As a member of EFIL’s European Pool of Representatives Rafael Sue represented EFIL in the “European Youth Conference: Regain or Retreat?” which took place in Gdansk, Poland on 24-26 July. The purpose of the event was threefold: to establish a platform for discussion of ideas and opinions about the EU/Europe, to bring young people together and to offer possibilities of education to young people in form of workshops. The following article was written by Rafael after attending the conference.

Text and photos by Rafael Sue

In retrospect, the three days with the nearly 90 participants could have given more new insights, but nevertheless the conference was a lovely experience that gave a lot of room to discuss ideas and opinions and connect to fellow Europeans.

The venue, the European Solidarity Centre, set an authentic scene for exchanging ideas and opinions about Europe’s future with each other.

The morning 24 July set the scene for the upcoming event with some welcoming words, after which the first panel was held; “Positive visions in difficult times”. The necessity for the EU was mentioned various times, but also the need for flexibility and (local) community. After the first panel called for appreciation of the European project, the second panel, “Role of Emotion and Conflict in Development”, discussed how to engage people in working together on common problems, although differences between the parties might create tension. In the following, Myrna Lewis from the Deep Democracy Network conducted an on-stage experiment with all of us, in which we ourselves tried out having a constructive conflict amongst each other while finding wisdom in, especially, the minority’s opinion.

After lunch the workshops began, and the first day of the “Education for Green Activism” workshop left me a bit puzzled; We had discussed the pros and cons of globalisation, talked about the global south and its power relation with the global north.

The European Youth Conference started off with a panel discussion with the topic “Positive visions in difficult times”  which laid the ground for any further and sometimes intense debates.

Tuesday started with the panel “Popular Security and Security Populists”. The panellists came to the conclusion that Europe’s citizens’ voices must be heard more than they are now. It was spoken in favour of a strong Europe that speaks up in critical situations, and more pro-active non-populist politicians. The next panel, “Welcoming the other- Refugees and Immigrants”, depicted the severity of the refugee situation especially in Greece with a short movie made by one of the panellists. The subsequent talk mostly dealt with the question of how to make the crisis tangible for European citizens and how to create empathy amongst the host societies towards the fleeing individuals. The successive panel’s name was “The Legacy of Solidarnośc Movement for Today and Tomorrow”, and gave the stage to Henryka Krzywonos. The elderly lady spoke about the courageous action she had taken in 1980 in order to encourage more people to strike together with the workers against the regime.

The workshop in the afternoon started with an elevator-pitch training. Afterwards we were introduced to an online-learning tool which GEF (the Green European Foundation) has developed in order to be able to educate a higher number of participants about the EU and the Greens in a more efficient way.

The shipyards surrounding the venue played a crucial role in the workers revolution against the Polish regime in the 1980’s. Here the conference participants take a guided look around.

The last day of the conference started with a panel on “Identity in the inclusive Utopia”. The panel addressed topics around the EU’s difficulties to establish a European identity. Reasons such as imprudent European politics and societal disinterest in neighbouring European countries were mentioned. The panel depicted the wide lack of a European identity in a negative way, and called for action regarding this issue from Brussels.

Later on, the workshop groups met for one last session. Although my workshop did take place under a bright green light (not literally), most of the modules were also helpful for people who are not affiliated to the Greens/GEF. This day we were given instructions on how to write a coherent and interesting article for any purpose. Thereupon we were taught how to campaign successfully. The overall quality of the workshop in my eyes steadily rose over the days, and its overarching goal, even if veiled at first, eventually became clear.

Next, each workshop was to present its work from the past three days. The “Telling Engaging Stories”-group presented amongst others their intriguing visualisations of data, while the “Immigrant’s Integration in Practice” workshop showed us how they partly refurbished the near-by “Immigrants Welcome Centre”.

On the last day the various workshops presented their outcomes to the other groups. These were productive days!

The conference’s official program ended with a panel consisting out of three fellow participants, expressing their thoughts about the past three days and the discussed content.

Overall, I can say that within these three days I would have welcomed more new input, but the participants were given a lot of time and space to debate and make friends, especially during the fabulous evening activities. Although I would have liked more discussion about actually specific politics and policies, the experience was highly gratifying.