About this event

EU-U.S. Young Leaders Seminar participants meet Donna Brazile and Othmar Karas

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The sixth edition of the EU-U.S. Young Leaders Seminar took place in Brussels, Belgium, in April 2023, and welcomed some esteemed guest speakers: the Chair of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Donna Brazile and First Vice-President of the European Parliament, Othmar Karas. The impressive agenda and speakers created a memorable and unique experience for participants. The group of 25 alumni from the EU Erasmus and Marie Sklodowska-Curie programmes and 25 current U.S. Fulbright Scholars came together to discuss “Active Civic Participation”.

The annual seminar is jointly implemented by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the U.S. Fulbright Commission in Belgium and is funded by the Delegation of the European Union to the United States. Participants get to hear a US and EU perspective on the topic chosen and exchange ideas on strengthening cooperation.

From the U.S. perspective, the young leaders heard from Executive Director of the Fulbright Programme in Brussels, Erica Lutes, who delivered welcoming remarks and led a panel on the role of civic engagement in democracy with Thomas de Luca, Fulbright U.S. Scholar, Cezara Grama, Rule of Law Expert at the Expert Forum, and Kim L. Smouter Umans, Director of the European Network Against Racism. The Fulbright Academic Exchange Specialist at the US Department of State, Patricia Bass also led a panel on Education for Democratic Citizenship with Saad Bokhari, Political Officer at the U.S. Mission to the EU and Oren Murphy, Regional Advisor for Europe at USAID. Panellists and participants were particularly enthused by the presence of renowned political strategist and analyst Donna Brazile. She joined the participants during the Welcome Dinner, where she personally met with all students and made time for conversations and photo opportunities. At the end of the seminar, she delivered inspiring closing remarks to encourage and reassure the young leaders of the value of their civic engagement for society.

Other highlights included speakers and panellists from EU institutions. From the European External Action Service, attendees heard from Managing Director of the Americas, Brian Glynn, and the EU Youth Coordinator, Biliana Sirakova. They visited the European Parliament and had a private audience with First Vice-President Othmar Karas, where they learned about the workings of the European Parliament and discussed the dynamics between the 27 EU Member States at the European level. To get first-hand insight into the EU by a seasoned MEP was greatly appreciated by participants. Visiting the hemicycle where MEPs sit in Parliamentary session gave a flavour of where decisions are made.

Attendees learned about the advocacy work of many international NGOs, ranging from: gender inclusion and diversity; youth political participation; support for migrants; campaigning for inclusion; and raising awareness for causes such as the impact of the war in Ukraine on civilians. Speakers included: Kajal Odedra (Change.org); Kelsey Beltz (The Good Lobby); Kim Smouter Umans (European Network Against Racism); Marta Barandly (Promote Ukraine); Mpanzu Bamenga (Human Rights Initiative); Wietse van Ransbeeck (CitizenLab); Mariam Harutyunyan (A Seat at the Table); Frank-Victor Laurant (CIVIX) and Maria Stratan (FH International).

Inspired by keynote speakers and panel discussions in the plenary, participants could compare and contrast their ideas in peer-moderated breakout groups on how to get involved in topics such as the environment, human rights, peace and security, and technological innovation. They had many opportunities for discussion on the topic as well as casual conservations during frequent coffee breaks and meals. Sander de Souza (Erasmus Mundus Scholar) shared his thoughts on the seminar: “I am a strong European enthusiast and I want to exchange with other young people from the European Union and from the United States because…our relationships are very important…all issues we face in our countries are often the same. So maybe together we will be able to find solutions.” Katie VanderEspt (Fulbright Scholar) added: “My favourite part of this seminar is being able to learn about other peoples’ perspectives… it makes me think about things that I’ve never considered before.”

The EU-U.S. Young Leaders Seminar is co-funded by the European Commission and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by GMF with the support of the Fulbright Commission in Brussels. Since its inception, over 200 alumni of U.S. and EU-funded educational exchange programs have participated in the Young Leaders Seminar. The Seminar is designed to be a unique opportunity for young leaders from across the United States and the European Union to discuss some of the most important issues facing both sides of the Atlantic.

For more information about the project, click here!

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