Europe is still in crisis. Holding on to short-sighted austerity measures, the governments of the EU Member States are postponing the necessary sustainable reforms. Even though they are not to blame for the crisis, the young have to pay for it. They have to live with yesterdays and todays political failures without ever having been involved in the political decisions. Of course, the importance of youth for Europe is paid homage to again and again in the numerous campaigns and Sunday-best speeches of old politicians. But nothing changes. That is why we say: give young Europeans finally the right and the responsibility to decide on the future of Europe!
Young people grew up in a united Europe; they can barely imagine what it feels like to undergo a border control when entering Spain. They want to work in Poland, study in Sweden and do not care about their partners’ nationality. They want Europe ─ for real! The vast majority of young people wants a more integrated European Union ─ even in the United Kingdom. But politics continues to follow the structures and values of earlier generations who simply want to turn back time thereby putting at risk the future of Europe and the future of its youth.
In order to allow young people to make decisions, Europe needs to get more democratic. That is challenging. After the failure of the European Draft Constitution everybody is afraid to address fundamental questions like the future of Europe; especially older people who are quite pleased with Europe as it is today – with its absence of tax harmonisations, its non-existing social policy and opaque budget rules. For young Europeans this is not enough. They need fundamental structural reforms to guarantee that Europe still can function 50 years from now.
In order to finally achieve these reforms, we want to involve the youth of Europe more strongly through the following three steps:
The governments of the Member States should decide to lower the voting age on all levels ─ especially for the next European Parliament elections ─ to at least 16 years. Furthermore they should provide in their budgets and that of the European Union substantial financial means for European youth media, exchange programmes like Erasmus and voluntary youth activities
The European Commission should install a youth committee representing all relevant youth organisations from Member States and Europe with as task to develop recommendations for the budget priorities of the EU and its Member States. These recommendations then should be discussed in all national parliaments and the European Parliament.
The European Parliament should convene its own Convention with the objective of developing the fundaments of a European Convention for the reform of the Treaties of the European Union. The Convention of the European Parliament should consist of MEPs and social and civic organisations from all over Europe. One third of the Convention representatives should be under 35.
With these measures we want to achieve that the structural reforms of Europe will no longer be delayed but tackled through a forceful deepening of European integration and an early and real inclusion of younger generations. Youth is not only Europe’s future – it is its presence. We shall no longer wait till tomorrow. Youth movements in Greece, Spain and elsewhere have shown: young people want to have a say, they are critical and they have ideas. Whoever wants a future for Europe, needs to understand that is high time – especially in these times of fundamental crises – to seriously involve young people and give them the opportunity for shaping it.
This post is a guest contribution. The German original was published in Europäische Schriften.