My experience at the EU Parliament in Brussels
Earlier in November 2018, along with a group of fifteen students from St Martin’s College Sixth Form, I travelled to the European Parliament in Brussels to participate in the first Youth Parliament. Over seven hundred students from all over Europe gathered to debate and vote upon proposals which directly affect young people and which will positively impact the future of this powerful union of states in the immediate future. One common factor was that all the students present will be voting for the first time in the European Parliament elections which will be held next May.
I was very pleased and excited to take up this opportunity especially because I have always been fascinated about the mechanism and workings of the European Parliament, as well as the law-making decision process. The simulating and motivating learning experience was indeed unique and extremely beneficial for both my academic as well as my social development.
The day started with rigorous security checks, after which we re-grouped and made our way to the hemiscycle, where we found our seats. Sitting there in that striking auditorium filled me with awe for the work that is carried by so many representatives of the individual member States who regularly meet and directly impact the lives of the citizens of the European Union. We were then addressed by two Members of Parliament who shared their experiences and the reasons why they took on such a role. Their speeches were inspirational and helped me to appreciate that in order for our lives to improve in this globalised world one had to take a stand and not wait for others to act. Furthermore, meeting and debating with so many young people coming from different backgrounds and cultures made me realise that while there are differences, there are always unifying factors which should be worked upon in order to reach common goals for the common good. Our young age should not be seen as a liability but as an asset!
All seven hundred participants were assigned to different working groups. We were given the opportunity to select the one we felt most passionate about. This allowed us time to carry out research on our subject-area and to start putting together proposals for discussion. The topics discussed in my working group were how to attract and make rural areas more accessible to young people. Rapporteurs for each group had to present the proposals of their groups which were then voted upon by all participants in the hemicycle. I experienced first-hand the voting mechanism and was able to further appreciate the power of democracy and the important role and responsibility shouldered by all parliamentarians. I was fortunate enough to have been chosen as a group representative. I put forward the group’s proposals to the seven hundred participants and my presentation was followed by a vote. The three groups which won most votes were given the opportunity to present their ideas to Mr Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, Vice President of the European Parliament. The ideas they presented focused on promoting curiosity, self-development and responsibility through life skills classes, promoting a plastic-free approach as well as fund the removal of plastic from oceans, and ensuring access to education and health to all children in Europe regardless of their status.
The day spent in the European Parliament in Brussels gave me first-hand experience of the importance of empowering young people and getting them to become more active citizens in areas which not only impact them personally but which could also shape future generations.
Level 12 student
St Martin’s College Sixth Form