Inaugural session of the European Student Assembly – Feedback from Circle U. students
The inaugural session of the European Student Assembly (ESA) took place on 3-4 March 2022 in Strasbourg, France. Lucas Cardoso da Silva (University of Oslo), Maxime Geerts (Université catholique de Louvain) and Katarina Tomašević (University of Belgrade) report.
The inaugural session consisted of a two-day conference gathering 275 students who were split into 10 panels, each debating on and coming up with solutions for challenges that Europe is facing nowadays, thus helping shape the future of Europe from a student perspective. This conference was part of the European Universities Community (EUC) project, initiated by students from European Universities Alliances to make the students' voices heard in the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Policy papers available online
By means of online meetings and the inaugural session in Strasbourg, this event led to 10 policy recommendation papers - one for each panel and unanimously voted by the assembly - that were sent to the European Commission and are now accessible on the platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Circle U. students who were selected to attend the event, participated in the following panels: “Learning from the pandemic – Do we need a European Health Union” and “Re-thinking democratic engagement in the digital age: How should the European democracy of tomorrow look like?”
Undoubtedly, from a student perspective, the ESA was a great moment of networking and friendship which, at the same time, allowed students to have quality debates, to learn or enhance their skills on advocacy and writing policy recommendations. Those different moments showed us how great it can be to share common goals with newly made friends from across the continent. Participation in events of this kind also makes us feel closer to European values and appreciate the ability to freely travel between countries. We feel we had a unique opportunity to share our best practices, our weaknesses, and our goals. We already plan to organise a similar event which will be student-led, more democratic, and representative.
Improvements to consider
The underlying rationale of this gathering is that it is a bottom-up initiative led by students. In this first edition, the assembly members were selected by the event’s organisers and candidates were selected on the basis of their resume, motivation and recommendation letters.
In our opinion, it would be useful to reflect on setting up a bottom-up, representative procedure. Of the 900 applicants, 275 were selected on the basis of their experience, whereas the establishment of an electoral process would ensure that members have a mandate by their peers – which, by relying on an electoral process - would give proper legitimacy to the assembly. The 10th panel proposed the creation of a European Student Parliament which would help tackle this issue. Another suggestion for improvement is to devote less time to speeches and more time for the students to share and talk about the project and their ideas. And perhaps also extend the duration of the event.