In September 2021, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced in her State of the Union Address that the European Commission will make 2022 the European Year of Youth: “a year dedicated to empowering those who have dedicated so much to others ”. Despite all the international crises and challenges, young people remain in the focus of the EU agenda in 2022, aiming at boosting the efforts of the Union, the Member States and the local authorities to support and engage with the youth in a post-pandemic perspective.
But why is the youth so crucial to Europe’s future? To answer this question, Maria Yankova, a student from Plovdiv’s High School of Mathematics “Acad. Kiril Popov”, contacted both representatives of EYP Bulgaria and EYP Romania. EYP, or the European Youth Parliament, is a peer-to-peer educational program that brings together young people from across Europe to debate the most pressing issues of today. Currently, the EYP Network is active in 40 countries across Europe with more than 30 000 people taking part in the events every year.
The activities of the EYP take place under the patronage of the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the President of the European Parliament and the President of the European Commission are members of their Comité d’Honneur.
“When I heard about EYP from my friend, there was no branch of the organization in Bulgaria, so my friends and I decided that we should work to establish one here. After one year full of gruelling work in which we divided the work into different departments and created the Board, the organization is already a reality. In January 2022 we had our first big official event – a digital session, simulation of the European Parliament. “ – remembers Ema Hristova, National Coordinator of EYP Bulgaria.
The aim of EYP Bulgaria is to encourage its members to be open-minded and active citizens by bringing them together, as well as to build intercultural understanding and friendships across borders.
“Getting involved with our organization helps the youngsters in Bulgaria to gain knowledge and skills in various spheres and inspires them to positively shape the world around their borders. “ – Ema explained.
EYP Bulgaria’s future ambitions are to be officially recognized as an NGO and to continue to inspire even more teenagers by providing them with multiple possibilities in sessions and events on a national and worldwide scale.
“We want EYP to bring about meaningful change in Bulgaria, and we will do everything we can to ensure that our organization is capable of preparing future leaders in politics and other fields, as well as cultivating friendships through networking experiences.”
Ema refers to EYP as “one of the most valuable experiences” throughout her whole life. She admits that she has learnt a myriad of things from it. In fact, EYP taught her how to work effectively in a team with varied members, how to convey ideas more clearly, and how to defend her own views.
Teodora-Maria Kovac, the National Coordinator of EYP Romania, started her journey with the organization in May 2021 when the local county coordinator came to her class to promote the digital session organized by EYP Romania.
“We were extremely confused since we did not know what the European Youth Parliament was, but then he invited us after classes to go to a short presentation, where he talked about the project in such an excited way, that it got me attracted from the very beginning” – remembers Teodora-Maria.
She really liked the concept of EYP and participated in five sessions during the summer. Each session consists of team building, where the delegates bond with each other, committee work, where they work on their topic, and General Assembly, where they debate all the resolutions.
“There are countless things that I learned during EYP sessions, and I’m not only talking about the academic part , where I would do research and learn things about certain topics that are concerning today’s Europe; but I also learned values, not just the democratic values of the European Parliament… I am talking about moral values and how to become a stronger person, how to express your point of view but also to listen to somebody else, and how to actually create a stronger opinion by hearing various perspectives.”- the Romanian said.
Her message to the youth is to always take part in any projects that they find out, but not to overwhelm themselves.
“Being active is so much fun, and an active citizenship is something we need because the youth is our future. It is important to always fight for the “good side”, and help everyone and love everyone no matter what. Never say “no” to a project that will help you shape a much stronger version of yourself – of course, except for the times when you’re overwhelmed!. Go on and start your journey to becoming the best version of yourself!”, Teodora- Maria advised.
The National Coordinator of EYP Bulgaria also left a message to our readers, especially the young ones:
”I would like to tell the young to never lose their inspiration and to not be afraid to be the propellers of change in their communities because via little cornerstones we can build the future that we all want – the future, dear young people is yours”, Ema Hristova said.