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EYP Fribourg 2014

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When we applied for the European Youth Parliament, I don’t think any of us knew what we were getting into. But sure enough, when we arrived at the station on the morning of the 3rd of September 2014, we all had a feeling of nervous anxiousness about what was awaiting us.
After a train ride spent discussing the topics we would be working on and eating croissants, we arrived in Fribourg where we were greeted by EYP organisers and made our way, together with a group of other delegates, to the Collège St.-Croix, where we would spend a great deal of time over the course of the next five days. After depositing our bags, registration and a photo shoot we spent lunchtime excited, encountering old friends and meeting lots of new faces.

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The first thing on the programme was team-building. Having been welcomed by our session president, the journalists and the chairs, we split up into our respective committees and began what would be a day and a half of bizarre games that included kissing bunny rabbits, building spaghetti towers and forming a blindfolded line of people following the orders of one of the group’s members. We may have questioned the point of this but by the end of the afternoon, when we headed off for the Opening Ceremony, this group of absolute strangers, people from all over Switzerland and Europe that formed our committee, had already begun to feel like friends.
Between formally being introduced to our organisers and listening to various politicians’ speeches and our president officially opening the 2014 Swiss National Selection Conference, we were treated to cupcakes on the front steps of the school, all dressed up in suits and dresses.
That evening, tired but happy and full of first impressions, we made our way to the bunker, the place that would be our home for the next few days.
Our first shock the next morning when we were woken at 6:30 were the 20-minute shower shifts, after which we ate breakfast with our committees and were transferred back to the Collège. During the morning of team-building we soon noticed our new status as photo models, as each committee’s journalists took their task of documenting the session very seriously. By lunchtime we had got down to what we had all been waiting for: Committee work. Each committee had a different topic to work on, all of them questions about the EU’s political affairs and in some way concerning human rights, whether it be how economic saving strategies endanger the respect of human rights, how to deal with Europe’s Roma population or how the EU should approach it’s on-going Free Trade Agreement with India, bearing the violation of human rights in certain areas of the country.

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Here, for the first time the true value of team-building was showcased. Discussing these topics and voicing our opinion on sometimes controversial issues required a certain degree of trust between all members of the committee and our cooperation was greatly helped by the hours we had spent getting to know the people we were spending the waking hours of our days with.
That evening we had a lot to tell each other when we all met up again for one of the most entertaining parts of the EYP session: Swiss village. Each delegation presented their region at a stand with regional specialities, food and drinks. We managed in the end, with a good deal of improvisation and creativity, to present our Basel stand in a way that we were happy with. With our stomachs full of chocolate, fondue, sweets and specialities from every corner of Switzerland but also delicacies from the Ukrainian and Czech delegations’ stands we commenced the second part of that night’s entertainment. An evening organised by our journos spent listening to and giving TED-talks and learning about our fellow committee’s topics led to another late night in the bunker.
After another round of shower-shifts, breakfast-shifts, transfer-shifts we spent Friday doing Committee Work. Our getting through the heated debates, disagreements and dilemmas that our topic questions caused us was due to the mass-consumption of Ragusa chocolate bars that formed the bases of our much needed coffee breaks. As the day wore on and the hours started slipping by ever faster, we began to feel the pressure as our resolutions had to be finished by that evening ready for our chairs to correct and type up.
The evening then was dedicated to the Delegation Presentations and Swiss Concert. We were treated to all kinds of interesting and amusing presentations as each delegation, more or less prepared, presented themselves and their regions. Our turn was marked by a few technical problems, and we were yet again forced to make use of our spontaneity. Our salvation came in the form of Lucius improvising a dance to the applause and the amusement of the audience. The performances at Swiss concert including a rendition of The Lion King’s “Hakuna Matata”, our video-editor’s EYP rap and a screening of the second episode of “The Spark”, the session’s media team’s video documentation of the first few days meant the evening was finished off in style.
That night there was an air of general nervousness as speeches were being written long into the small hours of the morning and the booklet of resolutions worked on: The next day was General Assembly, where the fruits of our efforts would be presented and defended before the other committees, attacked and then ultimately voted on.
General Assembly was held in Fribourg’s university and we all gathered once again dressed in formal clothing and all the time aware of the judges observing our behaviour. As the resolutions were debated, we gained an insight into the formal procedures and difficulties in politics. There were many heated discussions, lots of applauding and the summoning of courage to make a speech or a point during Open Debate followed by the final vote on whether the resolution should pass or not.
Our last evening was spent with our new friends from our committees as we enjoyed Committee dinner in a restaurant and then met up with everybody else at the “Roaring Twenties” theme party, dressed up in sequins and feathers with enough time to dance, drink and enjoy ourselves on our last evening as first-time EYPers.
Sunday morning began with the packing of our bags in an atmosphere of departure. But before having to say our final good-bye’s there was another round of General Assembly, where, despite a feeling of increasing tiredness, we put all of our efforts into the debates. A final round of photo-shooting and Ragusa-eating was followed by the Closing Ceremony, where we were to find out if we had been selected for a further EYP conference. Our first reaction was disbelief when it was announced that we were to participate at the International Forum in Amsterdam in 2015 closely followed by excitement that our EYP journey was to be continued.
After standing to the European anthem and the official closing of the session we formed a standing circle as “Imagine” by John Lennon was played and the 2014 Fribourg National Selection Conference came to an end. Saying good-bye to the amazing people we had met and the friends we had made, we carried our Ragusa-fuelled bodies to the train station, tired but happy to have discovered and experienced EYP and thirsty for more.


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Recipe for success at an EYP National Selection Conference:

• 100g ability to get up early
• 200g spontaneity
• 200g courage to speak to strangers
• 200g cheerfulness
• 200g willingness to discover new things
• 200g openness for the unknown
• 100g craziness
• …and 100 kg Ragusa

All in all, the four of us enjoyed five wonderfully interesting, amusing and instructive days, in which we experienced all sorts of different things, whether it be about our fellow delegates from the Czech republic, the Ukraine and Switzerland, about politics in general or about team work and collaboration. We had a lot of fun, learnt new things and made friends.
We would like to thank Mrs Jennifer Whitebread who made this experience possible in accompanying, helping and advising us and being present to support us whenever we needed her.

Miriam Aitken, Leonie Laux, Lucius Miller, Elis Saavedra

Text by: Miriam Aitken & Elis Saavedra