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Europe and the US: What is the role for young people?

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After decades of a close and productive relationship between the EU and the EU things seem to be unravelling: threats of a trade war, diplomatic spats and the focus on what divides us, rather than on what unites us.

How can we learn strategies of youth mobilisation, political activism and increasing voter turnout from each other?

What did we learn from the European Elections in 2019 and how can we translate those lessons to the context of the upcoming 2020 US presidential elections?

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The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has selected some of its resources to provide young people like you with background information and insights linked to the topic above.

At a Glance, September 2019

"EU Legislation in Progress" Briefing, November 2018

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10 June 2020

One big difference between the EU and US when it comes to young people is civil society.

Here in Europe, we have much better-developed systems of civil society on youth (national youth councils, youth movements, etc...) than in the US. I believe this is one of our strong points. As a young European it is much easier to make your voice heard, and actually listened to, than it is in the US. The benefits of this are clear: young people make up a large part of society and are, by nature, inclined to think in the long run because they know that decisions made now will probably impact them the most, as they still have their whole lives to live.

As such, more young people in decision making roles, or roles with an impact on public policy will lead to better decision-making and more representative decisions being made. This is what the US lacks, it does not involve its young people in polic-making and therefore is not able to create policies that benefit the whole of society or that are modern.

A striking example of the difference between EU and the US is the average age in parliaments. Looking at the US Congress, the average age of a congressman is 57 years old, while MEPs are on average 50 years old, which is much closer to a representation of actual society. This also impacts voter turnout. If young people have the impression they are being represented in parliament, they will be much more likely to go and vote, and will probably vote for younger candidates closer to their own age. As said above, a younger, more representative parliament will lead to better decision-making.

Consequently, it is important that, as EU, we keep supporting and reinforce are youth civil society and keep listening to our young people. They are the future.
As regards the US, it is important that we keep understanding each other and support initiatives that will also reinforce youth civil society across the Atlantic.

Vasco Cambotas de Medeiros
27 May 2020

A tremendous and magnificent idea that enables, both American and European youth, to understand the meaning of globalization and bilateralism, A project needed to broaden European and American transatlantic and historic relations, fundamental for understanding both the history and the foundational democratic values between the two regions.

Domokos Péter Kovács
27 May 2020

Mobility program for young Americans in the EU.

European and American youth differ in many ways, but even more similarities can be discovered in their activity and determination.

Thanks to the U.S. State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Summer Institute education program, U.S. and European high school students can spend a month together at a U.S. university working on a variety of social, political, and other interesting topics and developing projects.

There are many forms of transatlantic cooperation, but the opportunities for youth and high school students need to be strengthened.

I therefore propose that the EU develop a mobility program that will enable American students to learn about the culture of the EU Member States, the cultural diversity of nations and the institutional system. Get to know determined young people in Europe and work together for a better future.

The program should be open to U.S. high school and college students. Also include a section in which the participant knows a particular Member State and lives with a host family. The total program should be 1 month long. Non-EU Member States should be involved in the development of the program.

In German/Auf Deutsch:
Mobilitätsprogramm für junge Amerikaner in der EU.

Europäische und amerikanische Jugendliche unterscheiden sich in vielerlei Hinsicht, aber noch mehr Ähnlichkeiten lassen sich bei ihrem Engagement und Entschlossenheit feststellen.

Dank des Bildungsprogramms des Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Summer Institute des US-Außenministeriums können US-amerikanische und europäische Schüler einen Monat zusammen an einer US-amerikanischen Universität an verschiedenen sozialen, politischen und anderen interessanten Themen arbeiten und Projekte entwickeln.

Es gibt viele Formen der transatlantischen Zusammenarbeit, aber die Möglichkeiten für Jugendliche und Schüler müssen gestärkt werden.

Ich schlage daher vor, dass die EU ein Mobilitätsprogramm entwickelt, mit dem amerikanische Studenten etwas über die Kultur der EU-Mitgliedstaaten, die kulturelle Vielfalt der Nationen und das institutionelle System lernen können. Lernen Sie entschlossene junge Menschen in Europa kennen und arbeiten Sie gemeinsam für eine bessere Zukunft.

Das Programm sollte US-amerikanischen Schülern und Studenten offenstehen. Fügen Sie auch einen Programmteil hinzu, in dem der Teilnehmer einen bestimmten Mitgliedstaat kennenlernt und bei einer Gastfamilie lebt. Das Gesamtprogramm sollte 1 Monat lang sein. Nicht-EU-Mitgliedstaaten sollten in die Entwicklung des Programms einbezogen werden.

In Hungarian/Magyarul:

Mobilitási program amerikai fiatalok számára az EU-ban.

Az európai és amerikai ifjúság sok dologban különbözik, de aktivitásukban és elszántságukban még több hasonlóságot lehet felfedezni.

Az Amerikai Külügyminisztérium Benjamin Franklin Transzatlanti Nyári Intézet oktatási programjának köszönhetően amerikai és európai középiskolás diákok tölthetnek el egy hónapot közösen az Egyesült Államok egyik egyetemén, ahol különböző társadalmi, politikai és egyéb érdekes témákkal foglalkoznak és projekteket dolgoznak ki.

A transzatlanti kooperációnak sok formája lehet, de meg kell erősíteni az ifjúság és középiskolás diákok számára kínált lehetőségeket.

Ezért az javaslom, hogy az EU dolgozzon ki egy mobilitási programot, amelynek köszönhetően amerikai diákok megismerhetik az EU tagállamainak kultúráját, a nemzetek kultúrájának sokszínűségét és az intézményi rendszert is. Megismerhessenek elszánt európai fiatalokat és együtt dolgozhassanak egy jobb jövőért.

A program legyen nyitott amerikai középiskolás és egyetemi hallgató diákok számára. Tartalmazzon egy olyan részt is, amelyben a résztvevő egy adott tagállamot ismer meg és fogadócsaládnál lakik. A teljes program hossza legyen 1 hónap. A program fejlődése során vonjanak be más európai országokat is.

Miguel Alonso
27 April 2020

The USA is undoubtedly a country that shares a culture with Europe, just like Canada, Australia, or any "western" country you could think about. However we are increasingly realizing how the American people are developing the idea that they don't need the rest of the world to face the modern problems with us. Many people won't believe it, but the American youth is pretty much the reflection of their old generations. Many of them believe in the "America First" idea. Therefore the European youth must not expect a bright future with America, we hope everything will get better, but it doesn't look clear from my perspective. We, as young people, need to focus on new horizons, because America has left us. Erasmus is the clear representation of what Europe can do within its own territory. What we need to realize is that we don't need America to unleash our own potential. North America is a great territory for innovation, investment and entrepreneurship... but we can have this in our continent too. We need to boost our cooperation with the countries that really want to share with us. Africa, Asia are the future and Europe can be part of such future too, but we can't until we realize that we won't do it if we continue to insist on a partnership with the US that is fading in front of our own eyes.
And answering the question: what can we learn from our different elections? Well, once again we have seen, with the disappearance of Bernie Sanders how America is losing its core values (Sanders was indeed, the most (European-minded candidate, as he proposed free health-care, solidarity, inclusion, transparency, openness to the world) and how Europe is, because of America's influence in our society, losing its values too. Let's not forget that Steve Bannon, the far-right American politician, openly supported Le Pen, Salvini, Orban or Abascal... To make it simple: the west is losing the values of Enlightenment (Freedom, Equality, Fraternity) and maybe it's because we haven't opened ourselves to new horizons. America is leaving us, and we cannot insist, the European youth must promote a change and increase our exchanges within Europe and with the countries representing the future. America is indeed the past.

Dimitar Bozov
08 August 2019

I studied in an American school and I had the opportunity to see the differences in mentality between the American and European youth. It is unfortunate to say that but young Americans are much more goal oriented and are much entrepreneurial than Europeans. Young Europeans do not have a tenancy to take risks, start business or make investments. I believe that this is due to the fact that the state plays a very big role in our lives here. Also most of the young Europeans i have met had little or no work experience up until their late 20s something that Americans have. Last but not least most of the Europeans tend to identify themselves with their nationality. Nothing wrong with this but there is a missing feeling of being an European, something that Americans do have.