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#1stYoungCitizens‘FutureLab on 27 and 28 September 2018 at the Europäische Akademie Otzenhausen

Strengthen digital partic­i­pation of young people!

On 27 and 28 September 2018, the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) had the pleasure of holding the #1stYoungCitizens’FutureLab on “Digital Democracy in the EU: e‑participation and European election” at the Europäische Akademie in Otzen­hausen (EAO). Together with Anja Türkan, an expert of digital strategies, the partic­i­pants discussed the challenges of e‑participation and digital tools for citizens’ involvement in the context of the next European elections. Thus, the #1stYoungCitizens’FutureLab formed the basis of the project #EngagEU, which aims at estab­lishing a consul­tation about the visions and ideas of young citizens across Europe, and at empow­ering young citizens to actively set the agenda with these ideas in the run-up to the next European elections.

To establish common ground for discussion, the partic­i­pants firstly talked about past and current challenges to the European project, such as the rise of nation­alism, the loss of public trust in European insti­tu­tions, and the impact of the Brexit refer­endum. Partic­i­pants agreed that it is necessary to foster European identity and solidarity, as well as to better commu­nicate EU decision-making to the citizens in order to counteract these challenges. Against the backdrop of decreasing knowledge young citizens have about politics, more frequent gener­al­iza­tions and stereo­types, as well as the rising number of protest-voters, the pursuit of these goals and projects like #EngagEU become increas­ingly important.

Based on these assump­tions the partic­i­pants identified concrete challenges emanating from digital­ization. With today’s diverse commu­ni­cation methods, the popularity of various YouTubers and bloggers, the overwhelming amount of infor­mation available at any time, and threats to neutral reporting in mind, the partic­i­pants raised the following questions:

Next to these challenges, the partic­i­pants also discussed the benefits of digital­ization, such as increased trans­parence and improved commu­ni­cation processes of decision-makers and citizens.

Throughout the #1stYoungCitizens’FutureLab, the partic­i­pants developed four key demands to be discussed further at the #2ndYoungCitizens’FutureLab in November 2018:

First, political and civic education needs to be improved, in particular in schools. The partic­i­pants suggested intro­ducing “European studies” as an own subject or organizing a “Europe Week.” In addition, adult education should focus on European matters. The partic­i­pants also under­lined the need for deeper knowledge on digital­ization and for improving digital skills to combat the widespread feeling of infor­mation overwhelm among citizens.

Second, future digital infra­structure should respect net neutrality and the quality of infor­mation sources inter alia assisted by “fact-checking platforms.” Furthermore, online and offline debates should be better connected.

Third, the partic­i­pants called for more citizens’ consul­tation regarding regional topics, for example by making use of e‑participation tools to establish more citizens’ partic­i­pation at the local level.

Fourth, the attendees proposed more partic­i­pation oppor­tu­nities for young European citizens. Next to a “Youth Parliament” with concrete and measurable possi­bil­ities for impact, the partic­i­pants also recom­mended to improve the initiative “#FreeIn­terrail”. This should not only include access to the tickets but also supporting the partic­i­pants for the duration of the trip, for example with better couch­surfing facil­ities or by making use of digital instru­ments to reduce the language barrier between travelers.

Next to these four ideas, the partic­i­pants highlighted two basic principles to be respected in the future: The first being a reduction of language barriers which would help to increase citizens’ partic­i­pation, and connecting public spaces online and offline.

This first exchange of ideas will serve as the basis for the #2ndYoungCitizens’FutureLab, which will be held by the Institut für Europäische Politik at the Europäische Akademie Otzen­hausen on 29 and 30 November 2018. Further #YoungCitizens’FutureLabs in the run up to the next European elections will take place in Nice and Warsaw.

Ms. Jana Schubert,

Author: Sara Kibler