Where is Europe Heading for Young People?

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Where is Europe heading and what can the young people expect from the Europe of tomorrow? Today's European election has become the forum for parties dissatisfied with their national politics and a presidential campaign for the Europhiles. Who will be the new 'Father of Europe' - bearer of the legacy of Charles the Great? Now, his successor must save Europe from the commercialism, Asian growth and Russian hegemony. Apart from that, there are many problems on the inside. Instead of closer European integration, some parts of the member countries pursue further fission - view the situation in Ukraine. These are some of the opinions that I collected on various social networks and magazines.

But the truth is, that decision, and thereby the future, lies in our hands. Obviously, there are big differences in opinion between the particular generations. The Baby Boomers are loyal to the traditional values and rules, and still hold the majority of the senior offices. The following Generation X are rather resourceful individualists who create their own rules and opportunities. Of course that they will find central control from the EU more restrictive. Finally, there is the Generation Y majority, of who are young people and students whom I want to address.

In Europe, there are a number of things related to their everyday lives, such as student mobility, grants, exchanges...even the legalization of...well, if I call it baguettes, everyone will get what I mean. Recently, I attended a panel discussion with three young candidates for the European Parliament at a university in Bratislava. The audience were predominantly students and they really did ask questions like this. But seemingly stupid questions evoked conscious and clever answers. It proves that the young candidates really are the right people for the job even if they might lack the experience of the Baby Boom politicians. Plus, they really care.

Last weekend, I visited Amsterdam, famous for its open, student friendly culture. Later I found out that the Netherlands makes €400 million a year from coffee shop taxes. I do not claim that marijuana is healthy, but people will damage their health whether it is legal or not (take prohibition in the US as evidence). The governments should think of how to secure part of the industry's revenue and possibly use it for prevention campaigns.

Another interesting thing I observed in Amsterdam is entrepreneurship. Indeed, a number of self-employed ladies working just a narrow street away from the Old Church would certainly be too much to chew for the Catholic Charles the Great. But central legislation that would give all entrepreneurs - meaning businesses that are legal in all member countries - equal opportunities is a good idea. With the ad hoc legislation of the national governments, the countries suffer twofold: less revenue and national products being overtaken by global goods.

Most of the students I speak to are thinking of starting their own business, or are already joining a start-up. Apart from that, they are the intercultural connectors. In order to encourage their activity, the European parliament awards the annual Charlemagne Youth Prize. It is bestowed to projects run by young people that foster understanding, promote the development of a shared sense of European identity, and offer practical examples of Europeans living together as one community.

Last year's winner was Europe on Track, conceived by the European Students' Forum Aegee-Europe. Six participants travel around the Europe for one month, asking questions about the European future and directions. Second place went to Polish Discover Europe -a series of pictures from the students from European countries, and third place was taken by Estonian Story of My Life. Once we see the results of this year's award, as well as the European elections, we will have a better idea of where Europe is heading.

Erik Redli is a university graduate from Slovakia who lived in London for much of his graduate life. Read more of his posts here.

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