Participation is young
First swims in the waters of European society – a youth’s case
Young people in an ageing continent; This could probably be a general sentence covering the situation of modern European society. So, although Europe is usually being referred to as the old continent, there is no denial that the young part of its population is of great number and, to my mind, also of great potential. Despite that though, during the last years an abstention of that promising group of the population has been noticed in terms of participation and civic engagement both on a local level but more evidently on a European scale. Maybe it is that young people do not feel that much part of a European society, maybe it is that they have no motivation to feel so because they find themselves and their lifestyles really different from those of other peers abroad , or even maybe it is that there is no European citizenship feeling at all? Whichever the attempts to generate a stable answer through social theories of statistical figures, I share the viewpoint that the chances of finding young people that care about the wider European social reality can be better and there is already such a tendency coming forward; Yes, participation can and should be of young age.
Citizenship is a wider concept than a legal or civil status and is linked to people’s willingness and ability to actively participate in society. What is more, citizenship encompasses various social actions, for instance voluntary work, community networking, political engagement. By participating in communities, young people can influence policies and practices in the world around them. Most often, citizenship is associated with national identity or is limited to belonging to the most formal sense, such as being born in X country and granted the equivalent citizenship, rather than becoming an active member of the society. There is also not a common understanding of what participation stands for, or participation is solely connected to politics in people’s minds, so it is then being averted of as a result of mistrust, corruption, lack of transparent and clear division of duties in political institutions which, in the case of Europe, are mostly centralized in the western part of the continent.
There are however encouraging efforts targeting especially people of young age with the primary aim of opening their eyes of perception in the faces of different yet interconnected European societies. To name some basic moves to that direction, Youth in Action (YiA) funds projects which are designed to encourage a sense of active European citizenship in young people and offering a chance for them to see beyond personal borders by sharing opinions and experiences with peers from abroad. Other than that, there exists the European Youth Portal, providing information on 31 countries and in 24 languages and allowing online discussions through forums. Last but not least, big amounts of exchange programs can emerge through newsletters. And most of times it is all just about an application away.
Wrapping it up, I think young persons should be able to make steps in active participation. Even in times of crisis when most of the times everything around paints a dim picture of reality, effort should be put on finding common ground between different situations but same problems or fears. It is that understanding that triggers participatory action and enhances the will to see things change for all.