Limerick Youths at EU Seminar

Youth (un)employment and support for an integrated Europe were two of the outcomes from LiberaMente, an EU Youth Seminar held in Bolzano, northern Italy recently, in which sixteen young people from Limerick Youth Service participated.

Loosely translated as free minds, Liberamente, a five day seminar saw 70 young people from Ireland and Italy discuss this year’s EU Parliamentary Elections and the importance of young people engaging with the political system, be it local, national or European.

Through a series of workshops and lectures the diverse mix of young people discussed the relationship between young people and the EU Parliament, issues of concern to today’s youth, such as employment opportunities and even put the EU on trial!

LiberaMente was partly the brainchild of Daniel Bennelli, an Italian youth worker who wanted to get more young people interested in political and civic life.

“With this year’s EU parliamentary elections we decided to focus on the European Parliament and its place in the lives of young Europeans,” said Mr. Bennelli.

The outcome was quite interesting with the majority of participants stating that lack of employment opportunities was their number one concern.

“This is not surprising giving the youth unemployment rates in Italy and Ireland,” stated Mr. Bennilli (the current unemployment rate for under 30s is 29% in Ireland and 40% in Italy).

Rowan Pierce (20) a participant at the seminar said that the lack of suitable employment opportunities is a ‘cause of concern’ for her peers and herself.

“The government doesn’t really prioritise young people enough and they’re one of the groups that end up being side-lined,” stated Ms. Pierce, a student at Limerick College of Further Education, Limerick.

Ms. Pierce also stressed the importance of young people engaging in political debate and registering to vote.

“People fought for democracy and women fought for the right to vote so I think it’s really important (to vote),” added Ms. Pierce.

Ms. Rowan’s views were echoed by Markus Warasin, a civil servant with the EU Parliament in Brussels, who was a guest lecturer at LiberaMente.

“Europe is not Brussels, big buildings and ‘eurocrats.’ Europe is when you see you young people from different nationalities working together. What unites them is that they are Europeans,” said Mr. Warasin.

Mr. Warasin gave a first-hand account of the workings of the EU Parliament and chaired a debate on the ‘EU on Trial.’

Mr. Warasin welcomed the outcome of the ‘EU on Trial’, in which most participants favoured the EU project however, he questioned the impact that those who do not vote can have.

“It is the people who do not vote that often have an effect on elections,” stressed Mr. Warasin.

In relation to getting more young people engaged in the democratic system participant Luke Hogg argued that there “should be more information campaigns and forums like LiberaMente.”

“The problem is that some people don’t know the impact the EU has on their lives,” said Mr. Hogg, adding “they don’t know who their local MEP is or what the Commission or Council is.”

“We need greater awareness campaigns that highlight the impact that decisions made in Brussels have on our lives,” said Mr. Hogg, student at the University of Limerick.

Stacey Lyons, Youth Democracy Officer, Limerick Youth Service, congratulated the group who represented Limerick Youth Service.

“They participated and engaged with every aspect of LiberaMente and were a credit to themselves, their families and Limerick Youth Service,” said Ms. Lyons.

“Seminars like LiberaMente are excellent opportunities for young people from across Europe to spend time with one another and realise they share common goals and expectations,” continued Ms. Lyons.

LiberaMente also provided a unique opportunity for young people to experience the unique culture of Bolzano, a city based in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy that was once part of Austria.

“With a mixture of Italian and Austrian cuisine we were spoiled for choice,” added Ms. Lyons, who is also a member of Limerick Youth Service’s YELL Group-Youth Empowerment Looks @ Limerick.

Limerick Youth Service was joined at LiberaMente by young people from Ballyfermot Youth Service as well as youth groups from the Italian cities of Tortona and hosts Bolzano.

Limerick Youth Service would like to thank the above youth groups, guest speakers, Leargas, the EU’s Youth In Action Programme and the young people for making LiberaMente such as unique experience.

Now in our fortieth year, Limerick Youth Service remains committed to supporting and encouraging young people to be active participants in shaping their futures.