Ukrainian youth plays European Parliament

Mariam Kunchuliya of Zaporizhya is studying history at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Working on her third year of studies, she also holds the position of Vice-President of PR at the European Youth Parliament (EYP), an all-European youth-led organisation.

“I wanted to know how the EU works and how European practices can work in Ukraine,” explains Kunchuliya, when asked why she joined EYP. “Organisations like the European Youth Parliament can help provide answers to what the European Union really is.”

The EYP started with two teachers in France. In 1987, they created a model EU Parliament for their pupils, similar to the UN model often used. The students liked it, and other schools and cities soon joined in. With time, the European Youth Parliament expanded into other countries. EYP national committees now function in 40 countries across Europe, including Ukraine.

How does EYP cooperate with EU institutions, and especially with the European Parliament?

The EU supports the EYP national committees of EU member states with funding under Erasmus+. Members of the EU parliament often take the floor at our international sessions. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission, are members of the EYP honoured committee.

What is EYP all about?

All our activities are about informal education. We organise sessions to model the work of the European Parliament, discuss different EU policies, find problems to solve, and suggest solutions.  These solutions are formulated into resolutions and voted on at the general assemblies.

It may sound very serious, but our sessions are always fun. There are students from all over Europe at each EYP session in each country. It’s a great cultural experience.

Does the “real” European Parliament read your resolutions?

The main goal of forming our resolutions is learning, but the European Parliament does consider the resolutions from international sessions. I even heard about one case in which a provision of an EYP resolution was adopted in Brussels.

EYP is not only about official meetings. We also have many teambuilding sessions where we do crazy activities like sing EYP songs and play games. Other people may find it weird. When I participated in an EYP session for the first time I found it so unusual that I thought it was a cult. Sometimes, I still think the police will come [laughs].

Last year, we had a teambuilding session on Khreschatyk street. We were playing our traditional energizer game “Alele,” which ends up with people laying on the ground shouting “allele kita bonga!”

Though they may seem strange at first, these kinds of exercises help build a strong team. They help foster a more fruitful and friendly atmosphere during committee work. Delegates at the committees normally debate quite a lot, so teambuilding helps relax the atmosphere.

One of my favourite EYP events is Eurovillage, when everyone brings something tasty from their homeland. Euroconcert is also very interesting – EYP-ers dance, play songs, and put on shows.

What benefits come with being an EYP-er?

I guess the main benefit is making friends from all over Europe. EYP is like a big family: you can visit your peers in every country. It is an interesting cultural experience.

Of course, your English skills improve a lot. It’s impossible not to improve, because all the EYP communications are in the official EU working languages of English and French. The majority of people speak English. When our current president joined the EYP he only spoke English at the level of, “London is the capital of Great Britain.” Now he’s one of the most fluent English-speakers among us.

EYP provides many opportunities for development. The main office in Berlin frequently holds training sessions for EYP members on project management, communications, journalism, etc. We also hold such trainings every two months in Ukraine. EYPers can choose what they want to do:  debate on resolutions as a delegate, organise events, do PR, or report on events as a journalist.

EYP also often helps young people find their first jobs. We regularly share interesting job opportunities in our Facebook group, and EYP alumni very often hire younger EYP-ers.

It’s much easier to travel when participating in EYP sessions. Participation fees for foreign sessions cost only about €40. The EYP covers living expenses and meals during a session, which can last up to five days. If you are selected as a chairperson, journalist, or president, participation is totally free of charge. Sometimes EYP-ers also get travel reimbursement.

How many countries have you visited with EYP?

I have traveled to Luxemburg, Belgium, Finland, Georgia, Armenia, and Estonia. I also organised many sessions in Ukraine.

What does EYP-Ukraine do?

In the near future, we will be holding regional sessions in Vinnytsia, Odesa and Kyiv. In early July, we are planning a national session in Kharkiv, and sometime this summer we will be holding a training camp in the Carpathians. We also visit schools to teach students about EU history and institutions as a part of our “Understanding Europe” project.

Who can join European Youth Parliament?

New participants are welcome! We’re always happy to have newcomers. Our committee has the goal of expanding across the country.

Ideally, you should be a high school student or junior university student. The majority of EYPers are around 16-20 years old.  But EYP participation is not limited to that age range. Some of our members are up to 28 years old.

To join us, you should take part in one of our events. You can follow EYP Ukraine on Facebook and vkontakte. A lot of information is also on our website: http://eyp-ua.org.

One may think EYP is only for the elite since not everyone can afford such frequent travel…

That is a misconception. We travel a lot because it’s really cheap with EYP. The majority of our expenses are covered during sessions.