EUROPE ON TRACK CONFERENCE: “THERE IS NOT A COMPETITION BETWEEN VOTING AND PARTICIPATION”

The “Europe after the election. What’s next?” conference was the closing event of Europe on Track and welcomed around 70 young people from all around Europe. Gathered for 4 days in sunny Alicante, it was time to reflect and discuss the future of Europe in the immediate aftermath of the European Parliament elections and the challenge and opportunities of youth people in today’s changing world.

Thursday evening was dedicated to the results of Europe on Track. This event included a 20 minutes after movie was exclusively produced for the final conference. As participants saw the routes in audio and visuals, the got to experience the diversity of Europe and listen to some of the interviews pieces by the ambassadors. In just 20 minutes we travelled from East to West, to explore youth participation and the future of Europe. The dataset of more than 1000 participants from the route stops, provided an in-depth understanding of the current status of youth participation.

Friday, with an opening word game, we tested the participants pre-knowledge about the European Parliament elections. We also collected their understanding of what Europe, for a starting point of discussion. Here are some of the most relevant results:

To kick of the topic of Europe after the elections, as session was dedicated to understand the early results. Marianne Ranke Cormier from AAFB, an activist involved in trans-European politics since 1987, presented the first youth results from France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Poland, Austria, and UK. Following on the diverse pictures in European countries, and open discussion lead to the diverse topics of migration, sovereignty, Brexit, and demographic challenges.  

A highlight at this conference was the panel discussion on youth participation and to how to keep young engaged, with the panel consisting of INJUVE, EURYKA, MAREA GRANATE, and Fridays for Future. The participant were particularly interested in knowing about the use of social media in political movements, and how the political actors approach movements and their agendas to look for solutions. Elia Carceller from Marea Granate emphasized that it is not bad when grassroots work is added to manifestos of parties, but that grassroots and political parties should be separated to keep legitimacy. Prof. Marco Giugni, EURYKA pinpointed that “[m]ovements needs institutional allies to be heard. It is impact when parties adopt parts of movements in their programmes”. Viola Bianchetti, projects director of AEGEE-Europe illustrated this with the example of the how to vote application for the European elections “in 2018, we were the first organization who systematized the voting information because we saw a huge gap”, in February 2019, the European Parliament whom had been a key contributor in the research for the application launched their own website for electoral information. On innovative forms of participation and their interactions with traditional forms of participation, participants learned that there is not a competition between voting and participation. Electoral studies and social mobilization studies have been separated fields of study, and we know little of the cross field. “Strikes are a traditional form of participation, and a very effective one. The new forms are not sufficient by themselves, and online forms are crucial for short term mobilization” Prof. Marco Giugni.

The Europe on Track ambassadors delivered their last Youth participation workshop with case study on Saturday evening. After the workshop it was time to close a successful and impactful Europe on Track with the last words by Evita Lockmele, the project manager. She delivered an emotional and encouraging speech about friendships across boarders, team work, and proud achievements.

Still riding on the wave of higher youth participation in Europe, and a dedicated and participating youth, this conference Alicante was a memorable for everyone who believes is youth empowerment.