11 December 2019
Young progressive local and regional politicians are the ones to shape Europe’s future

Young progressive local and regional politicians are the ones to shape Europe’s future

School for young progressive local and regional leaders, 29-30 November 2019

Young, progressive, local leaders: this is what Europe needs! The two-day first edition of our School for young progressive local and regional  leaders showed the immense potential, enthusiasm, commitment and creative ideas of all these mayors, local and regional councillors. They need to be empowered to shape the sustainable future we need for our cities and regions. 

More than forty young local and regional leaders from all over Europe took part in an exciting programme, organised in cooperation with the Young European Socialists (YES) and the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament in Brussels (S&D Group). The aim was to debate on European politics with a wide range of inspiring speakers, exchange best practices and learn from each other.

On the School's first day, participants took part in a high-level discussion with, among others, Alícia Homs Ginel, Member of the European Parliament and YES President, Yoomi Renström, First Vice-President of the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions, Delphine Houba, Alderwoman of Culture and Tourism of the City of Brussels, and Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission.

To open the event, Alícia Homs stressed that “Young Social Democrats are best placed to address the main challenges of our time: fight the extreme right parties, tackle economic inequalities and address the climate emergency.”

Yoomi Renström underlined the need to build bridges between the EU and local levels as the key to a more progressive Europe:

Frans Timmermans focused on the role of cities and regions to put the Green New Deal into practice and on the need for a fair transition, which will leave no one behind.

Reporting about her own experience as a young politician in Brussels, Delphine Houba called for involving young people more in the political life at local level.

The School continued with two interactive workshops. The first one, called “From local democracy to European democracy”, discussed good practices on citizen’s involvement in towns and regions. It also debated on how to link local democracy to European democracy with Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions, Yves Dejaeghere, Professor at the University of Antwerp and G1000 member, and Elisa Lironi, Senior Manager European Democracy, European Citizens Action Service.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz stressed that “We need to make sure that there is a follow-up to the citizens’ dialogues we are carrying out at EU level. The views of citizens needs to have a real impact in the decision-making process at EU level”.

Elisa Lironi reminded us that rural areas in Europe are much marginalised. “The majority of our small towns need a better civil society organisation as well as people talking about EU issues directly at local level. The fact that people feel isolated is what ends in voting for populist movements”, she emphasised.

The second one, entitled “From #FridaysForFuture to local action”, provided ideas for concrete local climate actions, making citizens an active part of the solution. The key speakers were Umberto Costantini, Mayor of Spilamberto (Italy), Claire Roumet, Director of Energy Cities, and Antoni Vicens i Vicens, Director of External Relations of the Government of the Balearic Islands and Member of the European Committee of the Regions.

Umberto Costantini reported on how, under his mayorship, his municipality adopted a set of actions in order to reduce its ecological footprint.

Antoni Vicens i Vicens highlighted that “We need to change the focus from the individual to the collective. At local level, we can lead the way and act as a community.”

The School's second day was opened by Maria Freitas, Political Advisor at the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), who focused on tools to better involve and empower young people. 

Participants then took part in a series of workshops: one on the implementation of the SDG’s at local level with Laura Sparavigna, Local councillor of Florence (Italy), one on the use of EU funds for building a progressive city/region with Nicola De Michelis, Director at the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission, and one on influencing policies at European level as young councillor with Harun Muharemovic, councillor in Brøndby (Denmark), and Coordinator of YES Young City and Regional Councillors Network.

To conclude this rich week of events, the young politicians visited an Urban Farm project in Brussels and learned how European funds can contribute to sustainable agriculture. 

This week was an important step in our fight for a more progressive and sustainable Europe, which we can build only from the ground up with the ideas and energy of the many young progressive local and regional leaders who can make a small big difference!