Peace, Inclusion, Democracy, Innovation, Sustainability, Europe. These were the words that were heard the most in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the 20th and 21st of May 2016, thanks to nearly 7500 young people from across Europe attending the European Youth Event. The event, organised by the European Parliament and its partners, was akin to a grand festival of Europe’s youth, with circus performances and heated debates, Flammkuchen and hard questions alike. The objective was to hear from and engage with the youth of Europe in order to get the youth’s perspective on the critical issues facing Europe.
The community of InnoEnergy in Germany was not left behind, with us InnoEnergy community members having our own group of about 30 people. The subject matter of the EYE2016 was very much relevant to us as well. As the youth of Europe, we had a good listen to all of the five main themes of the event: “War and Peace”, “Apathy or Participation”, “Exclusion or Access”, “Stagnation or Innovation” and “Collapse or Success”.
Our group mostly consisted of folks from the InnoEnergy Germany community who are studying or working in Karlsruhe. Some of us also drove in from other parts of Germany, with the others flying in from farther places like Stockholm, Brussels and Lisbon. Naturally, the mood among ourselves was like in a grand reunion of friends, which it was!
After hitting the lines at the accreditation centre, we split up and jumped straight into the Parliament building and the “Yo! Village”, which was a collection of dozens of stalls outside the Parliament building. The city of Strasbourg itself is a symbol of European integration, and the Parliament building is sort of the holy grail of the European project. This is clearly reflected in its architecture and building layout.
A Multitude of Events
When we weren’t basking in the Strasbourger sun or marvelling at the architecture, we attended various activities inside and outside the building. The activities took various formats. Some were discussions, some were debates, some were gamified, and finally, some took place in the Hemicycle of the Parliament.
Present in many of these activities were Parliament Vice Presidents, other Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), experts in the respective fields, as well as other special guests which included laypersons and celebrities. For instance, there was Ms. Cheija Abdalahe, a Sahrawi woman who was a refugee in Algeria and Spain offering her perspectives on refugees and migration. Then there was Samantha Cristoforetti, a European astronaut with the distinction of being on the longest spaceflight for a woman, speaking about her 200 days in space.
Optimism for the Climate and the Energy Transition
The questions of climate change and sustainability naturally played a big part in discussions, since it is a hot topic in these times, and this was where we from InnoEnergy could contribute and listen the most. Many among us attended the activities relating to climate change, and we felt that there was, for sure, a strong sense of urgency in furthering renewable or other green sources of energy production. The young attendees were quite definitely optimistic about the increase of the share of renewables in the energy mix.
This optimistic outlook was particularly shared by the younger part of the attendees, and we feel that this is a reflection on the huge awareness campaigns that have been driven in recent years by the EU at large. The general sense was also that the government at the EU level is the one driving policies for sustainability and against climate change.
There was also the tendency to be over-optimistic and sometimes not be fully aware of the technical and economic constraints involved. Naturally, not everyone present there was an engineer, and this is where we feel that we as part of the InnoEnergy community have helped to educate and work towards increasing awareness of all aspects of the energy transition. Some of us particularly made the case for energy storage technologies as well as the development of smart grids.
The EYE takes place every two years, with the next appointment coming in 2018. Overall, what makes this event great is the atmosphere of inclusion and unity, which one can feel in every room of the European Parliament. This two day event also represents Europe’s effort to make the young generation’s voice be heard. Young women and men can freely share their opinion, debating and arguing on a broad variety of topics, truly following the principles of democracy. They are encouraged to come out with ideas and proposals to lead the European Union’s future. The gist and the sense of the event will be conveyed in a report to the Parliament.
This event’s uniqueness should be taken as a push for new generations to be active participants of the change, working on the front row of the European project.
Written by the InnoEnergy CommUnity Post
20 October 2016