The Swiss capital, Berne, is for the first time hosting a session of the European Youth Parliament (EYP). Over the next week 250 young people will be discussing topical European issues.
The meeting formally opens on Monday in the Swiss House of Representatives. Delegates from more than 30 countries are taking part in working groups to debate issues, including human rights, consumer protection, unemployment, environmental and cultural issues.
One committee will also focus on direct democracy in Europe. Monika Horisberger, spokeswoman for the Swiss organisers, told swissinfo that Switzerland's referendum system could be of particular interest to other countries and the European Union.
The 15 committees will join up for a plenary session next Friday and Saturday to vote on a series of non-binding resolutions to be presented to the European parliament.
The organisers are also providing a many-faceted programme of leisure activities for the participants, ranging from boat rides and river rafting to city tours and parties in and around Berne.
The event is taking place under the patronage of the Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, and is supported by Berne's cantonal and local authorities as well as private sponsors.
The European Youth Parliament (EYP) was set up in 1987. It holds three sessions a year in different countries across Europe. Switzerland joined the organisation in 1995.
Its aim is to provide a European dimension in education and politics. According to a statement by EYP students from 16 to 22 are given an opportunity to actively participate in a democratic decision-making process and exchange their ideas in politically neutral surroundings.
by Urs Geiser
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