European Youth Parliament Rotterdam
European Youth Parliament Rotterdam International Session 2018: An incredible, eye-opening and life-changing experience
My first ever experience with European Youth Parliament (EYP) was in TY when I participated in the regional Munster session. How EYP works is, before the session, you are allocated a topic to debate, based on your personal preferences. When you arrive at the session, there is at least 1 day of team-building - a chance for you to get to know the names of all of your fellow committee members and also to start to form friendships. Then there is at least one day of committee work (the length again varies on the length of the session) - this is where we express our views on our topic with our new committee family and work together to write a resolution. This is followed by a day of General Assembly, where the resolution for every committee is debated on and voted for or against.
I was privileged enough to be asked to attend Rotterdam 2018 - the flagship International Session for EYP 2018. Every year, there are three International Sessions throughout Europe, with the autumn one being deemed the ‘flagship’ for the year.
On the 13th of October, fellow delegate Andrew and I (not wanting to make an unnecessary trip to Dublin) flew out of Cork airport. We arrived at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam at 9am, rearing to go explore the city for the day, before we would meet the rest of the Irish delegation and travel to Rotterdam together. The only slight problem with this was our bags. Or rather - our lack of bags. Yet if there was one thing I learned on that trip, is there’s no point arguing with an EYPer! Within 10 minutes, Aer Lingus had been rung and compensation had been assured! Our whistle-stop tour of Amsterdam was amazing. We saw the Van Gogh museum in the Museumplein, followed by frantic shopping for the essentials, given that we had no idea when our bags would arrive! After running to a non-existent bus stop, and a flat-out sprint to the train station, it was such a relief to meet the other people in the Irish delegation and get on our final bus of the day to Rotterdam. There were eight of us in total, from all corners of Ireland. I can honestly say that it was incredible how quickly these near to total strangers soon became like my family - always ready for tea and chats at the end of a long day!
The biggest difference between an International Session and a Regional Session - aside from being in another country and all the perks associated with that - the length. In this case the session lasted 8 days, starting with 1 full day of team-building. We started the day not knowing anyone’s names and no one knowing ours (most definitely not helped by the fact I became such good friends with a girl from Liverpool called Katie - and Cathy and Katie are hard names to distinguish between for someone whose first language is Azerbaijani!) and by the end of the day, we had made friendships that I know I will always cherish. I was a member of the AFCO committee - the committee on constitutional affairs. Our resolution was on the topic of the separation of church and state and what stance the European Parliament should take on the issue of religious involvement in state governments, especially considering the diverse nature of EU member states, and the increasing number of minority religions entering the EU in recent years. Given how controversial a topic religion tends to be, we were all anxious as the General Assembly (GA) approached - but up for the challenge! Personally, I was nervous for committee work, as with moral topics, if people have fundamentally contrasting views, it’s hard enough to get anywhere! We spent three days debating the topic, defining the issue and putting together our resolution.
Before the GA day, we had a free day off to explore Rotterdam, where my new found friends and I got to see the beauty of Europe’s biggest seaport - from the sea! It was a fantastic day out followed by an Irish delegation dinner, one of the highlights of my trip! I was so lucky to not only make amazing friends over there, but to travel with such incredible people in the Irish delegation.
Our last days of the session were General Assembly days, where all the resolutions were debated and voted on. It was held in a stunning deconsecrated church on the outskirts of the city - rather ironic that my topic was the separation of church and state, being debated at a political conference, in an old church! With the luck of the draw, my resolution was picked first. I was voted by my committee to deliver the summation speech, which is the last speech of the debate, were you urge all fellow delegates to vote in favour of your resolution. It passed by a big majority which was the perfect end to an amazing few days.
I’ll never be able to thank EYP Ireland enough for this amazing opportunity to see the world in such a different light and make so many new friends. A huge thanks as well to the school (with a special mention for Ms Dunne for coordinating EYP in the school) for letting me miss a week of 6th year to go and follow my dreams!
- By Cathy Hynes, 6A1