On Thursday 27th September, TUI Group and TUI Stiftung organised apolicy breakfast in Brussels to discuss attitudes towards Europe by young people and which role exchange programmes can play. The discussion was based on some of the results of the latest TUI Stiftung’s European Youth Study. The study was published earlier this year and surveyed about 6000 young Europeans (16 to 26 years) in France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK.
An interested audience of participants from the European institutions, academia, think tanks, education organisations and tourism professionals gathered in TUI’s Brussels office, to discuss key results of the TUI Stiftung’s study, and more particularly “How do young adults today value Europe and democracy, and what is the role of exchange programmes?”. Giorgio Guazzugli-Marini, Acting Head of Unit for Erasmus+ Coordination in DG EAC, European Commission, joined this discussion and gave insights into the further development of the Erasmus+ programme.
The event was opened by Dr. Ralf Pastleitner, Director of International Public Policy and EU Affairs, Head of the EU Corporate Office, who briefly presented the background of the event and the speakers. He then handed over to Elke Hlawatschek, Managing Director of the TUI Stiftung, who introduced the organization and the origin and history of its European Youth Study.
The first keynote speaker, Marcus Spittler, Research Fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, who worked with the foundation and research institute YouGov on the design of the study and the interpretation of results, highlighted key results and data relating to democracy and the rise of populism in young Europeans.
Presentations of Elke Hlawatschek and Marcus Spittler are available here. These are some of their key findings presented during the policy breakfast:
- in 2018, young Europeans have a more positive attitude towards Europa than in 2017
- the most important tasks of the EU are (according to young Europeans) fighting terrorism and protecting the environment
- almost two out of three think that democracy is the best form of government
- a vast majority of young people demands change – one out of four even supports radical change
- young Europeans with populist attitudes wish for a different type of democracy and are more likely to give up on essential constituents of democracy
- young British participate below average in exchange programs
- higher educated Europeans are more likely to take part in exchange programmes
- participants in exchange programmes identify stronger with Europe and show stronger support for the EU.
Following these results, Giorgio Guazzugli-Marini, Acting Head of Unit for Erasmus+ Coordination in DG EAC, European Commission, outlined the European Commission’s ambitions with the new Erasmus+ programme, including the programme’s increased budget and expected reach for the period 2021-2027 and the role it plays in shaping young people’s personal and professional development. He also stressed the importance of private companies engaging in this field, and the potential for collaboration with the EU to expand the reach of Erasmus+.
Opening the floor for questions, Dr. Ralf Pastleitner asked the two keynote speakers to comment on the discrepancy outlined by the study between the relatively high approval of the EU membership across Europe and the low trust in EU and its institutions. Speakers responded by remarking that while trust in the EU was lower than approval of membership, respondents still trusted the EU more than their national governments.
Attendees then engaged in a lively discussion and commented on key results of the study. Participants asked the keynote speakers about how the EU can better promote its positive impacts, such as exchange programmes, the Euro, making travel easier and the elimination of roaming, with speakers agreeing these aspects could be better communicated to citizens. Participants also discussed the need for the EU to continue working together with non-government players to further expand the reach of programmes like Erasmus+, something Mr. Guazzugli-Marini said will become more of a focus in the coming years.
This event served as a great first introduction of the TUI Stiftung’s European Youth Study to the Brussels audience. A larger-scale event, focusing on how the key findings of the study could inform electoral strategies in the framework of the European elections of May 2019 is planned for later this year.