LYMEC strongly condemns the way the EU Youth Conference was organised by the Bulgarian EU presidency and that they, together with the European Commission, decided to strip down Europe’s youth of their right of participation. By turning the biannual EU youth conference into a show, the youth representatives were transformed from pro-active participants into mere observers of an expose of political speeches on the importance of young people.
It is with sadness and frustration that we have read several accounts of how the EU Youth Conference in Sofia last week was organised by the Bulgarian EU Presidency. It seems obvious that the Bulgarian presidency and the European Commission have misunderstood what dialogue means. The aim to bring young people closer to policymakers merely remained the conceptual idea on paper.
It is deplorable that during the conference, the participating young people were deprived of their opportunity to speak or discuss at equal footing with the Bulgarian policy-makers and the Commission. Thus, the opportunity to have the input of and expertise of the young people was simply waved away and the aim of empowering Europe’s youth while securing their direct participation in shaping the policies impacting their lives and development was completely missed, especially as the conclusions were supposed to feed into the next EU Youth programme.
President of the Bulgarian liberal youth organisation Youth MRF, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, comments: “The events during the EU Youth Conference once again show the general attitude of the Bulgarian government towards the matters at heart of the youth agenda – they are often identified as a priority, but when it comes to practice the dialogue with young people is disregarded.”
LYMEC President Svenja Hahn says: “One would expect that it would be obvious in 2018 that youth participation is more than just bringing hundreds of young people as token spectators to a conference. We expect these events to provide opportunities for meaningful participation and respectful inclusion of the youth delegates representing hundreds, if not thousands, of young people each as representatives of youth councils and youth organisations.”
We are also appalled to learn that Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, did not take the time to stay and listen to the policy recommendations of young people but left immediately after his speech. The irony is almost comical, given that his speech underlined that youth needs to be given a voice and have more of a say in EU decision-making. Commissioner Navracsics’ lack of interest and desire to stay to the end of the conference is another example of the suppression of the basic principles of the Structured Dialogue. Sadly, this is not the first time the Commissioner shows a lack of respect towards youth representatives at events like these.
We are equally appalled by the comments by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who in his closing speech apparently pointed out that young people’s primary responsibility is to procreate!
In light of all this we call on ALDE Group in the European Parliament to address the lack of youth participation and inclusion of youth representatives in the Sofia conference in its talks with the Commission and the Bulgarian presidency, and to secure by all means necessary that the Structured Dialogue on Youth and the future EU Youth Conferences are organised in a more respectful manner.
As young liberals we continue to work for meaningful youth participation and representation in all levels of decision-making, including when it comes to dialogue with EU institutions and Member States.
About the youth conference
The EU Youth Conference takes place on the occasion of every EU Presidency and provides the unique opportunity for youth representatives to discuss youth policy together with national governments and European Commission officials, allowing them to come up with recommendations to be adopted into the presidency’s conclusions. This time, the conclusions would also feed into the next EU Youth programme.
The conclusions can be found here: http://youthgoals.eu/