Blog: Fighting for democracy in Prague – Youth for the Revitalisation of Democracy
Between 10 and 13 July, more than 100 young people from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and some EU countries met in the historic city of Prague for the 4th Eastern Partnership Youth Conference – Youth for Revitalisation of Democracy. For three days, experiences were shared and strategies for promoting democracy, freedom, and justice in the EaP region were debated, in order to ensure its stable, prosperous, democratic future, and, above all, demand that youth is given a more prominent role in the formal decision-making process.
The Eastern Partnership countries are witnessing a worrying degree of democratic backsliding and retrenchment. And, although young people have been fighting for democracy across the EaP region, their power and needs are often deprioritised or even invisible during crises. The main objective of this event was to discover methods, strategies, and tools to improve inclusive and meaningful youth participation in democratic processes and foster active youth involvement in decision-making and in building resilient societies, together with peers from the Eastern Partnership countries and the EU.
Across the EaP region and the EU, youth have been at the forefront of both spontaneous and organised humanitarian aid efforts, to tend to the needs of Ukrainian refugees. At a time when democracy in Europe faces a threat more menacing than ever, it is essential that we trust in the ability of young people to tackle the problems, young people who have repeatedly proven to be key players in building more democratic, peaceful, and resilient societies. They must be included as agents of change, agenda setters, and equal participants in decision-making at the national and European levels, including through the channels created by the Eastern Partnership framework.
It is impossible to remain indifferent after hearing the stories of young Belarusian and Ukrainian students whose families have lived on the other side of the Iron Curtain and who now see, once again, their countries falling victim to an imperialist reverie that attacks the most basic foundations of democracy. These stories of courage and hope live on in the legacy of resistance that today’s youth carry.
History is information. Memory is part of our identity. Prague saw up close the Soviet terror and the tanks bursting through its avenues. Having the opportunity to hear the testimonies directly from young people fighting for freedom in their countries on the streets of the Czech capital was an overwhelming experience. The messages on the Lennon Wall are of hope, but it is not enough to hope for a better future. We must fight for it and not let others decide for us. History may contribute to the world’s disenchantment, but we should never forget it, for, without it, we are doomed.
We often talk about the “leaders of tomorrow”, but the truth is that if we do not act today, it may be too late for a worthy tomorrow. As Chinua Achebe said, “A functioning, robust democracy requires a healthy, educated, participatory followership, and an educated, morally grounded leadership”.
This website is managed by the EU-funded Regional Communication Programme for the Eastern Neighbourhood ('EU NEIGHBOURS east’), which complements and supports the communication of the Delegations of the European Union in the Eastern partner countries, and works under the guidance of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and the European External Action Service. EU NEIGHBOURS east is implemented by a B&S Europe-led consortium. It is part of the larger Neighbourhood Communication Programme (2020-2024) for the EU's Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood, which also includes 'EU NEIGHBOURS south’ project that runs the EU Neighbours portal.