Tuesday, 28 October 2014 00:00

Voicing the Future: E&M at the Young European Council 2014

Written by Giorgio Nicoletti and Petya Yankova
YEC 2014
Photo courtesy of Young European Leadership
Getting to the heart of the matter: YEC delegates talk policy in Brussels


Move over MEPs, there's a new assembly in town! Last week, Giorgio Nicoletti and Petya Yankova attended the Young European Council 2014 on behalf of E&M. Here they provide a run-down of the main recommendations put forward by delegates.

Brussels calling

Imagine a group of brilliant future leaders, from almost every part of the European Union, gathering in Brussels to negotiate recommendations and ultimately influence EU institutions. This is what happened between 20 and 23 October, when the Young European Council, organised by the up-and-coming NGO Young European Leadership, took place, with astonishing results. Sustainable development in cities, education and employment, digital revolution and technologies were the topics for discussion at an event which attracted more than 100 young people.

The objectives of the organisers are easily discernible from their name and website, and giving young people the chance to participate in the decision-making process while visiting EU institutions could only be improved by means of interaction with top EU officials. Indeed, the commissioners and representatives from several directorate generals who attended the council listened with interest and gave immediate feedback on the proposals.  The hope, though, remains that these recommendations will be taken into consideration in some form in the future. Given the significance of each of them, they really should be.

Looking to the future

During the event, the core document around which recommendations were shaped was the ambitious Europe 2020 strategy, which aims for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. These are trendy, cool words, no doubt, but everybody in Europe is now expecting them to turn into reality as soon as possible. In the fields of education and employment, for instance, the YEC recommends continuous development of high quality holistic education by pushing schools to stay up-to-date with today's societal needs and customs. This would alleviate the skills mismatch which prevents both youngsters and more seasoned workers from fulfilling their potential in the job market.

Moreover, since startups remain a key priority in the agenda of the new President of the European Commission, the YEC strongly recommends that member states simplify launching procedures (and, indeed, taxation) in particular for companies with European dimensions. In addition, the delegates agreed that existing programmes such as Erasmus+, for both students and young entrepreneurs, need to be better promoted and fostered to ensure young people are aware of and use their opportunities for mobility and professional development.

"Do what you feel is necessary. Do not wait until you are 60."


The YEC also conveyed recommendations in the field of digitalisation, helping out the new Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger who will have new and proactive young allies from now on. However, in return, young people would expect sensitivity towards cyber matters – a phenomenon with huge potential which has been ignored by the majority so far. Real life and digital life are ever more interconnected and via the online world it is now possible to awaken the lost feeling of being part of a civil society. Matt Dann from the economic think-tank Bruegel agreed with the advice, commenting that "the personal is no longer private." He also supported the YEC's proposal for digital civil activism: "Your Twitter account, your Facebook page are more effective in policy shaping than your vote. Make use of that!" The simple pledge here is to be a bit more forward-thinking, as only through rules and regulations can we aim for a safer environment where people can express their opinions and drive progress.

Regarding sustainability in development, the YEC's recommendations were directly presented to Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action between 2010 and 2014, who attended the closing ceremony of the event and addressed the audience with powerful and thought-provoking words. One of the action steps proposed by the young delegates is prioritising public transportation and reducing costs for end users whose taxes pay for this service. In a world where a family has on average two cars, alternative forms of transportation are essential. The YEC also equates sustainable cities with the promotion of local products to cut pollution as well as with the encouragement of local tourism based on unique goods not distributed by large chain suppliers. 

Outside the parliament

Nevertheless, the YEC was not all ties and high heels, microphones and black briefcases. For many of the participants, Brussels' bubbly atmosphere was just as interesting as the institutional visits. The week was full of things to do, true, but still these tasks did not steal time from the night life and informal meetings within the Belgian capital. After all, even leaders need some time to relieve the stress, especially if they are young.


In keeping with the focus on the digitisation of European life, talk of the YEC continued online

Thus neither the tiredness, nor the poor rainy weather, nor the always-under-construction metro (which showed the young delegates all its glory in yellow fences, out-of-order ticket machines, a parade of construction workers and endless stairs before passengers see daylight again) prevented delegates from enjoying drinks at the world-famous Delirium Café and the classy Madame Moustache, home to some of the coolest music in Brussels. Secret trips to chocolate shops in between negotiation sessions, getting lost in the intricate maze of the European Parliament only to come across a statue of the Minotaur (first floor, G building, near the lifts, by the way), and networking-turned-beer tasting at Place Lux were just some of the most memorable moment. Have you ever attempted to explain the education system of Austria in a pirate ship-themed bar? YEC delegates have.

All in all, the Young European Council was a comprehensive experience, which, given its scope and impact, we predict will receive even more applications in the future. We hope to be there again next year in order to report on what emerging leaders have to say about our common future. In the words of YEL president Tillmann Heidelk: "Do what you feel is necessary. Do not wait until you are 60."

E&M readers will surely not want to wait and that is why in the coming weeks we will bring you two more rounds of YEC insights on digitalisation and the transition from education to employment. What makes a young person prefer pen and paper to an iPad? And why is Sweden so popular?  Stay tuned, it won't take long to address these questions!


Last modified on Friday, 31 October 2014 10:11

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