Enthusiasm for Europe is especially tangible among young people, as Germany’s Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Franziska Giffey pointed out during the EU Youth Conference. “They are rightly demanding to be taken seriously and to be consulted on decisions that affect them.” She added that during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Federal Government therefore intended to ensure “that the perspectives and ideas of young people with regard to democratic interaction in Europe can be heard more clearly.”
Central demands placed on policymakers
For four days, intensive discussion took place – between the young people themselves and in dialogue with European political leaders. During workshops, the young people drafted proposals on how youth participation in Europe could be strengthened and developed. However, how young people can participate more effectively in Europe was not the only issue on the agenda. Delegates also discussed other topics: the fight against climate change, youth-friendly mobility in Europe, innovations and the limits of digital participation.
At the conclusion of the conference, the results of the deliberations were handed over to Federal Family Affairs Minister Giffey. Here, participants focused on the demands that they believe European political leaders should discuss in the coming months. These are:
Increasing media literacy
In times of information overload, young people need to be equipped to recognise fake news and disinformation. To this end, the timetables of private and state schools should set apart at least one hour per week to address this issue with pupils between the ages of 10 and 16.
The right to vote from the age of 16
The age at which active and passive voting is permitted should be lowered to 16 years in all European countries and for the elections for the European Parliament. That is the only way to better involve young people in decision-making processes. That must go hand in hand with more intensive political education so that young people understand the political system and are motivated to get involved.
Creating a legal basis for co-decisionmaking processes
Young people need to be involved in decision-making processes at all political levels. This applies both to youth organisations and to young people who are not members of organisations. That requires a legal basis.
More financial support
An EU fund is needed to establish and maintain spaces for young people. In addition, money needs to be made available to set up permanent youth participation structures.
Secure digital spaces for young people
The EU Commission needs to make support and funding for the development of activities promoting digital competence one of its top priorities in all programmes.
Lending a voice to minorities
European policymakers should promote and invest in processes to strengthen the voices of young minorities and ensure their direct engagement.
Demands are to be discussed at the European level
Federal Minister Giffey expressed her thanks to the participants of the Youth Conference for their enormous engagement and promised that she would raise the results in discussions with her European colleagues. The results are to be channelled not least into conclusions on the subject of “youth and democracy”, due to be adopted by the European Council on Germany’s initiative.
Chancellor Angela Merkel also emphasised in her message that the views of the participants were important and that the results of the conference would be channelled into political processes at EU level.