The implementation of LYV in Romania occurred under the title “Young people VOTE – Young People MATTER”, in a general context of distrust and insufficient information regarding role of MEPs, E.U. institutions and the European Union in general. In a country where young people represent more than 25% from the overall population (over 6 mil. aged 14 to 35 yrs. old), engaging young people from all social categories, and not only the associated ones, was one of our major challenges.
The campaign focused on stimulating participation by raising awareness and offering access to information about the national and European elections process and the complex mechanisms of European policies, but also by motivating young people to actively get involved and participate in the life of their communities.
The European elections were the perfect pretext for the team of the Romania Youth Council to focus on creating the link between national and European legislation, strategies and public policies and to provide relevant information in order to help young people become more aware of their rights and responsibilities as European citizens.
We wanted young people to realize they are a relevant part of the society and that there are different ways in which they can make their voices heard. One solution was to establish a League of Young Ambassadors of 15 motivated and determined volunteers. The Young Ambassadors are aged between 16 to 25 yrs. old and they range from high school pupils, college students to young professionals, all strongly motivated to get involved in their communities and with a great potential of becoming leaders of their generation and make a difference in the way society works.
We’ve trained them, provided them with the necessary resources and encouraged them to think European while acting locally. They took on their new roles as youth leaders in their local communities and through creative non-formal education methods managed to provide awareness regarding youth rights, youth involvement in the society, the role of the national and European institutions and to engage their peers in the process of disseminating the message of the campaign.
Furthermore, as part of the campaign, we have organized 9 regional press conferences, 9 public information points & 9 seminars for young people with the aim to inform them about how EU institutions work, role of MEPs and what tools for public participation they can have access to, through the 5 years of mandate of the EP.
Also, currently, within the 30 days of elections campaign we are organizing 4 regional debates between young people and candidates to EP (4-6 candidates/debate), under the core idea of “Young People in the centre of European policies”. This offers a unique space where young people can discuss, face to face, with the candidates and understand what are the perspectives of the different political parties on youth issues.
Conclusions from this campaign already highlight the importance of having an on-going dialogue with young people and a need for continuous participation, throughout the 5 years of mandate of an MEP. In Romania, in most of our meetings young people have stressed their disappointment and distrust in the political class, nevertheless, they have also shown a full awareness that only through active participation, at all levels, social change can happen as slow as it may seem.
By Mădălina Mihai & Veronica Ștefan