1st Digital Session of the European Youth Parliament successfully concluded

The European Youth Parliament hosted its first fully digital event from the 16th to the 19th of April, 2020 to provide its members with the opportunity to take part in EYP activities in a time when the Covid-19 pandemic prevented them from doing so. The 1st Digital Session comprised a high level of intercultural exchanges and all elements of a physical EYP session such as Teambuilding, Committee Work, General Assembly, Euroconcert and optional morning and evening activities like treasure hunts, cooking together, Zumba and yoga, and even a party, through platforms such as Zoom, Kialo and Discord.

The Digital Session gathered over 100 participants originating from almost 32 different countries in a fully online format for the first time in its more than 30 years of history. Its format allowed people to participate that previously were unable to attend EYP’s traditional sessions, by lowering financial and social barriers to attendance. In doing so, the Digital Session strengthened the EYP’s inclusive spirit, a positive step forward with inclusion being one of the EYP’s main pillars.

“In a time of social distancing, we want to provide a space for mutual encounter, for maintaining close ties across the continent. Now more than ever, it’s obvious that we need to tackle the grand challenges ahead in a spirit of collaboration and mutual trust. This is what the European Youth Parliament stands for.”

Lukas Fendel, Executive Director of the European Youth Parliament

High-level political decision makers and experts joined the online meetings to interact with participants. We were excited to welcome the Irish Minister for European Affairs and Vice-President of the EPP Helen McEntee as well as Alexander von Gabain, Microbiologist and Chairman of the EIT Health Supervisory Board and Katie Anastasi-Frankovics, Director of Innovations from Wellcome Trust who provided an input on COVID – 19 implications & outlook from a medical perspective. During the session, participants could also experience the panel with Members of the European Parliament Eva Kaili, Damian Boeselager, Victor Negrescu and Rasmus Andresen who hosted a lively online debate with young Europeans gathered by the session.

“This Digital Session is a great example of using technology to adapt to the realities of social distancing and an opportunity for young people all over Europe to discuss and engage on important topics in spite of physical distance. It is especially promising for Europe’s future to know that young, determined and digitally-native Europeans are powering this change with initiatives like the 1st Digital Session of the EYP.”

Eva Kaili, Member of the European Parliament

The speakers helped participants deepen their understanding of the topics central to the session. These included some of the most important issues Europe is facing today. During Committee Work, participants laid their hand at topics such as financial and fiscal implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Green Deal on Energy, refugee rights and discrimination, the EU’s response to infectious diseases, as well as digitalisation and e-voting.

In addition, all committees had the opportunity to have a digital sit-down with experts on their different topics. Our gratitude goes out to our experts Lena Happ from the UNHCR, François Galgani from the European Commission’s Mission Ocean, Marta Pilati from the European Policy Centre, 100% Renewable Foundation’s CEO René Mono, Viviana Muñoz Tellez from South Centre, Milan Petit from SYSTEMIQ Earth, and last but certainly not least, Dr Alexander Trechsel, who authored a study on e-voting in the EU. Participants and external speakers alike greatly enjoyed these interactions.

Participants wrote legislative proposals to address these topics, which they debated on the final day of the session during an online General Assembly, simulating a parliamentary style that can be followed here.

With the successful conclusion of the first-ever Digital Session of the EYP, the network has shown its resilience in the face of hardship, as well as its ability to gather, discuss, and be united in diversity in a fully online fashion.