At first glance it seems like we are at Roskilde Festival; a camping area filled with cheap tents with excited young people in front of them and rows of toilet sheds and beer cans floating on the grass. However, if you take a closer look, you will notice that this is not the camping area of a regular festival – the surroundings are idyllic, the area is cleaner and young people are discussing politics. You will hear the current government negotiations being debated while walking through the camping area, as well as the upcoming days' agenda, consisting of over 3 000 events on politics. We are at The People’s Meeting at Bornholm.

The People’s Meeting – in Danish “Folkemødet” has been held once a year since 2011 and is inspired by the Swedish “Almedalsveckan”, which gathers over 10 000 people each year. In its essence, The People’s Meeting is a celebration of democracy. It is a unique experience to see Danish most renowned politicians walking around in the small town of Allinge at Bornholm. Besides politicians, lots of NGOs, political youth parties, think tanks and companies participate and add their views on what issues are the most urgent.

We, The Union of Danish Upper Secondary School Students, were invited as the representatives of youth to participate in debates concerning our education and future. During the four days, we went to all education-related issues – merging of institutions, psychological wellbeing and admission procedures, amongst others. 

On Friday, our newly elected president, Martin Mejlgaard, discussed the issue of taking more than one educational path with former minister of education (and founder of The People’s Meeting), Bertel Haarder. For years in Denmark, there has been a wish from the politicians to make the young people hurry through the education system. Amongst other consequences, this means that you are only allowed to have one educational path – if you choose wrong first, you have to stick with your decision. This, as Mejlgaard says, “puts enormous pressure on young people. A pressure that is not constructive because it prevents many from my generation in taking chances and get positively surprised by their own abilities.”

The reform to speed up education in Denmark may seem like an economic advantage, but in reality, it has a much more negative effect. This is why it is so important for an organisation as The Union of Danish Upper Secondary School Students to be present at The People’s Meeting. Here, the politicians actually stand face to face with the ones affected by their progressive reforms. Here, we have the chance to speak as the experts of every day and we have the chance to set the agenda.

It is exciting and encouraging to see the large participation of young people at this event. This confirms the belief of The Union of Danish Upper Secondary School Students, that our generation is ambitious, curious and competent. If you visit the youth camp at 1 am, you will find that there is almost complete silence. The people in the tents are resting, in order to wake up early and set the agenda in Danish politics.

Written by Elvira Zachariasen, from the Union of Danish Upper Secondary School Students.