Some 300 young people from 36 countries are meeting in Laax from October 7 for the 83rd International Session of the European Youth Parliament. The key topic being debated over ten days in the Graubünden Alps: sustainability.
Switzerland and Europe have not always had an easy relationship, and it is especially tricky at the moment, with the row over how to implement the Swiss mass immigration initiative, which seeks to set caps on European Union workers.
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But the younger generation takes a much more relaxed approach. Switzerland has been part of the European Youth Parliament for 20 years. The European Youth Parliament Switzerland association, founded in 1996, aims to give young people a platform for political discussion and networking beyond country and language borders.
In Laax, participants, including seven delegates from Switzerland, will be considering “young and innovative ideas for a sustainable future” – according to the title of the meeting.
The session will not, however, just be an exchange for good ideas and projects on how to better manage natural resources. The aim has been, from the very beginning, to ensure that sustainability is a key point in the implementation of the conference itself, said Gioia Bomatter. The 21-year-old is in charge of media in the 16-strong organising team.
The aim of youth parliaments is to drum up interest among young people for politics. A good example that it actually works is Bomatter herself.
“The intensive debates and appraisal of politics really prompts interest in political themes,” the Basel medical student said.
“As a Swiss person especially, I’ve really come to appreciate our political system in a completely new way. This is the same for others too.”
A high point in Laax will be the parliamentary debate, held on October 14-15, and open to the public. Delegates will draw up several resolutions and adopt them. These are directed, among others, at the European Parliament and EU Commission. But they are only proposals and are not binding.
This is perhaps a point that Brussels should think about, given the importance of giving a voice to dedicated young people - in a time in which established democracies in Europe are being increasingly called into question.
European Youth Parliament
Since being founded in 1990, the European Youth Parliament (EYP) offers young people a platform for an active discussion on European political questions.
40 European countries take part via national associations. In 2015, around 35,000 young people took part in EYP activities.
It is financed by the Schwartzkopf foundation, various EU institutions, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, (OSCE) and governments.
The European Youth Parliament Switzerland association is supported by the Swiss foreign ministry.
Contact the author on twitter @RenatKuenzi