Creating a Perfect Match with Europe's Youth

Coca-Cola recently joined forces with leading youth think-tank ThinkYoung to host an interactive discussion during their annual festive event to explore how - as we enter European Parliament election year – the European Union can ‘create a perfect match with Europe’s Generation Z’ youth. With young people at the forefront of the policy agenda, and the new European Commission Youth Strategy set to run from 2019 until 2027, the discussion offered a timely platform to reflect on the progress that has been achieved over the last decade and some of the priorities moving forward. 

Joining the discussion were two Members of European Parliament (MEPs) Liliana Rodrigues (Portugal) and Claudia Tapardel (Romania), in addition to Sergej Koperdak, policy advisor at the European Commission who played an active role in leading the development of the current youth strategy. The voice of youth was heard from Former President of the European Youth Association and ‘Young European of the Year’ Nozizwe Dube, while the panel was completed by Walter Susini, SVP marketing at Coca-Cola and Andrea Gerosa, founder of ThinkYoung. 

The discussion was encouraging.  Highlighting her experiences as a millennial politician, Claudia Tapardel outlined that “Youth is the future.  It’s very important to motivate the youth generation to lead, by involving them in civil society, in associations and with NGOs on issues they care about.”  With a call to action to positively influence policy and get involved in political debate, Tapardel shared advice with Generation Z, asking, “Don’t only react to what you disagree with but share what you believe in too.”  Liliana Rodrigues echoed this call, calling out to Generation Z that “If you love freedom and you love Europe, now is the time to take action.”  She highlighted that youth focused legislation and policy will not be enough, and there needs to be involvement from micro-political powers and cross-sector partnerships to help young people study and work.

Reflecting on progress that has been made since he helped define the current youth strategy, Sergej Koperdak highlights how the landscape has changed over the last decade, citing that “access to technology, ease of travel and societal changes have helped make some things easier for Generation Z, yet cost of living has also increased.”  Reflecting on the new Youth Strategy tri-focus on ENGAGE-CONNECT-EMPOWER, Koperdak highlights that no policy or legislation is now introduced without a youth element, and policy makers are acutely aware they need to think about young people.

Reflecting on how experiences in industry can apply to politics, Walter Susini shared that “there has never been a better time to engage with young people, but it’s essential that we capture their attention quickly to build a real connection.  We shouldn’t think about young people in silos – whether that is Generation Z or millennials – but instead really understand their interests, their passions and their needs. That is the foundation of creating the kind of memorable and meaningful experiences that we know Europe’s youth are looking for.”

While the discussion also sought the experiences of young people.  Nozizwe Dube mentioned that for her, like many young people, the Erasmus study program was the first point of contact with Europe and showed tangible value of the European Union, recommending that it be offered more broadly beyond higher education students.  She also mentions the great unfulfilled potential of hearing a youth voice in policy discussions, “I join many debates focused on issues that matter such as immigration and inclusion, but I don’t see enough engagement and involvement of young people in these discussions.  For me that is a real lost opportunity.”

To support the discussion, Coca-Cola researched the views of almost 3,000 young people across Europe relating to the debate. More details on the research findings can be seen here