I had the great pleasure of being invited to the European Atlantic Movement's (TEAM Global's) members' day in the stunning Westminster Cathedral Hall where the calibre of speakers invited to talk reflects the respect many have for what TEAM Global.
TEAM Global always seeks to provide a platform for all sides of the debate and the guests clearly showed that. To give the German government's view TEAM Global had invited Bernd Heinze (Deputy Head of the Political Department at the German Embassy), Dr Martyn Bond (Visiting Professor of European Politics and Policy at Royal Holloway) who spoke in great detail about the Council of Europe, Baroness Ludford (Liberal Democrat European Justice and Human Rights Spokeswomen) and finally, Steve Baker a prominent member of the euro-sceptic Conservatives for Britain group, but Mr Baker was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances.
You are probably thinking 'Well, that sounds interesting but what is TEAM Global'?
TEAM Global is an education charity that has the vision of developing people as global citizens. TEAM helps to promote an understanding and discussion of world affairs, which empowers young people, particularly those from disadvantaged section of British society, to be active global citizens and to aspire to leadership roles within their communities.
· arranging workshop-conferences for sixth form students (Years 12 & 13) and other students at schools and universities
· organising study tours for school and university teachers to the UN in Geneva, the Red Cross in Geneva, the EU and institutions of Europe in Brussels
The event I attended was a perfect example of that mission statement being put into action. With over 100 members arriving at the venue I was struck by just how many school students were here, I was told by the organiser of the event that there were nine schools attending. In an age where it is so common to hear politicians saying the youth are disengaged and disinterested in politics and world affairs I would implore them to come to a TEAM Global Member's day. Having seen so many young people taking the time out of their summer holiday to be a part of a political discussion in my view strengthens the case for 16-17 year olds voting in the upcoming EU referendum.
First up was Bernd Heinze who gave a passionate speech about Germany's emotional connection to the European Union and why he believes it is in Germany's political and economic interest that Britain remains part of the European Union. Whilst he defended the EU, he was honest in admitting that German and British views on Europe are very different and that ultimately it was for the British people to decide on whether or not they UK would remain part of the EU and that the German government would of course respect the outcome.
This was followed by Dr Martyn Bond who strongly defended the UK's continued adherance to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR); he is a renowned expert on the Council of Europe having written extensively on the topic. I found the talk given by Dr Bond particularly fascinating, as often the British press and some politicians do not adequately explain the Council of Europe and indeed the situation has become so grave that large sections of British society believe that the ECHR is part of the EU.
This final part brings me onto the vital role TEAM Global plays in framing an honest, informed and civilised debate where both sides of every argument are heard so that young people can come to their own judgements and become more aware of the global issues affecting all of us. Most importantly those students walk away from every conference TEAM Global organises with the ability to challenge their initial perceptions and leave with the skills and confidence to question what they are told is correct in a rational way. With Europe facing so many crises, NGOs like TEAM Global perform a vital role in ensuring that the next generation are able to become the leaders Europe needs.
The highlight of the day for me was being able to see a lively debate in the House of Commons, it was my first time there and it was such a pleasure to see representative democracy in action. After this I spoke to some of the students and all I heard was positive responses about how enjoyable it was to see his/her MP in action.
After the debate we all had a splendid tea in the Cholmondeley Room at the House of Lords hosted by Baroness Ludford who gave a passionate speech defending Britain's membership of the European Union and explained to us how the Prime Minister's renegotiation strategy will face as much opposition within his own party as well as from other European Leaders.
I was immensely privileged to attend the TEAM Global Members' day, and I would recommend to all One Europe readers to follow them on Facebook and Twitter so when TEAM Global begins to advertise study tours to Brussels you will be able to get a space before they are all gone! If you have any further queries about TEAM Global or want to help in anyway please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information about TEAM Global is available at facebook.com/pages/The-European-Atlantic-Movement-TEAM/278437525547648 and on Twitter at @TEAMcitizenship