Riga, 26 March 2015 – To tackle the low levels of youth political participation, 210 young people and policy-makers from across Europe came together at the EU Youth Conference on “Empowering young people for political participation in democratic life in Europe” in Riga on 23–26 March. Joint recommendations were drawn up as a result of plenary sessions and workshops taking into account the suggestions made by almost more than 40 000 young Europeans who took part in the broad consultation process known as the Structured Dialogue carried out four months prior to the conference. The issue of youth political participation will be brought forward for a high-level policy debate of the EU Youth Ministers at the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council on 18 May 2015.
“When it comes to individuals, every vote and every bottom-up initiative counts. It is of utmost importance to build a society that cares. A set of useful ideas have been brought forward at the conference and as the Minister for Youth Affairs and the President of the Council of Youth Ministers during the Latvian Presidency, I look forward to bringing this topic on youth political participation in the democratic life in Europe for discussion to the EU Youth Ministers in May,” said Mrs Mārīte Seile, the Latvian Minister for Education and Science.
“Yet again there was a worryingly low turnout of young people at the European elections in 2014, with only 28% of young people under 25 who voted. The divide between the democratic institutions in Europe, their representatives and political parties and Europe’s young citizens is growing. To ensure that young people are fully included in society, the EU and the Member States must do more. Participation is not a luxury but a basic right. The EU Youth Conference in Riga has provided a space for young Europeans to have a strong policy impact on key issues but we expect the European Commission and all stakeholders to closely monitor and measure the impact of young people’s voice in shaping European policies,” said Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum.
Political participation alongside the socio-economic challenges of young Europeans are at the heart of the Latvian Presidency’s agenda and the conference in Riga has laid the groundwork for strengthening youth political participation. Delegates suggested various actions to be put into force at local, regional and European level, for example:
– Member States should further develop or include civic education in the curricula at all levels of formal education, bringing a local, national and European perspective.
– Formal education providers must include non-formal learning methodologies to encourage critical thinking and enable young people from all backgrounds to develop attitudes and values to participate actively in the society.
– By implementing transparent, sustainable and collaborative structures and providing financial support, authorities at local, regional and national levels should ensure full participation of youth NGOs in decision making processes of the policies that affect young people
– EU institutions and Member States are encouraged to put up cross-sectoral initiatives and long-term partnerships at all levels with youth workers and non-governmental organisations, with the aim of transferring knowledge and developing political participation competencies of all young people, especially those with fewer opportunities.
Further discussion on the question of youth empowerment for political participation is to be carried out by the trio partner of the Latvian Presidency – Luxembourg – during the second half of 2015.
To read the Joint Recommendations, please go to:
Photos from the event: