On the 23-26 of October, at the last European Union Youth Conference in Tallinn (Estonia), OBESSU was invited to represent the European school students, their demands and their needs. The Youth Conference is a bi-annual event where youth delegates from all around Europe come together to discuss European youth policies with each other and with policy makers. It takes place within the framework of the Structured Dialogue which secures an ongoing process of young people engaging with EU policy making. As the current EU Youth Strategy is coming to an end, the conference focused on the new Youth Strategy.

Under the title: “Youth in Europe, What’s Next?” the youth delegates were invited to think about what matters to young people today. Mostly national youth councils were invited to bring forward a national perspective but among other European youth organisations OBESSU was there to provide a transnational perspective focusing on quality education and welfare for all European school students.

The conference was organised by the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. With Estonia at the steering wheel of this event, the main focus was on digital opportunities for youth in the future, a field in which Estonia is one of the leading countries. OBESSU welcomes the discussions and we were happy to debate this in such a particularly ‘online’ place like Tallinn.

However, we also highlighted some important issues about the balance of on and offline education and the inclusion of all European youngsters. You can read OBESSU’s Policy Paper about digitalisation and education here.

Another important topic for us was the inclusiveness of European youth policies, youth programs and European youth work. It is paramount to us that any strategy or programme (such as the European Solidarity Corps and Erasmus+) starts from the intention to include all young people regardless of their socio-economical, geographical or cultural background, age or gender. Too often European youth programmes are reproducing the social status quo and leave certain school students behind. Besides, this is also a reflection we have to make in our own work. Therefore one of the 2018 focuses of OBESSU will be on ‘inclusive school student unions’ and ‘inclusive OBESSU’. Please read more in our new Work Plan here.  

One of the highlights of the conference was the speech delivered by the Estonian President Ms Kersti Kaljulaid. She focused on the capacity of young people to shape Europe and its future. Even though the conference and its outputs might be far away from the actual making of the new youth strategy, we do welcome this approach very much. OBESSU commits to contribute in the process now and in the upcoming two Youth Conferences to ensure that European school students’ voices will be heard. Youth policy cannot be shaped without young people at the steering wheel.

After the speech of the President, we got the chance to have a conversation with her on stage. OBESSU Board member Ferre shared our thoughts on digitalisation of education and underlined that we have to be aware that this is not a solution in itself. They also talked about ‘voting at 16’ as the perfect way to grant young people the trust they deserve (since the last elections young people from 16 year old can vote in Estonia). Can we tell young people we want them to take part and engage in democracy, if we are still debating whether they have the capacity and will to do so?

Stay tuned for more information about Structured Dialogue!

Written by Ferre Windey, OBESSU Board member