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“The EU has to work on getting young people to feel connected again”

MAASTRICHT. A standardized post-traumatic stress syndrome test for refugees and a birthday card from the EU for 18-year-olds. These are two of the proposals that came out of Student Forum Maastricht, a student conference about European policies in Brussels that was held from 13 until 17 April. All proposals will be presented to European Commission representatives.

Over five days, the 37 attending students (from all over the world – mostly Europe) met in groups to discuss four themes supplied by a representative of the European Commission. Student Forum Maastricht was held at the UM Campus in Brussels, not long after the terrorist attacks on 22 March. “We thought that now more than ever we had to go to Brussels,” says coordinator and European Studies student Verena Riedmiller. “We couldn’t afford to be scared to go to the European capital.”

The standardized post-traumatic stress syndrome test came out of the sleeve of the Public Health group. “The European Union could help with drafting and translating the test for all member states. That makes it easier to set a diagnosis and integrate refugees in their new country’s health care system”, says content manager Ester Juan Gimeno. Other ideas included a certificate for gender-friendly companies and a new way of donating money to developing countries.

A hot topic throughout the conference was the engagement of especially young people in the European Union. The group that worked on this theme came up with a birthday card from the EU for 18-year-olds and travel vouchers. “One of the biggest advantages of the EU is the Schengen treaty, which allows us to travel freely between member states”, says Riedmiller. “With the vouchers we want to point this out and also give youngsters who haven’t had the chance before the opportunity to travel. The birthday card is a reminder of the fact that you can now vote and be involved in European politics.”

But it wasn’t just the work group that discussed it. “We realized that we’re an elitist group. So many people are disconnected from the EU. This makes sense. How can you trust an organisation that is so big that you can’t see how it’s structured or what it actually does? Even for us, European Studies students, it is sometimes hard to understand what committee does what exactly. This is something the EU has to work on.” The Student Forum also wants to play its part. “But we’re too small. That’s why we will team up with partners such as the European Student Think Tank and the 1989 Generation Initiative to get more knowledge and discussion about the EU to a broader audience.”

The work sessions, talks with experts and debates led to four policy proposals. “We’re now editing those into reports, which we will give to the EC representative,” says coordinator Verena Riedmiller. “Hopefully we’ll also get a chance to present the proposals in person to the Commission. Last year, this happened with one of the policies, now we’re aiming for all four.”

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