"We are the future of Europe. The future shape of our continent depends on us." So said the young people who came to Strasbourg from 43 countries for the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe.
The idea of creating a Youth Assembly, that is a body which would approach problems normally discussed by adults in a different way, turned out to be very effective. The young people debated in the same plenary hall where parliamentary delegations from 41 countries regularly meet. The members of the Parliamentary Assembly representing all political options presented their young deputies. Election of the chairman of the Youth Assembly and his deputies was organized before the debate began. Its first phase took place in parliamentary commissions.
The Polish 12-person delegation very skilfully presented a short election campaign before the voting. The campaign was very successful. Michał Miąskiewicz, a student of III Liceum in Gdynia, invited to Strasbourg by senator Edmund Witbrodt, was elected chairman of the Assembly by a majority of votes. Sofia Stepanou from Cyprus, Vania Vukic from Croatia and Giorgio Ialongo from Italy were elected his deputies. The Pole speaks fluent English and seemed to be already familiar with this prestigious post, which requires experience and knowledge of procedures. He led the plenary debate together with Lord Russell-Johnston, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Michał Miąskiewicz, President of the Bureau of the Youth Assembly, and laureate of the 22nd and 23rd English Language Olympiad
The young people surprised everyone with their maturity, precise thinking and interpretation of the questions prepared for discussion. They focused on three subjects: improving education as a means to facing the challenges of the third millennium, enhancing participatory democracy, and finding ways of reconciling economic development with social protection. The 'one day MPs' adopted three resolutions. The first underlined the fact that the participation of all citizens in political life is a decisive factor for democratic institutions to function as they should, and that" young people should be able to exert a real influence on issues concerning their own future at the local, national and international level".
The second stressed the need for Europe to consider education as a priority. It also called for the strengthening of" partnerships with outside protagonists" and the establishment of" links between schools and the working world" in order to" facilitate vocational integration upon completion of studies".
From the very beginning, many delegates asked to speak about Kosovo, especially as two young Kosovars and two young Serbs were in attendance. The issue was added to the agenda and debated at the start of the plenary session. A third resolution was thus adopted, by which the Youth Assembly expressed its regrets, but also full understanding of NATO' s military campaign against President Milosevic' s criminal action." We understand one man may die for his country, but not a country for one man." - said the Youth Assembly.
The meeting turned out to be so successful that it was decided to repeat it every year in a different country." It has been a wonderful experience" ;" Listen to us, for we are Europe' s future" ;" We have still a lot to say, so do it again" , were some of the most frequent comments made by the young participants, whose speaking skills and commitment to the subjects under discussion impressed the organizers far beyond their expectations.