National Committee Spotlight – EYP Croatia

We bring you more from our National Committee Spotlight series! This month, the focus is on European Youth Parliament Croatia. We asked volunteers Nina, Dora, and Ivor to share with us their experience with EYP Croatia, and everything that makes their National Committee unique!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Do you remember how you got involved in the EYP?

Dora: My name is Dora, I’m 20 years old and I come from a small town in Croatia by the name of Samobor. However, I am currently studying International Relations and European Politics in Brno, Czech Republic. I got involved in EYP for the first time in 2018 at a Regional Session in Velika Gorica. My involvement with the organisation was very much random, as I was personally not interested in anything political, I was a terrible speaker, generally not that social and a bit confused as to what was happening around me. My friend pulled me in since he had attended a session beforehand and he convinced me to participate. What really convinced me was the fact that I would miss school for the day I had my IT exam. Needless to say, my first session experience was not that great and the concept of the organisation was very confusing to me.
However, some invisible drive made me apply to another session which was my complete social breakthrough. I think at this point, it’s pretty cliche to say that EYP has changed my life but it really has! EYP has improved my speaking skills, and sociability, it’s made me interested in politics and current social issues, it helped me in academic terms, time management, and organisational abilities and helped me build an entirely new network of close friends whom I would never meet if it weren’t for EYP sessions. For me, it really was an incredible experience. This organisation has had such a big impact on my life, that I even study International Relations today because of my EYP journey. You never know what life might throw at you!

Ivor: I’m a law student studying in the Netherlands trying to do my best in the Board. While it is very exhausting, I like it because it makes me appreciate the little free time I have.
My story regarding joining is quite different from most people’s. I knew about EYP for some time, but at first, I was reluctant to join. However, after much consideration, in early 2019, I decided to attend some regional office meetings in my hometown and apply as a delegate for our National Selection Conference. I was very confused, didn’t know much about the organisation, yet somehow managed to get selected for an International Session. That International Session, the last physical one before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. After that, it has been a steady rise of sorts, as I did more and more sessions. I mainly focused on the academic team. What still fascinates me is me somehow ending up on the Board of EYP Croatia, now serving my 2nd term.

Nina: My name is Nina and I am a 20 years old journalism student living in Zagreb, Croatia. I have ‘accidentally’ joined EYP Croatia in April 2018 when a debate club friend asked me if I would like to join an event as a Delegate without telling me much about it. Quite honestly, I had no idea what EYP was since, unfortunately, it was not well promoted in our high school. It was a rather unpleasant experience and quite a shock for me to attend it but I returned to redeem myself later that year and since then I’ve been an active member. Though my first experience was not the best representation of neither the organisation nor myself, I am thankful I continued with EYP as it has moved me in a completely different stream from what was expected and has changed my interests and activities in a much more prosperous direction.

What is your role in your National Committee and what do you like most about it?

Dora: I am currently holding a few positions in our National Committee. First and foremost, I’m an Executive Board Member for Human Resources and Regional Development and the Vice President of EYP Croatia. I’ve chosen these two portfolios because I generally believe the diversity of Croatian people from different regions is not expressed enough through our list of members. I’ve noticed that the regional development aspect has struggled in EYP Croatia for the past few years and I really wanted to change that, as I know many people from all over Croatia who’d be willing to take part in our projects in the future. My love for this position comes from my love for all people in general. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m currently a very social person and I couldn’t find more joy in anything than recruiting as many people as possible to join our organisation.

My other role in this term is the role I took on as the Project Manager for our Regional Selection Session Osijek.  What I like the most about this role is the fact that I get to work closely with my close friend in the achievement of a successful event. Since the session that I was head organising in 2020 turned out to go digital, I was looking forward to getting into managing a real-life session.

Ivor: I have two portfolios. One is Academic Advisement which deals with all jury and academic matters, as well as the educational value of our entire work and organisation, and then also International Relations. I have had these two portfolios ever since I joined the Executive Board. 

I would say that for the educational portfolio I hold it is the growth so many of our members’ experience, both in terms of social education, as well as a more classic academic aspect of it, especially on the European Union and its ways and means. For International Relations, I must say that the Board of National Committees Meetings are both the best and the worst part of my job. What I cherish the most is the honour I get, through this entire portfolio, to represent our entire National Committee.

Nina: I’ve been a member of the NC Executive Board since 2020 as the HR and Regional Development Board Member, and in this term, I am holding the position of NC President. Additionally, this year I am the Project Manager for our NSC, Zagreb 2022. 

It is hard to isolate my role from the overall Board workload per se, but I would have to say that my favourite aspect of the President’s role is being able to lay out the general strategy and approach for our mandate and represent it through many international outlets.  My motivation to apply has been the terrible, pandemic-driven HR drought and with that my favourite aspect of presiding is working on the Board full of motivated, young, and prosperous people eager to change this situation. We are collectively striving to improve the quality and activity of our NC which demands a lot of work and time but seeing these 3 people working tirelessly keeps motivating me each day. 

Is there a unique perspective you bring to the National Committee?

Dora: I believe that each of my colleagues would call me that one unorthodox Board member. My approach to people about EYP is not strictly as serious as it maybe should be, as I approach people with the goal of recruiting them as members and staying in the organisation, and not with the goal of perfectly describing everything about us and our work in detail. People tend to see this as unorthodox, but I personally see it as a successful way to make someone stay at first sight. So far, this approach has worked brilliantly, and our members have never been so close to the Board in terms of communication as they are now!

Ivor: I don’t think I am that special. I seriously don’t. I come from the same city a lot of EYP Croatia members do. I went to relatively prestigious schools. I was an excellent primary and secondary student. I guess it is too early to tell about my tertiary education. However, this kind of excellence is something relatively rare. I also have an Oscar of knowledge, an award which the Education and Teacher Training Agency of Croatia gives to a couple of hundred best students each year.  Moreover, in terms of EYP Croatia and my homeland, I should stress that I have partial Herzegovian heritage, and that adds to our diversity a bit.

However, I do think that for a whole of the National Committee’s diversity, there is a lot of diversity of thought we all bring. I am known as a Devil’s Advocate of sorts, someone with a vigilant pursuit of the best possible solutions and paths forward, as well as the way I perceive our organisation in action. I don’t think this creates a problem for the work, in the end, as it enables us to very well, when considering all of the aspects, put forward the most optimal solutions for our organisation as a whole.

Nina: Since the 2020 elections we have had a running joke in EYP Croatia after one of our members stated that he voted for me because I am a woman, Serbian, and a part of the LGBTQI+ community, which made me stand out in comparison to the rest of our Board. Joke aside, since then, I am very glad to see us finally changing the norm of having dominantly men-led Boards, especially standing here alongside such competent and driven people.
Furthermore, I think what makes me contribute to the diversity of this board is the fact that I was never a successful or outstanding student, nor do I currently attend a ‘desirable’ faculty like the majority of EYPers. I strived for an acting career and had little knowledge of international and national politics. And although this does not present me in the best light, I believe it is a great example of why we should always aim for bettering our outreach and inclusion in the network. There are many students who think little of themselves and might not believe they are competent enough to partake in our activities but from personal experience, I can firmly say that as long as you want to improve, you can achieve what you set yourself up for. Maybe even become the next President of your NC.

What is special (or just out of the ordinary) about your National Committee? What helps it stand out in our network?

Dora: I believe the most special thing about our National Committee is the fact that almost all of our members are quite new, and they are developing their EYP journey extremely quickly! Since December 2021, I’ve noticed a huge development in our members’ activity, EYP participation and academic growth in general. I am very proud of our members for pursuing their goals in their organisation and efficiently making their way to higher levels. What’s also special about our National Committee is the current Board itself. With currently five members, we all have such diverse backgrounds and study different subjects. Two of our Board members come from very small towns, which proves that even from less developed regions, it is possible to get to the top!

Ivor: There are a few of those. The first one is that we are the only National Committee founded during a war being held on our soil. We were founded in 1994 during the Croatian Homeland War. The second one is that we organised a regional session on an island inhabited by less than 18 000 people. The third and last, at least relatively special fact, is that our sessions are commonly under the patronage of our Presidents, Prime Ministers, and/or Speakers of Parliament.

Nina: One special thing in our NC that always bamboozles me anew is the size of our Executive Board. With only five people, there is a lot of workload, especially since we are not as well-developed as some other NCs, and we often struggle with both HR and finances. On top of that, with one Board Member dropping out of the Executive Board for the past 4 mandates, it has been even harder to lead an NC efficiently. Yet, when I compare our Board’s workload distribution with some other NCs, I am always beyond proud of how resilient and hardworking almost all of our Board Members have been thus far. We might be small but we compensate for it with our utmost drive and dedication to our organisation. 

Tell us about one activity of your National Committee that you are most proud of.

Dora: I am most proud of the current Regional Offices and the fact that their meetings are currently able to be held in a physical manner. This year, we’ve expanded our outreach from two to even FOUR Regional Offices and Coordinators. This I am extremely proud of as I think the newly added centre of Split (Dalmatia region) has a lot of potential with it being the second largest city in Croatia. It would really be a shame if a city like that, full of open-minded young people, went to waste. The first meeting of the Regional Offices was a great success and there are many more of that to come!

Ivor: I would definitely say physical regional office meetings which we are now slowly returning to after we are more certain of the safety of such meet-ups. Those were simply amazing social events where we substantively discussed what has been bothering us in EYP, and got fully updated not just for our NC, but also the whole session. I should also emphasise the Balkan Boards’ Training, one I co-Head Organised with Nina, as we managed, with so many others from the same region, to talk about shared history, issues, and practices, but most importantly exchange knowledge and experiences, practices, of what seems to work the best for us. It was quite a cool event, and I think that the talks of further “Balkan” cooperation, at least in the form of open-ended communication should be further facilitated.

Nina: Quite ironically, the event I’m most proud of is the event I almost quit EYP for. NSC Rijeka 2021, though it had numerous flaws and has caused a lot of people much more stress than anyone anticipated, at the end of the day ensured the resurrection of our NC. Thanks to that session and the amazing efforts of our organising team, now we finally have enough members to start re-building our NC and make up for what COVID-19 has done for the past 2+ years now.

What impact do you think EYP initiatives hold on young people and on your community?

Dora: As I’ve already said, EYP has really changed my life in all aspects possible. I believe the impact is determined by yourself and the path you choose to take in EYP. I’m going to start with the community and then move on to the individuals. 

For the community, whether it’s regional, national or international; EYP truly helps with the engagement of young people in current socio-political issues in modern society as well as giving them the social aspect of meeting with people from different backgrounds and of different cultures. This engagement is important to make our society better, to know where exactly we live, what we should be happy or unhappy with and how we can change that. I believe it’s important to be aware of the issues you’re facing and how they affect your daily life, as well as what you can do about it. EYP is first and foremost a knowledge-sharing platform, and then you explore the paths you want to take yourself afterwards.

There are many paths one can take. Whether you take on an academic one, a media one or an organisational one; one thing is certain for sure. You gain impeccable knowledge, experience and skills for the future during the time you invest in anything on EYP. One of the biggest impacts EYP has had over the years is bettering the knowledge of the English language among high school students for example. This skill is one of the most important ones in today’s globalised society. That’s just one of many examples! The list goes on, but I think you’ve gotten my general idea.

Ivor: For those who take it seriously enough and do their mediocre to the utmost best, I think it holds enormous benefits in terms of further academic and social development. This kind of cognitive development is simply fascinating for me, as I saw it within myself. EYP facilitated it. I’m far from perfect, as everyone is, and I will continue to seek to progress. However, this is a benefit that almost anyone can have if they put enough energy into the work and this peer-to-peer model we have. Besides these cliches, I’d single out the academic strengths someone may obtain following a few tough academic sessions, as skills of argumentation and debate, as well as writing, and analysing is very much emphasised in delegating and being a part of the academic team. Of course, there are many other benefits, however, these seem to mostly revolve around my past and present experiences.

What is remarkable is that EYP tends to, at least in the short-term, make our young folk more engaged in what happens in their community, and as my primary school history teacher said, it all starts locally. Being more engaged in their local matters that tend to be quite less partisan is amazing, and we have seen that already in EYP Croatia so many times. Also, quite obviously, many were at least inspired to care more about what the EU does, and that is good, regardless of what we think of the EU. Knowing is good, it makes us more equipped to confront daily realities, and this kind of impact, as well as motivation, is, for me, a priceless impact we have within our communities. 

Nina: Though EYP has a great impact in all of its European branches, I would say that it holds a special weight in less developed countries, for example, in the Balkan region. Here, we are still sticking to very traditional and conservative forms of education and our national curriculums, which often limits the youth in broadening their perspectives. It is truly empowering to see young individuals having the opportunity to shape the future they want to see. Oftentimes we hear that in EYP we look through pink glasses and that what we are doing has no actual impact. And while that sometimes might be true when it comes to the resolutions, I think people miss the point that we don’t do EYP for the product but rather for the people, so we could allow them to prosper on their own terms with the basis we provide them with. What I appreciate extremely in EYP is the fact that it’s not about competition and being the best but rather trying to be the best that you can on a personal level. It is not about perfecting but it is about developing. 

The primary advice I give to EYPers is to make mistakes. We cannot expect people to know without allowing them to learn, and through the power of empirics we can learn much more than from sole instructions. So, yes, go ahead and make mistakes, as long as you learn something from them. 

What challenges and/or potentials do you foresee for EYP Croatia in the future?

Dora: One of the biggest challenges in our current National Committee is the lack of experienced members, making it hard to plan EYP Croatia’s future events. However, we are currently working on that and considering the fast growth of our members’ experience, the situation is only getting better. I believe that Croatia holds a huge potential if put in the right Leadership, which should be used to its maximum. 

As I tend to have a positive attitude and outlook for the future, I believe that this term is the one that will raise EYP Croatia from the ashes. My vision and strategy for this year are very clear, and as an ambitious person, I am planning to achieve all these set goals. In case of not having enough time to fulfil my vision to its fullest potential but still seeing the development, I will run again to pursue the total enlargement of the National Committee. In case of stagnation or failure to fulfil my set goals, I will resign / not run for the Board again. I believe a good leader should know when to continue, but also when to quit. I wish our National Committee the best in the future and may this term be full of nothing but prosperity!

Ivor: We’ve been through hell and back. I think that every Board Member may lay out our more specific challenges that they specifically and our whole organisation are likely to face, however on a macro level there are a few things I would point out. Those are certainly finances for our sessions, as Covid-19 made our potential sponsors more reluctant to offer financial support, besides obvious inflation and other crisis-related issues. It is certainly human resources, as well as the future of leadership we will face in a year, two, or three.

What I cannot express enough, though, is that we are starting to see a downward curve in terms of our educational value, not just because of Covid-19 and our turn to digital events, but also because we have not fully rebounded, let alone, built back better as a whole network in terms of our organisational structures, and especially education value offered to all involved. This is something we have to adamantly work on.

I think that our greatest potential lies in the diversity of applicants we experience, from the stereotypical fierce debate club members to those who joined “just to skip school” and ended up loving the organisation. Whatever the reason for your joining, we are here – for anyone interested, and ready to work with you. We have indeed captured a wide variety of our society, and we continue to appeal to them, at least to certain members of those communities, and such diversity is mostly displayed in our diversity of thought within the NC. We share a firm belief in our common, European, values, staunchly defending them against any threat or attack. However, we do not have to agree.

We are the real and new generation of young Europeans who live with the knowledge of the 90s wars, 30 or so years ago, that know how it was, and what the avoidance of those values and lack of understanding of differences may lead to. In a sense, we are both a corrective of our past and a necessary orientation for our future. After all, we as a National Committee are not perfect, and the same can be said for Croatia, but it is exactly this motivation based on these values that I find to be quintessential. A better future won’t manifest itself, we have to work hard to get there. We have, as I said in the beginning of my answer, been to hell and back, and now we have to build boldly and resiliently, openly and inclusively, with these values, and constant ambitions. Ambitions for the whole of (EYP) Croatia and Europe.

Nina: While I could make an endless list of potential struggles based on what we have seen in the 28 years of the existence of our organisation, I decided to focus on the ground one we have struggled with since the very beginning – finances. Though it might seem trivial and though we have managed to make things work some way, somehow, I always look at this aspect with regret. I regret that we cannot provide our participants with better conditions, more opportunities, and higher standards. Since I started my Executive Board career as the HR and Regional Development Board Member, my biggest wish was to focus on Outreach & Inclusion. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then and we still don’t have the power to offer fee and travel reimbursements to people who struggle with their socio-economic status. If I could wish for one thing, that would be for EYP Croatia to fully represent the values we stand behind, which offer equal treatment and opportunity to participate for everyone. Though that is my biggest worry, it is also my biggest hope for the future and the progress of our organisation.