On 9th-11th May, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, opened its doors to 8,000 young people from all over the EU, to celebrate the European identity and discuss “Ideas for a better Europe”.

IYNF delegated 20 young people coming from different corners of Europe, who brought a precious contribution to this event – two workshops provided, two projects presented, and a business idea awarded, were just some of the highlights of the IYNF participation, eager to express the views and ways of the European Naturefriends for youth work, participation, environment and the future of Europe.

You can read here the impressions from some of our participants in the EYE.

Alexandru Mustata:

The European Youth Event was for me a truly amazing experience. Those who were patient enough to read the almost one hundred pages long program found for sure at least one or two activity to their liking. It was the same for me, and I had the opportunity to learn more about the situation of roma youth from three NGOs, or about scientific research directly from a Nobel Prize winner.

There was, however, one thing which bothered me at the EYE: garbage disposal. Unfortunately, you couldn’t find anywhere at the venue trash cans to separate your waste, but only these plastic bags in which anything went. Of course, the exception was inside the European Parliament, but I don’t think that helped too much, since most of the time the participants were outside, and since most of the trash was produced outside. Do not get me wrong, I am not a perfect environmentalist: although I try not to do it too often, I must admit that it happens to me that I throw a plastic bottle in the general bins (after I crushed it), when there is no other option than carrying with me until I get home. But at an event hosted by the European Union, one would expect them to set an example. If not here, then where? It was a bit disappointing, especially considering that you could see around most houses in Strasbourg bins for plastic, paper, and waste.

Morgan Henley:

I was lucky enough to join the IYNF delegation to the European Youth Event hosted in Strasbourg, France by the European Parliament. I say ‘lucky’ because I am not your most likely candidate- I am a US citizen whose last European relatives came over on the Mayflower. Put in other words, it is only thanks to my status of being a student in the Czech Republic that I’m allowed to attend events such as these. So when I was at the EYE, it was almost certain that I would get the inevitable question- ‘if you are American, why are you here?”

Well, as a foreign student living in Europe for the past three years, the policies and decisions that the EU makes are really important for me. Although I don’t have European nationality, the EU is still important to me, as it should be everyone living in Europe. And more so, the EU is awesome. Which is why even though at events such as EYE which focus mainly on the problems that young Europeans have, which are enough, I can’t help but think being a young person in Europe is a pretty good place to be in.

Sometimes I see that other Europeans my age don’t exactly appreciate living in Europe because living in a EU supported Europe is all they know. I want to ask them, do you think Washington would invite 6,000 young people to Capitol Hill in order to ask them about how they’d like to see the future? Or what about Beijing? Moscow? New Delhi? Well, I’m here to tell you- cool events like EYE only happen in Europe.

In the YO!Fest organized by the European Youth Forum that was going on alongside the EYE, you could see stands of all of the great opportunities that young Europeans are offered. Whether it was NGO’s uniting young people to fight for the rights of the Roma, signing pledges to stop hate speech, learning about a new social media site that connects people with their Member of the European Parliament, or informational stands about the opportunities provided by Erasmus+, it is evident that if anything, young Europeans have some options.

So as I met Europeans from all over the continent at the EYE, I saw that many of them don’t fully realize how programs like these are special and unique. Of course the situation for youth varies from country to country and I don’t mean to overlook many of the challenges that my European colleagues have, I see it firsthand. Yet, just keep in mind nowadays that being a young person anywhere is tough and that at least in Europe the governments are asking the youth how they can make it a little better. Whether or not they listen, well that’s a different story, but at least they’re asking.

Katarina Chalupkova:

I met people who care about their environment and their future – now I know what it means to be a European. I met inspirational people who actually live sustainably and responsibly apart from mere talking about it. Multinational view upon things I know from before (e.g. social entrepreneurship) has showed me new perspectives. Last but not least, IYNF is an organization full of amazing people and I hope EYE 2014 was just a beginning of my friendship with IYNF.

Kristina Huda:

I consider the EYE (European Youth Event) an important event, not only because it was hosted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg, but also because of the idea it contains. I believe that it is essential for Europe to involve the youth and to listen to their voice and ideas, which lead afterwards to decision making.

My topics of concern in the discussions were sustainability and climate change since environment is also my field of study. I am very grateful I was part of the IYNF team participating there. I can say that even though the time was short, the event was very well organised in a way that people with same interest could discuss and express their vision of a better Europe. The only part of complain from youth was that the Members of the European Parliament that have big influence in the topics discussed were not there to reply to our concerns.

One of the highlights for me was the Role play were participants had to act as Members of the European Parliament and take decisions regarding the climate change and energy in Europe, it was a very interesting debate and process which helped me get more insight on the process of decision making in the European Parliament and also because it was a surprise and delight for me to be rewarded as one of the winners of the role play.

I really hope that the European Parliament is going to set higher targets of reduction of CO2 emissions and put environment in the center of attention and not business as usual. The 2015 climate summit is very near and time is not in our side anymore. We have to act now. I appreciate the idea of organizing such an event in order to involve the young people, and now I am just waiting to see if our visions will be taken into consideration.