The EU has long been encouraging an exchange of ideas across its borders, hoping to engage young people in European affairs. A prime example is the European Youth Parliament – a platform for intercultural dialogue on hot political issues in the EU. It met recently in Lillehammer in Norway and we caught up with some of the young members taking part in the debate.
There are three sessions of the European Youth Parliament per year bringing together around 270 young people for 10 days. In order to familiarise young people with political processes the Youth Parliament functions the same way as the European Parliament.
Once all the committees have finalised their proposals, the general assembly decides, by majority vote, the will of the parliament. Participants defend their own resolutions and argue against those they do not agree with.
But the European Youth Parliament is not just a exercise in democracy; it is also a way of promoting international understanding.
EU Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Commissioner Androulla Vasiliou told euronews: “I regret one thing, when I think back how wasted my time was when I was learning Latin or ancient Greek. The way they were teaching us these very important subjects was very bad, parrot learning, which I forgot after so many years. If we had spent more time analysing, as they do now, something would have really stuck in my mind.
“One of our targets is to reduce the number of these young people, the early school leavers, from 15 percent which it is now to less than 10 percent. We must have more young people with a university degree or an equivalent degree. The standard of our teaching is the most important factor for a successful education system, so we must give importance to the training of our teachers.
“Families play a very important role, so there must be a very good cooperation between families and school. We need to give our young people values which will help to live happily in this complex society.”
Over the years many young people have been enriched by the Erasmus experience of studying in other EU states. Now the programme is expanding its horizons beyond EU borders. Erasmus Mundus aims to globalise European education.
Law is a popular subject at the university and students feel that when they are considering a future professional career, it is important to know about other countries, to have studied and seen different cultures.
The area of economics and business has been strengthened by the setting–up of an international business school. This year they have 300 foreign students of whom around 15 percent are doing post-grad or higher degrees.
Erasmus Mundus represents a step towards opening the Erasmus experience up to the whole world and many students from Asian universities now come to European universities to study.
The students’ academic and personal development is influenced by analysis and understanding ideas from different points of view. Cross-border relations transform the way we understand life and Erasmus adds a social dimension.