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  • Jesus Cordero and Joaquim Candel

It is time to speak up on the CoFoE!

The CoFoE aims to be an inclusive and participative process where all Europeans have a say on how our future European Union should look like. By partnering with AEGEE-Europe and JEF Europe, we ensure the CoFoE becomes a place for each and everyone to be heard, especially young people. We want to empower them to express how their European dream should look like and directly connect them with policy makers who can implement these proposals, write Jesus Cordero and Joaquim Candel.

Jesus Cordero is President of JEF Madrid @jescorde (Twitter) and Joaquim Candel is International Officer at JEF Spain.

We believe the CoFoE should be an interactive place for young people to discuss openly about what really matters and therefore it is important to speak with people on the ground. Many of our age perceive the European Union as something intangible, distant and that does not represent them. Through the local consultation, we want to bring European institutions closer to them, listen to their ideas and connect them with policy makers who can advocate for them.

Here we, 100 young Europeans met and made ambitious youth-led proposals for the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) on topics such as climate change, European democracy, the role of the EU in the world, health, migration, rule of law, economy, digital transformation and education.

We want to stress out the importance of making the CoFoE truly inclusive and involve the young generations. We also believe that it is important to present the outcomes and our proposals to the public, especially policy and decision makers.

Therefore in our activities connected to the CoFoE, such as our workshop in the framework of the Next Chapter Europe project on the 12.11.2021, we fostered the dialogue among youth and actors from civil society and institutional bodies. We together as young people think about our ideas for the future of Europe and in our work we came up with the following main positions concerning our future as young Europeans citizens.

Regarding climate change and the environment, we want a strong commitment to accelerate transition towards climate neutrality and request the EU to have more ambitious goals. Nevertheless, we have to highlight this is a global issue. This transition must be fair and low-income countries outside the EU will need additional support and investment. The current Covid Pandemic has taught us that one state on its own cannot tackle such a global problem. This is why when we discuss health, greater coordination and sharing of knowledge and EU-funded research is needed to prevent future epidemics.

When talking about European Democracy, during our work young people pushed for the introduction of a Popular Legislative Initiative, so that citizens can actively participate and directly suggest new legislation. European democracy is always connected to values and rights and rule of law – we see that some Member States are challenging the rule of European Law and the defence of Human Rights in their territories. We should stand firm in the defence of our values and link EU grants to its compliance.

When thinking of Europe and its future, it is also important to address the economy and social justice. We suggest a focus on youth unemployment which is at record high levels through the reindustrialization of strategic industries and a return to EU production. Other ideas we should be discussing is to complete the fiscal union and creation of an Erasmus Program for working professionals.

When looking at youth and employment, this is also built on education – we therefore suggest a stronger focus on professional education and encourage the European Union to align educational content with profiles and skills demanded by companies. We want to express that digital transformation should also be an important part of European politics and developments – we want to foster the digitalization of all administrative processes through blockchain to increase transparency and accessibility. Creation of a European cryptocurrency and an European ID with stored medical data and contact information for emergencies.

When looking at the EU in the world, we express concerns that the EU is losing influence in the past years and that having 27 states with different foreign policies is weakening the EU position. Thus, we suggested the creation of a joint EU army and a single foreign policy. We also believe that there should be a common and efficient migration policy, where Human Rights are placed at the centre. We should move from the current system of solidarity to responsibility and ownership, where states do not only protect these humans, but fully integrate them into the European project.

To achieve our goals and brainstorm together with other youth, we invite a diverse group of decision makers and civil society actors to our events. On 12.11.2021, we welcomed Teresa Coutinho, Head of Public Relations and Education Programs at the Office of the European Parliament in Spain to explain the ambassador school’s platform and the platform, that aims to actively involve citizens in European decision-making.

Robert Krmelj, Ambassador of Slovenia in Spain, whose country currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, highlighted the different initiatives Slovenia is leading and encouraged young people to take the lead and get involved. The welcome session was closed by Biliana Sirakova, EU Youth Coordinator, where she highlighted opportunities the EU offers to young people and made a call to action to not underestimate the power of youth in shaping EU policies.

In our panel with Francisco Aldecoa, President of the European Movement in Spain and Member of the CoFoE and Sergio Sayas, Spanish Member of Congress and Speaker of the EU Commission in the Spanish Congress, young participants got the chance to express their ideas and have their voices heard.

When discussing the CoFoE with policy makers on events, it remains important for us that they acknowledge the importance that EU institutions not only listen to the demands of the younger generations and involve them at all levels but implement them. As JEF Europe, we can only second this view and strongly encourage all Europeans to participate in one of the future local consultations held across the continent. Speak up!

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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