Thursday, January 19, 2012

JEF Netherlands - Exciting Times

I wanted to share with you all a week of teaching I was part of in November of last year. JEF was involved in a project called Young Ideas for Europe. We engaged with a 'high' school in Den Haag and presented them with the challenge to come up with political manifestos on the topics of climate change. This project aimed to educate the kids about the EU, climate change policy on a local, national and EU level, and to get them engaged in the working of the Institutions that are so oft derided. 

JEF is a relatively young organisation in the Netherlands, however they were here many years before so we are really in a phase of rejuvenation and resurrection. Europe needs mascots and standard bearers at this difficult time. Brussels is blamed all too easily for failures that are far more systemic or ingrained in the Member States themselves. JEF provides a platform for young people to get involved, grab hold of some idealism and work towards greater integration throughout the Union.

JEF has a strong platform for innovation and reform for the EU, although I'm not sold on  total Federalism myself, that is not say I don't support closer integration, in fact I'm all for it, without vehicles like JEF, change will only be negative and regressive. If you want peace and stability in Europe, then look no further than its greatest success story: The European Union.

Here is the report into the week:

Young Ideas for Europe 14-18 November 2011: 
Venue: Zandvliet College Den Haag, The Netherlands in Association with JEF Netherlands
JEF Netherlands landed its first major success of the year with its participation in the Young Ideas for Europe (YIfE) project in cooperation with IFOK, Berlin. This year, the focus on the project was on ‘New Energy for Europe’, encompassing policy and technological innovations. 
Merian Lelieveld, Matthew Barker and Osiris Hoepel represented JEF Netherlands and ran the weeks’ events giving classes and facilitating expert speakers to a group of enthusiastic 14-15 year old college students from The Hague. We would like to thank Rita Kwint, project coordinator of the Zandvliet College for her great support and assistance throughout the preparation phase and during the project week.
The aim of the week was to expose youngsters to the workings of the European Institutions and as to what problems are facing the whole of the region with special focus on energy. The students learned about megatrends such as energy security, globalization and sustainability. From this knowledge they were free to form their own opinions as to what problems are faced locally, through to a pan European and also a global level. We encouraged the students to think as freely and as creatively as possible in an effort to come up with alternative solutions. Every day they shared their ideas and thoughts with a partner school. Zandvliet College shared with Staatliche Rötlein-Regelschule, based in Zuelenroda-Triebes, Germany using Skype, this was a valuable tool for both sets of students, and gave many laughs when confronting stereotypes and learning from each other in a positive, constructive manner.
Expert Presentations
Midweek saw the arrival of our first guest speaker, Mr. Tobias Dander an energy and climate expert from the Dutch political party D66. In the presentation, he spoke of Europe’s 2020:20 drive and the specific measures which The Hague is implementing. The students asked him probing questions at the end, and a sense that something tangible was being achieved pervaded amongst the students - The Hague leads the way in the Netherlands in its attempts to cut green house emissions, in particular that of CO₂. The following day saw a more sustained set of presentations, hosted by the Huis van Europa, next to the Binnenhof in the centre of The Hague. The day kicked off with a presentation by Leonie Meulman from the Clingendael Instituut. This is an NGO acting independently for other NGOs, government and the private sector. They provide research papers for the provision of energy and the impact it has locally on the environment and society. Closely followed was a discussion by Henry Terlouw who represented the Municipality of The Hague. Last but certainly not least was a technical presentation by Otto Bernsen from the Dutch Agency on Energy and Climate, he gave a valuable insight into Dutch energy policy and interesting comparisons between the Netherlands and other EU Member States. 
Down To Business
The final two days were taken up by letting the students loose with political parties. They were split up into four political groupings, Liberals; Socialists; Christian Democrats and; Greens. Here we encouraged the students to think differently, along a prescribed political platform, taking them out of their own opinions and thus out of their comfort zone, they excelled and really thought uniquely and intelligently through the issues surrounding their proposed policies. Of particular highlight was the Green’s very own party name: The Dutch Tree Huggers, an excellent reference as to their intentions - their policies were equally unwavering in their ideological zeal! If that was not enough, we also had a press corps who saw to it that nothing was missed on the day of presentation and our very own spin doctor, who schmoozed his way round the candidates with aplomb, dishing out well needed criticisms and ensuring every party was at their maximum potential. 
As a final bow out, Tobias Dander of D66 returned for the electioneering day hosted by the College and its Headmaster Mr. den Hijer. The students took it in turns to present their policies and manifestos to a crowd peppered with parents, students and teachers. The receptive audience was then asked to give their views on different political ideologies in a physical division. Opinions were split over how energy policy should be conducted, how much of a role the state must play, and ultimately who should pay the bill to ensure our energy supplies. There were no ‘silver bullet’ answers, but divisions ran deep and made for interesting observation. Finally we were ready to vote, in a close run battle the Liberals ran out triumphant with a two vote advantage over their nearest rivals!
Final Thoughts
The week was entertaining, hard work and hugely rewarding, not just from our perspective, but also the students’. A great boost for JEF here in the Netherlands, we have been invited back to organize a similar event next year, with the possibility of the school partaking in other events in the interim. JEF needs exposure, and what better way than to get involved in the youth of tomorrow, for it is them whom we are leaving these thorny issues of energy sustainability and security to. 

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