Next year, when Klaipeda becomes the European Youth Capital, Lithuania will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of youth policy. Therefore, the platform “Dialogues” of the project Klaipeda – European Youth Capital 2021 (EJS2021), the aim of which is to ensure the social and political rights of young people, seeks to find out the level of political literacy of young people and their influence on policy decisions.
Although it is generally considered that young people are passive and it is difficult to interest them, Laurynas Gečius, the chairman of the Klaipėda Association of Youth Organizations “Round Table” (KLAS) and the Youth Affairs Council, assures that there is a clear improvement in the situation.
“We see an increase in youth activity in our environment. However, we, in turn, aim to acquaint young people with the structures of youth policy and the principles of youth policy”, – he says.
Dr. Klaipeda University (KU) Head of the Department of Public Administration and Political Science Dr. Jaroslav Dvorak notes global trends in youth activism as young people inspired by Greta Thunberg began to show slightly more political activism. However, Dr. J. Dvorak adds that “even students studying political science often say they don’t care about politics.”
“Although all the major decisions that affect our lives are made by politicians. We also see that the political participation of young people in the elections is not high”, – he says.
Klaipeda – European Youth Capital 2021 one of the activities is to strengthen young people’s interest in politics and to activate citizenship. These goals are set by the implementers of the project platform “Dialogues” – Klaipeda University and Klaipeda University Students’ Union.
The first activity of the platform is to survey young people aged 14-29 to find out their level of political literacy.
The first law on the framework of youth policy in Lithuania was adopted in 1996. According to L. Gečius, the Lithuanian youth policy model is one of the exemplary in Europe, because ideally the opinion of young people can reach even the highest political levels.
“This anniversary shows the sustainability of the youth policy structure and ensuring the voice of young people in decision-making. A young person has the opportunity to create and implement their ideas and initiatives”, – says the chairman of KLAS.
According to Dr. Mr. Dvorak, young people not only can influence political decisions, but can themselves become part of politics. According to him, the best example is Virginijus Sinkevičius.
“Today, Lithuania is represented in the European Commission by the youngest Commissioner in the entire history of the European Union. Virginijus Sinkevičius is only 29 years old and he has already been a member of the Seimas, a minister, and today he is responsible for the green course of the whole of Europe”, – says J. Dvorak.
“Together with the Youth Affairs Council, we initiated an analysis of the situation of youth participation, where it became clear that Russian-speaking young people are not very involved in activities, that information does not reach young people in Klaipėda, therefore we plan to continue working. We hope that the youth capital will help us to implement many other significant works”, –says L. Gečius.
Klaipėda City Mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas states that the main goal of Klaipėda city youth policy is to reveal its potential and become the most youth-friendly, open, cooperative city in the Baltic Sea region.
“I always invite Klaipeda’s young people to actively participate in the city’s life, to create a city for themselves, so that young people feel welcome and needed here, would like to stay here, study, start a career, spend their free time,” says Klaipeda Mayor.