The course “Youth and Europe: The Past, Present and Future of Building a Peaceful Continent”, which has been organised by Yuste Foundation and the Research Forum on Social and Legal Sciences of the University of Extremadura, opened today with the aim of reflecting on youth participation in the process of European construction in order to find new ways of promoting and encouraging youth participation so as to face the new challenges of the European continent. (17/07/2022)

The director of Yuste Foundation, Juan Carlos Moreno stressed that the public entity that he directs is a centre dedicated to culture, education, international cooperation and the transmission of knowledge; one which organises activities narrowed down to the European and Ibero-American level and whose main target groups are young people. “Last year, more than 1,800 young people from 28 countries and 48 universities joined us in Yuste”, he recalled. In this sense, he added that the Foundation has an Academy that includes some of the brightest minds in Europe and Latin America, such as Umberto Eco or José Saramago, and this added intergenerational value of the institution makes its main mission lie in “being a transmission belt between those people who have a proven intellectual life and prestige so that it may reach new generations, which is why I ask you to make our wish of joining those who have an experienced life with those who want to experience life come true”, said the director.

During the opening of the course the general director of the Institute of Youth of Extremadura, Sara Durán Vázquez, also participated. She claimed the need to promote and encourage youth participation “because administrations need you to tell us what we are doing well, where we are failing and where we should be directing our policies”, she said. In the director-general’s opinion, it is necessary for young people to vindicate their demands and lead the changes that must take place in the future “in order to achieve a better, fairer and more egalitarian society”.

“Citizens feel like they are from their city, their region or their country, but they have a hard time having a sense of belonging to Europe”, claimed Sara Durán. “However, we must continue to reclaim the role of the European Union in achieving a good quality of life and resources”, she stated.

To conclude her speech, she referred to the results of the Stand for Something initiative, through which more than 3,000 young people were interviewed or the Flash Eurobarometer data entitled “Youth and Democracy in the European Year of Youth”. The conclusions reached reflect that equal attention and access to mental health are one of the concerns of young people, as well as ensuring equal living standards and combating any act of hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion; concern for the environment and climate change; achieving quality education and access to employment and housing.

In turn, the vice-rector of University Extension of the University of Extremadura, Juan Carlos Iglesias Zoido claimed that, in his opinion, we are living in transcendental times, especially for young people because, despite being a very learned generation in languages with the possibility of travelling the world, Europe has a war at the door that affects us in a serious way and the difficulty of accessing jobs adds to this. “This contrast between preparation and difficulties leads to obligatory reflection: we have to think of ideas for the construction of that Europe that we all want and that will help youth to advance and integrate and face that contrast”.

In the opening ceremony, the director of the course and professor at the University of Extremadura, Enrique Hernández Díez, also spoke. He encouraged the attendees to open their minds in order to have the ability to challenge their prejudices and listen to reflections and new ideas, the result of different research and perspectives brought by speakers from other countries in Europe and Latin America.

“This course is taking place during a heat wave so we will be more aware than ever of the fact that the environment and climate change is one of the great challenges that is raising more mobilisation as far as youth is concerned”. Finally, he urged students to put into practice all the learning acquired during the course in everyday life in order to build a better world.

The Mayor of Cuacos de Yuste, José María Hernández, recalled that this course is part of the European Year of Youth, and that according to statistics, the main concerns of young Europeans are mental health and unemployment; concerns that have grown further after the pandemic.

This course is part of Yuste Foundation’s Campus Yuste training programme and is included in the International Summer Courses of the University of Extremadura. It counts with the collaboration of the Regional Government of Extremadura, the Extremaduran Council of the European Movement, the Provincial Councils of Cáceres and Badajoz and National Heritage.