November 15, 2023

EYP Luxembourg is celebrating its 10th anniversary!

Check out the interview with the founders of EYP Luxembourg, Patrick Azevedo and Mathieu Lohr.

European Youth Parliament Luxembourg is celebrating a remarkable milestone this year – its 10th anniversary! To commemorate this achievement, we had an interview with the founders, Patrick Azevedo and Mathieu Lohr, to gain insights into the journey that led to the establishment of EYP Luxembourg, the profound impact it has had, and the vision for the future.

1. Can you please introduce yourselves? How old are you, where are you professionally?

Patrick: Patrick Azevedo, I’m 31 years old and currently working as a freelance trainer, consultant and facilitator.

Mathieu: My name is Mathieu Lohr, and having just turned 30 this question has me ponder the link between my EYP days and today. One of my first times chairing was on Operation Atalanta responding to piracy off the coast of Somalia, confronting me with the question of the EU’s role in responding to local and regional conflicts and ‘our’ impact on the world. Today, I mostly consult on peace and security questions in Somalia and other conflict-affected countries. Often on the role of youth and women specifically.

2. Congratulations on reaching your 10th anniversary! Can you share the story behind the founding of EYP Luxembourg? What inspired you to start this organisation?

Patrick: I had the pleasure to attend the International Forum of EYP Germany in Wiesbaden in 2011 (through an EYPer I met a bit earlier at a different event). I had a great time and loved the experience, but once I went back home, I kind of closed that chapter, as there was no EYP in Luxembourg (my committee back then actually joked about me becoming one of the founders of EYP Luxembourg). Mathieu and I knew each other from the national student council, and one day he told me about EYP. My reaction was “yes, been there, done that” and out of that conversation came the idea to then found EYP LU. It was all very spontaneous actually, but once we started, we both new, we wanted to make it happen.

Mathieu: I first learned about EYP at another conference called ‘Young European Peers’, which included an EYP-style activity by organisers who themselves were EYPers (from Greece!). Back then, I was frustrated with a lack of such spaces available to youth in Luxembourg, and was actively searching for such opportunities for myself. So when I learned about this youth-led European exchange for young people to learn from and about each other, discussing and debating European policy and politics, I knew I had found ‘my people’ and wanted to join.

But of course, I couldn’t. I first learned that Belarus and Moldova had National Committees (NC), but not Luxembourg. With all due respect to those NCs, I couldn’t quite understand how a founding-member of the EU wouldn’t also have an EYP. As we were told later on, Luxembourg hadn’t had an EYP in almost two decades at that point. After reaching out to the International Office I soon called up Patrick, who I knew from the national student-council and youth-parliament, to start organising a team, and the rest is 10 years of EYP Luxembourg.

Here I want to give credit and thanks to EYP Finland, where I participated as delegate to their NSC in Joensuu as part of the criteria for starting an NC. They also became our sponsor supporting our candidate NC status. Those early days and the charity with which many shared their enthusiasm and experience with us were what made EYP LU possible in the first place.

3. Could you tell us about some memorable moments or projects that stand out from your journey with EYP Luxembourg?

Patrick: Schengen 2014 is without any doubt my favorite milestone, I vividly remember the moment the first delegates arrived, I think for me that was the moment the project stopped just being an idea on paper an became reality. All of our sessions so far have been successful, and of high quality. EYP Luxembourg set itself a high standard quite from the beginning and managed to uphold it every single time. Finally also the Summer Academy in Echternach, where EYP LU showed that it had become a reliable member of the network that can contribute to its further growth.

Mathieu: Seeing Luxembourgish and International participants from 10 countries arrive and mingle on the first day of our first National Selection Conference in Schengen remains unforgettable. The endless months preparing the necessary paperwork, the grant-application, recruiting an international organisers team out of necessity… it all coming together felt surreal. Or rather: it made real what were mere plans and planning before then. There was no true EYP in Luxembourg until that first day of that session.

In Schengen specifically, but at sessions more generally, I hold many fond memories of seeing individuals arrive to a conference, and then slowly grow into a member of that one big-family feeling that EYP excels at creating.

All this also speaks to my vision for EYP then and now: an intercultural exchange rather than a debating-club. Although the world looked somewhat different back then, it was important to me personally to get mixes of participants across our divides together. Back then this meant bringing in Ukrainian, Russian, and Armenian delegations, but also Greek and German, Bosnian and Serbian, and so forth. More than once did delegates mention they now understand a perspective that was previously quite literally foreign to them, that they hadn’t considered yet, which all seemed to lead to greater empathy and nuance in how they envisaged issues and solutions alike.

For a long time, I would also receive personal messages after events, sometimes years later, of people who participated in EYP LU events, be they nationals or internationals, sharing how EYP changed their lives in different ways. Knowing that others got to have that same life-changing experience that I had when I first started EYP meant and means everything to me.

Finally, seeing EYP Luxembourg having outgrown Patrick and me for a while now, with new talent coming in, taking on responsibilities, and ‘owning’ EYP Luxembourg’s future is something I sometimes reflect on. It stands out because it puts into perspective that we planted a seed, and today this journey has taken a life of its own that will hopefully lead to a 20th anniversary and beyond.

4. Reflecting on your personal journeys as founders, how has EYP Luxembourg changed you as individuals, and what have you learned from this experience?

Patrick: Without any doubt I have to thank EYP for my career today. The lessons and experiences it gave me, formed me and help me to do what I do. The different skills I got out of it, are priceless as a trainer and consultant. But also personally it allowed me to grow and meet inspiring people from all over the place.

Mathieu: EYP made me feel European in a very tangible way when before it was more of an abstract concept to me. Building EYP Luxembourg reinforced that feeling. Meeting people from all walks of life and cultures challenges you to reflect deeply on who you are as an individual in ways sitting by yourself cannot.

It taught me about the importance and value of building community, seeing potential in people and nurturing it, and that young people should be encouraged to just ‘do’ things. So much potential never gets awakened without relevant experiences bringing it out of people, and EYP tends to bring the best out of all of us.

That it matters to contribute to something greater than oneself, and that nothing is as fulfilling as realising how one’s own contribution adds to that of others to build something greater than the sum of our parts. How one contributes may not always be obvious though, and learning to communicate and celebrate this as an organisation, movement, or individual is critical.

It also taught me, with hindsight, that we were able to do work others get paid substantial salaries to perform as adults. And they may not even meet EYP-standards. Drafting grant-proposals or policy, doing project-management, or seeing an audit is not quite as scary when you started doing it before you finished your studies. You are just reminded that you won’t get the same responsibilities in your job as you had as an EYPer.

Critically, young people should seek to create their own spaces, build their own proverbial-tables to express themselves, and be loud about their values: no need to wait or ask for someone else to build the platform or experience you wish you had available to yourself.

5. As you celebrate this milestone, what message would you like to convey to the current members, alumni, and supporters of EYP Luxembourg?

Patrick: A big thank you, for joining this crazy adventure, fully devoting themselves to the organisation, and making it the success story it is today. Mathieu and I kinda started all of it, but it is thanks to all the alumni that volunteered their valuable time to the organisation, that enabled us to celebrate 10 years. It really takes a village to make an organisation run and work. And in that we were lucky to have met lots and lots of talented and motivated people to support us in that.

Mathieu: Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for what you contributed and added to what is already 10 years of EYP Luxembourg. As flattering as it is to be asked to reflect on this journey, it is all the more humbling. From our early days onwards, it was the contributions of countless people, in terms of time and knowledge, that enabled EYP Luxembourg to successfully launch and sustain itself; ultimately, no single or two persons can claim this credit. So to our alumni and supporters: many of you were integral to getting us here, and I hope you know how much Patrick and I value you all. More importantly, how many other EYPers who got to experience EYP and all it entails value what you made possible.

For current members: enjoy the ride and try to get as much out of this as you can whilst giving back to the coming generation. Challenge yourself to join the NC, take on new roles, and go far in terms of literal and personal distance from where you were when you started. It’s all worth it. Still 10 years later, actually.

6. Finally, if you had to describe EYP Luxembourg’s 10-year journey in three words, what would they be, and why?

Patrick: Worth every second.

Mathieu: Rewarding, inspiring, European.

EYP Luxembourg’s 10th anniversary is a testament to the power of youthful initiative, community building, and the enduring impact of creating spaces for dialogue and intercultural exchange. As they celebrate this milestone, EYP Luxembourg looks ahead to a future filled with more rewarding, inspiring, and truly European experiences. Here’s to the next decade of shaping young leaders and fostering international understanding!