If you want to capture the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions across an entire continent, your best shot is going to be listening to the kids. And that’s exactly what the European Parliament has been doing for years, putting Europe’s youth at the forefront of everything from enticing programmes to exciting activities.
With a number of ways for Malta’s future leaders to be able to engage with the European Union and its institutions, it might sometimes get a tad overwhelming to choose the ideal one for you. That’s where we come in.
We’re breaking down the youth activities and programmes funded by the European Parliament, to help find the best fit for you!
1. The European Parliament Ambassador School Programme
Put quite simply, the Ambassador School Programme is all about creating a constantly-increasing network of schools that engage with the European Parliament, its Members and the Liaison Offices.
Throughout the programme, teachers and students alike engage themselves in a number of activities that raise awareness on European parliamentary democracy and citizenship values.
Applicable for both vocational and secondary schools, the programme allows Ambassador Schools to hold free teachers’ seminars in the Members States (and in Brussels or Strasbourg), along with providing free interactive and innovative teaching material.
MEPs may also drop by for school visits and debates, with the network also creating twinnings between European schools.
“This programme allowed me to understand the role of the European Parliament and the importance of voting in European elections,” a 17-year-old student said of the Ambassador School initiative.
At the end of the programme, student junior-ambassadors are presented with diplomas and a plaquette is presented at an awards ceremony to the ambassador school which would have met a set of criteria during the scholastic year. More information about the programme – and its requirements – can be found here.
The European Parliament Ambassador School Programme also allows schools participation in a number of other awesome initiatives, including…
The best way to learn will always be to do.
Offering a unique and immersive experience in the Chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Euroscola sees students from the 27 Member States get selected to become MEPs for one day.
During this special day, students will be able to take the floor in plenary and committee sessions to debate and vote on resolutions on current affairs.
Beyond the unique political opportunity, participants will also be able to practise their language skills while making friends with fellow students from across the continent. And of course, that also applies to their teachers, who will have the opportunity to meet colleagues from all over Europe and exchange feedback about their own classroom practices and experiences.
“The students that became friends, the teachers that became our biggest supporters, this group that became a one big family; this was and still is the best thing about Euroscola,” Maltese student Yanika Galea said of her experience.
“Euroscola proves that the European Union acknowledges us teenagers and values our ideas and opinions,” Yanika continued. “It made me appreciate and feel honoured to be a citizen of the European Union. I’d for sure recommend this experience to others.”
“When applying, I never imagine it would be such a meaningful experience,” fellow Malta-based student Angelica Gennaro added. “Not only has it helped me further my interest in the EU, but it has also allowed me to conquer my fear of public speaking.”
“I got to witness first hand what it truly entails to be an MEP and the responsibility that comes with it.”
“Beyond all doubt, if I had the chance to relieve this experience, I definitely would as it was one to treasure,” Angelica finished. “I would certainly recommend it to anyone willing to take up a challenge, as Euroscola offers an immersive experience catered to adolescents.”
3. The European Charlemagne Youth Prize
Taking exposure one step further, the Charlemagne Youth Prize actively recognises some of the best initiatives to come straight out of Europe’s youth themselves, offering up EU-wide recognition and significant cash prizes too!
Anyone aged between 16 and 30 from an EU Member State can submit projects for the prize, with emphasis placed on (but not restricted to) group submissions.
As for what’s allowed to be submitted, the answer is thankfully very broad; anything that promotes European and international understanding, fosters the development of a shared sense of European identity and integration, and provides role models for young people living in Europe by offering practical examples of Europeans living together as one community is welcomed with open arms.
For a bit of a clearer idea, previous winners have included a shared radio show with a multinational team and a series of workshops providing meeting places for Muslims and Jews against anti-semitism.
Last year, Malta’s national winner was MOVE, a group promoting physical activities and sport challenges across the island as a way of inspiring a healthier future for everyone.
Since its inception in 2008, more than 3,000 projects have competed for the Prize, with everything from cash prize to overseas visits being offered up.
The prize for best project is €7,500, with second and third place receiving €5,000 and €2,500 respectively.
As part of the prize, however, the three European laureates are also invited to visit the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg.
One representative of each national winning project is invited to Aachen for several days to attend a series of events, culminating in the award-giving ceremony of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, which always takes place on Ascension Day. The prizes for the best three projects will be presented by the President of the European Parliament and representatives of the Foundation of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen.
And of course, even beyond the cash prize and the opportunity to fly to the ceremony, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity also guarantees a whole lot of coverage to your project through the European Parliament’s and the Foundation’s media channels.
4. EYE, The European Youth Event
Even with all the different events and programmes up on offer, EYE is still the mother of all initiatives as far as Europe’s youths are concerned.
Every two years, thousands of young people from all over the EU are brought together to share – and shape – their ideas on the future of Europe.
Organised by the Youth Outreach Unit, EYE is the European Parliament’s flagship event for youth, undertaken with the help of several partners.
“We want to encourage youth to participate actively in the European democratic life and we provide offline and online platforms where young people can become change makers,” the Youth Outreach Unit said of EYE.
Two years ago, the last edition of EYE saw 8,970 young people take to the European Parliament in Strasbourg along with over 250 speakers, 11 partners, hundreds of youth organisations and many enthusiastic volunteers.
Participants from all 27 Member States – not to mention others from outside the EU – made up a total of 109 nationalities at the event.
Following the event, the ideas, concerns and hopes from young people are presented in a report distributed to all MEPs. Some participants will also be able to further develop the most impactful ideas and present these directly to the MEPs in the parliamentary committees during aptly-named Youth Hearings.
The fourth edition of EYE will take place at the European Parliament’s seat in Strasbourg on 29th and 30th May.
Check out what went down at previous EYEs right here!
Malta’s youth also had a hand in last year’s #ThisTimeI’mVoting campaign, a programme born out of a necessity to engage the continent in the 2019 European Parliament elections.
Alex Hili, who took part in the campaign, looks back on the experience fondly. And it turns out that it takes something of this scale to really broaden your horizons and put everything in perspective.
“In Malta, letting people know about their right to vote in the election is not much of an issue compared to other countries,” Alex told Lovin Malta. “Yet what was an issue is reactions and heavy tension felt in each election. The tempers run high, so there were some interesting incidents where people thought we were campaigning for a political party or other and hence us approaching them to speak about the elections was turned down.”
“The best part of the volunteering was when I got to be part of the European Youth Event in Brussels, where I got to meet various youths from all over the EU and we shared our experiences on this project,” Alex continued.
“We got to talk about the different challenges that we faced and understand the different realities that happened in each country.”
“This week was also a really good chance to build networks and contacts across the Union,” Alex finished. “Building a bigger European Family.”
Europe’s youth will be shaping the continent’s future… and that’s why programmes like these are so essential.
Whether you’ve got an amazing project that more people need to know about, you’re part of a school that could do more to help push European values forward, or you want to hang out with like-minded youth from all over the continent, there has never been a better time to be a part of the European Youthquake and help the future you want for yourself and others.