In the first week of the Strengthening Democracy and Representation Session, our General Coordinator attended the "Strengthening Democracy and Representation" session organized by the TR Ministry for EU Affairs with the participation of Ambassador Faruk Kaymakçı, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs, as part of the "Future of Europe and Youth" talks. Buğra Nalcı spoke about Identity, Belonging and Europeanness.




 
 
Buğra Nalcı emphasized the following points in his speech:
 
Identity, Belonging and Europeanism Ever since European integration has been at the top of our national, regional or global agenda, we have started to reevaluate the concepts of belonging, identity and citizenship within the framework of the European Union. While the examples of France and the Netherlands, which said 'no' to the European Union Constitution in 2005, and Ireland, which refused to adapt the Lisbon Treaty to their domestic law in 2008, reflect the increasing interest shown by the peoples of different countries to the concepts of national identity and sovereignty, the global crisis that broke out in 2008 caused many problems. The fact that it turned into a 'European crisis' on the ground level caused the European project to be questioned. In addition, the change in the European axis of the concept of Identity in recent years has been intensively discussed by academics, lawmakers and civil society within the framework of the European Constitution, immigration, multiculturalism and current developments such as the Arab Spring, Covid-19 and the separation of the United Kingdom from the union. Another important issue pointed out by these crises is the necessity of adopting the European identity for the continuation of the EU project. So much so that it would not be a lie to say that the public opinion in Europe has a restrictive attitude that makes integration difficult.
 
While Covid-19 and quarantine processes in particular put the Mediterranean countries into economic bottlenecks, the peoples living in these countries began to question the European Union and Europeanness in this difficult process.
 
So what is Europeanism? Europeanness as a collective identity is defined as the idea that a group of people feel a sense of solidarity with each other due to a fundamental similarity. European identity is also a collective identity like national identity.
 
Former European Commission President Barroso said in his speech in the Berlin Declaration, “Today we live together in a way that was not possible before. We, EU citizens, came together for the better”, he said, which should be put into daily practice.
With this statement, Barroso presents the European identity as valuable, stating that EU citizens are in a better situation thanks to European integration. According to Risse, European identity and national identities are not opposites, on the contrary, individuals often adopt their European identity while preserving their national identity. However, just as some deny Risse, some do not think that the enlargement of the EU will lead to further fragmentation, and the rise of ultra-nationalist movements in countries such as Poland and Hungary is shown as evidence for this. In addition to this, it is a fact that migration movements for various reasons push local people to nationalism. According to the 2018 Eurobarometer data, the rate of those who categorize themselves as European and adopt this identity in EU member countries varies between 81% and 42%. Fligstein argues that those who self-identify as European are usually the highest socio-economic groups, business owners, managers and white-collar workers. In addition, he found that young people traveling in Europe are also more likely to define themselves as European. The opposite of these, namely blue-collar workers, the elderly, people with conservative political views but not keen on getting to know different cultures and peoples, feel less European. Therefore, it is revealed that the identity of 'us', which is examined in social identity theory, is formed through social interaction when European identity is in question. A socio-demographic analysis of the Eurobarometer data also supports Fligstein's argument. While 77% of the 15-24 age group, 74% of the 25-39 age group, 52% of the 40-54 age group define themselves as European, 63% of the people over 55 define themselves as European. Another issue that is articulated when Europeanism is mentioned is the natural migration. The fear of immigration among the peoples of Europe is another factor that shakes the European identity. The European Commission recognizes that migration and the integration of migrants is a major concern for European citizens and takes a logical and informed approach that also firmly addresses the importance of the integration of migrants into host societies. Despite the potential benefits that the phenomenon of migration brings to economies and societies in general, there are still many who perceive migration as a threat to national security and well-being.
 
 
However, the aim of the European Commission will not be very achievable and sustainable without the use of effective methods. European citizens should believe in the importance of migration, that it is essential for the sustainability of the European Union and that the European society, which is defined as multicultural, should put aside their fears and increase their tolerance. So, how should this belief be in our opinion? Frankly, when we say integration of immigrants these days, we are talking about a systematic integration, not a social integration. First of all, although the importance of immigrants' social integration is increasing day by day, projects that will increase social inclusion should be developed for these people to integrate into society, and not only immigrants, but also EU citizens who are afraid of immigration should be included in these projects, so that a multicultural European structure can emerge. In addition, the executives of these projects should not only be Non-Governmental Organizations. Within the scope of the newly developing Civil Social Cooperation (CSR), the European business world should also be integrated into social inclusion projects and the European Union should support the business world in this regard. In addition to these, the connection of young people from immigrant families and EU citizens can be achieved through social entrepreneurship projects. In this way, young people can become active citizens, touch communities, and become one in the new vision of Europe by developing their empathy skills. This, in turn, will increase the sustainability of the goals of the multicultural European society by the next generations, and will make the European identity a cultural issue and globalize it without reducing it to the basis of society. “
 
In the second week of the session, our association member Rovena Deliu presented the following brief on Youth Employment.
 
“When we look at the employment structure of young people who find employment opportunities, especially in developing countries, young people can find employment opportunities in the labor market, in irregular jobs and informal sectors, which are deprived of social protection. They say that awareness of this need for capacity building, participation in extracurricular activities, membership in non-governmental organizations, learning a foreign language and social events require sensitivity, but they do not see these in young people. Young people see some barriers related to education. They think that the education level of employers creates their discriminatory views. “