Vienna. What a city! Amazing architecture, exciting history, long-lasting tradition, incredible ubiquity and purity, stunning coffee houses and classical music… These are just few of the famous features of Austrian’s capital.
In this beautiful place, the “European Youth for EU Youth Strategy” project was organized. WYA had a great opportunity to gather 50 young leaders and encourage them to engage in political processes for youth in their countries. The Brussels team arrived on Friday morning with worried eyes. Our Project Partners in Austria had promised us nothing but blue skies and summer temperatures but looking at those grey clouds and hiding under our umbrellas, it seemed more like wishful thinking. This, on top of some complications at the airport, meant we were already off to an eventful start. In an average sized room, an extraordinarily large number of different nationalities were starting to gather together. One by one, participants from Albania, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Spain, and Lebanon started to come. Babbling was slowly filling the room and the program officially started. Elisabeth, WYA Austria Chapter Leaders, gave us an introduction about the World Youth Alliance and the goal and impact our project “European Youth 4 EU Youth Strategy” was striving to achieve.
Coffee break followed, and the sun had come out at last – it was a time to get to know each other. To break the ice, our introduction game was based on the exchange and replenishment of our paper Facebook profiles. We all ended up with our cards filled with funny statements or nice wishes, depending on who wrote on our “wall”.
Break, and then workshops on the “Introduction to EU Youth policies” and “Implementing Youth policies” followed. We ended the first day with many new acquaintances, information and full bellies. Actually, some of us even ended it with a ring on their finger. But that’s another story to tell.
If we enjoyed the first day, the new one brought even more enthusiasm. Our first workshop was given by Gudrun Kugler, the founder of WYA Austria, first Director of WYA Europe and a politician (Member of Austrias National Parliament). What she gave us, cannot be replaced by any article, book, or oral submission – Mrs. Kugler told us about her experience in politics and gave us tips on how to stand up for your personal beliefs. She talked about her own experinece in the NGO world, as an advocate for youth issues as well as how that differed from her work now as a political decision maker. One of the main thoughts was that we should never underestimate nor overestimate the power of ideas. Plus, if we have the triple package for success, (superiority complex, inferiority complex and endurance availability to stick to our goal for a longer time) we can be sure we will leave a mark in the world. Her experience encouraged many of us, since she has a successful career but also family life. We realized that Mrs. Kugler is a living example that, with enough support, women can achieve both and give their contribution to the world.
After a short break, we split into focus groups, talking about the needs of youth in Europe. Gudrun, as well as our decision maker participants who were all involved in creating these youth goals, stayed with us to discuss the greatest needs in fields of employment & entrepreneurship, social inclusion, participation in civil society, education, health, volunteering and creativity & culture. After that groups started preparing a position paper on the needs of youth in Europe.
We returned to the “general assembly meeting” and with parliamentray discussion rules debated the position paper. Amendemnts were proposed and strutured, finally the working version of the paper was sent to each participant to think about until the next morning, when we would vote on the final text.
That night, after a well deserved dinner, we had the chance to participate in a walking tour around the inner city of beautiful Vienna. In a project like this, where you only have three days it is usually close to impossible to really enjoy the loaction itslef. But this city tour led led by the funny Marie was both charming and historically interesting without burdening our already overworked minds. The perfect night to a very intense day.
Finally, Sunday brought with it the last part of our parliament simulation- the vote. Just like in a real plenary session from Starsbourg, we had to be already familiar with the proposed amendments and ready to vote “In Favour”, “Against”, “Abstain” in a matter of minutes. Thanks to the previous nights thorough discussions we were prepared and after voting on each paragraph & amendment all of us voted in favour of the final version of our youth strategy.
In celebratory fassion, manned with Coffes and Cookies we discussed the best way to spread the news about our small version of this youth strategy- how we could help impact the European Youth Strategy that will be finalized at the end of this year.
Surrounded by smiles and feelings of pride for a job well done, we once again went to visit the city center to take advantage of the time left for socializing and enjoying the sun – which had actually come out to shine for us the entire weekend.
In the end, it was a wonderful weekend marked with laughter, new friendships and knowledge. From this project, I will bring memories of dear faces, a beautiful city and awe-inspiring motivation. Because, that’s what Erasmus + projects are all about. Aren’t they?😊
Written by Martina Papić, an intern from the WYA Europe office in Brussels