JEF-Finland (Eurooppanuoret) organised a successful youth seminar called Youth Rights: Education, Employment and Participation – Northern and Southern perspectives on Inclusive Democracy on 21.–25. November, 2013 . Representatives from Greece, Germany, Spain, France, Finland and Ireland gathered in Helsinki to discuss the challenges that face the youth in Europe at the moment. Youth unemployment is alarmingly high in some countries and rising in others, and the number of young people not participating in education, employment, or training is growing. What is more, the prospects of youths in struggling parts of Europe seem to be diverging from those of youths in countries that have managed to avoid the worst crises. How can these problems be addressed by young people? How can they actively contribute to solve these difficult issues? How can we create a positive atmosphere of active participation of the young in Europe?

Working in groups - discussions about youth guarantee

Working in groups – discussions about youth guarantee

Participants were introduced to the president of Akava mr. Sture Fjäder.

The participants were introduced to these topics from the Finnish perspective by distinguished guest speakers. Mr Sture Fjäder, Director of the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland (Akava), hosted the seminar participants on the first evening and shared his thoughts on the challenges for the youth on the labour market. His strong message to the youth was that if they want to influence the future, they have to do it now. If youths do not voice their hopes for and opinions of the future working life, no one is going to do it for them – and later when decisions have been made, it is too late to complain.

On the second day of the seminar, the participants were first introduced to the Parliament of Finland, and then addressed by several interesting speakers. Ms Sari Essayah, Member of the European Parliament (EPP), gave a very interesting speech on the Finnish youth guarantee and discussed the need to implement a similar guarantee on the European level. It was considered as an important first step to increase participation of young people in the job market and education in Europe by the participants. This point was seconded by Mr Jussi-Pekka Rode, youth politician and Parliamentary Assistant to the Social Democratic Party of Finland, who also addressed the participants and reminded them of the geographical division of the labour market even within a single EU-country like Finland.

After these informative speeches, representatives of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) engaged the participants in brainstorming about the internationalisation of the education and labour markets. Later during the day, seminar participants visited the headquarters of the Trade Union of Education and the Federation of Finnish Entrepreneurs. A hearty dinner was hosted by the European Movement in Finland and Pohjola-Norden after an intensive day.

Saturday was dedicated to seminar work. Young participants tackled the issues of education, employment and active participation in different kind of workshops after the speech of Ms Anna Ranki, a former member of the European Youth Forum. In the afternoon, the participants could choose whether they wanted to draw up a statement for addressing issues concerning youths across Europe, make a video to get youths to actively participate in civil society, or plan a campaign for raising awareness and getting youths to vote in the coming European Parliamentary elections. The memorable international evening on Saturday night with food, drink, and songs from different European countries was happily received by the participants.

In a word, the seminar proved to be a great success that brought young people from different corners of Europe together to discuss important issues that concern their own future as European citizens. The very friendly sprit of the seminar and excellent group dynamics made it one of the best seminars JEF-Finland has organised so far. We are delighted that we could offer this opportunity to hold this seminar and would like to extend our gratitude to the participants, the partner organisations and sponsors for making it possible!

The seminar was part of a democracy project funded by the Youth in Action programme of the European Commission. The project will continue with making of an action package based on the inputs from 11 partners organisations in the project as well as on the work, discussions and feedback of the participants in the international seminar. The action package will provide tools to active citizenship and will be especially designed with the European Parliamentary elections in mind.

(The seminar, this publication and all other material relating to the democracy project reflect the views of solely the organisers and partners, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any information, views or material contained therein.)

Finnish member of the parliament mr. Kimmo Sasi