SIMULATIONS, NEGOTIATIONS, AND HEMICYCLES: THE EUROPEAN YOUTH EVENT – Wouter (NETHERLANDS)
Together with my six comrades from the EU-Russia programme, two Bachelor students and a fellow student from the ELTE University in Budapest, I embarked upon a journey to Strasbourg for the purpose of partaking in the annual European Youth Event. This event is comprised of a culmination of workshops, discussion panels, progressive art and anything European. Scholars, students and pupils join together to celebrate the progression of society and to learn from their European peers.
My journey to EYE starts in the student city of Tartu. After having been approached by the team leader of this endeavour, Iverson, I was wooed by the prospect of passing on a little bit of the knowledge I had gained at the University to my fellows. As such, I graciously accepted his request for me to join him and his EU-RUS companions. He then pitched the idea of starting up a negotiation simulation, based on the Minsk Agreements.
And thus I went. The first stop on the road to Strasbourg was Tallinn Airport. Here, I met up with Iverson and, later on, with Kaarel, before flying to Copenhagen and eventually Paris. Here, we went our separate ways until the fateful constraints of time would draw us back together at the bus station. We took a night bus to Strasbourg, where we arrived on Friday morning around 7 o’clock.
It was here where our adventures truly began. After dropping off our bags at the camping, we went straight to the European Parliament, to get our wristbands and start participating in events. Personally, I went to two hemicycles, a presentation-and-discussion panel, our own event and a workshop given by Volt Bologna’s finest.
Specifically, on Friday, I went to a hemicycle that delved into the relations between the European Union and Turkey, and the effects of political ramifications on trade and pre-negotiated deals. Shortly thereafter, I had a presentation-and-discussion panel on corruption and how this affects a state’s ability to prosper or fail. These two topics lie close to my heart, making my participation therein particularly worthwhile. After these events, our group went to grab some dinner, which was followed by some laughs, some drinks, some football and by sitting in the bus with an espresso (I never drink coffee, so the smell of the drink was horrendous) for our ever-studious Hungarian group member, Lilla. I fell asleep in the good company of a couple dozens of mosquitos, as one does on a camping in France.
Then, the fateful day came. Saturday. The day where we would organize our negotiation simulation. But first came another hemicycle, this time in the main hemicycle area of the European Parliament; where the formal debates also take place. This hemicycle was supposed to be about European conduct in the face of terror, but instead largely focused on terrorism through appropriation of religion. As the experts on the panel consisted of people whom dealt with far wider an array of terror and terrorism, including but not limited to terrorism ranging from ecoterrorists to white supremacists, it was a bit saddening to see the discussion narrow down on this one facet of modern-day terrorism. Nevertheless, the event was exciting. There were some fun moments, but also some very sad ones. Overall, the tone was serious, and as were the participants.
Now to the event we ourselves organized: the Minsk II Negotiation Simulation. I’ll be honest with you, I did not expect the turn-out to be as high as it was. Whilst only 30 people had registered for our event (the maximum allowed), well over 40 showed up. A wide and diverse array of fellow Europeans joined in as our group leader, Iverson, shortly explained the finesses of the Minsk I and Minsk II agreement, and how the simulation would take place. We then split the participants into four groups; each group representing one of the negotiating parties.
The moderator of each group was tasked with explaining the core interests of the respective states participating in the negotiation. Whilst our group leader was busy delegating and raising discussions among the participants, us moderators had the honour of preparing the participants for their inevitable clash at the end of the simulation. Each state picked one person from their respective groups to be the representative, and they battled it out on the EP floor. Interestingly, all negotiations seemed to take place in accordance with the actual states’ style of diplomacy: Germany was calculated and direct, France (my group) was more strategically inclined, the Ukrainians took upon themselves the role of victim of the conflict and Russia, on multiple occasions, flat-out denied any conflict was taking place.
In the end, the negotiations came to a standstill on some points, but brought about progress on others. Out of four points on which agreement was found, three laid at the foundation of the interests of the State I oversaw. On that account I am proud to have been the moderator of the team that may not have had the most direct input, nor the strongest rhetoric – but rather a clear set of priorities and the ability to materialize them.
After our simulation had finished, we got together for a final group photo, after which we went our separate ways. A part of the group went out for lunch together, a part of the group dispersed into the city, and a final part of the group remained inside the European Parliament to take part in further events. As I had one more event lined up, namely, a Do it Yourself workshop on how to create a Pan-European youth movement provided by Ivan Butina, leader of Volt Bologna, I invited Kaarel to join me. It was a very fun and educative workshop, and a fine end to a long but rewarding event.