The European Week of Regions and Cities is a one-week-long event organised by the EU Committee of the Regions that promotes the sharing of good practices and ideas for a greener, more inclusive and cohesive Europe. Sirius, represented by Kejsi Hodo, Communications Intern, took part in two workshops about youth participation and empowerment. The main themes dealt with were the characteristics of youth participation, the reasons behind its decrease and the ways to improve the situation.
First of all, it is important to stress the fact that the youth participation rate registered last year was at 87%. Thus, it is clear that the participation degree is quite high, but to understand what it means, it is necessary to further unpack the meaning of active citizenship. As a matter of fact, apart from voting, young people express their political views by signing petitions (often online), posting on social media, using hashtags to bring awareness and other ways which are not considered to be traditional participatory practices. This is very important when analysing youth behaviour in politics, because it brings to light the generational differences in dealing with political and/or social issues. So, what does active citizenship mean in 2022? Online platforms, social media, petitions etc play a crucial role when it comes to youth and democracy. In addition, one of the fundamental aspects about it are the different means of getting information, as young people use mainly social media and websites, which indicates the influence that online platforms have on politics.
However, why is it that young people vote less and less? In general, 46% of the participants of the Eurobarometer survey report they have voted. Thus, voting is still the most chosen way to express one’s political preferences, but there are many drawbacks. Among the three of the most reported barriers to voting, there are: not being old enough, not being interested and lack of trust in politicians. During the workshops, we addressed the reasons behind the decrease in the “traditional” participatory practices and how to boost young people participation. The most agreed on practice was the establishment of a strong connection between politicians and youth, to improve trust and empower young minds to make a difference. However, one crucial aspect to reflect on is economic security, as people in problematic situations are not able to be active citizens just because of their circumstances. Lastly, another underprivileged category is that of the second-generation migrants, who are often disregarded when it comes to decision-making processes and cannot vote in many EU countries.
In short, young people are generally active citizens who are accustomed to many non-conventional participatory practices, such as online petitions, social media posts and so on. However, when it comes to voting, it is critical to understand the reasons behind the decrease in the participation level and try to come up with ways to better engage the youth. Having more direct contact with decision-makers, ensuring economic security and inclusion are three pillars of youth participation. At the end, young people are not only the future, but they are also the present of our socities. Hence, their involvement in politics should be a priority and an occasion to reflect on the necessity of accepting differences and taking advantage of each other’s experiences towards an effective transgenerational and inclusive dialogue.
Written by: Kejsi Hodo, Communications Intern at SIRIUS Network
 Flash Eurobarometer European Parliament Youth Survey September 2021