Young people and political renewal in Europe today – A conference aiming to empower

This weekend will see a conference titled Young People and Political Renewal in Europe Today take place.  Organised by the Partit Demokratiku, who form part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) within the EU, the conference aims to look at what the ideal vision for Europe should be, and where Malta’s place and that of its youths lays.

To delve deeper into what this conference, which is taking place on Saturday 17 November at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, is going to be about, The Yuppie spoke to Partit Demokratiku’s Deputy Leader Timothy Alden.

What is this conference going to be about?

As the title implies, we are going to discuss the future of the European Union in the context of today’s youth. I think young people underestimate their capacity for change and influence. This conference is all about awakening them to the possibilities before them for influencing European and national politics. ALDE and Partit Demokratiku believe in active citizenship and more democracy for Europe. That means we want individuals to take more responsibility and to become more politically aware, educated and active. A lot of our problems arise from people being passive observers instead of fighting for their interests. Climate change must be solved by a societal shift, for example, instead of people sitting around expecting other people to solve all of their problems. This conference is about empowering people. 

Who are the key note speakers and what activities can we expect?

On this occasion, which is a first, the liberals of Europe are going to be represented by the General Secretary of LYMEC, Danica Vihinen. LYMEC is the youth organisation linked to ALDE. On our panel we will also have the President of KNŻ, Michael Piccinino and Dr. Mark Harwood. We will start off with a panel discussion and then enter into workshops, where we hope to engage participants to provide their own solutions, feedback and vision for Europe. That feedback will be taken to Europe. We will provide a platform for youth to speak before breaking for a free lunch. We also hope to show and demonstrate through our activities how youths can become influential and active citizens.

What is the significance of the European Parliament in our everyday lives?

The European Parliament is hugely influential on our daily lives because it is currently the main way for individual citizens to influence the policy and legal direction of the European Union. When we vote for MEPs, they form part of a larger family of parties, and the party with the most MEPs gets to effectively control the EU Commission. Essentially, we are electing the government of the EU.

Who are ALDE and what is their vision for the European Union and for Europe as a whole?

ALDE is the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats. It is a broad coalition of parties which range from centre left to centre right. What unites them is the idea that the individual has certain rights in his country but also certain responsibilities. This is where the idea of active citizenship comes in. That also means ALDE is the champion of good governance and the rule of law in the EU, and at last week’s annual congress in Madrid, all leaders in ALDE spoke on these issues. ALDE is not about liberalism the way Americans understand it. Liberalism in Europe is very different from liberalism in the USA. European liberalism is all about having a healthy democracy and preventing the abuse of power. ALDE also believes in a tighter and stronger European Union, at the same time as making it a more democratic European Union. More EU integration does not have to mean the loss of sovereignty. ALDE wants to reform Europe’s institutions to be more easily accessible. The feeling of the Union being a distant force is what ALDE wants to solve. ALDE also entered into a coalition with Emmanuel Macron’s governing party in France, En Marche! This party united the left and right in France and broke its two party system, replacing it with a new vision for reform, civic pride and patriotism instead of nationalism.

How can students and youths contribute to a more integrated Europe?

Young people in Europe can punch far above their weight – they just do not realise it yet. I myself only graduated from university two years ago, but with a genuine vision, passion and consistency I worked for an NGO and then ended up the Deputy Leader of Partit Demokratiku. If there is something that needs to be fixed in the world, and especially if one is in a Western democratic country, one can move mountains. We have a planet in crisis but by taking responsibility and making full use of our democratic rights we can still save it. Even just volunteering with an NGO or cleaning up the country will provide more confidence, experience, knowledge and most importantly, a motivation to improving the world. Being engaged opens up more doors than one can imagine. Once the motivation is there, the rest is history.

Booking a place at the conference is still possible, and can be done either by calling 99436671 and by checking out the event’s Facebook page here.