“I’m changing Europe!”
Ghent (Belgium) won the European Youth Capital Award 2024 yesterday, organised by the European Youth Forum. The other finalists were Chișinău (Moldova), Lviv (Ukraine) and Veszprém (Hungary).
The award ceremony included panel debates with the young representatives and the mayors of the candidate cities. Amiens and Klaipeda, the European Youth Capitals from respectively 2020 and 2021, were also present and shared their experiences.
Ghent won because of its commitment to put young people at the core of its democratic and civic life, in line with Belgium’s recent decision to lower the voting age to 16 in the European elections. Ghent will hold the title in 2024 for one year, in tandem with the Belgian presidency of the EU, empowering its young citizens to take the lead in shaping their city and its future within Europe.
"Worked as a team"
The Ghent youth representatives were Youness Ilken, Aline Brantegem and Antoon Denys. “We’ve been looking forward to this award ceremony a long time, and we’re so happy! And also relieved, it was very stressful”, says Aline.
“We haven’t seen most of the other people with whom who’ve been working towards this, we only saw each other on screens because of covid. But we’ve still worked so hard together as a team, despite the covid restrictions”, says Youness. “There was a lot of preparatory work, but also a lot of concrete work, that we’ve planned for the future”, says Antoon.
And their plans for the future? “First, we’re going to rest a bit”, laughs Youness. “And then, we’re going back to work!” Antoon adds: “We’re preparing now to make something beautiful in 2024”.
"For and by young people"
"Ghent will be the European Youth Capital in 2024,” says the mayor of Ghent, Mathias De Clercq. “We owe this not only to a very strong dossier, but also to our youth and child-friendly policy. Now we have the opportunity to show the world our innovative ideas for and by young people.”
"2024 will be a year to look forward to for Ghent's youth. They will be at the helm of this story. They are (the future of) the city and one of our strongest assets. The whole of Europe will soon be aware of that”, says Elke Decruynaere, councillor of Youth in Ghent.
What is the European Youth Capital?
The European Youth Capital title invites cities across the continent to rethink how they engage with and include young citizens. The European Youth Capital is an opportunity to showcase innovative ideas, projects and activities that aim to foster youth participation in cultural and educational programmes and democratic policy-making. You can find more information on how to apply at the European Youth Forum.