3rd YEPP Chairmen’s Conference, “YEPP – a European Star”, 7-10 March 2002, Salamanca, Spain Participants were picked up at Barajas airport in Madrid on Thursday, 7 March 2002, and transported by bus to Salamanca, Europe's cultural capital this year. The seminar started on Friday morning with speeches by Raúl de la Hoz, NNGG President in Castilla y León, Rutger-Jan Hebben, YEPP President, and José Enrique Núñez, National Secretary General of NNGG, focussing on the European cultural and political identity, reinforcement of European civil society and what the role of YEPP in that process could be. The role and scope of opportunities of European political youth organisations in European politics was discussed in the morning in a panel consisting of Rutger-Jan Hebben, Henrik Söderman, President of the European Youth Forum, Ellen TraneNørby, Vice-President of LYMEC and Alison Weston, President of JEF, with YEPP Secretary General Markus Pösentrup as moderator. All speakers called for a clearer vision about the Future of Europe but differed on whether that vision of Europe should be a Europe for the individual or for the member states. LYMEC called for a slim refined Europe that involved itself in less areas of policy but was much deeper when it came to its core competencies. All speakers called for a democratic Europe and criticised the incremental intergovernmentalism of Amsterdam and Nice. Rutger-Jan Hebben (YEPP) noted how YEPP had challenged the EPP to set a date on enlargement, which was achieved at the last EPP Congress. There was agreement that the EU could not work without real reform. LYMEC called on the audience to recall that enlargement will go beyond the first round and to include this in our vision. LYMEC also took the view that there should be no ‘holy areas’ in the debate about Europe and raised the issue of a single language for Europe. JEF expressed its disappointment with Nice and called for a real federal structure for Europe as the intergovernmental system has continually failed to deliver. The EYF called for a strengthened civil society. Henrik Söderman (EYF) noted that we are not just an age-generation but also a political generation with our own distinctive perspectives on political issues. The Commission’s White Paper on Youth policy was mentioned. The concept was strongly supported in general although there was criticism in details. It was noted that it had also been a success of the political youth organisations that the White Paper could be published and was not downgraded. All speakers noted how their own internal enlargement process with members form Central and Eastern Europe had changed the culture of their organisations. There was no agreement on the boundaries of Europe. LYMEC felt that peoples own sense of identity should be more important than geographical boundaries suggested by YEPP and JEF. Afterwards participants visited the city. As one of the oldest university cities in Europe, Salamanca was the perfect setting to host a group of 100 young people from all over Europe. The city tour ended with a speech by the Mayor of Salamanca, Julián Lanzarote, at the City Hall stating that given the amount of foreign students studying in Salamanca you can find a European identity in that city. After the speech
the participants could greet the people at the famous Plaza Mayor from the balcony of the City Hall. The second panel of the day brought high-ranking Spanish politicians together: Gerardo Galeote, MEP and Spokesman of the Partido Popular in the European Parliament, Jorge Moragas, Secretary of International Relations of the PP, Antonio Lopez-Isturiz, the new EPP Secretary General, and Javier Arenas, Secretary General of the PP. They discussed on Europeâ€™s role in the process of globalization and what this means for society. Globalisation brings individuals and society great challenges, which should be explored. It was also underlined that despite the challenges there are also side effects from globalisation that might harm the current society as well as future generations. For this people have a responsibility. During the evening dinner, JosĂŠ Antonio Bermudez de Castro, educational specialist of the Partido Popular, gave a brilliant speech on his vision of the European space of knowledge with regard to the specific challenges for political parties and young politicians. He particularly stressed the importance of a fundamental education for people involved in politics. Without individual readiness for repeated periods of learning during their life, members of political parties cannot claim to stay informed and well ahead of developments in economy, science, the arts and society. In order to ensure a good preparation for leading positions in their respective parties and countries young people should be supported and have the opportunity to get the best out of themselves. Mr Bermudez de Castro received an ear-splitting applause. On Saturday morning the fifth anniversary of YEPP gave a suitable background for the third panel discussion of the seminar. Eva Mitsopoulou (YEPP Vice-President 1997-1999 and Deputy Secretary General 1999-2001), Michael Hahn (YEPP President 1999-2001) and Rutger-Jan Hebben (actual YEPP President) examined the role of umbrella organisations, such as European political youth organisations, in bringing together and integrating member organisations from transformation countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Moderator Thomas Subelack, an advisor of the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament and experienced in several European youth structures since the late eighties, managed to take the audience on a thrilling historical political journey through the European youth landscape from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the period of revolutions and birth of democracy in the Central and Eastern European countries to the present. The development in EYCD and DEMYC, the so-called parent organisations of YEPP, was characterized as a stand still in the early nineties. Both organisations faced the challenge of integrating new organisations from Central and Eastern Europe, but at that time it was difficult to accomplish this on a basis of equality. It was time to change the cold war political culture in both organisations. This could not be done in the old structures. Given this and the fact that both organisations were integrating practically the same organisations the foundation of YEPP became apparent. This was quite a challenge: merging organisations form east and west, merging christian democrats, peopleâ€™s parties and conservatives, merging political cultures on a basis of equality. YEPP managed to do this by focussing on the topics and ideas it had in common instead of focussing on the differences. With this approach was created an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, and people learned to know each other and created a solid basis for the future of the organisation, which is
after 5 years able to have any discussion without organisations leaving afterwards. YEPP has created somehow its identity as a European structure by identifying where its ideas come from and to build on that basis. Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar met with the participants at noon, when he took the time to discuss all the topics raised by his European audience. Mister Aznar pointed at the globalisation process and the role of youth in building societies in particular in connection to terrorism. YEPP participants afterwards got the chance to meet him in private during a brunch under a lovely Spanish spring sun. Iñigo Mendez de Vigo, MEP and Member of the Presidency of the European Convention, presented the work of the Convention and answered questions from participants. It was clearly shown that the Convention is willing to take the voice of young people serious in the discussion about the Future of Europe. He underlined the importance of integrating as well the youth from the accession countries. He praised YEPP for its role of integrating already so many young people from so many countries into its organisation, a true pan-European organisation. Afterwards the YEPP annual report 2001 was presented and distributed. The meeting was concluded with a wrap-up with all the participants resulting in a practical document - YEPP, a European Star - focussing on what YEPP can practically do to express its ideas about European identity. In the evening we celebrated YEPP's fifth anniversary with a gigantic cake.