EU Youth Conference of the Cyprus Presidency: “Youth Participation and Social Inclusion”

The EU Youth Conference is a part of the Structured Dialogue procedure that was established  by the Council of the European Union to engage the youth in the decision process. Young people may shape the EU policy on topics that directly affect them through public consultations in each member state and the EU Youth Conference. Each TRIO Presidency sets an overall theme  and then each presidency sets its own priority. The main theme of the 18 month TRIO Poland, Denmark, Cyprus was youth participation in democratic life in Europe. The priority of the Cyprus Presidency was the “Youth Participation and Social Inclusion”. The EU Youth Conference took place in Nicosia on 11-12-13 of September. During the conference of the youth delegates and Directors General of EU Member States discussed how youth participation leads to the social inclusion of all young people, with emphasis on the inclusion of young people with a migrant background and the importance of the participation of young people and youth organizations, especially in decision making for the creation of inclusive, democratic and prosperous societies. The joint recommendations of the youth delegates and Directors General of EU Member States was based on the outcomes of the national consultations in each member state. Find more information in the official website of the Cyprus Presidency. Useful Links:

See also: Newsletter Eurodesk Cyprus April: “Structured Dialogue”


Civil Society and Democracy Building: The youth perspective

The civil society or alternatively the third sector is an important stakeholder in the society because it gives voice to the citizens by empowering various social structures. The promotion of non-governmental and non-profit organizations is associated with the peace construction in conflict areas. The education is a field that could stimulate the active youth participation and the tolerance among the people. The educators can shape a culture of tolerance and acceptance among the young people from different backgrounds.

Nowadays, traveling from one country to another is easier than before due to high technological improvement and also to social and historical changes, such as, the European integration. The European citizens can cross the borders within the European Union without a visa. However, the Human Rights are still violating. A general knowledge about the Human Rights doesn’t establish a culture where the human rights are respected; as a result, the Human Rights Education is more than necessary. The Council of Europe published two manuals on Human Rights Education, “Compasito” for children up to 13 years old and “Compass” for teenagers and adults. The civil society should advocate for the integration of the Human Rights Education to the formal education curricula by engaging the key education shareholders, such as Ministry of Education, teachers platforms, parents and students, to the dialogue.

The web 2.0 platforms may reinforce the civil society’s campaigns about peace and democracy because it is a way to participate, spread campaigns and exchange good practices with other people globally. The digital media could be characterized as the revolution in the field of communication, each one of us, has the chance to share his/her views and learn about new ideas and tendencies. The e-participation is a youth friendly form of active participation because the young people are familiar with the social media platforms such as facebook, twitter and blogs. The civil society has a unique chance to boost their campaigns through the social media; the young people tend to pay more attention to facebook posts than to emails. On the other hand, the civil society actors and the young people should be equipped with “digital skills”, in order, firstly to endorse their ideas efficiently and secondly to avoid some traps. According to the above, it was build the argument that the “digital education” should be part of the school programmes as well.

The civil society should also boost the youth volunteerism in the border regions between countries where there is a conflict and also lack of democracy. The borders have their own linguistic and cultural identity; the people tend to speak both languages, there are influences from the traditions of both countries and many mixed marriages. The most striking fact in conflict areas is the sense of belonging, people either feel they belong to both countries or they feel they don’t belong anywhere. The youth volunteerism, through many projects and programmes, in the short-term may facilitate the trust building among the people in the borders and the people who come from regions far away from the borders. In the long-term this could lead to a further development of the values of democracy and peace.

Currently, the economic crisis and the related emerging problems are making the work of the civil society organizations more difficult. In my opinion, the involvement of the young people in the democracy building process is more than essential because the youngsters will be the future citizens thus the future voters. The launch of democracy is connected with an active youth that defend and protect the Human Rights by thinking globally and acting locally.

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The Minorities and the Cyprus Problem.

In Cyprus, apart from the two major communities, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot there are three other recognized religious minorities, the Armenians, the Latins and the  Maronites. The Armenians are under the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Latins are under the Romeo-catholic church and the Maronites even though they recognized the Pope as their religious leader they have some differences with the Romeo-catholic church. The Maronites took their name from the “Saint Maronas”.

The Armenians came to Cyprus in the 578 AD. The Latins came between the 1191-1571. The Maronites came to Cyprus from Lebanon between the 8th and the 13th century. The Armenians, Latins and Maronites have a really important contribution to the economic, cultural and social life of the island. It should be mentioned that they have a really strong impact in the history of  Cyprus.According to the Constitution the three recognized minorities had to decide in which community they would like to belong, either to the Greek Cypriot or to the Turkish Cypriot which is against the “Minority Rights”. The above minorities chose to belong to the Greek Cypriot Community.

The educational system has never focused to the multicultural aspect of Cyprus. It is rarely mentioned  the  fact that the Minorities have a really important contribution to the culture of the island.  In the public schools the mainly taught religion is the Greek Orthodox religion, as a result, most of the Greek Cypriots students are completely ignorant about the context of the other religions.In the process of the discussions about the Cyprus problem the minorities who live in Cyprus have never been asked about the kind of the solution they want. In the process of the discussions is always emerging the nationalistic aspect of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriots Community without taking into account the needs and the opinion of the Minorities.

To sum up, I strongly believe that the two major communities should start getting know better the Minorities . Finally, I think that  it’s time to start engaging the Minorities in the discussions for the Cyprus problem.