Remember EYE2014, those three inspiring days with more than 6,000 young participants from all over Europe gathered together to come up with ideas for a better Europe? Well, you will remember EYE2016 even more!
On 20-21 May 2016, the European Parliament opened its doors once again to young Europeans in Strasbourg, with five new themes:
War and Peace: Perspectives for a peaceful planet
Europe - how to become a more credible global player for peace
With conflict and war on the fringes of its borders, the European Union is facing one of its toughest times in its almost 70 year history. Even having to face the desperate challenge of coping with terrorist attacks on European soil and tackling radicalisation means the EU is faced with unprecedented difficulties. The European Union was founded on the ambition of preventing conflict in a blood-soaked continent. Largely, through progressive step by step integration and enlargement, the EU, together with NATO it has done so successfully. However the narrative of peace and prevention of war is either being taken for granted or not been seen as a powerful message for the justification of the European Union in the 21st century.
The European Youth Event (EYE) 2016 will tackle as one if its themes the issue of "War and Peace". High-level speakers including Members of Parliament and other political decision-makers, academics, historians and representatives of religious communities will address the challenges of an unstable region on the borders of the EU and its consequences for daily life. They will also address the danger of taking peace in the EU as a given and how the EU can better engage young people. This is especially in the focus of the European Youth Forum (EYF) who is the main partner of the European Parliament, organising this event.
Peace in Europe taken for granted?
Yet for today's generation, especially younger people, peace within the borders of the European Union is predominantly taken for granted. It's unthinkable that one Member State of the EU would launch a military invasion against another EU Member State. It is therefore important to give serious consideration to the efforts of actors like the Council of Europe, one of the main partners of the EYE 2016. Co-chairing the panel "Europe - a global player for peace?" it will give its expertise in the fields of human rights, democracy and cultural pluralism.
A new narrative for the EU is being drawn up beyond the prevention of war and the guarantee of peace. For many, the idea that the EU's main role is to deliver peace and prevent conflict is no longer accepted as the primary raison d'etre of the Union's existence. Still, peace is the greatest achievement of European integration and the biggest challenge of the immediate future. The founding of the EU was preceded by two world wars; whose size and impact today's generation luckily has no way of grasping. Our partner, the Foundation of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen will show through a Twitter project @RealTimeWW1, how social media can help getting an idea for the omnipresent misery in times of war - and at the same time for what peace is worth.
Migration - the greatest challenge?
One thing is for sure - the EU needs to be ready and swift enough to respond to the challenges of today's fast-moving, globalised world. On one of the most sensitive areas of competence i.e. management of external borders and on immigration, the EU is asking for greater cooperation and greater integration among Member States to deal with this phenomenon. The one most pressing issues of toady - the refugee crisis could be turning into a humanitarian catastrophe - will be a centrepiece of the EYE 2016. Millions of refugees and migrants are coming to Europe in search of a safe haven and a better life. How are we dealing with that huge challenge? But still - the broader question remains - what should the spirit and the major components of a new European migration and asylum policy be?
Changing nature of conflict
The European continent is not totally at peace. On the fringes of the EU, we are seeing the nature of conflict changing from classical military operations to so-called hybrid warfare. Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber-warfare. Cyber-attacks are a new and growing danger to states, companies and citizens. A number of EU Member States are amongst those developing their capabilities, while the EU's own Defence Agency is also working on projects to augment cyber-defences in the Union. NATO too is involved in efforts to develop defensive capabilities. What more should the EU be doing to counter hybrid threats, should the EU Member States pool resources on preventing cyber-attacks for example?
Young people as peace builders
The EU is trying to adapt its narrative to young people's concerns. However there is a sometimes a tendency among the establishment to regard young people as a problem to be solved. Many young people are peaceful and peace-builders themselves. Equally affected by various forms of violence, they decide to act constructively towards building a culture of peace. Young people are sometimes underestimated as positive agents of change and key actors in peace-building. The United Network of Young (UNOY) Peacebuilders is a global network of young people and youth peace organisations active in 45 countries in the field of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. In one of the panels they will give examples on how they are committed to working for a culture of peace and non-violence.
While the nature of conflict changes, the challenges to the EU from increased migratory flows to cyber-warfare are becoming more complex. The EYE 2016 will try to debate the issues, bring up new ideas and propose innovative solutions in order to show that young people have the power to play a very important part in changing Europe for the better.
by Jasna Maric Krajacic, EYE Partners and Press officer
Apathy or participation: Agenda for a vibrant democracy
Exclusion or access: Crackdown on youth unemployment
Stagnation or innovation: Tomorrow's world of work
Collapse or success: New ways for a sustainable Europe
Through hundreds of new engaging activities - from idea checks, debates, and hearings to Ideas Labs, workshops, and digital games, as well as the European Youth Forum's YO!Fest, concerts, and other artistic performances - 7,000 young people had the opportunity to meet and discuss with European decision-makers and come up with innovative ideas on how "Together, we can make a change". And not to forget, there was a lot of fun and young people enjoyed the cultural diversity in Europe.
Want to stay up-to-date on all the latest #EYE2016 news and announcements? Already want to jump-start the debate on the five fresh themes with your peers? Then better like and follow the EYE Facebook page and spread the word to your friends!
See you in Strasbourg in 2018 again !
... and if I cannot be there?
The #EYE2016 is not only for those who can be there in person (and the same goes for EYE2018). The European Parliament enables anyone to participate online in the event.