Four months after the 2019 European Parliament elections, 26 young leaders as well as experts from 9 European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Poland and Slovakia) gathered in Bratislava, Slovakia for discussions on EU citizens’ engagement. Committed to strengthening a European Union that represents ‘diversity’, ‘unity’, ‘freedom and privilege’ and ‘opportunity’ (among other values), participants of the 2nd Transnational Reflection Group Meeting engaged in drafting recommendations to European and national decisionmakers and to the business and civic communities. The discussions covered the following topics:
1. Education and opportunities for youth
2. Environment and sustainability
3. EU as a global actor
4. Migration, internal and external security
5. Employment, social affairs and inclusion
The work was inspired by conversation on what kind of Europe we want with MEP elect, Miriam Lexmann, and Lívia Vašáková, the Economic Team Leader at the Representation of the European Commission in Slovakia. They also discussed how to get the EU that its citizens want with State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, František Ružička, and Thibault Muzergues, Europe Program Director at the International Republican Institute in Bratislava. Representing the governmental and non- governmental, political and economic, and regional and European perspectives, all panellists identified a number of key issues to consider regarding the present and future state of the European Union (EU). Our participants went on to use those as a starting point to assess, in each of the topics, the challenges and opportunities at all levels (the EU, Member States and societies), and to form recommendations using both top-down and bottom-up approaches. Three themes in particular emerged as cutting across the various topical areas.
Firstly, participants emphasized the need for EU-wide solutions and the harmonisation of certain policies and systems across the Union. Those were: to increase quality of education and social support systems, to bridge the East-West divide and to counter the issue of talent drain some of the EU countries have been facing.
Secondly, they emphasized a need to shift certain paradigms of understanding of the market, so as to respond to the world of today and tomorrow. From education and training through to labour laws and social welfare, the participants felt very strongly that there is a need for more
flexible approaches and frameworks, on the EU and national levels.
And finally, the participants expressed the need for the EU to keep encouraging its citizens’ involvement in policymaking on areas that concern them.