#EngagEU 2nd Young Citizens Convention – Debate with Members of the European Parliament on the Future of Europe, Brussels, 24 September 2019

In the framework of the project #EngagEU, TEPSA organized the 2nd Young Citizens’ Convention – Debate with Members of the European Parliament on the Future of Europe, which took place in Brussels on 24 September 2019.

The event gathered Members of the European Parlia­ments (MEPs), several Civils Society Organi­za­tions, and over a hundred young citizens with an interest in European politics. Funda Tekin, Director of the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP), opened the event with some insightful remarks on the 2019 European Parliament elections. Tekin praised the high turnout and the high level of engagement among citizens. In that regard, she explained how the project #EngagEU aimed at making the voices of young people heard by intro­ducing the Manifesto “Young ideas for the Future of Europe”.

Subse­quently, Pedro Silva Pereira, Vice-President of the European Parliament, proceeded to deliver the keynote speech. His inter­vention empha­sized climate change, inequal­ities, poverty, and migra­tions as the biggest challenges the European Union will need to tackle. In the face of adver­sities, he explained, listening to the youth is a political respon­si­bility, especially in light of the increased level of political partic­i­pation among young people. After the Vice President’s inter­vention, the Convention moved to the inter­active debate, where the audience had the oppor­tunity to discuss their ideas for the Future of Europe in a lively debate with the following Members of the European Parliament:

Brando Benifei from the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament;
Svenja Hahn from Renew Europe;
Niklas Nienaß from the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament;
Katalin Cseh from Renew Europe;

European Identity 

The first topic of the debate was “European Identity”. #EngagEU Rapporteur Philipp Raab first gave an overview of the proposals of the Manifesto regarding the strength­ening of a common European identity. The aims of the Manifesto were to:

Increase the visibility of the EU by intro­ducing pan-European ID cards and by estab­lishing a European TV channel that would cover similar­ities and history of the European Union, rather than national differ­ences;
Increase cultural exchange and foster mobility between EU countries;
Introduce mandatory service in the EU Solidarity Corps.
While Niklas Nienaß was supportive of all three sugges­tions, Svenja Hahn and Katalin Cseh were less enthu­si­astic about the mandatory nature of the last proposal, as they argued it could backfire by damaging the image of the European Union. Either way, they also agreed that the best solution would be to make the European Solidarity Corps a more attractive option to EU citizens, albeit not a mandatory one.

Environ­mental Policy

Regarding the environ­mental policy of the European Union, Rapporteur Gustav Spät highlighted three main proposals of the Manifesto:

Further inclusion of environ­mental education in schools;
The improvement of the matching process between research outputs and the demands of companies;
The intro­duction of a Common European Refund System to harmonize the best waste treatment practices at the European level.
The MEPs warmly welcomed the proposals, with Svenja Hahn planning to share the idea of a Common European Refund System with her Committee. The panel also stressed the impor­tance of education in the fight against climate change and suggested that the upcoming Multi­annual Financial Framework could be a vital component in promoting projects targeted at European teachers and schools. Finally, the MEPs discussed incen­tives for EU Member States to contribute more to this cause.

Integration Policy

First, Carolina de Albuquerque clarified that the “Integration policy” of the Manifesto did not focus merely on the management of migratory movements but also on the need to help people integrate. To this end, the proposal of the Manifesto included:

The promotion of diversity;
The improvement of social cohesion starting from an inter­cul­tural dialogue by providing language centres at the local level;
The improvement of integration into higher education and later into the labour market through a “test semester”.
These key points led to a fruitful discussion on the value of immigration to the European Union and the perception of this phenomenon among EU citizens. As far as the three proposals were concerned, the MEPs praised the inclusive nature of the Manifesto, although they were not as confident about the intro­duction of a “test semester” which would only apply to immigrants.

Foreign Policy

The main proposal of the Manifesto with regard to foreign policy, presented by Klajdi Kaziu, stated that “the first step towards a safer Union must be done through the harmo­nization of military procurement”.

The discussion quickly evolved into a debate over the need for a united European Army. Brando Benifei argued for stronger engagement of the European Parliament in the fight against fake news and disin­for­mation. According to Niklas Nienaß a European Army could be a possible next step of the harmo­nization of military procurement. This led him to appre­ciate the thought that the EU should speak with one voice, while he also empha­sized that the Union’s foreign policy relies more on trade negoti­a­tions than common defence. Svenja Hahn, on the other hand, supported the idea of creating a European Army under the control of the Parliament.   Additionally, according to Katalin Cseh, the EU could defend European common values in trading negoti­a­tions better by reinforcing its foreign policy with increased military capac­ities.

Civic Engagement Hub 

Following the debate, a Civic Engagement Hub took place, where several civil society organ­i­sa­tions presented their work and how young Europeans can get engaged in civil society.TEPSA had the honour of welcoming the following organ­i­sa­tions:

The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS);
AEGEE – European Students’ Forum;
The Young European Feder­alists (JEF);
The European Solidarity Corps;
The #EngagEU Rappor­teurs.