MAASTRICHT. “Let´s youth up Europe!” It is the slogan of this year’s YO!Fest, the annual political festival which celebrated 25 years of the Maastricht Treaty this year. The eighth edition of the event, held at the Sphinxkwartier, is a festival combining forces of the City of Maastricht, the Province of Limburg and the European Youth Forum. Together they aim at opening the dialogue with Europe’s youth, creating a new vision for Europe using the expectations and imagination of today’s youngsters. While the YO!Fest took place in Maastricht at the 6th and 7th of February, similar events were taking place all over Europe.
Even though there seemed to be a little less people at the opening than expected, the young people who were present seemed to be very interested in the topic, engaging passionately in discussions on for example inclusion, sustainability and education over the course of the next day. Dennis Katwal, a first-year UCM-student, was convinced of the good-will expressed by those attending the event: “There is no lack of ideas, but there is a lack of concrete implementation. It is good to see that an event like this attempts to close the divide between those who implement policies, and those who come up with the ideas: us.” Even though it seems some of those invited for the plenary session do seem to take this advice to heart, others continue with the familiar political speech, leaving it open to the public of how the ideas brought up in the workshops could be made concrete.
The event called out to European youth to bring in their ideas and to brainstorm about the future of Europe. That was exactly what the workshops on Tuesday were about: six different themes addressed the different challenges that Europe currently faces. The many speeches during the two days all expressed the same ideal: facilitating a bottom-up dialogue, solving Europe’s problems with the same spirit as when the Treaty of Maastricht was signed. As a representative of the European Youth Forum said during the opening speech: “The challenges we have today lead to different situations, which in turn lead to change. The European Youth need to be part of the conversation, because they are the ones doing the change.” The vice mayor of Maastricht had a similar message, calling out for a Maastricht Treaty 2.0.
Besides the workshops and lectures, there were many more activities to attend: clothes swapping, rowing try-out, guest speakers, a movie and many more. The Muziekgieterij was one of the venues that joined the event, and it hosted performances of regional bands until deep in the night. The underground atmosphere that surrounded the concerts seemed to be focussed on attracting the students, making the forum as accessible as possible.
It only seems fair that the proposals created at YO!Fest will be discussed in Strasbourg. The question remains, however, whether any of these ideas will make it to the next stage: the one that was this event’s reason for existence –cooperation through crossborder policy making.