Surprise! Young people want saving programmes to get out of the debt crisis

This month’s Labour Market Factsheet shows a significant  gap in unemployment rates between Member States: the difference between the lowest unemployment rate (in Austria, 4.1 %) and the highest (in Spain, 24.6 %) is the greatest seen in the past decade. This disparity increases for youth unemployment. The latest figures show that youth unemployment in Greece and Spain was over 50% , whilst it was below 10% in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

Once again we are reminded that young people are the most affected by the current crisis. That is why their opinion is particularly valuable on the subject. The European Youth Parliament launched in the last few weeks a poll where young people had a chance to say what they think politicians should do to tackle the crisis. The results are maybe a bit surprising: while saving programmes are considered widely unpopular, many young people in Europe think they are necessary.72% of respondents said they think their country should implement saving programmes to get out of the debt crisis.

Here are the video statements by two of the young people who took the poll:

But maybe not everybody has heard of the European Youth Parliament. It is actually an amazing experience. We talked about it with Jacob Düringer, coordinator of the European Youth Polls project, who introduces himself like this:

My name is Jacob Düringer, I am 29 years old and work at the International Office of the European Youth Parliament at the Schwarzkopf Foundation in Berlin.
My nationality is German, my professional background is political science and European Studies.

We asked him a few questions concerning the EYP.

Generation Y: What was the latest Youth Poll about?

Jacob Düringer: As always we looked for the hottest European topic of the day, which this time was the questions of how do we get out of the Debt Crisis in Europe.

GY: How many people took part in it?

JDIn the 2 weeks the Poll was on, we had 3566 participants between 16 and 27 years of age.

GY: how did they learn of the poll?

JD: We promote the Poll over social media and emails. We start in our own network, at the European Youth Parliament, and ask the young people to also invite their friends to take the Poll. Additionally, we ask other youth organisations and media outlets to share the news. We were very glad Euronews and Generation Y shared it this time!

GY: What are the results? What do young people think of the debt crisis?

JD: Well, there are many different results. For example, one result is that a great majority of 83% thinks that the social consequences of the crisis (like youth unemployment) should be regarded as a common European responsibility, even if they affect some countries very strongly and others less. What I find interesting is that young people agree with the necessity of saving programmes. 72% say they think their country should be saving to get out of the crisis. At the same time, 66% say Europe must also focus on investment and stimulus. So, different approaches and no black and white picture. But I guess if there was an easy way out, the politicians would have taken it by now.

GY: Which brings us  to the next question: what is the purpose of these polls? Is there someone who takes them into consideration?

JD: Yes. We do them because we think young people and their voices should be heard in politics and in public. So we send the results out to politicians and the media, and we get quite a bit of feedback. For example, many Members of the European Parliament send us comments on the results.

GY: Do you know if any of these polls has ever had any influence on politicians?

JD: One MEP actually quoted our Poll on the floor of the European Parliament. I think it is difficult to tell exactly how much influence we have or if we have actually convinced someone of something. But from the responses we get we can be sure that our results get read and taken into consideration.

GY: Is this what EYP is about, “shaking up” politicians?

JD: Well, that is not really our first priority. The EYP is first of all an educational programme, where young people learn about democracy, are encouraged to participate actively and experience encounters with other young people from all over Europe first hand. So I would not say that “shaking up” politicians is what we do. The European Youth Polls are something we do in addition to our educational programme, to give young people the chance to have their say and get their opinions out directly to politicians and the media.

GY: What kind of activities do you organise?

JD: The EYP organises over 120 events in 36 countries every year. Among them are 3 big International Sessions per year, with over 250 participants, and many, many smaller events on the national and regional level. All this is done by volunteers from our National Committees in 36 European countries.
Every EYP Session has three parts: Teambuilding, Committee Work, and General Assembly. In the first part, the participants split up in international Committees, get to know each other and form a team. In these Committees, the young delegates then work together, discussing one specific issue of European politics, and write a common resolution on this topic. In the last part, the General Assembly, all resolutions by the Committees are presented, debated, and voted upon. Additionally, each EYP Session is accompanied by a cultural programme, including a EuroConcert and a EuroVillage, where the participants present music and food from their countries.
By the way, one fun fact: in one calendar year, we organise more than 365 days of EYP events.

GY: So, what is actually the aim of the program? Why should a young person be interested in it?

JD: One special thing about EYP is that it is an educational programme brought to young people by young people. All of our volunteers have first participated as students themselves, before starting to organise events for the next young people. Generally, I think that every young person who is interested in getting to know other young people from other parts of Europe, and/or is interested in politics will enjoy EYP. I know that many EYPers say that the appeal of the EYP is something you cannot really explain, but something you have to experience.

GY: Probably the best way to understand that is by watching the videos on the web site, it looks like fun. Let’s see one of them.

GY: How can someone apply? Is there a test or some sort of selection?

JD: No, everybody can participate in EYP. What you have to qualify for is a participation in the big International Sessions. Every National Committee organises a selection process to determine who will represent the country at the bit International Sessions. But this selection process usually already means participating in EYP Sessions. Plus, there are many other events like our International Forums, where everybody can apply to participate.
The best way to start is to contact the National Committee in your own country. You can find a complete list with contact details on our website.

GY: One of the sections of the website is dedicated to successful Alumni. Who are they? Did being part of the EYP contribute to their success somehow?

JD: We know that many former alumni of EYP have gone into quite high positions both in government as in business, including one Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium. Many have told us that EYP played a big part in their success – because we also focus a lot on the development of important skills: leadership, debating skills, intercultural communication, political knowledge, etc.

GY: Do you wish to add something concerning the activities of EYP?

Just for a better understanding of what we do: other than many similar projects, young people never play a role in EYP. They don’t take on the position of a country or a party, but debate their own opinions, and their own ideas to solve European problems. Young people speak their own mind. Of course they come from many different backgrounds, some maybe with a partisan opinion of some kind, others not. But they always say their own opinion, they don’t play the role of somebody else, as it sometimes is the case in simulations. Have you, for example, heard of Model United Nations? They are simulations where you play the role of one country, and you act according to that countries opinions. Many people, when they hear that we do a simulation of the European Parliament, they think the young people play the roles of parties or countries. But that is not the case with us.

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