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How travelling in Europe can boost active citizenship

New research shows that the more Europe’s youth visit other Member States, the more civically engaged they will become at home.

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Cross-border mobility during adolescence and youth contributes significantly to young European citizens’ sense of belonging and civil participation, according to the findings of a recent study. Conducted as part of the EU-funded CATCH-EyoU project, the research involved over 10 000 adolescents aged 14-19 and young adults aged 20-30 in 8 Member States (Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom). The results were recently published in the ‘European Journal of Developmental Psychology’. The project’s international research team focused on young Europeans, typically highly educated and well-skilled, who have travelled between Member States for a limited time. The team grounded their work on the idea that cross-border mobility is associated with more positive attitudes toward, stronger sense of identification with, and multifaceted visions of the EU. CATCH-EyoU researchers set out to determine whether these factors positively influence participation at EU level. The findings showed that for both adolescents and young adults short-term mobility has a significant direct effect on participation in EU issues through identification with the EU and its vision as a political community. Results from the questionnaires indicate the same appears to hold true as regards long-term mobility for young adults. Staying with the young adults group, the study found a negative indirect effect of both short- and long-term mobility through vision of the EU as an economic community. The two forms of mobility also had an indirect effect on intention to vote through identification with and positive attitudes toward the EU and vision of the EU as a community of shared values. The study found that 30 % of its young participants had in the past year been involved in social and political issues of European importance, and 67 % had plans to vote in the next EU elections. The findings clearly evidence a positive relationship between mobility and identification as European and also between mobility and positive attitudes toward the EU. This offers strong support for policies that support mobility, so contributing to young peoples’ sense of European citizenship. Referencing the ‘Erasmus Generation’, CATCH-EyoU project coordinator Prof. Elvira Cicognani noted these are “young people who have seized the opportunities to go beyond national boundaries. They know what they want from Europe and they are willing to get involved in order to obtain it.” The CATCH-EyoU (Constructing AcTive CitizensHip with European Youth: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Solutions) project is exploring young people’s views of the EU and how their engagement from local to EU level contributes to building the EU. The initiative and its results will help to advance a modern conceptualisation of youth active citizenship and ways to integrate these perspectives in relevant policymaking. For more information, please see: CATCH-EyoU project website