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Students from Universities Alliances rocked the European Parliament during #ESA24

6 mayo 2024
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Over 250 students from 170 institutions across Europe, representing 41 different European Universities Alliances participated in the 3rd edition of the European Student Assembly (ESA) in Strasbourg from  April 10 to 12, 2024. The assembly was held at the European Parliament, where students discussed 11 essential themes of the European Union and proposed their final recommendations.  

The annual European Student Assembly (ESA), gives students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of key topics for the European Union, discuss with fellow students, present solutions during plenary sessions, thus contributing to shape European policies. ESA is part of the EUC Voices Erasmus Project, that aims to "empower European students, arming them with essential skills and knowledge to become global change leaders and active contributors to their shared European destiny”.  

A platform for dialogue and collaboration  

Photos: Banu Beklrova for #ESA24

This year's assembly provided a platform for vibrant discussions and collaborations. Paraskevi Platanou, a master’s student at CIVIS member university National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, shared her experience participating in Panel 6, focused on the Artificial Intelligence Pact. She highlighted the panel’s focus on exploring the implications of artificial intelligence and the strategies that could be implemented to maximise its benefits. The discussions delved into the potential of artificial intelligence to transform various aspects of society and addressed the ethical considerations and challenges associated with the integration of AI.  

Being part of this panel was not only intellectually stimulating but also a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas and collaborate with peers from diverse backgrounds. Together, we explored innovative approaches to leverage artificial intelligence for the benefit of humanity. I extend my sincere appreciation to the CIVIS Alliance and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens for their support, which made my participation in ESA24 possible. As a CIVIS ambassador for my university, I am grateful for the opportunity to represent our institution on a European platform and contribute to these critical discussions on the future of AI in the digital age”, said Ms Platanou.

The other themes covered by the assembly, besides de AI act, included:  

  • (Dis) information and citizen engagement in the context of EU elections

  • Responsible growth in the context of climate change 

  • Cohesion through budget policies  

  • Guaranteeing dignity in the treatment of migrants coming to the EU 

  • The role of the EU as an actor of globalisation 

  • Promotion of heritage and access to culture for all 

  • EU approaches to health and biomedicine 

  • Higher Education institutions as providers of opportunities for all 

  • Safe and well-guided enlargement process for the EU 

  • Addressing Euroscepticism for a stronger and more united Europe 

Maria-Agori Gravvani, also an NKUA student, explained that before the parliamentary simulation, student representatives held online meetings to discuss the proposals, worked on drafting them and engaged fully in the voting process while in Strasbourg. 

During the three days in the European Parliament, ESA24 participants met each other, were welcomed and received guidance from French authorities and scientists, peer-reviewed the proposals from different panels and discussed their policy solutions. 

"On the third and most decisive day, the voting on the proposals took place and all the proposals of the Panel in which I participated were presented by our coordinator Pablo Luengo and they all received a favorable vote", said Ms Gravvani. 

"It was a unique and valuable experience! I am very grateful to the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens for the honor it gave me as it chose me to be its representative in the European Parliament", she added. 

Outcomes and prospects  

Photo: Maxime Lantz for #ESA24

Olivier Fondanaiche, Project Manager at CIVIS, Europe’s Civic University Alliance, expressed his admiration for the dedication and excellence of the students. He emphasised that the outcomes of ESA24 were astonishing, considering the work performed within such a small timeframe.  

I am used to seeing the great results of the collaboration between administrative and academic staff who come from all over Europe and beyond, but witnessing with my own eyes the outcomes of ESA24 makes me grateful to the 250 students coming from more than 40 European universities alliances for their dedication and excellence”, said Mr Fondanaiche.  

For him, such citizen awareness opportunities should be at the core of the actions of all Higher education institutions, “like it is in CIVIS - Europe's Civic University Alliance and many other alliances”, he concluded.   

Social media buzz and policy recommendations  

The event generated significant buzz on social media, with the CIVIS Student Council providing live updates throughout the three-day assembly. The CIVIS Student Council highlighted the insightful discussions, dynamic exchanges, and the decisive sessions in which crucial adjustments were made. 

A policy recommendations handbook summarising all the recommendations designed and voted by the participants to ESA 2024 for each of the 11 discussion panels was issued. Dissemination of the students' work will be key in informing policymakers in the months ahead.