Young People’s 2018 Hague Congress:
Can 53 students from 13 European countries prepare a draft of a EU narrative in 2 days? This was the challenge of our third event of the Message to Europeans 3.0 project and given the results, we can say: “Mission accomplished!”
From 11 to 13 April a re-enactment of The Hague Congress of 1948 took place in the same city of the original. Enthusiastic students from around Europe travelled to The Netherlands to update the narrative of the European project following the footsteps of their 1948 predecessors. They tried to answer a simple, yet hard question: What values, projects and ideals should hold together European countries in a political project like the EU?
During the three-day event, hosted by the Europe House, the Representation of the European Institutions in The Netherlands, students were divided into three committees: Political, Socio-economic, and Cultural. Their task was to brainstorm and explore issues such as the migrant crisis, freedom of press, education, populisms and economic crisis. This was followed by drafting their solutions and presenting them to the entire group and experts for discussion.
The three draft resolutions released during the event are now online for comments and remarks by the general public and will be presented in a final declaration in Brussels in February 2019. (https://www.messagetoeuropeans.com/eu-narrative-1)
An important topic brought to light during the first day of the conference was the consideration: what does it mean to be Europeans?
“This struck the participants deeply. After engaging in a long discussion, we came to the conclusion that we all share something very special: the place that we live in, where our friends and family are, where we wake up and take the train to school every morning, and where we envision our future. The place that we share is Europe, a place where we co-exist peacefully and where we welcome each others’ cultures and traditions with open arms.”, said Natalia a student from The Netherlands.
“In my opinion - she explained - the current problem of Europe does not lie in the lack of brilliant and committed individuals willing to give their contribution to the project of European integration. Quite the opposite. What we really miss is more coordination between individuals, associations, political and civil society actors at the national and European level.”
A debate on the resolutions prepared by students was organised on the final day under the format of an ideas-lab with three experts: Dr. Margriet Krijtenburg, researcher at The Hague University of Applied Science, Prof. Pier Virgilio Dastoli, President of the Italian Council of the European Movement and Prof. Mendeltje Van Keulen, Lecturer at The Hague University of Applied Science. Their contributions, very appreciated by the participants, included a reflection on the European founding fathers, and some insights into specific inter-institutional policy-making initiatives.
“The atmosphere during the whole conference was truly empowering. (...) it is often hard to believe that young students can have a say in the big political picture of so many member states, but these kinds of events are exactly what is needed to start a new vision for a better Europe. It is almost unbelievable that during three days of inspirational talks, countless ideas, and exchanges of knowledge, us students were having an impact, not only on the lives of each other, but on the course of the whole of Europe.”, continued Natalia.
The 53 participants arrived to The Hague from all over Europe: 5 students were from Belgium: 3 from Gent, 1 from Brussels, 1 from Louvain-la-Neuve. 2 of them where from Warsaw, Poland, 2 from Budapest in Hungary and 2 from Ljubljana, Slovenia. Iverson was from Tartu, Estonia, Marjo-Julia came from Helsinki in Finland and Lauren from Cork, Ireland. 1 of them was from Bucharest, Romania, 1 from Cardiff in UK and 4 from Spain (2 from Madrid, 1 from Valencia, 1 from Murcia). From Germany 1 student came from Flensburg, 1 from Berlin, 1 from Karlsruhe and 1 from Hamburg. 14 Students came from Italy. 1 of them were from Milan, 2 from Rome, two from Modena, one was from Bologna and one was from Florence. 15 were the local students: they live in The Hague, Middleburg, Leiden, Utrecht and Rotterdam in The Netherlands.
“When the event finished, I had the feeling that we made something different. It was not an empty conference, it was a whole process of debating and writing in which all of us were able to collaborate. (...) We have created an incredible group of international people engaged with the future of our continent. We have learnt how to approach international negotiations and the great challenges our society faces today.”, stated a student after the conference.
Message to Europeans 3.0 will stop next in Ljubljana on 11-13 September 2018 for a debate on Populism. Follow us on our social media channels to stay informed!