On Saturday, October 13th 2018, Eyes on Europe, in collaboration with Jef Brussels, JEF Belgium and SAIES, hosted the first edition of the Youth Conference on Political Campaigning at the Institute for European Studies (ULB). Around 50 youngsters attended the event and fueled a heated panel discussion at the end.
The most striking point about events is that, although everything is set up to the last detail, you always take crucial last-minute decisions and improvise more than expected. Three associations (Eyes on Europe, JEF Brussels, JEf Belgium and SAIES), six months of preparation and probably 100 adjustments of the planning throughout the process. However, in the morning of October 13th 2018, we received our guests with hot coffee at the Institute for European Studies in Brussels for the first edition of the Youth Conference on Political Campaigning.
Before the first workshop session, we had the chance to receive some greetings, sent by video message from Brando Benifei, an Italian MEP who did not mind to dedicate 15 minutes of his time to our event. And then we launched the workshops: three young candidates of various parties and a organization fostering political interest among youth presented ways of political activism apart from protest marches. Meanwhile, the other group discussed about the place of journalism in the context of political campaigning. “By nature, people are already interested in certain issues and journalists are therefore limited in their abilities to raise the attention on certain topics”, replied Maria-Isabel Soldevila to the claim that the fourth estate enjoyed unrestrained power nowadays.
“By nature, people are already interested in certain issues and journalists are therefore limited in their abilities to raise the attention on certain topics” (Maria-Isabel Soldevila)
During the second session, one workshop addressed civic engagement in the context of elections. Philipp Blum gave some insights into his informative campaign ‘Y vote’ and offered some advice on project management and how to make efficient use of funds. Zsuzsanna Kovács and Gáthy Gergely complemented the workshop by illustrating their engagement for ‘Momentum’, a movement which evolved from a petition platform into a real political party in Hungary. The other workshop focused on social media strategies in the context of elections and illustrated why the institutions seem so indigent against populism. “95 percent of what we do is unconscious, however, the institutions reply rationally on social media” asserted Olivier Schotte from the ALDE group on which his co-workshop leader Maxime Bineau from WhyEurope agreed.
“95 percent of what we do is unconscious, however, the institutions reply rationally on social media” (Olivier Schotte)
Inspired by the controversies of the interactive workshops and the never-ending barrel of coffee in the hall, the participants set the tone in the final panel discussion. For not less than two and a half hours, our guest speakers were replying to questions and critical remarks. On the panel: Ryan Heath (journalist for Politico Europe), Alvaro Oleart (Researcher on Political Communication at ULB), Dominik F. Kirchdorfer (President of the European Future Forum) and Rolf Falter (Head of the Liaison Office in Belgium at the European Parliament). After some long and very heated discussions Heath concluded concisely: “Europe is expensive, but it’s cheaper than war.”
“Europe is expensive, but it’s cheaper than war.” (Ryan Heath)
All in all, the conference was a raving success. It is remarkable that mostly all the participants disregarded the sunny weather outside (24 degrees) in order to debate with heart and mind on the future of the EU. “It’s time for treaty change and I don’t understand why neither politicians nor the media accept this circumstance,” someone of the audience uttered enraged at the end of the panel discussion. We were very happy to see that the interactive workshops yield fruit and that so many people were willing to come together and argue democratically on a Saturday. But most importantly, the goal to connect young and dynamic people was definitely achieved through our Youth Conference. For Eyes on Europe, it was a pleasure to take part in the organization of this project and it was a great experience to collaborate with SAIES, JEF Belgium and JEF Brussels.