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Europe calls… Florence answers

EUI researchers had a leading role in guiding around 65 undergraduates from the University of Florence through EU Talks: Dialoghi sul futuro dell’Europa. The initiative contributes to the European institutions’ efforts to engage citizens through the Conference on the Future of Europe.

30/04/2021 | News - Policy dialogue

According to the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFE), the European institutions have committed to ‘listen to Europeans and to follow up, within their sphere of competences, on the recommendations made.’

But how can European citizens, especially young people, make their voices heard?

Take a look at the just-concluded EU Talks: Dialoghi sul futuro dell’Europa (EU Talks: Dialogues on the Future of Europe), where around 65 university students in Florence had the opportunity to dive into selected topics, develop their ideas through dialogue, and articulate their conclusions in roundtables led by academics specialising in European issues. The final session of four roundtables was held on 29 April in Florence’s historic Palazzo Vecchio, and will result in a position paper for CoFE on the issues of youth engagement in Europe; European democracy; post-COVID health policy in Europe; and EU economic governance.

The Talks were spearheaded by Europe Direct Firenze with the European Documentation Centres (EDC) of the European University Institute (EUI) and the University of Florence (UNIFI). Valentina Spiga, Law Information Specialist and EDC Coordinator at the EUI, had the idea of staging a series of thematic roundtables, led by doctoral researchers from the EUI and UNIFI.

To get the project off the ground, she turned to two researcher organisations from the EUI: Engaged Academics and Thoughts for Europe. The Engaged Academics run an outreach programme to discuss Europe in schools, highschools, and other community settings, while Thoughts for Europe hosts regular debates and policy discussions on European policy and the future of Europe.

The researchers developed content and coordinated the four thematic groups, holding a total of 16 online meetings prior to the final event.

The education dimension of the initiative proved to be one of its strengths, and demonstrates how universities such as the EUI and UNIFI can contribute to making Europe and European policy relevant for citizens.

Aurélie Villanueva, from the researcher organisation Thoughts for Europe, noted that “The students have learned not only precise knowledge on the European Union but also tools to develop and voice their own opinions. EU Talks has encouraged them to be European citizens who are connected to the EU realities, its challenges and are able to contribute to the public debate.”

EUI researcher Marc Steiert, who is active in Engaged Academics, also found the exercise extremely constructive, remarking that “young people are passionate about the European Union and have wonderful ideas of how the Union should evolve in the future, but they often have the feeling that their ideas are either not heard, not respected or, at least, not present enough in public discourse.”

The Talks illustrate that “if you give young people the opportunities to express their opinions, they will participate.”

Watch the EU Talks final event.

Photo: EUI Researcher Marc Steiert addressed the EU Talks participants in Palazzo Vecchio.

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