In the heart of Brussels, at STAM Europa, a unique and crucial dialogue unfolded on April 9, bringing together aspiring European Parliament candidates and the vibrant voices of youth representatives. The event, titled “Meet Your Future Policymakers: Youth and EP Candidates in Dialogue,” organised by the Intercultural Dialogue Platform and Stand Up for Europe, aimed to foster direct engagement between candidates and potential electors ahead of the pivotal 2024 European Elections.

The significance of the upcoming elections cannot be overstated. With Europe at a crossroads, facing multifaceted challenges from economic recovery post-pandemic to climate change mitigation, the decisions made by voters will chart the course for the European Union’s trajectory for years to come.

Moderated by Olivia Gheyselinck, Event and Project Manager at the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, the panel commenced with brief introductions from each speaker, offering insights into their backgrounds, policy focuses, and aspirations. The panel featured a diverse lineup of candidates, including Suzana Carp, a European Climate Policy Specialist representing Volt; Laura Hidalgo, President of the Young MR, representing the Reformist Movement; Chelsea Nshuti, Board Member of Jong CD§V, representing Christian Democratic and Flemish; Léa Charlet, a Youth Sector NGO Director and Strategic Analyst representing ECOLO; Bram Vandeninden, a Scientist and Policy Planner representing Volt; and Marta Barandiy, Founder of Promote Ukraine, representing the political movement Voor U.

The subsequent Q&A session sparked dynamic exchanges between participants and candidates, with discussions spanning a broad spectrum of topics. Subjects such as climate action, youth empowerment, international relations, defence policies amid the conflict in Ukraine, the need for EU institutional reform, housing crises, inflation, economic stability, social justice, budget allocation, education, and mental health resonated strongly with the youth attendees.

With over 40 active participants, the event provided a platform for attendees to voice their concerns and aspirations for the future of Europe, underscoring the importance of engaging and empowering the younger generation in shaping European policies and priorities.

Moreover, the event did not conclude with the panel discussions; before and after the formal proceedings, attendees and speakers socialised over coffee, continuing conversations and forging connections on the issues at hand. This informal setting provided an invaluable opportunity for deeper engagement and understanding between candidates and the electorate.

As Europe prepares to cast its votes in the 2024 European Elections, events like “Meet Your Future Policymakers” serve as catalysts for meaningful dialogue and democratic participation. By bridging the gap between candidates and citizens, particularly the youth demographic, such initiatives lay the groundwork for a more inclusive and responsive European democracy.

It is paramount to recognize that the outcomes of these elections will profoundly shape Europe’s trajectory. Hence, there is an urgent need to empower all citizens, especially the youth, to actively participate in this democratic process. Their voices must not only be heard but also genuinely considered in shaping the policies and decisions that will define our continent’s future.