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The Youth Parliament-Steps of Democracy: Putting participation into practise is an educational programme organised annually by the Foundation of the Hellenic Parliament for Parliamentaryism and Democracy, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.
The programme is aimed at 1st and 2nd grade Lyceum students from schools in Greece and schools of the Public Employment Service (former O.A.E.D.). The main objectives of the programme are to acquaint the teenagers with the principles and values of democracy as well as with the functioning and role of Parliament, the exercise of democratic practices, and the activation of the teenagers in issues that concern the school, the community, and society. The programme aspires to offer students, in addition to knowledge, a platform for personal expression and creativity, opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and participation.
From the proceedings of the Youth Parliament (2018-2019), the programme changes radically. The Youth Parliament is part of the educational process and school life throughout the school year. Groups are formed to work on a topic of their own choosing – focusing on issues of democracy and rights, concerning school life, the local community, and society. With the aim of cultivating active citizenship in practice, the emphasis is on a collaborative, experiential, research-based, and holistic/interdisciplinary approach. Students are encouraged to take initiatives in the school and local community, while at the same time practising democratic practises every day (dialogue, respect for others, collective decision-making, intervention, representation). Thus, the 300 "teenage parliamentarians" are selected by their classmates and represent the group in which they have participated throughout the year. The 300 "teenage MPs" represent schools from each electoral region of the country, in a number corresponding to the number of parliamentary seats in each region.
Through discussions with MPs and expert scientists and various experiential workshops, the 300 student-representatives submit their own opinions and proposals, while at the same time attending a specially designed programme of cultural events.
The law 3443/2006 defines the framework for the activities of the youth councils in Greece.
In order to strengthen the participation of young people in the management of local affairs, which respond to their interests, municipal and community youth councils (local youth councils) are established in each municipality and community in the country.
The task of the Local Youth Councils is to identify, highlight, and monitor the needs and problems of youth at the local level; to undertake initiatives and activities for the full and free development of young people's personalities in collaboration with the relevant Local Government Organisation; to take measures for the active and effective participation of young people in local society; and to develop cooperative relations with respective Local Youth Councils.
In order to fulfil the above purpose, a youth register is created and maintained, under the responsibility of the municipal or community council, in which young people between the ages of 15 and 28 who are registered in the municipal register of the municipality concerned are registered, upon their application, or community. Those registered in the youth register are automatically deleted after reaching the age of 28, unless they have been elected to the Council pursuant to Article 5 hereof, in which case they retain their status until the end of their term.
The Municipal or Community Youth Councils are established by decision of the relevant municipal or community council after the first elections for the nomination of their councils, in accordance with the provisions of article 6 of this law. With the same decision, the elected council is called to its first meeting.
Meetings of the Youth Councils
1. The Assembly of Municipal or Community Youth Councils is made up of all the youth registered in the relevant registers of the municipality or community.
2. The Assembly is responsible for drawing up guidelines and policies regarding the actions of the respective Youth Councils.
3. The Assembly must be convened at least once a year, upon the invitation of the President of the relevant Council.
4. The Assembly is convened as an emergency, if a serious matter arises by decision of the Council. If a member of the Council requests the convening of an extraordinary assembly and the Council refuses to hold it, an extraordinary assembly is convened by submitting a request signed by 1/3 of the members of the Assembly. In this case, the Assembly convenes upon the invitation of those who submitted the relevant request and decides on the matters for which its convening was requested.
5. Meetings of the assembly are public. The mayor or the president of the community or their authorized representative participates, without the right to vote, in the meetings of the assembly, in which he is compulsorily invited in order to express an opinion on all the issues discussed in it.
1. The Council of Municipal or Community Youth Councils is:
a) Five members in municipalities or communities of up to 20,000 people, according to the most recent census.
b) Seven members in municipalities or communities with 20,000 to 50,000 inhabitants, according to the most recent census.
c) Nine members in municipalities or communities with 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants, according to the most recent census.
d) Eleven members in municipalities or communities with more than 100,000 people, according to the most recent census.
2. The Council is responsible for implementing the guidelines and policies drawn up by the Assembly.
3. The Council meets at least once a month, at the invitation of its President.
4. At the first meeting of the Council, the President, Deputy President, Secretary, and Treasurer are elected by secret ballot. The term of office of the members of the Council ends with the election of the members of the new Council.
5. The qualities of mayor, community president, prefect, municipal district council president, and president or member of a municipal or community or county council or municipal district council are incompatible with being a member of the council.
6. The Council can recommend committees to deal with issues concerning young people in its area.
1. By joint decision of the Ministers of Education and Religious Affairs and of the Interior, elections are announced for the nomination of municipal or community youth councils. Elections are announced within the first three months from the beginning of the first and third years of each municipal or community period and are held within one month from the date of the publication of the relevant announcement in all municipalities and communities of the country. The relevant municipal or community council is responsible for the smooth organisation and conduct of the elections.
2. The elections are conducted by direct and secret voting with ballots. Only those registered in the relevant youth registers until the date of publication of the relevant notice of the elections have the right to elect and be elected to the Councils of the Municipal or Community Youth Councils. From this date and until the appointment of the Council, registrations in the relevant youth registers are not allowed.
3. With the joint ministerial decision of paragraph 1, both the issue of the first application of the provisions herein and, in particular, matters concerning the procedure for conducting the elections and any other relevant details are regulated.
1. The President of the Council represents the respective Youth Council and ensures its smooth operation.
2. The President of the Municipal or Community Youth Council participates in the meetings of the relevant municipal or community council, to which he is compulsorily invited and has the right to express an opinion on issues related to the interests of the youth in his area.
Provisions for Funding and Enabling
1. By joint decision of the Ministers of the Interior, Finance, Education and Religious Affairs, the grant of the relevant local government organisations is determined for the financing exclusively of the actions and activities of the Local Youth Councils that are developed to achieve the goals of. The relevant appropriations are registered in a special output code number in the budget of the municipalities or communities concerned, the grant of which is borne equally by the budgets of the Ministries of the Interior, Finance, Education and Religious Affairs.
2. By a similar decision, the manner of nomination and composition of the bodies of the Local Youth Councils, their responsibilities and operation, financial management and financial control, as well as any other necessary details for the implementation of this law, shall be determined.
3. By presidential decree, issued following the proposal of the Ministers of the Interior, Finance, Education and Religious Affairs, the establishment and formation of Prefectural Youth Councils is provided for in accordance with the provisions of this law. With the same presidential decree, the representation of the Municipal, Community, and Prefectural Youth Councils at the pan-Hellenic level by the National Committee of Local Youth Councils is foreseen, as well as the regulation of more specific issues or issues of a technical or detailed nature.
The National Student Union of Greece was a tertiary organisation made up of student organisations from Greece's higher education institutions. It almost came to an end in the 1980s due to student parties' refusal to elect a board of directors. The current structure of the student unions consists of different student associations that co-exist in universities.
The student association is the collective decision-making body of students at university institutions, and under most statutes, the term "student" refers to students in the university sector of higher education. Traditionally, there is one association per subject, department, faculty, or even academic institution. In Greece, all registered students and undergraduate level students automatically belong to the association of their faculty or department, while there are postgraduate student associations on a case-by-case basis. Typically, students and student associations exist to be active on student issues (student unionism), but sometimes they also organise events of an academic nature (conferences) or entertainment (concerts, parties).
The highest decision-making body of the association is the General Assembly, which consists of all the members of the association and takes decisions by majority vote after an open discussion on the issues. Many associations have a board of directors that is accountable to the general assembly and undertakes to implement its decisions and prepare them. Members of the board of directors usually participate in the co-management bodies of the university. In the student unions, the representation on the board of directors is determined by the members of the union in a secret vote, which takes place on the same date throughout Greece and is known as student elections in universities.
The funding of the student associations derives from member subscriptions, donations, and other sources mentioned in the statute of the student associations.
The student communities, a purely pedagogical institution, which is inextricably linked to the educational process, are the space for the development of student initiative within the school. They are a cell of democratic life, where, through dialogue and participation, students with a spirit of cooperation, exercise in the democratic process and in their participation in society, studying and proposing solutions to the problems that concern them. With the operation of the student communities, the free flow of ideas, without any declaration of a dominant ideology, the freedom of expression and the effortless development of the personality of each student through the exercise of the democratic process and the possibility of forming opinions on all the problems that concern the students are guaranteed. Also supported is the work of learning and education, the dual mission of the secondary school. To the best of our knowledge, there is no national body of representing the students in the whole Greece, however there is an ecosystem of separate bodies in the Greek high schools and lyceums that sometimes collaborates towards common academic goals. The ministerial decision “Regulation of the operation of the student communities” that was published in 23 September 1986 defines the legislative framework for the operation of the school student unions.
Structure and composition
A student community is the total number of students in each class or, where classes are divided into sections, the total number of students in each section. Equal members of each student community are all students in each class or department. The members of each student community have the right to participate in the regular or extraordinary general meetings with the right to speak, control and vote; to contribute to the formation of the agenda of the general meetings with their written proposal to the council of each student community; and to write articles in the newspapers of the student communities.
The bodies of each student community are: a) The General Assembly; b) The 5-member Council The general assembly, where all members of each student community participate, i.e., all students of each class or department, is the governing body of each student community. In the general assembly, the students discuss and decide on the problems that concern them. The general meeting is convened regularly every month under the responsibility of the council or on an extraordinary basis at the initiative of the council or by a request to the council of 1/2 of the members of each student community. The regular general assemblies are held in each class or department during the last teaching hour. The regular general meetings are set on a different day each month in collaboration with the councils, the teachers' associations, and the management. Extraordinary general assemblies are convened outside of teaching hours. The general meetings are presided over by the three-member board elected by the general meeting. The first in votes is elected president, the second secretary, and the third vice president. The president presides with the collective participation and responsibility of the presidium. At the first general assembly of each school year, which meets within the first month of classes, a 5-member coordinating body, the student community council, is elected. The first assembly of each year is convened under the responsibility of the school's student council (the members who have remained and have not graduated). The last general assembly of each year decides on the account of the acts of the council as well as on the financial account, approving or rejecting them. The board remains in operation until the last hour of school every year.
Role and responsibilities
The student communities of the different classes or departments can, after a decision of either the general assemblies, or their councils, or the student council of the school, hold joint events. The school, in addition to being a place of education (Yfantis & Ntalianis, 2022) can and should become a place of cultural creation and development, as well as the cultivation of sportsmanship and sport. The student communities, on their own initiative and with the cooperation and final approval of the management and the school's teachers' association, promote cultural events (scientific lectures, debates, poetry or music evenings, concerts, exhibitions, theater, etc.), which refer to every form of science and art, as well as the organisation of sports competitions.
Recreational and cultural groups can be established in each school, with students from various classes or departments participating based on their interests (e.g., film club, theater, photography, chess, environmental friends group, literary, musical, athletic, practical construction, etc.). The meetings of these groups take place in the school, in hours outside of teaching, satisfy the special interests of the students and cultivate the talents of their members. The competent body for coordinating their work is the school's student council.
At the meetings of the teachers' association, when cultural, sports and general student activities are discussed (e.g., setting up a library, educational visits and excursions, organisation of school holidays, creation and maintenance of a school museum, etc.), the praesidium of the school's student council participates with the right to speak. Freedom of expression is recognised as a key means of education and communication. This right in the school environment is implemented with the following:
• a) Under the responsibility of the school's student council, there is a student bulletin board for student issues at the school. The school management should, in consultation with the student council, allocate the space where the board will be posted in a central part of the school. It is understandable that this table will also be used by the student communities for student matters.
• b) Publications (school magazines, newspapers, newsletters) can be published by students on their own initiative to inform and exchange opinions with their classmates or other school bodies. An editorial committee composed of members of the student community will be responsible for editing the magazine or newspaper.
Dressing inside the school belongs to the personal responsibility of the students themselves. The student community has the right to intervene when extremes or eccentricities are observed and to recommend compliance with what is considered objectively decent and widely accepted by society. However, any problems related to the appearance of the students are dealt with in a spirit of dialogue, goodwill and with the consultation of the student communities with the school management, the teachers' association, and the parents' and guardians' association. If a similar issue is referred for discussion and decision to the teachers' association, where any final decision also belongs, the president of the student community, to which the student who is judged belongs, is present at the discussion of the teachers' association, with the right to speak, as well as the three-member board of the school's student council.
The resources of each student community are both regular and extraordinary. The contributions of the members of the community are regular, according to what will be determined by the first general assembly of each student community. Extraordinary resources are those that come from offers and collections from various events in the student community. Amounts from events, in which students from different student communities of the school take part, are divided into equal parts and distributed to student community funds by the student council of the school. The student community's resources are managed by its council. Receipts for collection and payment are signed by the president and the treasurer. The resources that are left at the end of each school year are handed over to the school administration and kept by it. They are then transferred to the next class, while the rest of the funds from the last class are handed over to the first class of the next school year. Also, research is underway in Greece, which is included in the European Year of Youth 2022, to improve the concept of Youth Councils.
The National Youth Council was founded in July 1998, after a great and long-term effort by the youth of political parties and youth social organisations in our country, and acquired an elected administration in November of the same year. The National Youth Council is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit federation of youth organizations.
Today, it is made up of fifty-nine youth organisations (six youth political parties and a large number of non-governmental youth organizations), i.e., most of the organised Greek youth. Its aim is to strengthen the role and coordinate the actions of its member organizations. The National Youth Council, according to the number of members of its organizations, represents over three hundred and fifty thousand organised Greek young men and women.
It represents the Greek youth internally by participating (institutionally) in the Interministerial Committee for Youth, the Organizing Committee of the Youth Parliament, the National Volunteering Committee, etc., while at the same time it participates in dozens of networks and gatherings of the Greek Civil Society. Abroad, it represents Greek youth by participating in the European Youth Forum, the Mediterranean Youth Forum, the International Council of Francophone Youth, the UN General Assembly, and the UNESCO Youth Council.
The member organisations of the National Youth Council make it one of the largest and most representative in Europe. Keeping their autonomy, they participate in the National Youth Council equally, forming in this way a very broad field of dialogue and highlighting the concerns about the issues that concern the youth of our country. The National Youth Council overcomes party, ideological, and social commitments in order to look for solutions and proposals, drafting a new policy for the youth, by the youth. Having as its goal the continuous training and information of young people on issues that concern them, the National Youth Council implements conferences, cultural and other programmes, seminars, and actions that directly target young people.