When you hear the term EYP, European Youth Parliament, you probably think of a convention of politically inclined nerds meeting up to discuss relevant issues currently facing the EU. And while that picture isn’t completely inaccurate it’s so much more than that. But before we get ahead of ourselves we should take a look at the basics, what is EYP actually?
EYP was founded in 1987 and has since grown to encompass over 500 sessions taking place annually. It is a forum allowing young people from diverse cultural backgrounds to actively debate on relevant EU matters in an open-minded and tolerant environment. Each session is built up to essentially simulate the internal proceedings of the European Parliament on a small scale. It has three tiers to it, starting with Regionals which for us took place in Malmö. We slept inside of a school in our sleeping bags and it felt like the most epic group sleepover you’ve ever been to. Next up is Nationals which also took place in Malmö in our case and saw us accommodated in the Scandic and then lastly, if you get selected that is (only the top 5-10 schools do), you either go to an International Forum (a week long) or an International Session (10 days long). We ended up going to the Tomis International Forum in Constanta, Romania, by the black sea.
Are you looking forward to the session?
Lano Mahmood: Yes, I’m looking forward to meeting new people, forming consensus on important issues and generally widening my knowledge. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about eyp is that it’s only about discussing political issues however it’s so much more. Through eyp you get to meet so many different people from different backgrounds different cultures different countries with eyp as the foundation that bringing all these people together. Thus it’s always exciting to be a part of this type of experience.
So then next up, what is a session like?
Each session follows the same basic procedure, that being the following: Prior to the session you are given a topic overview, which within your research paper and fact sheet you are meant to elaborate on, so that you arrive to the session well versed in the subject matter. Each session begins with an opening ceremony where all the organizers, journalists, members of the jury, chairs (the leader of your committee), and the president of the session are introduced. This is followed by an allotted time period for team building within your committees, your committee being the jurisdiction your specific topic falls under, for instance DROI – the committee on human rights – or LIBE – the committee on civil liberties and home affairs – or ENVI – the committee on the environment, public health and food safety – just to name a few. The purpose of team building, essentially funny and awkward little games, is to break the ice as soon as possible so that when it actually comes to sitting down and working there is no lingering feelings of unfamiliarity. Next up is an event called Eurovillage, typically hosted on the first night of a session, where each country brings its local cuisine and a large buffet style dinner is hosted (for regionals and nationals you are given a country whose cuisine you should represent, afterall what’s the fun in having 20 tables full of köttbullar). In an international event this is also followed by presentations about your country which can take on a plethora of forms. Personally we performed små grodorna. Then typically committee work starts, and you begin internally discussing your topic and how you resolve to address it with an end goal of writing a resolution compromised of ICs, introductory clauses – the problems that exist, and OCs, operational problems – how you seek to rectify these problems, in mind. This process is usually pretty grueling and challenges your collaborative skills and capacity to compromise, skills that are useful everywhere not just inside the field of politics. Following that the GA (general assembly) is held, where each resolution from each committee is debated and finally voted on. GA offers itself as a great opportunity to practice your public speaking skills as each resolution is split up into a defense speech by the committee proposing the resolution, clarifying the resolutions relevance, followed by two attack speeches from two other committees highlighting the shortcomings of the proposed resolution. This is then rounded off with a response speech from the proposing committee once again in order to address and defend against the aforementioned problems. After that 3-4 (depending on the session) rounds of open debate follow where every committee can ask questions and critic the resolution before returning back to the proposing committee to respond and answer anything mentioned. Finally there is a summation speech, which is usually sentimental in nature, which is essentially delivered as a call for votes, urging the other committees to vote in favour of the resolution. The whole procedure is then concluded by the actual voting procedure hopefully resulting in the passing of the resolution. Of course there’s a lot more specific formalities that GA entails but those you can learn about when you actually join EYP. Once each resolution has been thoroughly debated, the entirety of the session is brought to a close with the aptly named closing ceremony where you say goodbye to all the new friends you made (and trust me it’s crazy how fast you bond with people when you’re literally on top of eachother for a week) and sing along to john lennon’s imagine, the unofficial, de facto anthem of EYP. Now I’m sure you’re thinking this sounds like a lot of work but fret not there’s plenty of fun as well. Most sessions feature a Euroconcert where you can showcase your musical talents or watch others do so, some feature mock Ted Talks where once again you can challenge your public speaking skills and talk about any topic you please to a room full of people, additionally there’s usually also a host of media team activities for instance scavenger hunts where every committee competes against the other to take the dorkiest picture possible. Bigger sessions like the International we attended in Romania also include parties, and while you’re probably imagining uncomfortable events with no one dancing, I am glad to tell you that you are completely wrong, when any normal boundaries that you might have with people are completely shattered during team building there’s no room to second guess your sub-par dancing skills. During our session in Romania we had three parties, all of which were held at outside locations with actual, proper DJ-ing and a light show accompanying the music, they were epic. One night we also had the opportunity for a committee dinner where you eat out at a restaurant all together and can have light-hearted non-political conversations with each other. Since the International spanned over several days we were also allotted one free day where we went to visit the local seaside town (Constanta – Romania’s oldest and fifth biggest city) and explored the streets as well as the beach on our own. And I wouldn’t dare to forget, the most essential part of any EYP conference: the energizers, when ever the organizers feel the energy dropping they make you get up and sing along to an odd (to say the least) repeat after me song accompanied by a series of embarrassing moves, until you’re laughing so hard you might as well have a six-pack.
What do you think the best part of EYP is?
Filip Toncev: You get to meet so many people from international backgrounds and with differing perspectives while still being able to come to a mutual agreement about how the EU should proceed in political matters.
Why do you think EYP is important?
Michael Shea: It’s really important because it allows the youth to get involved in politics that really matter and gain a deeper understanding of the EU and it’s internal decision making processes.
What inspired you to join EYP?
Svante Wallseth: My great grandfather fought in the war and it taught me how important Europe wide collaboration is for all of us.
So now that I have undoubtedly convinced you how amazing EYP is, despite several sleepless nights and sacrificing your sunday to show up at the central station at 5 am to then proceed to take 3 trains 2 busses and 2 planes just to get to the session, and let’s not forget having to catch up on a week of school, you surely want to know how to get involved:
Borgar has a delegation for EYP which you get selected for, in our case we had to write an essay about a current EU problem in a debate like format, and out of those essays the best 4 were picked to form the delegation. If you unfortunately do not get picked it is not the end of the road for you, you can always sign up as a wild card, the only drawback being that the travel expenses aren’t covered for you, however EYP is aware of its members and who it is catering to so affordability is typically considered and as in such the price is not to steep. Furthermore after you have competed with the delegation you can always decide to continue on your own and apply to sessions as a delegate, a journalist, a chair, or even an organizer. For instance one of the people i met shared her secret, saying that she always attended sessions in slightly obscure places she wouldn’t normally visit as a tourist destination, so that she could get a feel for the place anyway.
Now despite trying to hold of on the sappiness I suppose that much like in a summation speech that is how I must end this. EYP is an incredibly unique and rewarding experience that allows you to improve yourself in a plethora of ways, from public speaking anxieties to collaboration struggles for the lone wolf, it allows you to reevaluate your opinions and become a more tolerant and open-minded person. EYP allows you to connect with so many interesting individuals, that in some cases you’ll never fall out of contact with and instead you’ll win a friend for life. So even if politics isn’t your thing I suggest you give EYP a shot because it is absolutely worth it.
– Catherine Ekström