When unveiling her list of nominations for the new European Commission, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a controversial new role: a Vice-President in charge of ‘protecting the European way of life’. After criticism by some groups, the job description was revised. But as proponents of the European Union often refer to a common set of European values in their support of the project, an uncomfortable question arises: are these European values only used in theoretical discussions or do they actually exist and need to be upheld?
At a time when the Union is threatened from both inside and out, the idea of a shared value system is particularly tempting as it lifts the EU from being an economic market agreement to a ‘normative power’ that strives to turn the world into a better place. Additionally, with enlargement inevitably on its way, it becomes more important for the people who live in the EU to hold onto the idea that ‘their’ Union has been built on common values.
Meridian-centred world maps place Europe in the centre and vastly overestimate the continent’s size. Though once ideal for sailing the seas, the 1569 Mercator projection does not give a clear indication of Europe’s place within the world. It may, however, hint at Europe’s global influence. For centuries, Europe’s key location placed it at a crossroads between civilisations. Experiences and insights from across regions were shared to ultimately give light to new ideas. From the engineering and scientific discoveries made during the first three industrial revolutions to the ideas and principles born from the Enlightenment, many societal advances that have spread throughout the world first emanated from Europe.
Even though Europe should come to terms with today’s globalised world and its subsided role as a meeting-point between cultures, its influence in shaping global values can still have a meaningful impact. Citizens have a clear vision of the world they want to live in and are vocal about their ideas and commitments to certain values. Whether the focus is environmental protection, empowering the unheard or promoting diversity, Europe has a clear opportunity to shape the international standards valued by citizens the world over.
Europe has the opportunity to set an example for other leaders worldwide. Globally admired and courageous policies are France’s tax on tech giants, Finland’s radical solution to homelessness, the worldwide influence of GDPR and the bold answer to the imminent climate disaster outlined in the Commission’s European Green Deal. How can we encourage a modern set of European values that acts as a compass for Europe in the world?
PHOTO CREDIT:Photo by Viktor Juric on Unsplash
This session will provide the participants with the chance to introduce themselves and get to know each other.
Demographic transition, globalisation and digitalisation have transformed lives, identities and outlooks. Reports point to the tremendous value equality brings to the workforce, debate and societies in general. However, these shifts have differently affected citizens and regions across Europe, resulting in rising inequality over the last three decades. Even in European countries that top equality charts, inequality remains a significant problem. Some point out that market-oriented policies in sectors such as education and health have led to increased divergences in the quality and accessibility of social services.
In any case, Europe’s declining equality is a serious threat to its democracy. The increase of inequality is felt both by citizens and member states, with increased social polarisation creating resentment towards political institutions. Overarching policies and tools such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) are aimed at shaping equal opportunities in a bid to create a thriving society for all, the question remains how they could be further enhanced. How can the EU work on its inequality problem, create diverse societies and spread its advances to other countries at the same time?
The importance of educational access for social mobility cannot be overstated. Enabling a forward looking and creative education for all students is widely regarded as key to enhancing income equality, gender parity and the rights of minorities.
With youth being central to establishing a fairer society, this session will focus on EU projects that bring positive change to the education system. The challenge is to establish how such projects can be replicated elsewhere.
“We share the same continent, history, and culture. It is in our common interest that the Western Balkans have a European perspective”, commented European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when asked about her stance on the accession talks. So, what’s the hold-up?
This dinner discussion will address the next steps towards enlargement negotiations with the six Western Balkans countries and what conditions will be put on the negotiating table before the path towards the European Union clears. Currently holding the EU presidency and as the newest EU member state from the Balkans region, Croatia is ideally placed to give their account of the accession talks.
Throughout the world, citizens marched, school children yelled and fires burned, with little standing in their way. The last years’ ongoing heat and drought has left few unscathed. And yet, when the world’s powers convened for COP 25 in Madrid, the outcome was to postpone the decision-making for yet another year.
Making Europe the first climate-neutral continent is the ‘greatest challenge and opportunity of our times’, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. And the bold action plan set out by the proposed European Green Deal is just that: a challenge and an opportunity. Ultimately, the success of such an extensive policy will hinge on meaningful change in the upcoming renewal of the Multiannual Financial Framework – a.k.a. the EU’s budget allocation for the next seven years. With projects such as smart cities and islands having gained ground in recent years, and companies and consumers slowly showing a willingness to change, it’s clear that collective action form all Europeans will be key to implementing this change.
How does the European Green Deal address the differences between Europe’s diverse regions? What specific role does it give to citizens, companies and cities?
The values upon which our companies are built should reflect those advocated in our societies. As such, three group discussions will explore Europe’s approach to creating a geographically diverse and forward-looking business scene.
Innovation and entrepreneurship
R&D expertise is key to creating innovative products; universities and the private sector both have a role to play. However, the EU’s regional disparity in research facilities and its underuse of public-private partnerships is apparent. With the US leading the way on innovation and China gaining ground, what should be done to regain European leadership?
An ideal ecosystem for start-ups to florish
Europe’s start-up sector is booming. However, surprisingly few grow big enough to compete with multinational giants, as they are quickly bought by larger firms from the US and elsewhere. How can EU funds and Europe’s ecosystem be developed to increase the number of European Unicorns?
Sustainability as a core value for companies
Nowadays, companies have to adapt to the changing expectations of citizens and governments demanding that they play a role in climate action and reducing inequality. How can European companies incorporate these objectives in their strategies and possibly export them worldwide?
At the heart of the EU are its citizens. Reflecting on Europe’s approach to politics naturally means considering local dynamics. Through a series of roundtable conversations, the EYLs will exchange their views on varying topics of importance at the local level, and as a result the core values advocated by citizens.
Burnouts are on the rise in Europe and throughout the world. The syndrome has even been dubbed the health epidemic of the century. Modern life is becoming increasingly stressful, with financial debt, youth unemployment, unstable housing and the increasing pressures of social media putting desperate demands on everyone to succeed or either collapse.
Self-help books offering lifestyle tips on living stress-free may well prove useful on an individual basis, but tackling the core of the problem means addressing our current labour market and welfare systems. How do we make sure to look beyond individual responsibility and put wellbeing at the centre of our values? How can the EU institutions set the ground for a better work-life balance? How can governments, companies and individuals tackle the burnout epidemic?
This session is an opportunity for the Young Leaders to build on ideas and concepts discussed at previous seminars and meet-ups. In the spirit of walking the talk, these projects should break the mould and showcase the rich variety that this network has to offer. These projects will be focus on two key areas:
- Gender equality and the outlook for women
- Shaping politics closer to citizens
The aim of this session is to design and establish the foundations and action plans of projects undertaken by the Young Leaders. They’ll be presented to the enitre group on Saturday. The September seminar will offer the space to further discuss and build on the advancements of these projects.
Over breakfast, 45-minute short conversations with European Young Leaders run in parallel on issues that matter to them, to gain and share expertise from this resourceful network.
Petar Preradović Square, commonly referred to as Flower Square, is one of the most popular spots in the city. Filled with flower stalls and cafés, this lively square has been the central point of Zagreb’s everyday life since the 14th century. On Saturdays, the square is filled with people having coffee at one of the many cafés located here, the core of what is called špica. This exclusively Croatian phenomenon consists of people putting on their best clothes to go to the market, run errands, and have a cup of coffee, especially on Saturday mornings.
This presents a unique opportunity for the EYLs to mix with locals in this national tradition, and discuss the challenges commonly faced by young people today. Europe, much like the EYLs themselves, is a hodgepodge of different cultures, customs and interests. But if there’s one thing that can bring people together, it’s coffee.
The Young Leaders will then give a summary of the action plans agreed on gender equality and citizen empowerment. Each group will present the project and outline how everyone can contribute to its development in the coming months. The role of the civil society in shaping such projects will also be highlighted. We will report on this session at the MedForum in Šibenik, Croatia, which will gather 1000+ civil society participants.
Over the week-end, join a group of EYL40 and Alumni for off-programme activities and dinner. For those interested, this is a great excuse to prolong your stay in Zagreb and explore the city’s culture and atmosphere.
- Frankly Speaking
- By Giles Merritt
- Europe's World
- By László Andor
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- Europe's World
- By Ramon Pacheco Pardo
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