#35 Fourth meeting of the AER Youth Regional Network

Still youth leaders or already politicians?

“Talking to politicians is like talking to God. It’s not possible,” said Reingard Spannring, one of the speakers during the plenary session on Tuesday. Facing the AER YRN Presidential elections, a significant question appears. Is it possible to talk with the candidates as with youth leaders, or are they already politicians? 

The AER YRN meeting in Croatia went ahead in an atmosphere of friendly competition between the three candidates running for the position of YRN president. “We can make a change for young people in Europe. What really makes me committed to this is that I think we have one of the best platforms for youth. Still we can reach further. I think we can and will define the youth politics of today and tomorrow,” said Olov Oskarsson after being elected for the presidency of the AER Youth Regional Network. Does it sound like a speech of a creative young leader, or rather resembles the rhetoric of Barack Obama?

“We engage in politics here, it’s not a secret,” said Michal Matlak, one of the candidates soon elected as vice president. Without hesitation, Michal admitted that his presidential campaign started even before the event. Facebook has become the main space to promote yourself, by inviting all the youth representatives from the European regions to your Facebook friends list, creating a fan page like “Michal Matlak for president of the Youth Regional Network of the AER” and publishing promo videos about the candidates. Then in Croatia we saw posters with faces of the candidates, had an opportunity to listen to their speeches and ask questions during a debate. Just before the voting took place, Olov Oskarsson presented a short video clip with pictures of himself and captions like “be yourself!”

Orange asked participants how they felt about the way candidates were trying to convince others to vote for them. Lisa Andersson, observer from Swedish organisation Yc3 said she had spoken with Olov and he didn‘t seem like a politician, but rather a person who is genuinely interested in youth issues. “They asked him at the debate: ‘If you are elected, what will you do?’ And he replied: ‘It’s up to the entire network, not only me!’ So he wasn‘t showing off and I find it a good answer,” Lisa said.

Others, like Jonathan Guillaume, representative of the city of Limoges in the French Limousine region, indicated that the tendency is to think of politics as a representation of countries. “But for me, politics is to think about our common future. So we engage in politics here, although I don’t belong to any political party,” he stated. Jonathan believes that the personal promotion campaigns of the candidates were somewhat dangerous. “We don’t have to use our image to justify our legitimacy. I’m talking about Olov’s movie or the posters of Michal. To represent the assembly, we should leave behind the image and present ideas,” Jonathan mentioned.

“It‘s small-scale politics. Most of the people who came to Donja Stubica are already engaged in local politics. I think it’s good, because we take our future in our own hands” Julie Sparvath Holmøy from the Norwegian Vestfold youth county council. “But then at night I see them relax and having fun. It shows we can do both: be young and be a politician,” she added.

By: Filip Jurzyk

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