Club de Madrid (CdM) – an independent, non-partisan, non-profit body promoting democracy and change – organised a series of intergenerational dialogue sessions between former heads of state and government and youth representatives. The aim of these sessions was to assist in navigating the green and digital transformations that Europe needs to address.
CdM members used their convening power, experience and knowledge to build bridges and bring young people closer to the European institutions and the policy-making process. The ideas proposed by youth introduced a fresh perspective to the debate, which explored the reforms and transformations Europe needs undertake in order to meet their expectations for digitalisation and sustainability. The discussions helped identify proposals to ensure digital sovereignty, through the creation of a ‘digital single market’, and to speed up implementation of the European Green Deal. The CdM and the youth representatives also discussed the need for a new social contract, one capable of responding to a new reality with social justice and equity. The outcomes of these dialogues formed part of the CdM contribution to the ‘Conference on the Future of Europe’.
The activities were organised within the framework of the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union. They also had the backing of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation as well as the participation of the Government of Portugal. Civil society organisation Equipo Europa and the European think tank ‘Friends of Europe’ also provided support.
Each dialogue session consisted of one member of the CdM and up to 15 youth representatives. Equipo Europa and Friends of Europe selected representatives from the different regions of Spain as well as from the rest of Europe.
During these sessions, the youth representatives shared their vision for the future of Europe and made specific proposals on how to advance the EU’s digital and green agendas.
The Conference on the Future of Europe, along with the European foresight efforts following the pandemic, created a unique opportunity to reinforce the EU. It opened up the possibility for an in-depth debate on what citizens truly wanted from the Union. Under the leadership of its President, Danilo Türk, the CdM organised a series of consultations, dialogues and discussions to formulate recommendations and to commit to a number of specific initiatives. These would inform the advocacy and programmatic efforts of the organisation for 2021.
These included the future of European strategic autonomy, the EU’s digital and green transformations and the strengthening of European citizenship and fundamental values. Our exchanges brought together the political and experienced perspectives of CdM Members from across Europe, the practical experience of political leaders from the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union, the Spanish Government and the European Commission. It also heard the aspirations and vision of civil society representatives and youth leaders from European think tank Friends of Europe as well as the youth organisation Equipo Europa.
Building on this experience, CdM organised, in September 2021, a cycle of intergenerational dialogue between its members and youth representatives. This set out to explore the future of Europe, with an emphasis on the green and digital transitions. The young people involved brought fresh perspectives to the debate on the reforms and transformations that Europe needs make if it is to meet their hopes and expectations for a bright, secure future.
These intergenerational dialogues were an opportunity for these young participants to influence the policy-making process, by accessing and engaging with our members and other high-ranking political figures. This allowed for informal conversations and interdisciplinary dialogues, and helped the young people to develop their skills in different areas via the direct support of older civil servants.
The main output of this Cycle of Dialogues was a detailed report of realistic and concrete conclusions and proposals. These captured the experience and political legacy and concrete proposals of CdM Members, the aspirations of the young participants and the vision of the experts and Member State representatives who had taken part.
A set of recommendations resulting from intergenerational dialogues
The recovery process from the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to reinforce the European Union and restore citizens´ trust in European institutions. It builds on the important role that the Conference on the Future of Europe will play.
Youth visions and ambitions channelled into the Conference on the Future of Europe
The near future will challenge the lives of many European citizens who will struggle to adapt themselves to the new paradigm. For this reason, Europe will need a social contract capable of responding to a new reality; one that is already very disruptive. Opportunities will be conditioned by people’s abilities to adapt to this new reality, so the institutions and the Member States should not spare any effort in support those most affected by the shift to a green and digital economy. At the same time, they must pay particular attention to ensuring social justice and equity.