Young Europeans want education and social media to boost democracy and citizen participation in the EU

Participants in YEYS 2019

A mandatory syllabus on European politics to increase citizens' knowledge of the EU before they cast their ballots was the most voted proposal of this year's Your Europe, Your Say (YEYS), the youth event organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 21-22 March 2019. Together with three other proposals focusing on the use of new technologies and social media to boost election turnout, it will be sent to the European Parliament for consideration.

After 2 days of lively discussions and debates, the 99 high-school students aged 16-17 selected for YEYS 2019 presented 10 recommendations during a final plenary session. Education and social media were in the spotlight, and a number of projects combined online platforms and real life meetings to connect civil society with policy-makers. The 4 most voted proposals were:

1. #Future is now, a project for a mandatory syllabus for schools all across Europe with 3 strands: practical, with visits to EU institutions; theory, with tests and presentations; and an interactive platform with quizzes and videos.

2. EU&U.EU, a website summarizing information on the EU and EU elections to increase transparency and awareness with an intensive use of social media and multimedia contents.

3. (ex-aequo) Europe E-VOTE, a proposal to make election day a national holiday and to promote electronic voting and From You to EU, an initiative to connect social movements with politicians and enable them to work together to find solutions.

The other proposals presented by the students were:

#Insta (nt) vote,  improving EU social media accounts performance by including high quality content specifically addressed to young people, such as short videos and influencer comments as a way to increase awareness and participation.

Network of Young Europeans, a project aiming to inform on EU action and limits, connect diverse people across Europe and inspire debate through an Internet platform to organise projects and publish their outcome.

Find(ing) your voice, a project involving a summit that would take place 3 times per year with face to face dialogue and activities involving young Europeans and politicians plus a website with interactive contents and information.

Shape your future – express yourself, consisting in a website that would allow posting opinions on several topics targeting young people from under 26. Users could like or dislike the opinions and the most popular ones would be presented at the European Parliament.

SharEU, an APP that could be used to connect social movements to EU institutions, with specialized moderators that would submit a monthly report to the European Parliament on the initiatives posted, thus creating a closer link to the people.

Voices worth being heard, a platform where initiatives and speeches could be promoted to encourage voters to engage and fight for their own ideas. The audience would select the initiatives to be presented to the European Parliament.

Students were welcomed by Luca Jahier, EESC President, who said: We have to follow the example of Greta Thunberg, who was capable of mobilising a great number of people in a short time using a direct language. Please engage in this fight, be provocative, as you are fighting not only for your own future, but also for our future. Isabel Caño, EESC Vice-President for communication, closed the event with these remarks:We are proud to share your ideas, your dreams, your enthusiasm and your solutions in an institution like the EESC, where we all learn to negotiate as a way to reach consensus. (dgf)