On 8-9 May 2021, active Ukrainian undergraduate students tried themselves as Members of the European Parliament at the online ‘Europe Day Model of the European Parliament’ event, organised by the ‘Young European Ambassadors’ initiative in Ukraine in cooperation with the students’ union ‘Politclub UCU’. The dates of the activity were picked well in advance to highlight the importance of Europe Day which is celebrated by the European Union’s (the EU’s) Member States on 9 May. This day marks the anniversary of the historic Schuman Declaration and importance of peace, cooperation and mutual understanding between countries.
The ‘Europe Day Model of the European Parliament’ activity was an interactive simulation of the work of the European Parliament aimed to provide Ukrainian young people with an insight into the operation of the EU’s institutions, develop their soft skills and leadership capacities, project and crisis management traits, and unite young Ukrainian leaders in one strong network of people working together for the benefit of developing their country. The event consisted out of two main elements: educational and practical parts.
The opening ceremony of the modelling took place on 8 May with the participation of a prominent German diplomat, the Member of the European Parliament, Michael Gahler. He has a significant experience in both serving as the Member of the European Parliament (since 1999) and working with the issue of EU-Ukraine cooperation. Michael Gahler emphasized the EU’s unbreakable support to Ukraine and shred with the participants of the activity some thoughts on his professional experience as a Member of the European Parliament, the challenges that the European Parliament and the EU face, and the opportunities for their development.
During the first day the participants took part in three online 1-hour expert talks. In particular, they joined the following sessions:
- Expert talk on the history of the European Union and its institutions by Marianna Fakhurdinova, the Young European Ambassador, a research fellow at the analytical centre ‘New Europe’
- Expert talk on the EU-Ukraine relations by Kateryna Martyniuk, the Young European Ambassador, MA ‘International Communications’ at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
- Expert talk on the opportunities for youth created by the European Union by Viktoriia Onykiienko, Nadiia Symonenko, Anna Dovha, Bohdna Mysyk and Volodymyr Vasechko, who are the Young European Ambassadors and participants of different EU-funded youth projects and programmes
The simulation (practical part of the event) started on the first day (on 8 May) with the main part held on a second day (on 9 May). During the first day, participants learned more about the practical arrangements of the work of the European Parliament, its Committees, and procedures. During the second day, they were actively engaged in discussions, developing their positions and preparing the presentation of the results of the work of their Committees. This part of the activity was declared by the participants to be the most engaging and interesting one. “We were making decisions by consensus — we started exchanging experience in writing such documents, then just shared roles and started to work, and help each other! I am really proud to meet those people…” — that’s how one of them describes the Committees work sessions. Seven Committees consisting out of six people were created each working on one of the following topics:
- the new strategy of EU’s cooperation with the Eastern partner countries
- the implementation of the European Green Deal
- the youth employment in times of COVID-19
- the challenges of migration processes
- the introduction of mandatory gender quotas
- the globalisation influence on national identity
- the cooperation between MNC and governmental institutions
It should be noted that nearly 200 students from different regions of Ukraine (Kyiv, Lviv, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Odessa, Dnipro and many others) applied for participation in the modelling. Thus, it was a real challenge for the team responsible for the activity to select only 42 participants. They were selected according to their motivation letter and the level of general competence on the topic. Most of the participants selected were 1-3 year students of the International Relations, Political Science, or Law university programs.
At the end of the second day (on 9 May) the participants presented the results of their work (resolutions), which were put on the voting afterward. The voting was made by the ‘raised hand’ principle: a resolution was adapted when 2/3 of present Members of the Parliament supported it. Five out of seven resolutions developed were adopted. As one of the participants said, “That was just a great experience. To tell the thrust, it was my first event like this and I had wonderful teammates, we all did just a great job!”
So, what made this project this special? Despite the online format, the organizers tried to make the experience as real as possible, sharing some tips on lobbyism, creating alliances, etc. Besides the educational and practical parts, participants also took part in dynamic networking sessions, team building activities, informal communication, and Kahoots quizes. ”I attended a lot of different events, and sometimes all these activities are the same, but during this conference, your activities were super engaging and even new for me, so thank you again for your creativity!!!” — that’s how one of the participants commented the informal part of the event.
All participants of the ‘Europe Day Model of the European Parliament’ activity got present sets from the ‘Young European Ambassadors’ initiative and a certificate of participation at the end.
The event has formally ended, but the participants still keep in touch with each other through the Telegram chat created during the activity and share their feedbacks:
‘I expected from this event a huge simulation, and believe me, it was even more incredible than I expected before. Besides debates, we received enormous amount of important information about EU, cooperation with Ukraine, project for youth etc. I get new acquaintances for sure, and this two days were so saturated, so I feel satisfied a lot!!! Not tired to say huge thanks for all organizers again and again, because all their efforts worth it!!!’
‘I didn't know what to expect because I've never participated in such models before. And I was impressed! All the activities were extremely useful and engaging, and now I have a better understanding of the EU and the EU institutions. Also I have met very active people willing to learn and develop, I think its great! Thank you for all the events that you organise, they are all extremely interesting, practical and useful! ♥️🌟’
‘Everything that I expected I expirienced. All my hopes for a great time and motivation emotions have come true. It was a great experience.’
‘Honestly, this was my first experience in such a model. I have not participated in similar events before. Therefore, my expectations were high and they were completely met! Thank you for such a valuable experience!’
‘These were extremely useful lectures. It is very difficult for students to find these initiatives on their own, so mostly we find the most advertised on the Internet. I have long heard about Erasmus+ but how exactly to apply and about the countries for exchange that are available to me, it was difficult for me to understand. Thanks to you, I know everything I need now. All I have to do is contact the university to check! Also, you have shown us new projects and opportunities that I have never heard of before. And I will definitely try them! Thank you!’