Warren Bennis, a true pioneer of modern leadership studies stated: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”. This has been the purpose and target of the Message to Europeans 3.0 project by launching a series of events across Europe within the framework of the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union; to bring together young individuals from all over our European Union; to let their voices be heard and their ideas be exchanged, inspired and advance throughout. After the grounding phase for Student Leaders in Warsaw, the second world capital to serve as a venue for the initiative was Budapest, Hungary.

Between 5-7 March, around 60 individuals came together from the most diverse corners of the EU, students and young academics, to discuss the topic of migration, the current challenges, and prospective solutions thereto. As host institution, the Bibó István College for Advanced Studies worked in cooperation with the Eötvös Loránd University, Faculty of Law, and the European University College Association. The involvement of lecturers, researchers, and professionals working for universities or participating in the Refugees Project of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, further contributed to the success of the event.

The first day of the programme was devoted to various workshops and practical tasks in the form of groupwork to let the participants get familiar with debating skills and methodology, as well as to analyse the knowledge and information which they had previously gained through readings and a preparatory seminar from a new, discussion-based perspective. The second day embodied the highlight of the event, when the mock trial took place with a judge, experts on the issue of migration and refugee law, as well as students, representing the sides of the prosecution and defence.

The discussion in the mock trial centred around the quota decision, especially the four institutional phases of its formation: separate sessions dealt with the phase connected to the European Council, the Council of the EU, the European Commission, and the Court of Justice of the EU. Two attorneys and three researchers represented the approach by a given EU institution on the topic, while the same number of participants took the side of the most affected Member States in the debate. Through rebuttals and sur-rebuttals, questions addressed to the experts, and a popular jury decision in each session, an extensive exchange of ideas and viewpoints was realised. Topics discussed were ranging from the general questions of state sovereignty and overall solidarity to more specific issues regarding the methods and ways each Member State could utilise to cope with the problems raised, taking account of national characteristics, cultural, economic, geographic, and also political diversities.

Although this project brought us together from very diverse cultures and fields of science, and we each had different opinions on the challenges presented to us, through debate and discussion we received a wider perspective from each other. This way we can shape and inspire each other to be better, thereby already starting to make a change,” said Virág, a Hungarian participant to the event from the ELTE Faculty of Law. With 27 Hungarian participants and 35 international students from 13 countries, this event could truly be considered a multi-cultural, as well as a multi-disciplinary initiative under the umbrella of the Europe for Citizens project.

Lilla, a student leader of the project who participated as an attorney in the mock trial stated: “We had the opportunity to get an insight into the work of the Commission. During our short debate, we discussed the most urgent and relevant issues connected to migration, such as security concerns, cultural differences as well as the economic considerations. Both sides did their utmost to convince the jury, but at the end - after hearing great and interesting arguments from our opponents - the jury ruled in our favour (Commission). The two-day conference was an amazing experience, which helped me understand this relevant and pressing issue of today's EU.”

Through various civic initiatives, such as street interviews and instant polls, participants had the chance to get to know the approach of citizens as well. They could gain insight into the perspective of Euroscepticism, the rational concerns and the more irrational fears going hand in hand with the phenomenon of migration. Although there is probably no universal approach or general truth in terms of this issue, a key message of this event has been the idea that it is not our obligation or moral responsibility to save the future, but to shape it. It is not about finding the best answers, the ultimate right ones, but to have the persistence to find the most pressing questions, the courage to ask them, and start working in rather small steps for a possible solution in the future.

You can learn more on the next phases of the project here.

This material was published in Lawyr.it Vol. 5 Ed. 3, September 2018, available only online.