Article written by Duncan Barry and published in The Malta Independent of 16th April 2019.
We’ve heard a lot about shaping the EU and many of us have participated in or heard of a number of debates held across the EU, including Malta, in a bid to get feedback from citizens for a better Europe.
However, despite all these debates, not many focused on the concerns of youths.
To address this, three Maltese youths were given the opportunity to participate in the Young Citizens’ Dialogue held in Sibiu, Romania – the current holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU – after Europe Direct hosted by MEUSAC gave a helping hand to help make this possible.
Worthy of note is the fact that the dialogue was held on the same day of the Informal European Council where the EU27 met to discuss the future of Europe and to decide on the Strategic Agenda for 2019-2024.
The citizens’ dialogue itself focused on the future of Europe and saw the participation of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and a number of European Commissioners such as Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen and Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics.
The Maltese youths are Maronia Zammit, Alessia Pulis and Maria Elena Cordina.
After having spoken to the youths following their participation, it emerges that all youths are in agreement that their expectations had been exceeded, the dialogue has created a space for youth to voice their concerns and opinions and exchange their ideas for a better Europe.During the themed workshops, it was suggested that youths are given training in digital literacy, since most of today’s jobs bank on, and revolve around, digital skills, and for the gender pay gap to be reduced. Questions as to whether plans are in place to protect the self-employed, along with plans for educational programmes for refugees were also raised. They also pushed for an intense anti-cyberbullying campaign to be implemented.
Several global statistics show that the “faceless evil” of the internet is a growing threat for teens, specifically when it comes to cyberbullying. Despite awareness campaigns, cyberbullying facts and statistics indicate the problem is not going away some time soon.
Another interesting suggestion made by the youths was the need to strengthen the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) which is based in Malta, to monitor the security of migrants. Redesigning the EU’s agricultural policy in order to prioritise organic and sustainable farming and reduce emissions was another proposal put forward by youths, along with greener methods of transport.
What’s for sure, according to the Maltese youths, is that all youths from across Europe had similar concerns, especially tied to the environment.
Many have the perception that today’s youth take the EU’s work for granted and don’t appreciate that the quality of their life is much better as a result of the EU’s work. But it turns out that the majority of youths are very much aware of the EU’s achievements. However, there are still a number of youths that, despite the various programmes that are in place to enhance their educational experience, are still unaware of the extent the EU impacts their daily lives and enhances their educational experience. Dialogues such as these are intended to engage youth in helping create a better Europe and MEUSAC will continue to promote and support these initiatives because we believe that youths should have a central role in shaping the EU’s future.