What does Europe do for YOU(th)?

Europe, the European Union, the Council of the European Union, the European Commission… All these terms may seem like the same thing to you. Europe, the EU and all its institutions can often feel like a web of complex terms, far removed from ‘normal’ people. However, the role of Europe for its (young) citizens should not be underestimated. Europe has an impact on almost everything, from the things we use in the kitchen to the fundamental values we cherish.

Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union
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From banning glitter…

Did you know that since October 2023, you cannot buy plastic glitter in shops any more? And have you ever thought that the reason for this lies with the EU?

The European Union has long been at the forefront of addressing environmental concerns and pushing for technological innovation, making a significant impact on the lives of its youth. In recent years, the European Union has taken bold steps to protect the environment and reduce plastic waste. The ban on glitter and plastic straws as single-use plastics is a testament to its commitment to sustainability. These measures not only help preserve our planet for future generations but also serve as a vital educational tool for young people in Europe, emphasising the importance of eco-friendly choices. The EU's push for the universal use of USB-C cables also demonstrates its dedication to technological progress. This standardisation ensures compatibility across a wide range of devices, making life easier for the tech-savvy younger generation.

Europe thus has a major impact on our daily lives, deciding which cables we use to charge our phones and having a say in which straws we can enjoy a cocktail with.

Glitter ban

… to protecting the right to education

Even though the impact of the EU may not always be directly felt in young people's daily lives, it is still present all the time.

For example, Europe places a strong emphasis on safeguarding the fundamental rights and values of its young people, ensuring a secure and inclusive environment for all. The European Union's commitment to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law serves as a guiding light for young people, reassuring them that their voices matter. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union guarantees the rights to equality, privacy and non-discrimination, protecting the diversity and freedom that are essential for a thriving, inclusive society. Additionally, Europe provides extensive support for initiatives that promote tolerance, multiculturalism and social inclusion, fostering an environment where young individuals can embrace their identities and aspirations without fear of discrimination.

By championing these fundamental rights and values, Europe is empowering its youth to become active, engaged citizens who contribute to a vibrant continent. It tries to make Europe a place that feels like home to everyone.

Human rights

… and contributing to the development of young Europeans

As well as the general impact Europe has on the lives of young people, the EU and its institutions also create and offer a myriad of opportunities for personal and professional growth, to nurture the potential of its youth.

Programs like Erasmus+ facilitate international exchanges and educational experiences, allowing young Europeans to broaden their horizons and gain a deeper understanding of different cultures.

Ghent EC 2024

The #DiscoverEU project provides a chance for young individuals to explore the diverse cultures of the European continent, by creating unique rail travel opportunities across the continent, promoting unity and cross-cultural understanding.

Another example is the EU Youth Dialogue, which allows for communication and exchange between young people, policymakers, and youth organisations in the European Union. This dialogue guarantees that the opinions and needs of young people will be considered and then developed into EU youth policies.

Yet another notable initiative is the European Youth Capitals program, initiated by the European Youth Forum. This endeavour empowers young people to play an active role in shaping the future of their cities, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility. Did you know that Ghent will be the European Youth Capital of 2024? Isn’t that exciting!

These initiatives and many others demonstrate Europe's unwavering dedication to developing its youth, fostering a generation of open-minded, well-rounded and globally aware individuals poised to lead the way in our interconnected world.

As you can see, Europe is responsible for minor impacts and changes in the lives of the young generation, but it is also one of the most important actors in protecting our fundamental rights and values, as well as creating life-changing opportunities.

“Europe is not something far away from you. Europe is YOU(th).”

Marthe Vankeirsbilck

European Youth Editor