With YEYS turning ten this year, EESC Info met former vice-president, Irini Pari, who first came up with the idea for this event in 2010, to take a look back at YEYS' beginnings and a look forward to Europe's future.
EESC Info: Ms Pari, could you tell us how this initiative came to life? What was the inspiration behind it?
Irini Pari: As vice-president for communication, I wanted to reach out to young Europeans. I wanted to give these "unusual suspects" the opportunity to live, understand and share Europe first-hand, away from the stereotypes, and encourage them to be engaged and active in society. I wanted to see the stars of Europe shine in those young people's eyes and I did!
Are you satisfied with the way YEYS has developed over time?
Yes! It is a blessing to see something you created develop and grow. It is a huge reward to know you have touched a thousand young hearts across Europe. I take this opportunity to warmly thank all the vice-presidents for communication who have carried the flame, especially Isabel, and the entire YEYS team for embracing this event with so much enthusiasm and passion and keeping up the good work over the years.
How do you see the role of young people in the construction of Europe now and in the future?
I believe firmly in young people and their dynamism. Young people today are growing up in difficult and challenging times, yet every challenge is also a magnificent opportunity! Look at millennials, they are already giving answers, exploring new paths through the sharing economy and platforms, developing entrepreneurship, giving meaning and values to their working life, making a priority of contributing to society and combating climate change. With the vigorous youth climate action we are witnessing these days, I would say YEYS is proving more relevant than ever - young people are asking to take the floor and we have been giving it to them proactively!
How would you rate YEYS 2019?
Like every year I am impressed by the results! This year the teenagers from around Europe debated the subject Vote for the future. They asked for more education, more information and more transparency using all means available - interactive websites, lessons, contacts, activities, meetings - and involving everyone - senior citizens, youth, politicians, social movements, experts and media.
What would your ideal Europe be like?
I dream of a deeply democratic Europe where elections, division of powers, fundamental rights and the rule of law are respected. A Europe where there is a thriving, dynamic, independent and participatory democracy based on dialogue. We know very well that there is not only one truth in life! It is important to understand other people’s points of view, build bridges, find a sense of purpose and put individual interests behind the common good. I am a proud to be a member of this Committee because it is exactly what we do here. Yes, Europe is quite a challenge. Yes, Europe is complicated. Yes, Europe is imperfect, but that is its beauty. Building Europe is a long and difficult road, but it's worth taking, let's take it together!