Friends of Europe’s European Young Leaders produced a range of concrete ideas on Friday to respond to key challenges facing the continent in the areas migration, climate change, the digital economy and education.
Among the proposals were facilitating legal routes for asylum applicants to enter Europe to reduce dangerous clandestine crossings; developing models for longer-term government planning on climate change; improving links between Europe’s creative economy hubs; and getting successful role models - like European Young Leaders - to return to their old schools and share inspirational stories with students.
"Education is something that’s incredibly important and that’s something each of us can potentially emphasise in our own spheres," said Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, Lecturer at University College Dublin School of Mathematics and Statistics, and European Young Leader. "If we don’t get education right, nothing else will work."
The ideas emerged from brainstorming sessions on the second day of the European Young Leaders seminar in Portugal. More than 40 young people who excel in their fields - from politics to music, broadcasting to biotechnology - are at the gathering in Lisbon and the Portuguese Atlantic resort of Cascais.
Discussions on Day 2 focused on the future of democracy following the recent successes of populist parties; relations between Europe and the United States under the Trump presidency; and relations between Britain and the rest of Europe in the wake of the Brexit vote.
In a way, we are already in a new era, this has to be defined, we can end up with a kind of weakened fake democracy … or we could end up - and this is my hope and my dream and my passion - with a much stronger, real democracy.
Luis Morago, Campaigns Director at Avaaz
Democracy is a Greek word meaning power of the people, but just having a vote every four years is not enough power … power of the people means actually the people can come closer to politicians and the act of governing.
Tiberiu Pfiszter, Romanian anti-corruption activist
Politicians need to communicate better. We can learn a lot from Brexit, Trump and from Trudeau in Canada and, two days ago, the results in the Netherlands. When we have a populist challenge, it is very easy to react to them with a fear campaign, but I think fear campaigns are not working … it is much better to create your own framework with your own proposals in a more positive and optimistic way.
Inés Arrimadas García, Leader of the Opposition in the Catalan Parliament and 2017 Young Leader
Studies show very clearly that migrants are not a threat to jobs and wages, they are not a burden on the welfare state. On the contrary, their diversity and their values and their energy is just the thing that an ageing continent needs … the overwhelming majority are good people who contribute to society.
Philippe Legrain, Founder of the Open Political Economy Network (OPEN) and Author of ‘Immigrants: Your country needs them’