Most of the kids growing up in the international environment have heard about MUNs, or Model United Nations. Yet somehow, despite them living in the EU itself, very few from that crowd are familiar with the Model European Union format. My name is Francesca, I’m the Director General of Model European Union Strasbourg (MEUS) 2019 and I’m going to tell you why all I want for Christmas, New Year and for the future is for MEUs to conquer the world of simulations.
What is Model European Union?
MEU is a simulation of the law-making process of the EU. Its participants are assigned roles, such as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Ministers in the Council of the EU, journalists, lobbyists and more, depending on the particular simulation. For a period ranging from three days to a week, they are asked to internalise their positions, as if they were the real actors shaping the European legislation. They get to discuss two (or more) pieces of European legislation, amend it, and vote on the final outcome. Through living the Ordinary Legislative Procedure, they learn it, understand it and, most often, feel much closer to the EU institutions.
I still remember the moment I entered the European Parliament in Strasbourg, ran for the elections to be the leader of our simulated EPP group and had to deliver my first speech in the halls where real politicians deliver their speeches. I was beyond terrified and had very little idea what was going on. By then, I was a third-year student of Law in Poland, a graduate of an international Baccalaureate high school, and yet the process of law making in the EU seemed completely foreign to me. I have to shamefully admit that my EU-related knowledge was close to nonexistent. Yet, four years after, I am a proud alumna of three amazing European universities, including the College of Europe, working and living in Brussels. My biggest pride and joy is to run the 2019 edition of a conference that has surely proven to be a changing point in my life.
MEUs and the gap between our daily lives and the EU
The European Parliament elections of 2014 clearly showed the lack of appeal that the EU democratic processes have among young people. We grew up with open borders, peace and strong European cooperation. It’s really easy to get used to all those perks. I barely remember myself that only less than two years ago, I could not surf the internet aboard without paying a generous fee. And yet when it comes to actually examining what is the source of all the rights and freedoms we get to enjoy today, young people appear to be lazy in formulating their opinions and showing up to vote. Can we blame them?
When you google ’EU-decision making’, you can find a series of infographics produced by the Commission or the European Parliament to ensure their legislative process is transparent and understandable. But can we really blame a high schooler or a young student for giving up when reading about parliamentary committees’ hearings, trilogues and conciliation committees – phrases sounding as foreign to them as finding the limit of 0 to most EU nerds.
We tend to either be scared of or disregard things we do not understand. When they seem far away, as Brussels does, they become irrelevant in our lives.
What does it matter that Frans Timmermans is the Spitzenkandidat for the role of the President of the Commission when you have only a very vague idea what the Commission is? I have noticed that all the excitement I go through in Brussels, passes unnoticed among my friends and family back home.
This is where MEUs come in. I’m lucky to be part of a great network of young people who decided to devote their free time and resources to fill the gaps in education left by the national governments, who could not care less about explaining the EU to people. Whether it is 20, 50 or 200 people at the time, these conferences try to teach by doing. By slowly yet steadily broadening our audience, we hope to raise more and more awareness. Most of all though, we want to inspire our participants to take up the challenge of organizing their own MEUs.
Model European Union Strasbourg and the European Elections of 2019
Starting the 2019 edition of MEUS, we had a very clear objective. We wanted to run the most inclusive conference, promoting values of equality and non-discrimination, discussing topics that are important to young people. This is why in April 2019 we will take on clean energy, protection of the rights of consumers and, of course, the European elections. Our goal is for all of our 200 participants to become multipliers, bearers of the message that the EU democracy cannot exist without our participation in it.
In this process, we make sure our dedicated team members work hard on content and preparation of the participants, on outreach and partnerships with various actors, including politicians, and that our selection of participants reflects the diversity of the European society. During MEUS 2019 we will also promote full gender equality, with balanced panels, speakers and chairing boards. Our Team of volunteers will moreover return to their schools and universities to host mini simulations of the EU decision-making process (miniMEUs), making sure the 2019 edition has the widest impact possible. You could say everything we do, we do it for EU.
In the ideal world, MEU format should become as widespread and as commonly recognised as MUNs are now. There is no obstacle to reproduce it in high schools and universities, with our Team we have literally been there and done that. Practical education can do wonders in activating young citizens. By demystifying the EU bureaucratic machinery, we can truly teach people how to consciously participate in European democracy.
- You can apply to participate in MEUS 2019 until the 13th of January!
If you want to find out more and see how to get involved, visit the website of the umbrella organization of MEU conferences, BETA Europe, and see if there is a place for you in the MEUs world!
We would like to thank The New Federalist for this contribution!