Shaping Europe’s Future: Young voices on the European Elections

From 1st to 4th July, I attended the Jacques Delors Agora in Lisbon, where I engaged in discussions on key topics shaping contemporary political discourse about the future of the EU. These topics included the green and digital transition, economic growth and strategic competitiveness, and defence and security in an increasingly multipolar world.

Senior officials such as Enrico Letta, who recently published a report titled “Much More Than a Market,” which outlines a series of ambitious recommendations to drive the EU forward, was in attendance as the President of the Jacques Delors Institute. Additional speakers included Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy between 2014 and 2019; Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission; and Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, to name only a few.

Backdrop of the European Elections

Questions about the direction of the EU are particularly pertinent this summer against the backdrop of the European elections held from 6th to 9th June, which saw a rise in far-right influence, although notably, the centre-ground held strong. On Monday, a new far-right political group called ‘The Patriots of Europe’ was established, largely driven by the Eurosceptic Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán. This is expected to further shake up the European Parliament and includes Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), which made seismic gains in France during the European elections.

With this in mind, I sensed cynicism about politics among many young, politically engaged Europeans, interwoven with our natural energy, enthusiasm, and instinct for optimism to build a better future. The Agora served not only as a forum for dialogue but also as a call to action for Europe’s next generation of leaders.

Climate Change and Sustainability

A prominent theme at the Agora was the urgent need for robust climate action. Young activists passionately advocated for more ambitious EU policies to combat climate change, emphasising the importance of sustainable development and their broad support for the European Green Deal. Workshops and panel discussions highlighted innovative solutions, from green technologies to circular economies, showcasing that the creativity and commitment of Europe’s youth to the green transition appears unshaken.

Social Inclusion, Equality and Opportunity

The Agora addressed social challenges, focusing on strategies to promote inclusion and equality across the EU. Young thinkers shared their visions for a more just and equitable Europe, advocating for policies that address disparities in education, employment, and healthcare. The discussions underscored the need for solidarity and collective action to build a more cohesive society. European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, highlighted the role of EU cohesion and social policy in levelling up access to opportunities for young people across Europe. Many young people from southern, central, and eastern Europe often must move to access job opportunities, regarding which the Commissioner stated that while people have the right to move, they should also “have the right to stay” in their home country should they choose.

Economic Growth and Global Cooperation

Economic issues were another critical area of discussion, with participants exploring ways to enhance the EU’s economic resilience and “competitiveness,” which has become a bit of a buzzword in Brussels circles over the past 18 months or so as the bloc struggled with stagnant growth and relatively high inflation. I argued that the EU must foster fair trade practices, such as through its Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), which will take full effect in 2026, including closely collaborating with strategic allies such as the UK, which will introduce its CBAM one year later in 2027. Additionally, I argued for the urgent need to deepen the EU’s Capital Markets Union to open access to private money and improve liquidity, as frankly, EU capital markets are nowhere near as good as those in the US and UK.

The Power of Youth Engagement

The Jacques Delors Agora in Lisbon was a powerful testament to the potential of Europe’s young people to influence the EU’s trajectory. By bringing together bright minds and passionate activists, the event created fertile ground for innovative ideas and collaborative solutions. As Europe faces an array of challenges and opportunities, the insights and recommendations generated at the Agora will undoubtedly play a vital role in shaping the EU’s future. The event stands as a reminder that the active involvement of young people is not just beneficial but essential for building a resilient, inclusive, and forward-thinking Europe.