Published on February 20th, 2019

“We signed up for this convention without a very clear image about what “civic participation” really is, and we can say that, once it is finalized, we have a much wider knowledge, not only of that topic but also of how to address the political sphere in a clear and effective way. It all became possible in less than a week in Düsseldorf. Definitely, this convention has been a good investment of time and a great opportunity to learn a lot.

Democracy is a word with a broad and confusing meaning. Sometimes, we assume it means just voting every four years. But it encompasses a lot more than that, for example, our right to write the petitions to the European Parliament, the representation of our politicians in the European Union, public consultations and our own power to shape our destiny and ensure the proper functioning of the European institutions through the European Ombudsman.

The fight for who holds the legislative initiative in the European Union is still a hot topic. However, in the meeting produced within the Convention between the European Commissioner of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics and the member of the European Parliament, Sabine Verheyen, an excellent harmony between the two institutions was seen.

The convention began with an interesting dynamic where certain members of each group were responsible for creating stories through random Powerpoint karaoke images, related to the ability to improvise and public speaking.

After the development of presentation dynamics among the participants, we learned the importance of civil society. We are civil society, we are the future and we are going to decide the fate of the European Union, which is under the threat from the new political challenges. Democracy is being built every day through the actions of associations, projects on local, provincial, regional, national, European and international level, voluntary work, etc. But in order to ensure that our voice is going to be heard, we have to know the channels for that.

The activity of the Fishbowl Discussion was developed in an agile way and through an interesting debate that should lead to a consensus, through questions where we all shared our opinions, for example:

  • The voting age should be lowered to 16 years.
  • The age to buy alcohol should be lowered to 16 years.
  • You can be a political representative at 18 years old.

The debate with European politicians was especially interesting. They highlighted that the European priority is to grant more funds to the Erasmus Plus program, although they stressed that the priority of national governments nowadays (and of the European Union itself) is not to centralize competences at European level.

Then, we spoke about the European Parliament campaign “This Time I’m voting” that seeks to encourage youth participation on European elections this May. We saw the good practices of different associations and how a simulation of the European Parliament has been built, as well as how it promoted the debate among the citizens about different topics, such as the European army or a Minister of Foreign Affairs of the EU.

Following this, we identified different problems of civil society through brainstorming; we learned to address politicians by drafting policy recommendations, in Mario’s case, on social inclusion and on promoting access to information regarding minority rights and in Milica’s on organization of mental health awareness campaign on the local level. The visit of European Parliament’s member Arndt Kohn also took place during the convention and with him we had a general discussion on EU affairs. After that, we carry out the implementation of the recommendations and present them, in order to study their feasibility in a real context.

People from Serbia, Spain, Belarus, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland, The Netherlands or the United Kingdom shared different experiences and realities from their own countries during these days and confronted different civil societies.
To sum up, it has been an incredible experience that we have to thank Erasmus+, AEGEE-Düsseldorf and the Y Vote team.”

Mario Villamor Nodal from Spain
Milica Živić from Serbia
Participants of the Y Vote Convention on Participation in Civil Society