The Economic and Social Council of Bulgaria (ESC) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) jointly organized a public discussion on the topic: "What Europe Do We Want?" which was attended also by representatives of Bulgarian young people. Representatives of the National Youth Forum, which brings together more than 50 organizations in the country and is a member of the European Youth Forum, the National Representation of the Student Councils, defending the interests of over 200 000 students and Sofia secondary school students participated actively in the debates.
At the opening of the discussion Prof. Lalko Dulevski, President of the ESC, stressed that when talking about the future of Europe, the voice of the young people should be heard. The future of young people must be the focus of all institutions at all levels, was the key message of ESC's President. What would the European Union look like with its roads, businesses, markets, technology, but without the people themselves? If young people leave their native cities and countries, if we lose our best minds, if we do not have well educated and skilled people, if students leave school early, if we still have illiterate young people, if we let discouraged people refuse to seek employment, if youth unemployment it is high, what future will Europe have then?!, a rhetorical question, asked Prof. Dulevski.
ESC's President stressed that the European Union should pay much more attention to the problems of young people. It is high time we stopped solving merely individual problems and started creating workable integrated policies for them that will involve the responsibility of all stakeholder institutions at the European and the national level. Most importantly, let us talk to the young people, let us ask them what future they want and how to achieve it, concluded Prof. Dulevski.
Andrey Chorbanov - a student from the National Commercial and Banking High School paid special attention in his speech to the employment of young people and the availability of quality jobs with decent remuneration. We graduate from a school with knowledge and skills, we continue to study - some of us in Bulgaria, others abroad - but we want to come back with what we learned and apply it in our country, he explained.
Deputy Chairperson of the National Youth Forum Nayden Rashkov recommended to the European institutions to create working mechanisms to ensure the role of youth organizations in the European dialogue and in the leadership of the EU. When the debates are about the future development of Europe or Bulgaria, they are very relevant to the lives of young people and our words should be heard better, Rashkov stressed. It is also necessary to stimulate the economic activity of young people. In his speech, the Deputy Chairperson of the National Youth Forum focused on the environmental issues that are of paramount importance to young people. He recommended that the achievement of environmental goals should be balanced with enhancing economic competitiveness.
Representatives from the National Student Council Representation expressed the view that investing in young people and innovation is very important for the EU and stressed that some of the largest companies in the world are created and run by students. Investing in young people is an investment in Europe's common future because we are not supporters of populism, we want a strong and solid Europe for all, they said. They also raised the question of how the European institutions communicate and recommended the messages to be targeting young people as well. Only this will increase our activity and we will participate in strategic decisions about the future of Europe, they noted.
Secondary school students expressed the view that education is the key to their future lives, as well as a key to the future of the whole of Europe. They wished for more opportunities in choosing where to study so that they can obtain the best knowledge and skills which they can later apply in their homeland. Both university and secondary school students appreciated the already adopted European Youth Strategy and the extension of the Erasmus programme.
More than 30 university and secondary school students took part in the discussion. They expressed satisfaction with the opportunity to participate in the debate on the future of Europe. The young people also stressed that they see ESC as their partner in the dialogue to find solutions to the challenges of the younger generation. ESC has a positive attitude towards us, they said and defined the consultations they held as useful and constructive. The young people appreciated the importance of the debate on the future of Europe and expressed their willingness to participate in further public discussions on important issues.