The European Parliament welcomed a group of young politicians, researchers, journalists and activists on 15-17 April 2019, as part of its efforts to reach out to future generations and promote peace around the world.
The visitors, alumni of the Parliament's Young Political Leaders' programme, came from two regions neighbouring the EU that face deep, long-standing conflicts: the South Caucasus and the Middle East. Participants are drawn from both sides of the divide -Armenia and Azerbaijan and Israel and Palestine. The event provided a platform to look beyond the conflicts and engage constructively on the role of young peacebuilders and the ways to leverage the global Youth Peace and Security agenda.
A tailored programme
During their three days in Strasbourg, the young leaders engaged in sessions devoted to analysing,preventing and resolving conflicts.
Their programme included discussions about the situation in their home countries with political group advisers, as well as exercises designed to sharpen their peacebuilding skills.
Participants also followed a meeting of Parliament's Foreign Affairs committee (AFET) attended by Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
A number of MEPs engaged in lively discussions with the group, including EP Vice-Presidents Ms Livia Jaroka and Ms Heidi Hautala and the Chair of the EP EURONEST Delegation Ms Rebecca Harms. The participants also met European Union Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Commissioner Christos Stylianides, as well as high ranking officials from the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.
As different, as the conflict contexts could be, all young leaders have to face highly polarised public opinions in their communities and to address this challenge daily on both professional and personal level. To this end the centrepiece of the programme was a conflict analysis exercise organised with the facilitation of two renowned experts on the region - Mr Stephen Young, Advisor at CMI and Mr Marc Otte - Vice-president of the European Institute of Peace. In the frame of the exercise each group had the chance to look into the conflict of the other drawing on each other's experiences and perspectives.
European Elections 2019
Organising the event during the last Strasbourg session of the eight Parliamentary term exposed the participants to the work of the Parliament during a politically interesting moment in the wake of the upcoming European elections. The participants followed the last Future of Europe debate in plenary with Mr Krisjanis Karins, Prime Minister of Latvia and were briefed on the institutional election campaign for EE2019 by colleagues from DG COMMs services.
The Young Political Leaders' Programme
The Young Political Leaders' Programme is one of the initiatives of the European Parliament's Democracy and Election Coordination Group (DEG), a dedicated group of MEPs who oversee the Parliament's efforts to support democracy beyond the EU.
Since 2013, the programme brings together youth from outside the EU to bolster their skills and encourage peaceful dialogue and cooperation. The project is inspired by EU core values -including human dignity and respect for human rights - and the role that the next generation of leaders can play in building better, more peaceful societies.