Federal Chancellor Scholz met with a large number of young people at the "JugendPolitikTage" event (Youth Policy Conference) to discuss ways in which they can get involved in politics and society. The talks covered everything from school to the environment to democracy itself: the Federal Chancellor even discussed his personal views about social media.
One of the issues the approximately 1000 participants at this year's "JugendPolitikTage” event were keen to discuss with Federal Chancellor Scholz on Thursday was the climate transition and how it can be handled successfully. Scholz emphasised the fact that the government had set itself some "extremely ambitious targets", which would entail a major industrial restructuring in Germany, which, he said would have to be carried out with "incredible speed". For the energy transition to succeed, he said, we would have to construct five to six wind turbines and cover an area with solar panels equating to 40 football pitches per day, which would require an "incredible effort" – but, he added that we had already started down this path. The entire government, and the whole nation, he said, needed to take responsibility. "We have to be able to explain all of our decisions to everyone and gain the support of a majority of the population," Scholz explained.
"JugendPolitikTage" (Youth Policy Conference) is an event organised by the Federal Ministry of Youth, in partnership with the Jugendpresse Deutschland organisation. Some 1000 young people from all over Germany come together with politicians and other representatives of society to discuss ideas for more youth-friendly policies under the motto "Politics without youth is like the present without a future". The Federal Government's cross-party youth strategy was developed at the " JugendPolitikTage" events in 2017 and 2019. The outcomes of this year's conference will, among other things, be incorporated into the National Action Plan for Child and Youth Participation.
The current state of the education system
In addition to climate change, questions were also raised about the state of the education system. One of the attendees, for example, proposed that schools should teach "physical and mental health" as a subject. Federal Chancellor Scholz emphasised the need to be attentive to student health, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whereas various federal programmes had been implemented, he admitted, that "we still have a lot of work to do to catch up".
The issue of how best to integrate immigrant children into the school system was also raised. Scholz referred to it as an "important task", because, as he put it, Germany is a country with a high rate of immigration. However, he pointed out, children of immigrant parents were far from being a minority in many German towns and cities but rather the norm, which was why he said we needed a school system, which could cater to students from various backgrounds.
Other issues raised by the young audience concerned the question of inclusion, the state of Europe, and the healthcare system. In response to the question of how to convince young people of the value of democracy, the Federal Chancellor went back to basics: "Forming our own opinions is part of the democratic process as is debating and sometimes losing but nevertheless having to reach an agreement with others." He continued by saying that a love of democracy had to do with realising that it's also about you, that you are seen, and that your personal problems matter; conveying this feeling, he went on, was an important task for politicians.
The Federal Chancellor and social media
As the discussion was coming to a close, someone suggested to Scholz that he might want to invest more time in social media, specifically to engage with the younger generation, an idea which he dismissed out of hand, explaining that, whilst he does use various communication channels, these were managed by his team. If, he said, someone in his position really were to spend a lot of time on social media, he would find it pretty disturbing: you’d have to wonder what they actually did for a living. Nevertheless, when asked about what he might tweet to sum up the discussion, Scholz’ prompt quip was: “Young people, the future – no worries!"
Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Lisa Paus opened the "JugendPolitikTage" event by saying: "I see the JugendPolitikTage event as a space where we can discuss the issues of our time, where different views may be voiced freely, and where we are also free to disagree." Young people, she said, not only have the right to be noticed, but also to be taken seriously and, addressing young people directly, she added that it is worth getting involved.