Author: Nikola Buerazer
The training programme Youth and EU, implemented by the Centre for Contemporary Politics through the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission, ended on a positive note. The participants of the programme, coming from 6 different European states, left Belgrade after having gained new knowledge, new friendships, and most importantly, an all-European outlook on concept of the European Union.
One of the most interesting aspects of the programme was that it gathered young people from both EU member states and non-member states to discuss about the EU. This made non-EU citizens learn more about the functioning of the EU and the European integration of their own state, but also made the EU citizens re-evaluate their own assessment of the EU and understand better the opportunities and advantages that EU membership brings to them and their respective countries.
The participants seemed to show pride regarding their own countries, which was most visible during the intercultural evening. They were very keen to show and to share with others their own national traditions, symbols, cuisine and beverages. The combination of these nation-specific cultural artefacts and a pan-European approach promoted by the programme seemed to demonstrate the very essence of the European idea and the logic of European integration, and the participants revelled in this atmosphere.
Having been given the opportunity to learn more about the functioning of the European Union and meet their peers from other European countries in such circumstances, the participants left the training programme richer for a very important experience. Before joining the programme, their enthusiasm was evident, but their knowledge of specific EU-related issues quite limited. Those who already were part of the EU seemed to mostly take their EU citizenship for granted and not dwell upon in, while non-EU citizens had a strong belief in the EU, but did not know exactly what it takes to get there and what should be the specific benefits they should expect. In this regard, the training programme seemed like Europe in a small bottle.
The future of European Union certainly depends on young people and the strength of their belief in a united Europe, as well as of their capacities to fight back the surge of populist Euroscepticism, both within the EU and outside of it. Training programmes such as Youth and EU may not resolve this issue in this entirety, but seem to be fundamental for building certain bridges that the European Union of the future should rely on.