Study visit to Brussels: KOMS acquires new knowledge about European institutions and the active participation of young people

From May 29 to June 2, KOMS program coordinator Anja Jokić and program assistant Aleksandra Mihajlović stayed in Brussels, Belgium, to learn more about the work of European institutions and how to involve young people in decision-making processes at the level of the European Union. 

This was the sixth study visit within the Erasmus+ European Youth Together project called “Youth Empowerment Incubator”, which we are implementing with youth organizations from North Macedonia, Latvia, Slovakia, and Estonia. 

DAY 1 – May 30, 2023. 

We started the first day of the study visit with a meeting where the participants summarized the project engagement so far and discussed future activities, as well as topics for discussions with the representatives of the institutions they will visit. 

The first meeting was held at Eurodesk, the European information network for young people. Audrey Frith, director of the Brussels office of Eurodesk, presented us with the history and work of this agency. The participants also discussed with her the possibilities for reaching marginalized young people, as well as connecting with youth umbrella associations in Europe that would serve as multipliers and inform young people about different opportunities. 

DAY 2 – May 31, 2023. 

On the second day of the visit, we met with Biliana Sirakova, the EU youth coordinator. The position of the EU Youth Coordinator was established in 2021 within the framework of the European Commission, to improve intersectoral cooperation and the exchange of information on the status and problems of young people. With her, we had the opportunity to discuss the achievements and legacy of the European Year of Youth 2022, as well as to present the work of our organizations and the motivation for our engagement within them. 

We also discussed the EU youth dialogue and the possibilities of countries in the process of EU integration to be included in the youth conferences that are organized every year. This is especially important for young people in our country, considering that the Republic of Serbia is the only country that is not a member of the European Union, but still formed a Permanent Expert Team for the EU Youth Dialogue. 

During a visit to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), we had the opportunity to meet with President Oliver Ropke and learn more about the work of this important institution. Ropke pointed out that the participation and inclusion of young people, as well as the defense of civil society in accession countries, are the key priorities of his mandate and his dedication to these topics encourages and brings new perspectives for the improvement of democratic processes. 

After meeting him, we had the opportunity to learn about the work of the EESC through a presentation given by Katerina Serifi. The EESC is an advisory body that brings together representatives of three groups: employers, workers, and civil society organizations. This institution has an important role in issuing opinions to the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of the EU, serving as a bridge between decision-makers in the EU and its citizens. One of the significant initiatives that the EESC has established since 2021 is the institution of the youth delegate. The youth delegate has observer status at events such as the Conference of Parties (COP) and participates in bilateral meetings with various CSOs and other relevant actors. This institution enables young people to actively participate and contribute to discussions about climate change and sustainability. The new EESC youth delegate is Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, who also joined our meeting and shared her experience. 

DAY 3 – June 1, 2023. 

The third day of our study visit was dedicated to a meeting with the European Youth Forum (YFJ), one of the most important organizations dealing with youth issues at the European level. On the premises of YFJ, we met with several key representatives of this organization. 

Secretary General Miloš Ristovski warmly greeted us and then gave us a presentation about the work of YFJ and the current campaigns that the organization is working on. They presented us with initiatives such as “Ban Unpaid Internships”, “Youth Test” and “Vote16”. These campaigns aim to improve the position of young people, and ensure fair working conditions and greater participation of young people in political processes. 

After the meeting with the YFJ, we continued our visit to the European Parliament, where we had the opportunity to hear about the work of this institution and its importance in the decision-making process at the European level. 

After the tour of the parliament, a final meeting was held where we summarized everything we learned during the study visit and concluded its successful course. It was a valuable opportunity to get to know different institutions and organizations that deal with youth issues at the European level, as well as to gain new knowledge and perspectives about it. 

One part of our program included attending Human Rights Talks #1, an event organized by the UN and the EESC on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The panelists discussed the protection of civil society, and the presence of the new president of the EESC, Oliver Ropke, was particularly interesting, as he highlighted this as his priority. 

The study visit was organized within the Erasmus + project “Youth Empowerment Incubator”, supported by the European Union.