On May 6-7, in a dynamic convergence of ideas and insights, young minds from across Europe gathered at the European Parliament’s Info Hub for a two-day event aimed at shaping the future of Europe. Organized by the Intercultural Dialogue Platform in collaboration with partners from the Citizen Z project and Stand Up for Europe, and in partnership with the European Parliament, the event served as a platform for reflection, dialogue, and action in the run-up to the European elections.

Day 1: Navigating Democracy and Combating Misinformation

The inaugural day began with an opening address by Albrecht John, representing the Civil Society Outreach Unit at the EP, which co-hosted the event. John shared essential updates about the upcoming elections before introducing the newly released EU Elections 2024 Campaign Video. The impactful short film deeply resonated with participants, leaving them both moved and inspired.

The program continued with a thought-provoking panel discussion titled “Navigating Democracy in Times of War and Peace.” Esteemed professors Luca Tomini, Suzan Gibril and Martin Deleixhe from the Free University of Brussels led the discourse, delving into the complexities of democratic governance amidst global challenges. Following the presentations, participants eagerly exchanged with the speakers, probing detailed questions and actively sharing their perspectives.

Following the panel, attention turned to the pervasive issue of misinformation and fake news. A consortium of journalists, researchers, and media experts from Italy and the Netherlands spearheaded discussions on strategies to combat disinformation, emphasizing the critical role of media literacy and responsible journalism in safeguarding democratic processes. Ahmet Kaya, Michele Calamaio, Allesia Melchiorre, and Lorenzo di Stasi each shared relevant insights, real-life experiences, and project examples, providing practical illustrations and valuable reflections on disinformation, and fake news.

The day ended with an interactive workshop aimed at empowering youth voices. Participants collaborated on the launch of a youth-authored video campaign designed to inspire active engagement in the upcoming European Elections, underscoring the significance of youth participation in shaping the democratic landscape.

Day 2: Citizen Engagement and Celebrating Europe Day

Day two commenced with a workshop led by Sebastian Berchesan, representing Stand Up for Europe. During the session, participants actively collaborated on developing a European Citizens Initiative, highlighting the pivotal role of citizen-driven initiatives in promoting democratic engagement and accountability within the European Union. Divided into three groups, participants worked on formulating an initiative focused on the creation of a universal Public Transport Pass across the EU, thus contributing to enhancing mobility, promoting tourism and curbing pollution. Towards the conclusion of the session, participants shared brilliant and concrete ideas, reaffirming that collaboration and collective brainstorming can yield outstanding results.

Following a networking coffee break, the program resumed with a panel discussion highlighting the initial findings from the second round of deliberations in participant countries of the Citizen Z project, including Croatia, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Insights and recommendations from project partners offered valuable perspectives on youth visions regarding various topics, such as gender equality, social justice, mental health, affordable housing, and civic education. Preliminary findings revealed that young people are primarily interested in equality and justice issues, with their recommendations demonstrating a high level of insight and intuition, despite the common perception that young individuals lack experience.

The event concluded with an intellectual prize. As part of a Europe Day celebration, participants tested their knowledge and understanding of European history, values and institutions through an engaging European quiz, fostering a sense of common identity and belonging. While all participants were able to take the quiz, 3 volunteers from the audience competed for a few meaningful gifts from renowned authors like Stefan Zweig and Albert Camus. The quiz was a great opportunity to have fun and learn new things about Europe.

The 2-day event drew over 45 participants from a diverse array of countries, reflecting the multicultural fabric of Europe. Attendees came from Belgium, Italy, Croatia, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Slovakia, and the UK, underscoring the pan-European significance of the discussions and initiatives undertaken.

While the event took place on the premises of the European Parliament, its impact also reverberated through online engagement. The live-streamed sessions attracted numerous spectators, with an audience of over 200 viewers, demonstrating the resonance of the discussions on democracy, disinformation and citizen engagement.

As Europe prepares for the upcoming elections, the discussions at the European Parliament’s Info Hub serve as a testament to the power of youth voices in offering fresh and innovative perspectives on the most complex challenges facing our continent. Through dialogue, collaboration, and proactive engagement, young Europeans are reaffirming their dedication to democratic principles and active citizenship, thus paving the way for a more inclusive, resilient, and prosperous Europe. Their eagerness to contribute knows no bounds, provided they feel genuinely listened to and regarded as equal actors in their communities.