On the 21st and 22nd of June 2022, EU40 – the Network of Young MEPs &, MEPs Kympouropoulos (EL-EPP), Peter-Hansen (DK-G/EFA), Vedrenne (FR-RE), and Moretti (IT-S&D), will host a two-day in-person conference of young elected politicians from right across the European Union. The initiative, which falls under the high patronage of the European Parliament and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), is also actively supported by the CoR Young Elected Politicians Programme (YEPs) and the European Local Leaders Group (ELL). European Commission Vice-President, Mr. Margaritis Schinas, will open the conference.
In light of the European Year of Youth, it is pivotal that we give a voice to our young people who are concretely contributing to real change in European politics and beyond. Taking place in Brussels, the conference will seek to give young elected officials a platform to share their ideas and experiences of the local, national, and EU dimensions, including an opportunity to meet their respective European counterparts. More than 80 young elected officials from across the EU will gather in Brussels for the two-day event, with a series of planned debates and discussions set to take place within the most important democratic institutions of Europe. Commenting on the initiative, Greek MEP Stelios Kympouropoulos (EPP), who is also one of the co-hosts of the conference, described how it was now “time to enhance our common European identity by inviting young politicians to exchange not only views but also best practices and concerns about future challenges. Young politicians should take the floor and contribute to the future of the European Union. I am therefore delighted to be part of this effort to bring together young elected politicians in Brussels.”
“With an incredible team effort, different MEPs from the four biggest political parties represented at the European level, have joined forces across party lines, to develop an initiative that aims at bringing together young leaders of Europe,” said Alessandro Da Rold, Managing Director of EU40 – the network of young MEPs. “This has never been done before,” he emphasised. An occasion for the participants both to learn in greater depth how the EU institutions function while also giving a platform for discussion in relation to the significant challenges and opportunities that Europe faces. Italian MEP Alessandra Moretti (S&D), and co-host of the event, noted how “young politicians represent the fabric of our societies and the future of Europe. However, too often their voices have been neglected, and still are. Despite an ageing political environment, we need to hear them carefully and thoroughly. As we aim to change the European rules (i.e. Treaties) for a better and more powerful Europe of tomorrow, we would need to put forward young leaders’ ideas right now.”
The gathering will give the floor to the young elected leaders themselves, facilitating them to have their voices heard while also allowing two levels of politics to meet and discuss the pressing issues of the day. “We need better representation of the younger generations across Europe. The younger you are, the longer you have to live with the political decisions being taken, and of course we need to have a say in what local, regional, national, and European societies we want to build and live in,“ stressed Green MEP Kira Marie Peter-Hansen from Denmark. Continuing, the 24-year-old Danish legislator states, “as the youngest MEP ever elected, I understand how difficult it can be to try and change the ways of those who came before me. And I think we can learn a lot from each other across the EU. I am therefore delighted to be part of this effort to bring together young elected politicians in Brussels for this event”. On the first day, the main opening conference will take place at the European Committee of the Regions, during which assembled panels consisting of several MEPs will engage with the young elected leaders.
Echoing her colleagues’ sentiments, French MEP and event co-host Marie-Pierre Vedrenne stated, “as a young elected MEP who is new in politics, I know how important it is to build personal relationships with other young elected leaders. It is crucial for us to better understand our different political cultures, to overcome our differences, and finally, to take the best decisions together for our common future. Encouraging youth participation, building bridges between pro-European parties, and reinforcing citizen knowledge of how the EU functions, are key to making the EU more democratic, more accessible, and more fit for the challenges of the future. This first conference effort has been a success and I hope it can be repeated in time.” The initiative, which was largely inspired by the Conference on the Future of Europe, and the European Commission instigated ‘European Year of Youth 2022,’ will adopt the theme ‘citizen participation,’ especially as it relates to ‘youth engagement,’ and how this can foster a sense of democratisation, inspiration, and hope for our future.
Emphasising the necessity for European collaboration, Mr. Vasco Alves Cordeiro, First Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions, noted how “building these exchanges among young politicians across different political levels is key for the future of our Union. Learning from each other and developing new ideas together will help deliver better quality results for our people, both at the local and EU level. I look forward to strengthening our cooperation between the European Committee of the Regions and EU40 to support youth engagement and participation in our regions and cities.” And lastly, bringing to the fore the importance of local and regional European cooperation, President of the ELL group and member of the Young Elected Politicians programme, Nektarios Kalantzis, notes how, “cities have the potential to play a major role in dealing with many of the critical issues faced in Europe today, by becoming key drivers of the twin green and digital transformations. The exchange of good practices between European regions and municipalities is more important today, as technology allows the faster development of innovative practices and applications from one European city to another. Europe’s young leaders should thus become stakeholders in changing Europe, knowing that the young generations of today will be the future leaders of tomorrow.”