Antti Kuru, Sophia Scollo and Jere Artalahti
Our trip started on Wednesday, 11 December, just after 5.30 am when we met at Helsinki Airport. After only a few hours of sleep, our group headed for Brussels. When there, we visited the amazing House of European History and the European Parliament, where we met MEP Ville Niinistö of the Finnish Green League. We had prepared some questions for the meeting, which two members of our group, Oona Paloheimo and Oleg Arminen, presented.As it happened, we were there at an excellent time, as President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen was presenting her new Green deal at an extra plenary session of the Parliament. We were allowed to follow the first minutes of the plenary session, which was extremely interesting. In the afternoon, we continued towards Strasbourg by bus, which took almost seven hours. After the Euroscola Day in Strasbourg, we flew back to Finland via Frankfurt on Friday.
We spent the second day of our trip, Thursday, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. There, we participated in Euroscola, which is an event for young people, organised several times per year. Its aim is to provide EU nationals between the ages of 15 and 18 with a chance to learn about the operations of the Parliament and to discuss current political topics with other young people. Our school participated in Euroscola because we were previously selected as part of the European Parliament’s Ambassador School project.
Our Euroscola Day started with a security check in front of the European Parliament at 8 am, after which we received our name tags and schedules for the day. Around 10 am, we went to the plenary session hall, where we sat on the places of the MEPs. We were told about the operations of the European Parliament, and we were allowed to vote on some current topics, just like MEPs do. In addition, one or two students from each of the 19 countries which participated in Euroscola Day was allowed to tell the others about their school and country for about a minute. Our representatives, Julia Fogde and Terho Mutikainen, represented Tapiola upper secondary school and all of Finland beautifully in front of over 400 young people. After the plenary session, all students and teachers were served lunch.
After lunch, we were divided into six working groups to discuss different topics, such as the future of Europe, employment of young people, and the environment and renewable energies. Each working group had 60–70 young people from different countries. After this, we were divided further into smaller groups where we tried to come up with tangible proposals we could promote. The groups used English for communication, which made the discussions fun but also a bit difficult, because the level of English skills varied greatly. Due to the different backgrounds, the world views and opinions of the group members also varied. After only about half an hour of discussion, each small group presented its proposals, after which the working group voted for three of the best ones. These proposals were intended to be presented at the second plenary session of the day, at which all of us would eventually vote for or against the proposals. One member of our group did not participate in the working groups, as he followed the overall view as a reporter. Jalo Niinikangas posted funny and informative notes on social media throughout the day.
In the afternoon, two people selected from each working group presented the ideas of their group. It was amazing to see how fluently and naturally these young people spoke in front of the large audience. They had the spirit of future politicians. All but one of the six proposals were approved by the majority. After the votes, the day culminated in the Eurogame finals, in which the four-member teams consisted of four nationalities. Saara Vainio and Vlad Gheorghiu represented Tapiola in the finals. The day ended with a Finnish victory, as Vlad’s team won. Congratulations!
Our trip to Brussels, Strasboug and Frankfurt was truly a success. Particularly the day as an MEP was an interesting and unique experience. By far the best thing about the entire trip was meeting and talking to the other students from other countries. It was great to see how actively everyone participated in the discussions about EU topics and how they tried to come up with solutions for important political topics in cooperation.
Picture 1. The 24 students of the Tapiola upper secondary school Euroscola team, with teachers Kaarina Salo and Pia Liimatainen.
Picture 2. Oona Paloheimo and Oleg Arminen interviewed Member of the European Parliament Ville Niinistö in Brussels.
Picture 3. Strasbourg, the European Parliament, and a group of Finnish students bright and early on a December morning.
Picture 4. Lets vote! Students from the Tapiola upper secondary school as MEPs.
Picture 5. Our students Vlad Gheorghiu in the green team and Saara Vainio in the blue team of the Eurogame finals.
Text: Antti Kuru, Sophia Scollo and Jere Artalahti
Pictures: Pia Liimatainen