On January 29 to 31, 19 young European leaders from all over the continent gathered in Vienna to discuss the current democratic challenges facing Europe as part of IRI’s European Democracy Youth Summit (EDYS), a component of IRI’s Generation Democracy global initiative.
The participants were elected youth organization leaders and officials belonging to three of the main political families on the continent and participate in IRI’s Generation Democracy Global project (Christian Democrats’ and People’s parties of YEPP, Liberals of LYMEC and Conservatives of EYC). This was the first time IRI has assembled young leaders from across the liberal to conservative spectrum of pan-European political party coalitions.
During the two days of EDYS, the young leaders discussed current challenges and threats to European democracy. Participants debated pressing issues in a series of roundtable discussions, including: Increasing political cynicism and disaffection among young voters, social issues such as youth unemployment and transparency, and the rise of political extremism both in terms of populism and Islamic fundamentalism. As a result of this workshop, all the youth leaders present adopted a “Common Declaration to Strengthen Democracy in Europe,” calling on political parties, national governments and EU institutions to fully recognize the current political, economic and social shifts impacting European societies and polities, and to take decisive action to strengthen the continent’s democratic systems.
Upon signing the declaration, participants expressed great pride at being able not only to discuss controversial issues currently dividing European societies, but also at to find common ground to resolve those issues and call on governments to take action. Federico Potočnik, President of Mlada Slovenija, said “I feel relieved to know that the future of Europe is in hands of people that can talk to each other, discuss points of view and come to an agreement”. Jan Surotchak, Director of the Europe Division at IRI, expressed similar satisfaction:
“This group of young leaders, coming from very different backgrounds, countries, and inspired by different ideological mindsets, are a reminder to us all that there is much more that unites us in Western democratic societies than divide us…and judging by the contents of their declaration, I would say that this common set of values is widely shared on both sides of the Atlantic. Whatever the current pressures and difficulties, there is still much ground for democracy and common understanding to continue to grow in Europe.”
Generation Democracy is a global coalition of committed, politically active young people and more than 200 youth organizations with the drive to make a difference in their communities. The network links youth with their peers in other countries to share ideas and best practices on increasing political and civic participation and giving youth a greater voice in the governance of their communities. Follow Generation Democracy @IRIGenDem and on Facebook to stay connected and to learn more about the network.Top