The European Parliament seen through my EYEs

, by Maria Mantzakidi

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The European Parliament seen through my EYEs

This year the EYE (European Youth Event) took place on 1-2 of June for the third time in Strasbourg. Organised by the European Parliament since 2014, it gathers countless young people (more than 8,000), giving them the opportunity to discuss security, environment and unemployment as well as other matters that affect Europe.

EYE is an opportunity for young active citizens to visit the European Parliament and to leave their mark on European politics. After EYE, the MEPs are presented with a report containing the ideas of young people for the future of Europe. This year, a strong presence of delegations sent by associations and NGOs coming from all over Europe was evident. Personally, I am Greek and, as a member of Jeunes Européens-France (Young European Federalists), I had the opportunity to participate.

On 1st of June in the morning after the entry in the accreditation center, the opening ceremony took place in the open space outside of the Parliament, with a welcoming speech given by President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.

My participation in the activities

During these two days in Strasbourg I chose to participate in many debates, discussions, conferences and workshops. Firstly, I attended a discussion on the subject of Erasmus+ 2020, in which the speakers and young people shared their own experiences of the Erasmus programme, what Erasmus means to them and the impact that this experience had in their life. I am interested in this issue because I was an Erasmus student, too. Then, we discussed the subject of the budget that the European Union has for organising various Erasmus programmes. The participants of the conference asked their questions and expressed their opinions with a view to building a better Europe.

In addition, I attended a plenary session in the hemicycle, entitled “Europe: What’s next?”, where anyone could speak and express the reasons they feel proud to be European. In the second stage, we talked about challenges that Europe is facing. All of this was valuable experience for me, because I realised how a public debate takes place in a plenary chamber. I greatly appreciated this real exchange of ideas when I was sitting in the plenary of the European Parliament debating Europe with people from all over Europe. I feel very lucky to have participated in the plenary debates and I believe that it is an opportunity for all to learn how to express and defend an opinion in public. The debates also help young people to use their language skills so that they can discuss a particular subject.

I also attended a second hemicycle whose title was “Appropriate dress required: debate on the ban of burqa and burkini”. This issue generated a great deal of heated debate in the plenary session. On the one hand, there were some people who advocated that this type of clothing is not compatible with the fundamental principles of French secularity, when on the other hand people considered that the ban of burqa and burkini make a distinction of citizens between “good” and “less good” and that this measure is not only racist, but sexist too.

Finally, I attended a Red Carpet Stage event entitled “Europe, crossroad of identities” where we had a small discussion around topics of different nationalities.

Apart from the debates and discussions already mentioned, there were also other activities organised by the Parliament intended for all visitors. There was a place where young people could participate in the European Union election campaign and invite other European citizens to join the campaign. I think that it was a good initiative to encourage participants to vote in the European elections. Another very interesting activity was that of simultaneous interpretation. There were interpreter’s booths where we could interpret two types of sound recordings in front of the audience. I liked this training in interpretation very much, as I recently graduated from a Master in Translation. Film presentations and dance performances also took place. The fact that many activities and events are organised by young people and youth associations is exceptional.

Outside of the European Parliament, other activities were occasionally happening throughout the day. Every evening several concerts and an open-air cinema were performed in the outside area around the Parliament, at the site of the biggest youth political festival in Europe – “Yo! Fest”. On the evening of June 2, a closing ceremony took place in the European Parliament. Sunday, for its part, was dedicated to a day of political thinking organised by Les Jeunes Européens-France.

Taking everything into consideration, the third edition of EYE represented a unique experience for young Europeans to make their voices heard. I believe that EYE gave to young people the opportunity to come up with proposals for the future of Europe and to suggest solutions to the problems it faces. EYE succeeded at encouraging and inspiring young people to participate and share their vision for a strong and democratic Europe. For these reasons, EYE is a crucial experience that left me with unforgettable feelings and impressions.

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