Model European Union Zagreb (MEUZ)
1. Raison d'etre, background, goals, methodology Model European Union (MEU) is a simulation of a decision-making process in the European Union institutions. It is designed as an interactive and innovative non-formal educational program applying a specific methodology common to all â€žModelsâ€œ (Model United Nations, Model International Criminal Court, Model European Union). MEUZ 2013 was the first MEU held in Croatia. Throughout the years, the MEU that is implemented in Strasbourg has established itself as a superb learning experience for young Europeans providing them with a unique opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of the EU institutions, decision-making mechanisms and processes. For those same reasons, we applied a variant of this model at the beginning of this year in Zagreb, and we are proud to say that quality and level of participation at MEUZ 2013 went beyond even our expectations. The participants of the MEUZ 2013 simulated sittings of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. They were thus given an opportunity to grasp the working of the EU institutions in practice, to understand policy challenges and pressing current issues that the EU is faced with, as well as the underlying principles, standards and values of the EU. The participants had the opportunity to develop their skills in EU law, in addition to debating and negotiations at the EU level. Thereby, the Project aimed to provide Croatian students with a better understanding of the consequences of EU membership, simultaneously providing them with an opportunity to learn about specific areas of the EU policies, which are going to affect them as EU citizens. Next year MEUZ 2014 is going to simulate, again, sittings of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union as well as the roles of lobbyists and journalists. Since Croatia is now a new member state of the EU, next edition of MEUZ will not concentrate on the consequences of EU membership but focus more on the impact of European citizenship and EU legislative on the population of the EU in general. Furthermore, the goal of MEUZ 2014 is to emphasize the obligations each citizen of EU has, in the first place by electing the members of the European Parliament and thereby diminishing the well-known democratic deficit of the EU. Moreover, the project attains the goal of creating interest among students to actively seek understanding of what EU membership means rather than settling for passively acquired incomplete information and prejudice, by offering them an innovative and highly interactive nonformal educational program. Furthermore, its format (a structured debate) fosters developing of a debating culture among students, thus building a firmer and broader basis for public debate (in this specific group and in the wider society) on the implications of EU policies. On top of educating youth on the dynamics of EU institutions when producing EU law and the implications and challenges thereof, MEUZ empowers them through the acquisition of advanced communication skills â€“ debating, negotiating, advocacy and public speaking skills - which are increasingly valued both in the labour market and in democratic society at large. Added educational value of the project stems from the simulation methodology, where roles of the participants are defined without regard to their personal ideological (political) preferences, which requires
them to step out of their personal mind frames, disregard preconceived ideas and biases and identify instead with the role they are given for the simulation purposes. Owing to MEU methodology, students learn to recognize subtle complexities of policies which can be alternatively pursued and ways to argue in favour or against certain proposals in the light of potential consequences they would not have discerned, were they asked to represent opinions which they formerly held. Debating skills and critical thinking are thus developed at a very different scale from that in an arena where the participants put forward ideas based on their personal backgrounds. Consequently, MEUZ is distinguished by its exceptional educational value for young members of the European political community. Participants learn to detect opportunities for cooperation, master practices of consensus-building strategies and develop a debating culture in which young agents of change can thrive. Thus, the project seeks to empower European youth for active democratic citizenship in a multi-level political community. It aims to engage participants in policy debates underpinned by certain “European” values, and to allow them to gain a practical understanding of the procedural and political constraints operating as difficulties in a process of reaching a political compromise and adopting solutions in the best common interest of the EU citizens. Through allowing them to acquire both deeper insights into the decision-making processes at European level, and skills which would better equip them for their future role in the society, the project seeks to prepare students – voters on the elections for MEPs - for active participation in shaping their future as citizens of Europe. Furthermore, the highly interactive learning method of the MEUZ is demonstrably innovative in the Croatian educational context. Through simulating the decision-making process, the participants will learn about it first-hand (“learning by playing”) by defending certain positions and voting on real-life legislative proposals. This method transforms the students from passive recipients of classroom knowledge into active participants in educational processes. As a non-formal education method, the project thus empowers the student.
2. Practical aspects MEUZ is organized by the Croatian Educational and Development Network for the Evolution of Communication (HERMES), a non-profit non-governmental organization in Zagreb, whose mission is education for democratic citizenship, through developing and applying innovative nonformal educational programs with a view to promoting non-violent communication methods such as structured and critical thinking, active listening and radical empathy as conflict resolution/prevention tools. HERMES’s activities revolve around using applied debating skills for the purpose of contributing to active participatory citizenship and facilitating the building of an open and inclusive democratic society. Our partners on the project are the non-profit non-governmental organization Bringing Europeans Together Association (BETA), registered in Mainz, which has been organizing the biggest European „Model European Union“ for 8 years now; student association Croatian Student Association; student association Zagreb Debating Union and A.D.E.L. MEUZ has been initiated and designed by Morana Miljanović, the project leader and MEUZ 2013 Director General, and developed in joint efforts with the members of the Secretariat and the Executive Committee (all together 10 persons), with support from BETA. The total number of participants at MEUZ 2013 was 46, among which 24 were given the role of MEPs and 20 were given the roles of Ministers in the Council of the EU. The topics chosen for MEUZ were 'Returns Directive' and 'Temporary Workers' Directive. Next year's edition of MEUZ is already equipped with 40 members of the organization team and strives to attract around one hundred participants, both domestic and international, as well as to leave a deeper impression on the Croatian society.