What do young people think about the future of Europe? After gathering thousands of ideas, across 30 countries, youth activists from across Europe have been working together to come up with the answer. The challenge now: to get European decision makers to take these ideas on.
Dream big, focus on the long term and don’t be afraid of radical change. These are the messages that young people want to send to decision makers in Europe, following a wide-spread consultation run by The 25 Percent project. Over 4,000 ideas have been collected so far, offering young people’s solutions and proposals on all kinds of issues affecting them at local level, as well as on national and European-wide challenges.
With only a couple of months remaining before the Conference on the Future of Europe reaches its final conclusions this Spring, the 25 Percent is determined to ensure that young people’s voices, opinions and ideas are included.
Bringing ideas to the Conference
The thousands of collected ideas were brought together and summarised in The 25 Percent’s report, Change Starts with Us. The report presents young people’s vision for change in Europe, grouped into major topic areas such as climate change, education, democracy and the economy.
Youth activists from across Europe were invited to review the results of the youth consultation and from there, form solid proposals that will be presented to the Conference on the Future of Europe Plenary.
For many of the young people involved in the process, it was a rare moment in which they could directly express their hopes for the future, and realise that action at European level could also be a path to change. Overall, the issues young people wanted to raise with European decision-makers were varied and ambitious, challenging them to reach higher and think bigger.
For example, one respondent shared: “I want to see better, cheaper public transport to rural areas across Europe to make them less isolated and more inclusive”.
Another contributed with their wish, that “in the near future, way more young people [should] have access, and not be shamed searching for specialists about mental health care”.
Proposals from young generations
The Change Start with Us report identified five main asks that young people put forward to politicians: a stronger European Union, able to take bolder action and act as a whole; a call to focus on long-term thinking; a fairer Europe is one where inequalities are eliminated; a greater focus on education for social change; and the need to strengthen our democracies.
It is clear that among young people, there is overwhelming support for deeper integration of the European Union, more effective leadership, more collaboration between countries and stronger social cohesion between European citizens.
There are high expectations for European decision-makers to deliver long-term solutions for Europeans. Young people identified many challenges that Europe is facing today: climate change, pollution, over-consumption, inequality, discrimination, fake news and hate speech among much more. They want politicians to tackle these issues head on, without being afraid of radical change.
Equality and diversity were also championed by the participants, who strongly expressed the need for policies to benefit everyone equally, with an emphasis on equal opportunities and equal treatment of citizens across different member states.
A future that represents young voices
Although they make up around 25% of the European population, young people face many barriers to having a say on Europe’s future.
The consultation has made sure to go beyond those closest to the European project, making sure to engage with young people who may otherwise have fewer opportunities to participate.
To achieve this diversity, The 25 Percent worked together with the National Youth Councils of Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Spain, as well as international organisations ESN, Phiren Amenca, European Disability Forum, FEMYSO and Rural Youth Europe, to reach out to young people from all walks of life.
If the Conference on the Future of Europe is to be a success, however, it must not let these young people down. European leaders must prove to young people that their voices matter. After mobilising citizens to get involved, contribute and be part of the bigger picture, the path to change cannot stop there. All who participated, whether through events, debates, or simply submitting an idea, need to see that they have contributed to real decisions coming out of the final Conference proposals.
So, decision makers across Europe, are you ready to take forward our ideas and give young people the future they deserve? A future that is safe, just, sustainable and free? The agenda that young people propose for the future of Europe is ambitious, but they are ready, willing, and able to take responsibility, because “change starts with us”.
European Youth Forum