Engaging youth in Europe’s future: YoFest 2013

In the midst of European Youth Week 2013, the normally calm Esplanade of the European Parliament was taken over by the sounds, the scenes and the excitement of Europe’s youth finding their voice and building their futures at Yo! Fest. Everywhere you looked, the youth generation of European citizens were debating, engaging with one another, and enjoying themselves with friends, music and food.

European Youth Forum organised the fourth celebration of Yo! Fest with many partners including Microsoft Europe on 30th-31st of May. The festival brought together young people, politicians, and stakeholders of all ages to convey the message that Europe needs more investment in youth.

Highlights included a radio debate, the European Citizens Picnic, Skype sessions with special guests from all over the world, circus and musical performances, and a hot air balloon in celebration of the launch of the League of Young Voters. Participants were excited to work together to improve the future of Europe’s youth. Influential guests also showed their support at the Yo! Fest including ESA Astronaut Paolo Nespoli, Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and other leaders.

Events like Yo! Fest are important now more than ever. Young people make up 20% of the population of Europe, yet less than 1% of the EU budget goes towards direct support for European Youth policy, youth work and youth organisations. We must recognize the important role youth plays in all realms of the future of Europe including economically, politically and socially. Investing in platforms such as technology, youth programs, and non-formal education is how you get the younger generation interested and dedicated in the cause.

With youth unemployment at staggering high numbers, young people are becoming ever more innovative and entrepreneurial. Inspiring this generation in new and breakthrough ways will build the momentum needed to increase enthusiasm and action among this population of citizens. Increased Euro scepticism and growing far right winged political parties means traditional methods must be expanded in order to gain the attention of youth. Social media, concerts, focus groups and other non-formal educational tools will be the key to facilitate traditional methods in order to encourage young people.

It is to the benefit of all that we support youth in the hard economic times as youth unemployment costs 100 billion Euro of taxpayers money per year in 21 of the member states. Improving resources and support for youth will improve life and economic conditions for all citizens of Europe. My hope is that events like Yo! Fest will only begin the great youth movement and that we see the next generation take their future into their own hands.

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