von Sophie Marton-Lindenthal, Fridolin Blasl, Theresa Rauch
In a way the European Union acts like a living organism. As political and economic circumstances alter, the EU and its institutions adapt in order to keep things working.
Hosting the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second term of 2018, Austria adheres to its responsibility within this process.
From September 2nd to September 4th the renewed EU Youth Strategy is to be discussed among policy makers, youth workers and - most importantly - young people from all across Europe.
They meet at the Austria Center in Vienna: young delegates and youth ambassadors actively get in touch with local, national and global decision makers, pursuing a collective aim: the creation of a fertile future for young Europeans.
Working towards the realisation of this vision, they have come a long way:
when Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, held his State of the Union Address in September 2017, he aimed to set an ideological tone for the further course of the European Union.
Juncker confidently went for unity and international cooperation, thus promoting equality as well as solidarity between the different member states.*
Only a month later - in October 2017 - the first of three European Union Youth Conferences within an 18-months-cycle was held in Tallinn, Estonia.
After interrogating about 50 000 young people during this procedure, participants of the EUYC have established 20 crucial themes for the future young Europeans wish for. Six months later in Sofia those matters were narrowed down to 11 more concrete Youth Goals.
The youth conference in Vienna is the last stop during this approach towards necessary youth policies that correspond with the European values stated by Jean-Claude Juncker in 2017. The objective is to find ways to strengthen and promote the elaborated Youth Goals so that they can eventually be implemented on an international, national and local basis, enabling young adults anywhere in Europe to live up to their full potential.
There are many different reasons for the participants from all over Europe to come to the Austria Center Vienna this weekend. The expectations are high and the facilitators are keen to make this conference a successful experience for everyone taking part in it.
In such a long process of developing the Youth Goals it is always important to keep in mind what the original objective was at the beginning. Most of the participants just want to make the Youth Goals more spread and established in their everyday life which is exactly the purpose of this conference. After years of planning and discussing it is time to actually transform the Goals from nice sentences into reality.
Keeping that in mind the first day runs by the motto “Who owns the Youth Goals?”. One participant we spoke to who is called Ondřej Bárta and is a Czech freelance youth researcher, someone who observes young people in all aspects of their lives trying to support them with problems and difficulties they are facing. He comes to the conclusion that Youth Goals are something to achieve rather to own. With the help of the Youth Goals he thinks that we can find similarities between policy makers and young people.
While running the interviews, a main concern appeared to dominate the people`s thoughts: The implementation of the youth goals. „This conference aims to make a real difference“, claimed Minister Juliane Bogner-Strauß in her opening speech. Nevertheless scarcely anyone knew, what this difference should look like, or how the youth goals should be handled on EU-Level. A Swedish delegate stated in an interview, that he would like to see some real action, instead of people talking themselves into a corner. Some things that are postulated seem to become a difficult challenge: „We have to remove all barriers“, a quote from the Serbian facilitator Darko Markovic. Many sentences like that were said that day, valiant and proudly, but talking about the concrete action aroused a strange kind of confusion. There were delegates, so enthusiastically talking about the goals, that somehow one could get the impression, that they had forgotten that were only talking about ideas. A Greek delegate agrees with us on that, but there is always the hope, that the outcome of this conference will positively influence the work which is been done on the youth goals. Tomorrow`s motto will be „Finding a common language“ and the discussion, about the political actions that will be set to implementate the goals will be more lively. We have experienced a lot of interesting and inspiring conversation, and good ideas are always worth spreading and celebrating, but tomorrow will be the big day, with big results. We are really looking forward to it.