MEP Irena Joveva hereby presents the Renew Europe Youth Manifesto, which is the result of a participatory process of consultation and co-creation by Renew Europe MEPs with youth organisations, NGOs and young people who took part in the Conference on the Future of Europe.

“As Europe’s youth is mobilised by the most important challenges facing our continent, young people must also be part of the decision-making process”, is the position of MEP Joveva and the political group to which she belongs. The process of talking to young people identified several key challenges and themes that are at the heart of young people’s concerns – from action on climate change, creating equal opportunities, addressing challenges in mental health, entrepreneurship, providing paid internships to fighting discrimination. “That is why it is important that this time, more than ever, we hear the voice of young people,” said Joveva, adding that this manifesto is an opportunity to encourage all young people to play their part in shaping the future of our Union.

You can read all 18 proposals below:

  1. Youth participation in democratic processes

Youth participation is a necessity in the democratic and decision-making processes at all levels. We need to listen to young people and take them seriously. We support the introduction of an EU “Youth Test”, following the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe, creating a youth panel that would allow young people to have a direct influence on EU policies. It would also require EU authorities to evaluate the impact of upcoming policy proposals on young people in the EU, while creating sustainable and climate-friendly policies for current and future generations in Europe. In addition, we need to launch an interactive platform in all official languages of the EU territory that would allow young people to create a permanent dialogue with EU policy makers.

We support the launch of the EU Convention for Treaty change in accordance with the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Convention should adopt the lowering of the voting age for European elections to 16 years. Furthermore, we should encourage Member States to adapt their national Constitutions and legislation, in order to lower the voting age to 16 for local and national elections and to lower the age requirements needed for different decision-making positions in order to enable more young people to enter national parliaments and expand their participation in the democratic and decision-making process. We strongly encourage the creation of youth councils at regional and local levels to incentivise early-stage political and civil activism among youth. Young people should be empowered to take matters into their own hands, so that they decide their own future.

  1. A digital youth platform to make EU opportunities visible

Too many young people are facing challenges when it comes to finding paid quality jobs and traineeships providing career advancement, opportunities for learning and personal development, thus acquiring the skills that would help them thrive in the labour market. We need a one-stop shop for European youth, a digital platform aimed to provide transparent information on EU opportunities to every young European, regardless of their place of residence, socio-economic background or professional situation. This could be achieved by merging and renewing the existing European Youth Portal, Europass and Eures in a more user-friendly way. It should provide opportunities and information concerning education, training, job, internship or VET offers, financial aid, mobility programmes, advice on setting up a business(including legal and accounting support) and funding opportunities available from the EU budget, mentoring systems, a networking tool to connect people and skills, volunteering schemes, rights associated with European citizenship and access to culture.

  1. Paid quality traineeships

Traineeships deserve to be adequately paid. Unpaid internship costs the average young person in Europe over €1000 a month. It deepens social inequalities and particularly marginalises young people coming from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Traineeships are important for young people to gain learning and professional experience and support their transition from education to employment. They benefit both the trainee and the employer. We want to create optimal conditions for quality traineeships that will provide them with useful experiences and skills, with particular emphasis on induction and onboarding procedures. We need to legally ensure adequate pay or compensation for trainees in Europe and provide equal access to employment for all young people while guaranteeing that traineeships have a genuine learning component.

  1. Volunteering and a European civic service

We need concrete tools to strengthen European citizenship and the sense of belonging, for instance through a European citizenship statute providing citizen-specific rights and freedoms. We recommend the creation of a genuine European civic service open to all young Europeans, between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, to do a volunteering service in their home country and then in another European country. It would allow young people to combine the benefits of national or regional civic service and the European Solidarity Corps without having to apply twice, thus reducing the administrative burden, increasing transparency and providing them with a comprehensive and unique experience. This would foster the creation of civic services in Members States where this system does not exist yet and better coordinate existing civic service schemes.

  1. Addressing the mental health issues

The current social, economic, environmental, geopolitical, sanitary and security instability have gravely affected young people across the EU. Mental health should be treated with the same importance as physical health and rapid action is required. We need an ambitious European Mental Health Strategy and an EU Action Plan for mental health with a clear timeline, adequate budget, ambitious objectives as well as indicators to monitor progress. More specifically, it should include: the creation of a European Mental Support Network for Youth by the Member States, offering one free mental health consultation to any young person in need and providing tailored solutions; the launch of European Mental Health Hotlines that would pull together already existing structures under the EU umbrella and provide them with dedicated financial aid; and an EU-wide information campaign targeting youth to address the stigma, misconceptions and social exclusion that are often associated with poor mental health. This Action Plan should furthermore tackle a very worrying suicide rate among young Europeans. We also need to further streamline mental health prevention through educational institutions (via addressing mental health in school curricula) and in the workplace, as well as to strengthen data collection on mental health at EU level.

  1. Development of youth entrepreneurship

Renew Europe wants to empower young people, and especially young women, by supporting youth entrepreneurship. We encourage young people launching a start-up, taking over a family business, participating in the social and solidarity economy or setting up craft business by providing them with both opportunities and training as well as through facilitated access to finance. We propose to boost the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme. This cross-border programme that facilitates the exchange of business and management experiences among young entrepreneurs should be given more prominence, funding and possibly expanded to include ‘meet your role model’ module and the European SMEs Corps, to give young people first-hand business experience. In addition, we want to create a one-stop-shop, including a business incubator, in each Member State for young entrepreneurs that would provide information on how to start your own business and how to apply for funding. Technical assistance provided by the Union for stimulating the digital and green transition – such as the European Digital Innovation Hubs and the Sustainability Advisors – should prioritise young start-uppers and artisans. We want to foster the Junior Enterprise initiatives at EU level, by financially and administratively supporting the creation of those entities, supporting their European network, giving access to training, exchanges and mobility programmes for the involved students, as well as helping them to work with businesses and SMEs from other EU countries.

  1. Recognition of professional competences, qualifications and diploma

Almost half of employers cannot find people with the right skills to fill their vacancies. At the same time, too many people cannot find a job because they do not have the required skills or they are working in jobs that do not match their talents. We urgently need to ensure full automatic mutual recognition of diplomas, periods of study, qualifications, learning outcomes acquired through non-formal or informal education or training, and study periods abroad, including in vocational education and training, in order to facilitate labour market integration of young people. We also call for further development of European joint degrees and diplomas together with the development, implementation and recognition of micro-credentials across institutions, businesses, sectors and borders. We advocate for a common European framework of recognition, validation and certification of civic and psychosocial competences acquired through European mobility.

  1. Investing in strategic skills

A shortage in strategic skills and brain drain are amongst our biggest challenges ahead. The EU already has powerful tools for research, education and training, like ESF+ (including ALMA initiative), Erasmus+, and Horizon Europe. However, the functionality and complementarity of these tools needs to be improved in order to reach all Europeans. We believe that now is the time to grasp the opportunity provided by the European Year of Skills, to invest in key domains based on the strategic ecosystems mentioned in the Pact for Skills and the Green Deal industrial plan. The EU has to invest in quality training, education, reskilling and upskilling by creating individual learning accounts, targeting specific programmes in educational institutions and developing micro-credentials, attracting young people to those curricula, especially young women in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) areas, strengthening the spreading of knowledge and expertise through exchanges of teachers, researchers and students. All those actions should be linked to the needs of the labour market, taking into account new employment and retraining. In anticipation of Industry4.0, the EU and Member States need targeted training and curricula in fields lacking a highly qualified workforce. We need to build up excellence curricula through the Alliances of European Universities and the Centres for Vocational Training, to compete with world-renowned degrees outside the EU.

  1. Towards a European civic education

o strengthen a European sense of belonging, we advocate for the development of national structures and curricula of citizenship education, including on Union values and the history of Europe, and for the setting of minimum common standards in terms of content and methodology. Europeans need to know more about each other’s historic and cultural backgrounds and understand where our differences are coming from and above all how the EU works and where it came from, and to learn about all available tools for their active participation. Moreover, we encourage the Member States to ensure that more focus is given to digital skills, including media and information literacy, language learning, environmental education and green skills, education on sexual and reproductive health, soft-skills, mentoring practices, entrepreneurship and economic literacy, and STEAM education in formal education and in age-appropriate manner.

  1. Safer social media, digital literacy and digital resilience

The digital sphere is a part of young Europeans’ everyday life. Making it a less intrusive and safer environment should be a priority for legislators and companies. We already successfully passed major EU legislation to regulate online platforms, counter disinformation and harmful use of algorithms, and now we need to make sure they are correctly implemented by the Member States. We need strong rules at EU level to enhance the security of young people online, and to prevent them from being exposed to harmful, pornographic and heinous content. We want to tackle cyber harassment, especially against young women, youth from ethnic minorities and LGBTIQ+ young people. Moreover, the EU should deploy awareness-raising campaigns in all Member States on disinformation, fake news, cybersecurity, the risk and opportunities offered by AI, and media literacy in order to support young people to better understand how to protect themselves and their data in the online world.

  1. Affordable and easily accessible European study loan

The current unstable economic and social situation has a direct effect on unemployment among under-30 year olds. We propose the creation of a “European study loan for equal opportunities”, with the support of the EIB. The scholarship-like loan will be particularly targeted at vulnerable students with fewer opportunities, on the basis of an overall assessment of their socio-economic background. It will be granted at an easily accessible and affordable rate for studies, trainings, apprenticeships and vocational educational training. Students will have to pay the loan back only once their education or training is completed and they earn enough to have a decent living. Study loans should be granted without a financial guarantor.

  1. Equal access to housing

Young people are heavily affected by the housing crisis, hindering their smooth start in independent and adult life. Lack of available infrastructure makes it extremely challenging to find housing without high deposits or help from parents and legal guarantors. We want to develop within the ESF+ a housing programme for those not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and young people with fewer opportunities coupled with training measures for young people, to help them find a suitable place to live, building on the work already accomplished by “Youth Housing” associations on the ground. This should be complimented by the New European Bauhaus initiative for more sustainable construction, as a “bottom up” approach that aims to promote new local initiatives. New living models such as local initiatives, co-living or intergenerational house sharing should be promoted at a European level as well. Within the regional funds there should be a dedicated initiative to support building of affordable student housing, especially in university cities.

  1. Creation of a European cultural pass

In order to democratise and Europeanise access to cultural works, it is necessary to increase the support and broaden the target audiences of the European cultural policies. We encourage the creation of a “European culture pass app” to promote the connection of new generations to the European project and heritage. We propose to provide young people, on their 18th birthday, with a virtual card that will allow them to benefit from a sum dedicated to European culture. This tool would give them access to pre-selected European works (books, films, video games, museums, monuments, theatre, festivals, concert etc.), promoting the affordable and free options.

  1. Fostering green mobility

We need to simplify access to mobility for Europe’s youth and seek innovative solutions to make travelling green means of transports more affordable and available not only in big cities. Harmonization of youth rail reduction schemes in the EU would be a good first step. There are special mobility offers / fare rates in every Member State for young people. This offer should be harmonised, giving every young European the benefit of those fare rates without having to buy an extra national rail card or being a resident of the country where they travel. The second step would be the introduction of a digital mobility pass, given to every European turning 18, that will carry with it several rights and facilities, harmonised across the EU (this could take the form of an Interrail pass with one month of free train travel, a set value worth of public transportation rights in cities of a different country than that of the recipients access to travel maps and guides made for young people, discounts for bicycle rentals and tickets for green transport, such as trams, cable cars and trolleybuses). In addition, a new European Cycling Strategy should incentivise the usage of bikes among young people, via an information campaign, facilitated access to bike sharing and other incentives.

  1. Commitment to inclusion

Young persons with disabilities are often denied equal opportunities and effective participation in our society as a result of barriers in various aspects of life. We need a Union-wide definition of disability and an expansion of the European Disability Card. We call for an unbundling of remuneration and disability-related assistance. Persons with disabilities should have an accessible study or workplace. In this regard, we aim for a revision of Council Directive 2000/78/EC and we want to unblock the adoption of a proposal for an anti discrimination directive (COM(2008)0426) which would greatly improve equal opportunities beyond employment. We need stronger provisions to ease participation of people with fewer opportunities in Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps.

  1. Climate change: supporting and empowering young citizens

European youth is very concerned by environmental and climate change issues and rightly so: young people regularly cite the fight against climate change as a top priority for the European Union. EU institutions should assess the impact climate change has on their lives, and include those impacts in all EU legislation. In concrete terms, we must add specific provisions in environment related laws to target the needs of young people, also in the form of specific financial support for green mobility and energy efficiency. We aim to empower young people and support them to become change makers, through quality education, training and upskilling opportunities, and with specific funding of EU green projects and calls. The green transition is not just a challenge, it is also an opportunity to create growth, technological solutions, new jobs and a better future.

  1. Empowering young people in Europe’s rural areas, overseas countries and territories as well as outermost regions

Access to opportunities in rural areas is extremely limited compared to the urban environment. As a result, young people from rural areas are leaving at an alarming rate, calling into question the very survival of some rural communities. We aim at boosting digital connectivity and public transport infrastructures, as well as stimulating the phenomenon of digital nomads in these areas, to give young people more choices about their future. Based on the success of initiatives such as The European Youth Capital, we encourage the creation of a European Village for Youth, to empower young people in rural areas and to strengthen European identity in their communities. We also want to strengthen the support for the installation of young farmers within the Common Agricultural Policy.

Youth from overseas countries and territories as well as outermost regions are as much part of our Union as those living on the continent. We want to bring Europe closer to these young people and make sure they know their rights as EU-citizens and what the European Union can do for them. We need to reach youth in the overseas countries and territories as well as outermost regions with initiatives like Erasmus+ funding for education opportunities, the Creative Europe Programme for cultural initiatives and EU Youth Dialogue events. These young people should be particularly encouraged to do traineeships within the European Institutions, notably by taking into account the transportation expenses that they face, and participate in EU programmes.

  1. Support to Ukrainian youth

Ukraine’s young generation must be at the forefront of European actions in support of Ukraine. We want to include special provisions under the Erasmus+ programme to support the rebuilding effort of youth policy and infrastructure, bringing together not only Ukrainian organisations but also their European counterparts. Volunteers within the European Solidarity Corps could already participate online in different projects in Ukraine and specific  initiatives should be envisaged for European volunteers to contribute to the post-war rebuilding of Ukraine. We urge for European support to target psychological counselling focusing on young people affected by war and young military personnel transitioning back to civilian life. We want Ukraine to be included under the umbrella of the European Civic Service. Overall, we need a comprehensive EU plan for rebuilding Ukraine after the war, starting with the young people who are its future.

On Wednesday, 8 November 2023, MEP Irena Joveva addressed the European Parliament plenary in Brussels as it discussed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the need for a humanitarian pause. She pushed for an immediate ceasefire and – if it proved unattainable – suggested imposing sanctions, asking: “When, then, if not now? After 10,000 more people are dead? A hundred thousand? A million?”

Below you can read her address in full:

“Over the next minute I am mostly going to criticise the State of Israel. And I will not let anyone equate what I say with antisemitism. Still less will I allow it to be equated with support for Hamas.

I condemn everything these terrorists do. I condemn all killing of innocent people. I condemn the violation of international law.

I condemn our unending concern … and our unending double standards. Where is the determined pressure being exerted? Where is action being taken?

Of course, Israel has the right to defend itself. But this right does not give it a blank cheque. For killing Palestinian women and men. Children. Children! For indiscriminate bombing.

You know what would count?

Unconditional support for the innocent victims, that would count. Unconditional support for the efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire would count, and – failing that – for imposing sanctions. A ban on trade and cooperation with illegal Israeli settlements, for a start. Which, incidentally, has been going on for much longer than the current war.

So when, if not now? After 10,000 more people are dead? A hundred thousand? A million?

That would count. Now.”

You can watch the MEP’s address here.

Hungry for change: young people and MEPs is the subject of a special report by EUobserver. Ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections, EUobserver spoke to MEPs under 35 to find out more about young people’s voice in European legislation – and how they could play a bigger role.

Read the interview with MEP Irena Joveva below.

Looking back at the last legislative term, what were the most significant achievements or challenges you faced as a young member of the European Parliament?

This term has brought more young MEPs than there were in previous legislatures. At the very beginning, it was unusual to have had security ask about my badge — because based on my age, they thought I am an assistant (laughs).

We (cross party, younger members) tried to organise ourselves quite early on to make our voice and perspectives heard. It was time to bring about some changes at the parliament, as the structures we have seen do not match the current realities.

With my everyday work, commitments and ways in doing legislation — being transparent, being open to people and approachable, me (and many of my young colleagues) have shown that a different politics is possible and that men in grey suits who speak in a bureaucratic language nobody outside of their bubble understands are not the norm and that is time to change that.

We did achieve quite a lot (and I am saying ‘we’ as I myself could not achieve it all without the understanding and support of my colleagues) most notably we put an end to unpaid traineeships, we advocated for more possibilities for remote interactions at the parliament, we were at the forefront in the fight for climate, young people, abortion rights and others.

Given that the Covid pandemic has influenced our work and put us into unprecedented working conditions, I think we still managed to put our ways and ideas through and adjust rather quickly to the working methods.

How do you think your age and generational perspective have influenced your work and decision-making in the European Parliament? Can you provide examples of issues where your perspective differed from older colleagues? 

I work at the Committee for Culture and Education, Employment and Social Affairs and Environment, Public Health and Food Safety — all of which are very relevant to young people.

I have never seen myself as more important than someone else, or unapproachable, and I think that is one of the core differences you can see among some policymakers. With my team and all the staff at the Parliament, I see myself as equal. In all meetings, I carry a pen and notebook and I write down ideas I hear from the person who sits opposite of me as I am convinced that just because we sit at the European parliament, we do not by default know everything.

With my everyday work, I demonstrate that what I preach I do really practise.

I created a website Ideje, Ki Presegajo Meje [ideas that go beyond borders] where I specifically asked young people to write their ideas and concerns about current legislation, Europe, the world. I read it with a lot of interest as I think we can never know better the problems of someone than the person who is experiencing them. I work with youth and I think as a young person myself, I am there to represent them and be their voice here. I use social media a lot as a platform to interact with young people — I used to have quizzes, Q&As, and spent a lot of time at universities, NGOs and youth associations to not lose the connection with youngsters on the ground. I think this is the core difference between me and some other colleagues who still see politics and themselves as being unreachable for citizens and forgetting they are where they are because and for the citizens. Finally, I also have a young daughter and in all decisions I take, I take them for her, as I also want to make and leave a better world for her.

Have you encountered any obstacles or biases in the European Parliament based on your age?

Not really. Surely, it took some adjustment time in the beginning for members to accept that there is also a younger generation joining them and who is willing to take up the initiative to change some rules and procedures at the parliament. I think that the work style is obviously different for us and the way we approach politics as well, but quite frankly the biggest obstacles I have had were when I just joined politics at home. As a young woman, that was quite challenging and my knowledge and capabilities were sometimes questioned because of my age and the fact that I came from a different field (I was a journalist). I am happy to see that slowly things are changing, but it took some of us to show by example that we can still be good politicians, good young mothers (or fathers) and use simple language and social media to bring complex policies closer to our people.

What are your expectations and priorities for the upcoming legislative term in the European Parliament? Are there specific issues or policies that you believe require urgent attention, especially from a youth perspective?

My first wish is to have youth go to the polls and vote. It is very important to have young people decide in which direction the EU will go in the next five years. I am aware that many things did not go perfect, but not casting your vote is also not a solution. We have many crises at the moment — the war in Ukraine, inflation, climate change, youth unemployment, mental health — to name only a few. I am confident that young people have many important things to say and I would really ask them to reach out to their representatives, to cast their votes and to be co-creators of politics and their future. I hope the next legislature will bring more young members who have an open ear and heart for the younger generations. There is much work to be done in the fields of environment, employment, culture, education, health — all of which concern youth and their, our, future.

In light of recent youth-led movements and activism across Europe, such as climate strikes and social justice movements, how do you see the role of young MEPs in amplifying these concerns and translating them into policy actions at the European level?

I think that young MEPs really amplify the voices of the concerned youth and we truly involve their ideas in our work. From my experience, young people are more likely to talk to us and preach out to younger members as they feel they are more and easier approachable. As stated previously, all the decisions I make I think about their impact they will leave behind for the future.

One issue was banning unpaid traineeships in the EU. I remember myself how hard it is to make ends meet as a student and then to be asked to work somewhere for free — to me it is just not possible. In this case, a large part of young people would have been discriminated against, as they cannot sustain this financially. On the other hand, you had some members who claimed that such an experience is already a door-opening opportunity, which gives the benefit where, I asked myself? — but do they even know how it is to need work experience, do a brilliant job and get no financial compensation in return?

This, for example, we concretely put into EU legislation. We heard the concerns and we understand them, and did our utmost to really transpose it into EU legislation and to fight for them in this house.

The same was with the Nature Restoration law where we heard the screams of young people and their legitimate concerns, which some groups and members did not.

I am in favour of having an EU ‘youth test’, which would mainstream the young in all policies and assess their impact on young people, but, unfortunately, you see colleagues who are not enthusiastic about youth questions but they rather focus their decisions on other actors, political gains, immediate short term results or so. This test would really help also those who do not really hear the youth or dismiss them, to have the law proposals assessed and tested for youth and have this more visibly highlighted — in all the laws we work on.

How do you see the overall representation of young people in the European Parliament? What reforms or changes would you advocate for to enhance the representation and voice of young MEPs in the future?

The number of young MEPs clearly shows that they do not proportionally reflect the young population of the EU, so I hope we will have more young members joining in the future. Concerning concrete ideas, I think that the EU youth test, more panels with young activists and their presence and open exchanges, as a regular thing to do. This should become a norm and not an exception.

And here I know that certain members do not like to being told what they should do and how they should do their work, which was also the case with the opinion I did on citizens’ dialogues and citizens’ participation in EU decision-making, where it was difficult to persuade some colleagues that they should be spending more time *with* people on the ground, and have a bottom-up approach in their work.

Another issue which is not talked about enough is maternity leave. If we want to have more young MEPs we also need to assure their right to maternity leave as we can be good mothers and good politicians, but we should not be punished for giving birth when, in those six months you are allowed not to vote, but not voting is not a solution. I think we have shown that we are able to think outside of the box and to bring a fresh, friendlier, more flexible atmosphere into politics — and, at least for my constituency, I think it worked well and was much appreciated.

The original interview can be accessed HERE.

Dear reader, I know you must be asking yourself the same question. What could a commercial mechanical engineer be doing in the European Parliament? The answer is: a great many things.

“United in diversity” is the slogan of the European Union, and it can really be felt in the European Parliament, an intersection of diverse opinions, cultures and professional perspectives.

European Parliament in Brussels

The idea of applying for a traineeship had long been on my mind. I had noticed various invitations on social media, published by several MEPs, but I had never found the courage to apply. Until I came across the vacancy with MEP Irena Joveva. A young, determined woman who stands up for her principles … Well, this is a person I would like to meet in person, I thought to myself. My finger continued to scroll down the screen and my mind wandered to an ideal world where every voice is heard and respected, irrespective of gender, race, nationality, or social class. In short, a world of equal opportunities.

As a woman in a “male” profession, I am often looked down upon: as a rookie – and a woman to boot – who certainly won’t boss them around, whose place is in the kitchen – I could write more, but I’d rather not. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I try to console myself.

A few days later, I also receive an e-mail with an invitation to apply. That’s it, I think to myself. Why not? I draft a motivation letter and my CV, though being aware that as an engineer without formal education in political science my chances are close to zero. After a while I get a reply that I’ve “made it to the next round”. With a certain degree of suspicion, I look at my phone and analyse the message, OK, it isn’t spam. I draft two speeches on proposed policy issues as requested and wait again. I am invited to an interview, after which I shut down my computer, thinking: this was an interesting experience, nice people, and now back to reality.

People close to me know that I am a very self-critical person who likes to talk and is very down-to-earth. I see every opportunity as an experience from which I can learn. So I stop paying attention to the call for applications and focus instead on my master’s thesis, projects and other commitments. Life goes on… And then, a month later, a shock: I receive an e-mail with “congratulations, you have been selected as a trainee in our team”. “Yay! I’ll get to know Irena and her team, the mighty building of the European Parliament”, I imagine, while at the same time I fret about having to go abroad for two months all by myself.

I get my head straight and start preparing. I find an apartment, pack my bags and I’m off to Europe’s capital. All the way, I think about how I will be received – after all, I’m an outsider to “their profession” and the media often depict politicians as aloof, all-knowing and self-absorbed.

Some pose next to a landscape, others next to a building.

When I met Irena and her team, I quickly realised that I needn’t have worried – they are pleasant, smiling and open people. The European Parliament building is magnificent; endless corridors, meeting rooms…, even a shop, a post office, a hairdresser’s, a library and a dispensary – a real city in miniature. The Parliament is often compared to a maze, and not so much because of its complexity, but because it consists of multiple buildings and endless corridors. These can be somewhat chaotic, but they are well marked. Just as one solves a maze on paper by following the “right side only” or “left side only” rule, the Brussels maze is solved by following the “third floor” rule. This is the floor which connects all the Parliament buildings via glass or internal passageways.

When asked about my favourite spot in the Parliament, I answer without hesitation: it’s the glass dome, with its mighty metal structure (yes, engineers notice that too) and its magnificent view.

The Parliament is full of nooks dedicated to relaxing or socialising. Although it employs more than 8000 people, it does not feel overcrowded. Of course, when rushing from one room to another, you’re never alone, many people hurry from one meeting to another, with journalists often lining the corridors. Irena’s assistant advised: “Walk like you own the place!” And this advice proved to be very effective – thank you, Elma, I will definitely follow it in the future, too!

At this point, dear reader, you must be curious about the nature of my work there… I’ll explain!

The European Parliament is made up of 705 MEPs who, with the support of assistants, shape the future of EU citizens. Every MEP has assistants, and some of them – like Irena Joveva – give interested young people the opportunity to try their hand as a trainee.

I could not possibly complain that the work is monotonous.

It is varied and interesting; you meet new people, attend events, sessions and other meetings, and gain different perspectives on topical issues. Personally, I have most enjoyed attending working groups, following closely the debates in the Environment, Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and Culture and Education (CULT) Committees, noting down conclusions on the substance and studying acts in the field of industry and technology.

As someone who is passionate about development and innovation, the appointment of Iliana Ivanova as the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, and Youth was particularly memorable. It was a privilege to be able to listen to the legendary Guy Verhofstadt speaking on the occasion of receiving the Lifetime Achievement award, and to the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo.

The opportunity to guide groups of Slovenians around the Parliament during their visit or participation in the media freedom event was an equally one-of-a-kind experience.

MEP Joveva’s office is bustling with activity, and as a trainee, you are not pushed to the side. One has the opportunity to get involved, develop their potential and contribute to the common goal.

Who wouldn’t fill phone memory with pictures like that!

Off to France…

On “red weeks”, as they are commonly referred to, the entire Parliament goes to Strasbourg for a plenary session. Once you have mastered one maze, there is another to tackle. Here, the “third floor” rule does not apply, so navigating the building complex is a little more difficult, especially because of its curved design.

The Parliament in Strasbourg is beautiful; the greenery, the marble and the glass crossing over the river… It matches the charm of the city, which many describe as one of the most beautiful cities in France. To me, it feels like a compact city, akin to Ljubljana.

A week in Alsace goes by in a flash. Negotiations, agreements, votes… and the cycle repeats. Observing the typically chaotic voting session from above the MEPs’ heads is quite a unique experience. Despite today’s digital world, it is still done by show of hands, with the chairperson deciding the majority. When this is not clear (as is very often the case), votes are verified electronically, which makes the already lengthy plenaries take even longer.

Plenary weeks are extremely dynamic, but you mustn’t leave Strasbourg without tasting a traditional Alsatian pizza (flammkuchen), taking a stroll around the city and consequently ending up with a gallery full of photos.

After a red week, a return to Brussels – the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium.

Discovering the wonders of Brussels

Baroque and Gothic architecture blended with the post-modern building style of the European institutions and numerous green spaces. The Manneken Pis statue as a satire of humanity. The Royal Gallery of St. Hubert – one of the oldest covered galleries in Europe and comic murals along the streets. The Grand Place, which is closely intertwined with the city and was even lit up in pink in October. The metal and glass structure of Old England (now the Musical Instruments Museum), the Royal Palace and the Royal Park with its bronze statues of cats. The Atomium – a metal sculpture erected for the Expo. The Cinquantenaire, a large park with arcades, numerous museums… All this is Brussels.

The settlement in the marshes (which was the meaning of the original name of Brussels) surprises at every turn, one just needs to observe. People often say; “Pah, you can walk round Brussels in a day”. Yes, you can, but do you really see it? Even after walking round it for two months, one always comes across something new, whether it’s architecture you missed the day before or street art. Which is there in abundance, and what’s even better – the artists are great. Singers, dancers, ball artists… The talent pool is diverse.

Being an engineer, it would be remiss of me not to mention Autoworld, the renowned car museum. The world of cars is where you can get lost in the splendour of four-wheeled masterpieces and forget about time altogether. It displays carriages, Ford’s Model T (the first mass-produced car) and modern luxury vehicles.

Another interesting fact. Were you aware of how the gentry in past centuries dealt with bumpy carriage rides without modern metal suspension? Well, visit the museum and search for the answer. To give you a hint: leather.

When visiting Brussels, one simply must try traditional Belgian waffles, chocolate and French fries. As to the latter, in Angela Merkel’s opinion, you will get the best at the Jourdan Square near the Parliament, next to Leopold Park. I checked it out and it’s really delicious.

Andreja, is Brussels safe?

That’s a difficult one. It is and it isn’t. I prefer to stick to the “better safe than sorry” rule and avoid unpleasant areas.

During my traineeship, there was a significant escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian situation, so it was not unusual to encounter a group of protesters. I support the free expression of will, but I do not support the scenes that I witnessed during my Sunday walk in the Cinquantenaire Park. A march in support of Palestine, which many families joined. On one side, children waved flags and mothers pushed their strollers, while on the other side, there were loud chants, pyrotechnics, and a police helicopter flying overhead. It is a scene you never forget.

I have also experienced first-hand the parliamentary security system. In the wake of the tragedy of 17 October, the Parliament in Brussels activated the orange security alert, recommending that staff work from home for the rest of the week. Inside Parliament, security is taken care of, but outside, one should avoid narrow, dark streets and areas around the main public transport stations.

From the office

Time to say goodbye…

Time flies, and this is a phrase that I became acutely aware of in Brussels. Two months passed in a flash, and my adventure came to an end. All good things come to an end, and everything must come to an end so that something else can begin. Maybe the end of this story is the start of a new, even bigger one – who knows?

“What now?” asked assistant Rok at the farewell lunch. Hmmm… a PhD, new projects and new challenges. What brings an engineer to the European Parliament? The pursuit of challenges.

Life without challenges is boring!

Thank you #teamJoveva, you are great, with feet firmly on the ground. With people like you, I needn’t worry about the future of the EU. Thank you, Elma, for all the encouraging words, for introducing me to the Parliament and for the time together. Žana, you know well enough how I always enjoyed debating with you. And thank you, Rok, for placing your confidence in my work on STEP (Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform) and the Net-Zero Industry Act.

Thank you also to local assistants Jasna and Samanta: Who would have thought that an engineer would dare take a peek into the world of social media, edit video content and have fun while doing it? Every field is a challenge to be embraced with open arms and an opportunity to broaden our horizons.

My biggest thank you, of course, goes to MEP Irena Joveva. I am grateful that you changed my perspective on politics, showing me that not everything is as the media portray it. Thank you for encouraging women, young people. For being down-to-earth, unpretentious and approachable. A person with a capital letter P who acts the same while having a simple lunch with a trainee and in a meeting room with “important” people. And thank you for, you know, giving an opportunity to an engineer.

One with the boss.

“Don’t let them get to you!” Truly, Irena, I won’t! You managed to success as a “rookie from journalism”, and I hope that the “rookie from engineering” can do the same. It is time for Slovenia to form its opinion in the field of industry and technology.

I’m including a photo from the women’s empowerment exhibition to inspire all girls (especially in STEM) and remind them that we can do it. We “greenhorns” can co-shape the world!

– Andreja Kumer

Big personalities and decisive action! #womenpower #ladyboss #womeninpolitics

Listening to the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo

That’s how it is. Either there’s a legal obligation or forget it, because “we are not obliged to”.

This is how foreign multinationals operate on the EU market, including Slovenian. Which is why we don’t have any other choice.

For some time now, we have been holding informal talks with the European Commission on how to regulate the prohibition of linguistic discrimination at the EU level. As of today, these talks have become formal.

In the absence of such prohibition, things will either progress too slowly or not at all. For that reason, I have today called upon the relevant European Commissioners to act, i.e. to revise and complement the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

The Directive already provides for better access to audiovisual services and content for people with special needs and prohibits discrimination. However, since the text does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of language for all citizens, it is unfortunately open to interpretation. I therefore propose explicit, clear obligations for platforms offering video content, which are present on the European Union market: that they respect all the official languages of the European Union, provide improved access to services for the general population, and put an end to the misuse of the so-called country of origin principle in order to sidestep national legislation.

The European Union is committed to strengthening, promoting and maintaining linguistic diversity, and any language-based discrimination is prohibited by the Community’s fundamental treaties. I argue that this principle should also be respected by all private companies operating on the EU internal market and offering services throughout the EU, while the EU has a duty to clearly establish this in its legislation.
To be frank, respect for linguistic diversity is a bare minimum that should be self-evident. At a time when the internet plays an increasingly important role in our daily lives, we must all work together to ensure that all EU languages are treated equally, as this is essential for their survival and continued existence, including for Slovenian.

The legislative process in the European Union is usually lengthy, but this does not mean that we should sit idly by and wait forever for multinationals to move, which they will not do without concrete, especially legislative pressure. I am convinced, including on the basis of the informal talks we have had so far, that we will be able to regulate these matters at EU level in the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, we are still collecting signatures of support at

– Irena

On Thursday, 26 October 2023, MEP Joveva wrote to Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Values and Transparency, Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, and Iliana Ivanova, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, making a public call for a revision of the European Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in order to complement or extend the obligation of video-sharing platforms operating in EU Member States to provide their content with subtitles or dubbing in all official languages of the European Union.

The existing AVMSD currently enforces the principle of non-discrimination in commercial communications and includes provisions for ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities. However, Joveva believes that the principle of non-discrimination (on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, nationality, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation) should extend to all audiovisual content and that the prohibition of linguistic discrimination should be explicitly stated, while the accessibility requirements – to be met through subtitling or dubbing – should apply to the entire general population, i.e. to all speakers of all official languages of the European Union.

Foreign video-streaming providers such as Netflix or Disney+ are currently not obliged to comply with national laws due to the EU’s “country of origin” principle. This means they are registered in one Member State alone (e.g. Netflix in the Netherlands) to provide services across the European market and are therefore only subject to that country’s regulations. This allows them to avoid the legislation applicable in other Member States.

In order to tackle this issue, two new articles that focus on the coordination of national regulators have been incorporated into the European Media Freedom Act. However, to ensure successful implementation and fully address the problem, the AVMSD must also be supplemented.

After sending the letter, Joveva said:

I have already directly requested video-streaming providers and their managements to respect all EU languages by translating, subtitling or dubbing (for children’s content) their content into Slovenian. Their excuses and delays have led me to take action with the persons responsible at the European Commission, as it is more than obvious that it is time to regulate the matter through EU legislation. Until language discrimination is officially banned in the EU market (including the digital market), companies will be inclined to move too slowly or not at all. Moreover, it is important to remember that Slovenian is not the only language that is discriminated against in this manner, and the platforms concerned avoid complying with national provisions, such as the Public Use of the Slovenian Language Act, which is currently being amended by the National Assembly. The European Union is committed to strengthening, promoting and maintaining linguistic diversity, and any discrimination on the basis of language is prohibited by fundamental treaties, such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. I insist that private companies conducting business in the EU internal market and providing services throughout the EU should comply with this, and it is the EU’s duty to explicitly state this in its legislation. Respect for linguistic diversity is a bare minimum that should be self-evident. In practice, however, large US corporations in particular discriminate against less-spoken languages, which – incidentally – I also see in other areas, such as with content moderation rules on online platforms. At a time when the internet plays an increasingly important role in our daily lives, we must all work together to ensure that all EU languages are treated equally, as this is essential for their survival and continued existence, including for Slovenian. The legislative process in the European Union is usually lengthy, but this does not mean that we should sit idly by and wait forever for multinationals to move, which they will not do without concrete, especially legislative pressure. I am convinced, including on the basis of the informal talks we have had so far, that we will be able to regulate these matters at EU level in the foreseeable future.”

For your perusal, please find attached the original letter in English (Letter to European Commissioners) and Slovenian (Evropska komisija revizija AVSMD).


Do you like statistics?

To be honest, I thought it was a pointless addition to the curriculum during my schooling.’ The Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia might even be able to provide data confirming that I was not the only pupil or student with such an opinion.

But later in life, I came to understand more and more why statistics is so important. It is most often associated with telephone surveys that many people find annoying, but its crucial aspect is often ignored: the significance of high-quality data in maintaining a functional democracy.

Indeed. High-quality statistics are the basis for good legislation and the necessary measures to improve the situation, based on independent data covering all aspects and all people. I truly believe this and therefore I am delighted to announce that …

… I have been appointed lead rapporteur for the European legislation on population and housing statistics, and I will be handling it on behalf of the entire European Parliament!’

– Irena

Photo: EP/Alain Rolland



On Wednesday, 18 October 2023, MEP Irena Joveva addressed the European Parliament during the Strasbourg plenary on how disinformation in times of conflict can be countered with the Digital Services Act. She started her speech by saying that any war takes a devastating toll on innocent people and the truth.

She went on to say that we are all aware of the validity of this statement, especially these days when videos, photos and comments are posted and shared across the internet at an unprecedented speed:

“But do we all, as a society, really appreciate how much manipulation is taking place there? Lies? Deliberate – serving the interests of certain people, some government, geopolitics, some aggressor, terrorists, or occupier? Disinformation, manipulation and fake news intensify divisions and fuel hatred. Towards the ‘other’.”

She expressed her approval of the Digital Services Act, but also stressed the need for proper implementation. The limits have been clearly defined, the positive benefits of the web must be preserved, harmful content must be limited and illegal content must be removed, she added.

It is imperative that the European Union take measures to guarantee that social media companies are fully compliant with the law, she stated.

“People need to know all the pitfalls of the web, but ultimately it’s always up to them who they believe. Yet … it is the truth that requires defenders. Especially in times like these.”

You can watch the full address here.


In early October 2023, Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, wrote to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and X (ex-Twitter) CEO Elon Musk cautioning them that failure to remove illegal terrorist and hate speech content from their platforms could result in a violation of the new EU digital services regulation. The European Commission has detected a rise in illegal content and disinformation spreading in the EU related to the conflict in Israel, as well as manipulated content, so-called deepfakes, ahead of the recent elections in Slovakia.

Under the EU’s newly adopted Digital Services Act, tech giants such as Google, Meta, X and Amazon are responsible for monitoring and removing illegal content, such as terrorist content or illegal hate speech, posted on their platforms. Failure to comply with European rules on removing illegal content can result in fines of up to six per cent of a company’s annual revenue.

Photo: EP – Genevieve ENGEL

On Monday, 9 October 2023, MEP Irena Joveva spoke at the Internet Governance Forum in Kyoto, Japan, in a debate on countering disinformation. She explained what the EU is doing in this area, but also stressed that even the most stringent legislation will not be enough to stamp out disinformation or fake news completely: “Disinformation can only be done away with by a reader who knows how to distinguish it from the truth”, she said unequivocally.

Joveva began by comparing her former position of a journalist with that of an MEP from the point of view of disinformation or fake news:

“The difference is that as a journalist I never felt affected. Now – as a politician – I do, but against my will.”

What she wanted to say, she explained, is that as a journalist she never even thought of manipulating facts, let alone writing a lie. As a politician, however, she is an obvious target of various campaigns to spread disinformation propaganda, which “are of course launched by a specific spectre of politics and its supporters”, but are never based on her work or the content she publishes, but on her appearance, gender, origin, etc.

She went on to talk about the work of the European Union in the area of countering disinformation, stressing that it is doing as much as it can within the limits of its competences. She mentioned the recently adopted position of the European Parliament on the European Media Freedom Act, where she was actively involved as a negotiator on the Parliament’s side. She also contributed to the drafting of the Digital Services Act:

“This Act obliges the industry to step up its efforts in the fight against illegal content online. It requires large online platforms and search engines to take measures to protect their users from harmful and illegal content, goods and services.”

Joveva asserted that everyone has to take responsibility in this area: politicians and multinationals, but especially the Member States, which have to enforce the legislation in practice.

She also highlighted the rapid alert system set up in the EU in response to the “infodemic” that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The system, she said, is based on open information and draws on insights from academia, online platforms and international partners. It has also proved effective in the case of the Russian aggressor and the war in Ukraine, when rapid response to all forms of disinformation has also been important and necessary.

“Disinformation can be highly damaging if it is targeted, which it usually is. It leads to an increase in mistrust, division among populations, and threatens  democracies.”

In the same breath, Joveva stressed the need for information campaigns and greater focus on media literacy in schools, as its importance is still generally underestimated. In her view, the way to truly win the fight against disinformation is not through tough legislation, but through knowledge and understanding of the content we are receiving.

She concluded the debate by saying that the EU is doing a lot of work, but that there is still much to be done, especially at the global level. In the end, it all comes down to clear communication based on verified information and to good cooperation between policy makers, stakeholders, the public and local organisations who search for solutions to protect our citizens and democracies in order to build a safer and better (online) world for all.


From 8 to 12 October 2023, the 18th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum is being hosted by the Japanese government in Kyoto. The Forum’s central theme is The Internet We Want – Empowering All People. The Forum will address eight themes: artificial intelligence and emerging technology; avoiding internet fragmentation; cybersecurity, cybercrime and online safety; data governance and trust; digital divides and inclusion; global digital governance and cooperation; human rights and freedoms; and sustainability and environment. MEP Irena Joveva participated in the session Counteracting disinformation to make the digital space trustworthy again, alongside Agustina Ordoñez, Member of the Argentinian National Congress, Sunil Abraham, Public Policy Director for Data Economy and Emerging Technologies at Meta India, Craig Jones, Director of the Cybercrime Directorate at INTERPOL, and Jennifer Bramlette, Coordinator for Information and Communication Technology at the United Nations Security Council.



Here we go.

Letters. Appeals. Requests. Meetings. Explanations. Invitations. Coordination. Demands.

Preparations. Amendments. Changes to the law. Process. Procedure.




We are not giving up.

If we don’t defend our language, who will? But together.

Why don’t we tell this to those who discriminate against it? But together?

I have launched a very special website. With a very special purpose. And name.

Saying that Slovenia is a “small country” is just an excuse. Saying that it is “not worth it” for multinationals to offer their services in the language of the market (whichever it be) in which they are present is also an excuse. Nor do we agree that they are not explicitly obligated to do so by legislation. This concerns the basic respect for both the European Union’s motto of “united in diversity” and for one of its fundamental values: equality. In this case, linguistic equality.

Everyone should have the right to be able to use content in their mother tongue (at least) in their own country. Both in the physical and digital world. And this should apply regardless of the prevalence of a particular language or the size – or tininess, if you prefer – of a particular market.

Let us not stop here. We need binding solutions. At the European level, some of the amendments have recently been incorporated into the Digital Services Act, while others, even more crucial, are foreseen by the Media Freedom Act. I was actively involved in the drafting of both of these acts as one of the Parliament’s negotiators.

Meanwhile, at the national level, the authorities are working on amendments to the Public Use of the Slovenian Language Act, and I will turn my attention to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. It will clearly be necessary to include in the text and among the requirements an explicit reference to the prohibition of linguistic discrimination, next to all its other forms.

The European Commission, whose task it is to undertake changes or revisions, is already aware of my plans. I am in the process of working on concrete proposals. Unfortunately, this cannot be done overnight. Procedures at the European level are lengthy.

But … we’re not giving up. It’s important that you don’t either. Your voice should be heard as well. Your direct support for the Slovenian language, with clear messages for the multinationals concerned, will add value to all efforts and, above all, add to the pressure.

All the relevant information can be found at