Participation, politics, and pledges: An interview with Giuseppe Porcaro, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum

What is the European Youth Forum? Why does it care about the European elections? And should I care about them too? Generation Y went on the search for answers in a chat with Giuseppe Porcaro, the Secretary General of the European Youth Forum. He explained a bit about their current campaigns and shared his story of getting involved in youth movements.

Generation Y: Hello Giuseppe!

Giuseppe: Hello!

Generation Y: So you are currently the Secretary General of the European Youth Forum. But what is the European Youth Forum?!

Giuseppe: The European Youth Forum is a platform of youth organisations in Europe, striving for youth rights.

Generation Y: So what exactly does that mean? What kind of campaigns are you involved in?

Giuseppe Porcaro moderating a Google hangout with the candidates to the green primaries for the League of Young Voters

Giuseppe Porcaro moderating a Google hangout with the candidates to the green primaries for the League of Young Voters

Giuseppe: At the moment we run several campaigns and advocacy around our priorities which are: youth participation, strong youth organisations and youth autonomy and inclusion.

… and as you can imagine the hot topics at the moment are the #EP2014 Elections and Youth Unemployment!

Generation Y: Yes I read about your campaign ‘The League of Young Voters’. It sounds a bit like a group of superheros  =). Can you explain a bit about that?

Giuseppe:  Indeed, the League of Young Voters is one of our major initiatives that we are running to involve #youngvoters in the political debate in the run up to the European Elections. In a nutshell we are aiming to inform young people on the issues that are at stake for them during the elections. We got inspiration from the League of Women Voters in the USA.

The League of Young Voters

The League of Young Voters

Generation Y: So are you affiliated with any political party?

Giuseppe: We are non-partisan and very neutral when it comes to this. However we cooperate with the different political parties and we will analyse the manifestos of the European parties in order to inform young people on how each of the parties are going to treat the issues which are at stake for them.

Generation Y: So who are you targeting? I mean obviously young people but just in certain countries or with certain backgrounds?

Giuseppe: We target young people already aged 15 (in Austria people can vote already at 16) check and from all the EU countries

Generation Y: Does this mean the European Youth Forum are in favour of a voting age of 16 across Europe?

Giuseppe: Yes! We are campaigning and supporting campaigns to lower the voting age to 16.

Generation Y: Do you really think 16 year olds are informed enough to make decisions like that? Or that any of them will bother even if they have the right?

Giuseppe: Yes I think 16 years old are totally capable of making such decision. And of course an effort on citizenship education needs to be made in order to prepare young people to be actively involved in democracy. True not all are interested, but this is not an age-related issue. Many 40 somethings don’t bother either. Again, educating for citizenship it’s a life-long thing not just for youth.

Generation Y: Why do you feel a campaign like ‘The League of Young Voters’ is necessary?

Giuseppe: It is definitely a needed campaign for strengthening democracy. As we pointed out in our recent study, there is could be a real treat for the political systems because 25% of the population of the continent is missing out from the debate and from active participation.

Generation Y: Because a lot of young people don’t vote?

Giuseppe: Exactly… In the most recent European elections in 2009, youth absenteeism was very high – almost 65 percent, with wide variations between member states (only 18 per cent of young people in the UK voted, whilst 59 per cent in Sweden did). Read more.

youth absenteeism

Read the report by clicking on the picture.

Generation Y: So what would you say to a young person who says “I’m not really interested in politics”.

Giuseppe: I would challenge that person by urging them to think about whether they are interested in some of the issues that affect their daily lives, such as getting a job or a paid internship, having access to free education… and then make the connection with the fact that a lot of decisions made on these everyday experiences are actually made by politicians.

Generation Y: But why then is it important for us to vote in European elections and not just our national elections?

Giuseppe: Because a lot of those issues are actually decided beyond national borders… and ultimately we are already a European Generation: we study, work and fall in love without borders

Generation Y: That’s true! I think the problem is that many young people feel disillusioned with politics. They feel that politicians are corrupt and/or don’t keep their word. It must be hard to convince people otherwise. I think there is an attitude of ‘why bother?’

Giuseppe: The only way is to actually challenge those politicians to stand behind their word… this is why for example at the forum we are also running a campaign to make candidates more accountable for the promises they make during the electoral campaign… The campaign is collecting the commitment of Candidates for a strong investment of Europe in Youth… and be assured that we are going to chase them after the elections to ensure that they are living up to the words that they promised!

Generation Y: So you’re looking for politicians to make a pledge to youth? Have you got any to do it so far?

Giuseppe: So far we’ve got more than 40 candidates subscribing to our pledge and we are now touring the congresses of the European political parties to convince more. This Saturday we will be at the European Green Party Congress in Brussels and next Saturday, March 1, we will be at the Congress of the Party of European Socialists in Rome. We expect many more candidates to sign up as soon as the lists are closed in the member states.

Generation Y: If one of our readers want to get involved in this campaign what can they do?

The EYF meet French President Francois Hollande speaking about employment and quality internships

The EYF meet French President Francois Hollande speaking about employment and quality internships

Giuseppe: Well there are several ways. Firstly, they can go to and post something creative on the platform to start a conversation around an issue that concerns them, we will ensure that this is brought to the attention of the parties and candidates.

Secondly,  they can organise their own local #youngvoters debate in their community and involve local politicians that will run for #EP2014. We can support them in this.

Thirdly, they can help us by getting pledges signed by candidates and by encouraging them to sign-up online on the website.

Generation Y: So does this happen a lot, do you have much involvement with the public on campaigns?

Giuseppe: Yes! In fact we are soon going to be launching a video which lots of people participated in. But it’s not all over, we still need help to spread and share the video once it’s done.

Generation Y: So we know a bit about your current campaigns now but what is the background to the European Youth Forum? How did it come about?

Giuseppe: The European Youth Forum is gathering the National Youth Councils and the International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations all over Europe, it is an independent platform. In its current format it was created in 1996 but it has a history that can be traced back to 1963, when the first Platform of National Youth Councils in Europe was created…

You could say that in the makeup of a European civil society, youth movements were really forerunners!

Generation Y: Are there other projects or campaigns (past or present) that we should know about?

Giuseppe: Definitely, #Qualityinternships is a campaign which we wrote, together with many partners the European Charter, on Quality Internships and Apprenticeships.

Check out also #EuropeanYouthCapital, which is a project where we assign each year the title to a city.

And don’t forget the overall work that we do on Youth Employment and Youth Participation.

Generation Y: The #Qualityinternships campaign is definitely needed, at Generation Y we meet a lot of young people who feel frustrated with internships, either with pay or working conditions. Check out our blog posts “First job opportunity or cheap labour exploitation?”  and “Internships: How to Find one and How to Own It” for proof! So I guess the read question is, do you see results from these campaigns? I mean, at a political level?


Giuseppe: Yes! Well it’s challenging, but just think that no one was speaking about the internship issue back in 2009 when we started working on the topic. Now we’ve had, among others, the support of the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and the support of some big companies such as Microsoft.  Also the issue has been discussed both at the level of the European Commission and of the European Council beside the mobilisation that was done by public opinion by us and by other partners nationally (such as Interns Aware in UK, generation Précaire in France, Repubblica deli Stagisti in Italy).

Generation Y: It must be a great feeling to be part of something like that. How did you get involved?

Giuseppe: I have been involved in youth movements since I was very young. I entered the scout movement when I was 7 years old.

Generation Y: And how did lead to where you are now?

Giuseppe: My volunteering led me to be involved in many projects such as founding the Italian Youth Council (back in 2004) and then moving from volunteer commitment to a professional one when I joined the secretariat of the Forum, first as a Policy Officer and then, since 2009, as Secretary General. Now, after 5 years, my mandate is coming to an end in the next few months…

Generation Y: So what are your plans for after?

Giuseppe: From the 1st of June I am free of duty… currently looking for a job.

Generation Y: Well best of luck with your job hunt Giuseppe. Feel free to come back and speak to us at any time. Thank you for talking to us!!

Giuseppe: It was a pleasure. Thanks a lot! 

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