourg Minister of Education, Children and Youth, Claude Meisch, gave the closing speech of this conference organised by the Luxembourg Presidency and called on young people to "stand up and express their views".
Final Recommendations of youth representatives together with representatives from the Member States
During the three-day conference, youth representatives, together with representatives from the Member States adopted the "Final Joint Recommendations on Empowerment of young people for political participation in the democratic life in Europe", which seek to:
- Create a culture of participation at school
- Involve young people in political decision-making
- Enhance policy-makers’ engagement and commitment with young people
- Strengthen the role of youth work for political empowerment of all young people
- Develop youth friendly tools for political participation
- Develop local and direct democracy
- Develop alternative forms of participation
- Increase synergies and cooperation between different actors
In addition, an "Implementation Guide" which sets out how to facilitate effective and full political participation will be finalised and distributed to all stakeholders before the end of the Luxembourg Presidency in order to enable policy makers to better implement the recommendations.
Youth representatives together with representatives from the Member States invited to "express their views" and to attend the plenary session of the European Parliament
In his closing speech, Luxembourg Minister of Education, Children and Youth, Claude Meisch, observed that if the recommendations adopted during the European Youth Conference were to be submitted to the Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council of November 2015, they would also serve to set out a road map for the next EU Youth Strategy cycle (2016-2018).
The Minister stressed the importance of redefining work with young people in a society where digital technology is gaining importance, in particular by developing youth friendly digital tools. He also highlighted the culture of participation at school, referring to Luxembourgish initiatives in that regard such as student councils in secondary schools, the Conférence Nationale des Elèves du Luxembourg (CNEL) (Luxembourg National Conference of Students), along with the creation of a national centre for political education as mentioned by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel at the opening of the European Youth Conference on 22 September 2015.
Claude Meisch also spoke about the importance of a multi-sectoral approach in the Structured Dialogue, in so far as it is an area of interest to other Ministers, such as the Minister for Labour for example. Lastly, the Minister called for all young people to "stand up and express their hopes, expectations and visions for the future" because he believes that it is not only the policies, the government and European institutions that have to act, but also young people themselves. "Express your opinion and it will be counted", he promised.
Jens Nymand-Christensen, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission's Education and Culture Directorate-General, stressed the need to make the Structured Dialogue more inclusive, so that young Europeans from all backgrounds can participate. "The Structured Dialogue should have a broader scope in order to be more credible and more representative in a tolerant, diverse and open society" he stated. And this can be achieved, in particular, through online discussion platforms which are going to be set up, he continued.
Michaela Šojdrová, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education, invited youth representatives together with representatives from the Members States to attend the plenary session of December 2015 where she will present the conclusions of the European Youth Conference to MEPs. "We must encourage MEPs and national policy-makers to systematically involve young people in decision-making", she stated.
The next European Youth Conference will be held in Amsterdam
Lastly, Sjoukje van Oosterhout, representing the Dutch National Youth Council, took the floor to introduce the next European Youth Conference which will be held in Amsterdam from 5 to 7 April 2016 under the forthcoming Netherlands Presidency. The next cycle of Structured Dialogue should be devoted to developing the skills of young people in an increasingly diverse European society.