January 9th 2023 marked the 25th anniversary of Stichting Europees Jeugdparlement Nederland. In this special lustrum year, we reflect on the organisation’s history. Our active volunteer and former Board member Joris Dietz dove into the (digital) archives and conducted interviews with several key figures in EYP NL. Based on this information he drafted the story of EYP the Netherlands from 1998 to 2013. Jump to the milestones:
This webpage covers the first 15 years of the foundation. Do you want to write about the last 10 years? Reach out to [email protected] to contribute to this webpage!
The reader of below texts is expected to have a basic understanding of what the European Youth Parliament is and what terms like International Session (IS) and National Committee (NC) mean.
How it all started
Since 1987, Bettina Carr-Allinson, founder of the European Youth Parliament, organised annual International Sessions in different cities across Europe. Around 1995, to spread this new democratic and educational youth movement over the continent, she reached out to Meine Stoker. He was head master of the Rotterdamsch Lyceum at the time, and asked Margriet van Zevenbergen, teacher of history and social studies, to arrange a Dutch delegation for the next IS. She was happy pick up this project, and in November 1995 she attended a special EYP liaison teachers meeting in Milan.
The first Dutch delegations to International Sessions
For the next few years, Margriet formed, prepared and accompanied the Dutch delegation to the International Sessions of the EYP. She gathered interested students from her classes, informed them about the European Union and helped them develop English speaking skills. For some sessions she called for help from other teachers, primarily from maatschappijleer, history and English, also from the befriended Erasmiaans Gymnasium: “Do you have an interested 4th or 5th grade class you want to prepare in your spare time?”
At these International Sessions, in Scotland (Edinburgh 1997), Finland (Hämeenlinna 1999) and Germany (Weimar 1999), Margriet van Zevenbergen accompanied up to 8 Dutch students and made sure they safely made it to their accommodation, as late as three o’clock in the night!
32nd International Session – Hämeenlinna, Finland, 1999
dutch delegations at other international sessions
We consider Margriet van Zevenbergen as the founder of EYP the Netherlands, as she was the first to introduce Dutch students to the International Sessions and network. Also she was registered as chairperson of the Stichting Europees Jeugdparlement Nederland, founded in 1998. Yet, she does not confirm that she sat in the board of a legal foundation. She recalls that from 2003 onwards, the participating students had taken over the organisation of delegations because they were dissatisfied with the process.
Students take over
The first National Selection Conference
When the delegation of het Erasmiaans Gymnasium came back from Stockholm in 2002, the students had a feeling of satisfaction and pride, but also injustice: “It’s unfair that it’s always our school that can participate in the EYP!” They wanted to broaden the program and involve more Dutch schools in the EYP network. Sille Jansen, Sacha Nauta and Simone van Elk decided to organise their own one-day General Assembly with students from other regional schools, and select the Dutch delegation for the next International Session. The first National Selection Conference in the Netherlands took place in 2003!
EYP is super cool, it would be nice if more people could participate in this project. It would be fairer if everyone gets a chance to go!Sille Jansen, initiator of the first National Selection Conference
While Sille was already in her first year of university, she organised the national session at the Erasmiaans Gymnasium. Using the internet, she made a list of addresses and phone numbers of secondary schools which she called during school breaks, hoping that caretakers could put her through to the social studies teachers in the staff room. She asked “we are looking for schools to send students to debate European issues, can you join?” Nine times out of ten, the answer was no, but sometimes she got lucky with enthusiastic teachers willing to organise it for their class, or even connected with a dedicated debate team.
It was all super wonky, we didn’t think about it much. We’re just going to do it!Sille Jansen, initiator of the first National Selection Conference
They asked participating teams to contribute 30 guilders (14 euros) per pupil, from which food was bought (there was always too much bread left over!). To make a fair delegation selection, they had invited experienced EYPers from abroad to sit on the jury, on stage at General Assembly. One of them was Marcus Pollard, who supported the organisation a lot because he knew the EYP system in the United Kingdom.
A year later, the second national session was organised, with people staying overnight in the gym hall. That edition was ‘won’ by the delegation from the Stanislas College in Delft. It was great fun that the team, led by Marjolijn Pichel, wanted to organise the next General Assembly themselves, at the Delft town hall. Then the tradition arose that the winning school organises the next edition, like the Eurovision song contest!
The first student board
By 2003 EYP the Netherlands was a distinct, close-knit group of befriended students from the Erasmiaans Gymnasium, Libanon Lyceum and Stanlislas College. It was very special that you were allowed to skip classes and have an office in school for EYP activities, and everyone was motivated to do something differently. They had all had a good experience at International Sessions, and wanted to make that possible for other people.
There was no social media yet, so we found people through going out, sports, and EYP!Sille Jansen, first student board member of EYP the Netherlands
They wanted to institutionalise the organisation and establish a board, but found out that the foundation Stichting Europees Jeugdparlement Nederland already existed since 1998. It was a bit obscure, so Marcus Pollard and Ralph Jeuken sought legal help to take over foundation. According to Sille, the teachers on that board were happy for it to be taken over, and their school teachers supported this small-scale initiative too.
During that period, Sacha Nauta tried to organise an International Session in the Netherlands. That didn’t get off the ground, because she lacked support from the network organisation. EYP International went through a difficult period, after a fraud scandal, and transitioned to the Schwarzkopf Stiftung. There was a lot of fuss and obscurity about the contribution of delegates to ISs, which meant International Session would not get any budgets from delegations at all. They had to raise all the funds differently, but that was not realistic at the time, for example because European grants like Erasmus+ were not yet established and popular. This made it practically impossible to organise an IS in 2004.
Anyway, the volunteers of EYP the Netherlands had their hands full recruiting delegations for the new Preliminary Rounds: selection sessions that gathered three school delegations of eight delegates on one weekend day, for introductory teambuilding games in the morning and a General Assembly in the afternoon. It was hard work to ‘fill’ those sessions and there was no time for fundraising.
ESTABLISHING EYP NL
The North Sea Forum
EYP the Netherlands was developing into a more serious organisation. National Coordinators Ruben Wagenaar and Maite Karssenberg thought it was time to position the National Committee in the network with a big event. In 2009 Rotterdam was the first European Youth Capital, and this offered a good opportunity to organise the first international EYP event in the Netherlands: the North Sea Forum.
The connection to the EYC subsidy program opened doors for Ruben and Maite, who were bold enough to contact prestiguous venues and deliver a presentation to the city council. This brought the session to new heights, literally: the General Assembly took place at the top floor of the World Trade Center!
The first Dutch International Forum, with over 100 participants from a dozen countries, was a high-quality event. All involved volunteers were ‘over the moon’ for this achievement, and their dedication to the organisation grew rapidly.
Raising enough funds remained a challenge. We spent hours stoically making cheese sandwiches, because we could not afford a different lunch!Ruben Wagenaar, Head-Organiser of the North Sea Forum 2009
While Ruben and Maite organised Rotterdam 2009, as National Coordinators (Co-Presidents) they also managed that the Preliminary Rounds and Nationals continued and started Dutch representation at the Board of National Committees. Their board (including Mark Brakel as Treasurer), implemented a policy change that allowed delegates to be sent to other sessions abroad as well, thus sticking to the growing organisation. Later, significant roles were increasingly filled by people who did not involved through the traditional way of Nationals and IS.
There was a natural flow of engaged Alumni in the Netherlands, and the community was still very informal. In 2007 Wim van Doorn had joined the group, became de-facto board member as Head-Organiser of a Prelimary Round in 2009, and formally became President in the next year. It struck him that all events relied on four to five volunteers, which made the organisation very vulnerable.
Inspired by student associations, Wim proposed a division of workload and tasks to increase broad support and decrease dependence on single volunteers. This vision soon developed into dedicated committees for school recruitment, Alumni retainment and Academic Preparation. The latter working group was tasked to research and write resolutions for delegates to study and debate at Preliminary Rounds. These events took place three weekends per year and each consisted of two mini-sessions with 4-6 school delegations, coming mostly from the Randstad.
By 2012, annually 250 to 300 Dutch high school students participated in EYP!Wim van Doorn, President 2010-2012
These years, the Board faced a challenge in Alumni bonding. The community felt very much like a friends group, where some people felt left out and uncomfortable. To open up the organisation selection processes, for positions within EYP NL and at sessions, became more transparent through feedback.
A lot of time was invested in recruiting new delegations, which was quite difficult. The committee actively called a list of schools and offered come by to explain EYP in a workshop. They even reached out to schools in to the far north and south of the country, for the sake of regional expansion, and a Preliminary Round eventually took place in Maastricht in 2011!
The first International Session
Rotterdam 2009 was a testament to the drive of Dutch Alumni and the ambition of the organisation. Soon after, Mark Brakel wanted to take EYP NL to the next level and initiated the first International Session in EYP the Netherlands, Amsterdam 2012. He and other Organisers built on the lessons and experienced people of the North Sea Forum. The event had a total budget of more than 200k euros, but there was no active support from an International Office, except for the 50k grant application to the European Commission.
Unfortunately, this is one of the few International Sessions in the second decade of the 21st century of which there are hardly any photos! Almost all SD cards of the Media Team got lost, and not everyone had a mobile phone to take pictures themselves. Luckily, the session newspaper was saved:
The whole IS is one big blur. I was young, doing something huge for the first time. I could have been a tad less ambitious, it would have saved some stressful situations!Mark Brakel, Head-Organiser of Amsterdam 2012, the 71st International Session of the European Youth Parliament
The International Session had some remarkable venues, reaching beyond Amsterdam: Teambuilding activities took place in Centre Parcs cottages (expensive!), other accommodation was at the StayOkay Vondelpark, Committee Work was done in an anti-squatting building (antikraakpand), a press conference was live from Spui25, a dinner was organised at the Rijksmuseu, and the session was ceremonially opened at the prestigious Ridderzaal in The Hague. At the latter, special guest Prince Constantijn van Oranje (brother of King Willem-Alexander) was waiting unaccompanied while all Officials and delegates were stuck in a traffic jam in Flevoland. That was a setback!
Things like the opening ceremony were inspired by other International Sessions that had impressed Dutch delegates and officials. EYP Sweden had invited a princess, in Ireland they welcomed President Mary Robinson. So Mark sent invitations to prominent figures who had a link with Europe; Prince Constantine accepted! As a delegate, it’s special to see adults who exemplify what you want to do, speak at a youth conference.
Zahra Runderkamp was Organiser of Amsterdam 2012 and is still proud of the achievement. The big event gave the image of EYP a boost and has undoubtedly attracted new schools to the regular sessions. In response to the growing group of Alumni, she became Alumni Coordinator of the Board and organised the first random fun activities and weekends. The Spring Weekends were strategically planned directly after the Nationals to attract the new generation – succesfully so, with up to 50 participants! The crazy costume parties were contrasted with serious training programs. The Autumn Weekends helped Alumni to build their academic skills, write applications and so get selected as Officials in session abroad.
The first Lustrum
In 2013 it was time for the first lustrum celebration of EYP the Netherlands! Former Board and Supervisory Council members had a kind of high tea in the Amstel Hotel, followed by drinks for all Alumni in l’Empicka. Then a three-course dinner in a small French bistro in the centre of Amsterdam and a party at Amstelhaven. Icing on the cake for the 15 succesful years since 1998!
That’s the story for now… Do you want to help write history? Reach out to [email protected] to contribute with texts, documents and images!
This webpage was established through interviews with prominent EYP Alumni. Their contributions to this story are truly invaluable. Thank you for sharing your memories!
Head-Organiser of the first IF
Head-Organiser of the first IS