140 young people for EU enlargement in the Western Balkans
Wolfgang Sobotka, President of the National Council, welcomes participants of the Model European Parliament – Central and South East Europe
"United in Diversity”, the motto of the European Union, was what National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka referred to as he welcomed 140 pupils and students to the fourth session of the Model European Parliament – Central and South East Europe (MEP CSEE), which took place in the plenary hall of the Austrian parliament on 1 October 2018. “Such an initiative is, in my eyes, a clear and excellent example of precisely this European diversity. I am glad that your meeting is being held here in Vienna.”
The MEP CSEE is a programme for young people from EU member states and Western Balkan countries. The aim of the programme is to develop young people’s interest in political processes, particularly on a European level. It is also a training ground for young Europeans and future politicians to gain knowledge of such processes. The fourth session of the MEP CSEE was held from 27 September to 2 October, with the previous sessions taking place in Bucharest (Romania), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Ljutomer (Slovenia). As Austria is currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Vienna was the ideal location for this year’s meeting. The next session will take place in 2019 in Budapest.
Youth up Europe!
Some of the topics discussed were youth unemployment, how to manage energy consumption and gender equality. Six resolutions were tabled and debated in committees and the plenary. Amendments could be made and votes were held at the end – as is the case in a “real” parliament. “Youth up Europe!” is the motto of the MEP CSEE initiative. “It is something special for the young people here to express their opinions, be heard and make a difference”, explained Gottfried D. Oehl, coordinator of the MEP sessions.
During his welcome address, the President of the National Council explained to the young members of parliament the three priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU: securing external borders to fight illegal migration, increasing Europe’s competitiveness and promoting stability in the EU’s neighbouring countries. “For a long time now, Austria has advocated EU enlargement towards the Western Balkans”, emphasised the President of the National Council. He highlighted how important these efforts are in view of the influence that Russia, China and Turkey exercise in this region. “I am convinced that the future of Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo lies within the European Union.”
Initiative for democracy and the principles of the rule of law
Sobotka spoke about his initiative to bring about closer cooperation between parliaments in this region and to promote parliamentarism. He also told the MEP CSEE participants that on Wednesday 3 October, he would travel to Kroměříž in the Czech Republic for a trilateral meeting with the presidents of the Czech and Slovakian parliaments. “It is our goal to promote democracy and the principles of the rule of law”, stressed the President of the National Council.
Not only did he praise the MEP programme, he also highlighted the initiative shown by each and every one of the young participants. “They are the ones who will shape the EU in the next 20, 30 years”, said Sobotka. “And who knows – maybe some of the people sitting in this room will one day become leading politicians”.
Photos from the event can be found on the Parliament website.
More information about this event can be found on the event page.