From Wednesday 24th to Saturday 28th June 2015, a team of 30 motivated individuals (10 Greek-Cypriot teachers, 10 Turkish – Cypriot teachers and 10 members of EYP Cyprus) visited Brussels on an educational trip co-organised with the European Parliament Information Office in Cyprus. The trip was an opportunity to visit European institutions and meet with Members of the European Parliament and Commission, thus contextualising the group’s knowledge on the European Union and provided an insight of the workings and functions of the EU.
EYP Cyprus would like to thank the EPIO Cyprus for their support in organising the trip and all the members who attended and we look forward to any future similar events.
EYP Cyprus members Aria Louis and Iro Katsantoni share their experience from the trip.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
It is with this mental mindset that 10 EYP Cyprus members and 20 primary school teachers, both Turkish and Greek speaking Cypriots arrived at Larnaca airport at 2am on June 24th to embark on a journey of perspectives, education and understanding. After a flight and short stop in Belgrade, we were now departed on the final leg of our jounrey to the heart of Europe. Our first impression of the city coming from the airport, made it seem bustling and relaxed at the same time, quiet as well as lively, a true combination of all Member States in one miniscule city. Knowing that time was going to be precious on this journey, we dove right into the purpose of the trip. This was, after all, to enrich our knowledge regarding Europe and its institutions. After a brief introduction that helped us better understand the fundamental processes and procedures of how the EU works, we then had the once in a lifetime opportunity attended and follow a plenary session of the European Parliament for a genuine experience of what goes on behind the scenes at the EU.
After that, a truly unique part of the trip came along, and undoubtedly, one of the most rewarding parts of our journey: a discussion with Costas Mavrides, Takis Hadjigeorgiou and Neoklis Sylikiotis all Cypriot MEPs regarding some of the most pressing topics for Cypriot youth. These topics including the Cypriot Dispute, the violation of Human Rights within the EU and the increasingly prominent topic of Energy Resource use and consumption were part of a lively debate among the 10 Cypriot youth and 20 primary school teachers present.
We embarked on our second day in Brussels which was spent mostly in the European Commission with two highly informative discussions about “The EU’s role in Humanitarian and Civil Protection” and another one focusing on the three pylons of the ERASMUS+ programme. The highlight of the day however was undoubtedly the honour of not only meeting, but also having lunch the Commissioner of Humanitarian Aid Mr. Stylianides. Here, he expressed his optimism and hope for the future of Cyprus and stated that trips like this, which aim to bring together the two communities, further enhance his confidence in our youths capabilities.
Our day, however, did not end at lunch. Two incredibly informative speakers met us at the Commission and presented us with information on two EU programs, one being “Youth, Employment Skills and Entrepreneurship” and the other on the European Year of Development and Growth met us at the Commission. Both speakers and topics triggered passionate discussions between our speakers and fellow teammates leaving us with large quantities of food for thought.
During our final day in Brussels was met with two more speakers informing us about two institutions that are not always thought of when one thinks of the European Union, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Here we were reminded of the more grass roots side of the European Union, emphasizing the potential for every day people with concerns that affect their day to day life to give their opinion and voice their concerns.
Not only did we gain a lot of information and new knowledge surrounding the actions and institutions of the EU and also the opportunities that can come from being involved in European institutions. We are very thankful for this opportunity and our host from the European Parliament Information Office in Cyprus who made sure we weren’t only well educated about European Institutions, but also had a great experience of Brussels too. Some of us were fortunate enough to partake in a small excursion to “the Venice of the north” – Bruges which left a more lasting impression of Brussels as a whole.
Four days in the heart of Europe, are not enough in such an amazing city but they gave us the opportunity begin to learn, to experience and evolve, ever so slightly, allowing us to begin to understand this dynamic institution we call the EU.