During the week various issues which concern the youth were discussed such as unemployment, integration and equality, youth policy and more. On the second day of the week, the main subject of the day was the environment and the environmental problems we are facing in Cyprus, which seemed particularly concerned amongst the youth.
The team of Nautilos SAR, weeks earlier, created a questionnaire containing questions on all topics that would be discussed at the European Youth Week and it was distributed to the youth of Cyprus either in print or online format. In result we managed to gather 1757 answered questionnaires, a sample large enough for representing the youth population of the island. Based on the results of the questionnaires and on our own personal concerns, we formulated several questions which presented to the invited people of the state during the European Youth Week.
The day we discussed about the environment we had the honor to accept a visit at our Youth Center from the Environment Commissioner, Mrs. Ioanna Panagiotou. Her participation in our discussion was very helpful as she answered many of our questions that were formed by a selective procedure from the questionnaires answered by youth during the previous days. She also raised some new issues we did not consider, that are crucial to the environment and its protection.
Some of the topics we discussed were the development of public transport and motivation measures for young people to use them. We also suggested to our guest about the need for an upgraded system for lending bicycles within and from the municipalities. Another issue discussed was the energy efficiency of buildings. The results of the questionnaire showed that young people would be willing to spend money in their homes, to be energy efficient, so we asked what financial motives does the state give in this field and if Cyprus will be able to reach the new goals of EU until 2020. The Environment Commissioner told us about the grants that the state gives but she also told us that the steps made from the state for the upgrading of buildings in green energy are very small, which rank\\\'s us in the last places in Europe related with the policies for energy efficiency.
Another topic that we discussed was waste management. Based on the results of the questionnaire Cypriot youth believes that this is the most important environmental problem of our country. A positive message Mrs. Panagiotou gave us is that the problem has returned to the parliament again and they are trying vote on the more favorable decisions from both economic and environmental perspectives. As representatives of the youth in Cyprus we suggested to the environment commissioner some proposals that could help to reduce the amount of garbage we produce. A suggestion was to apply all over the Cyprus the system “Pay as you throw” which is already applied in several European countries. Under this system the vehicles of the municipality has to weigh the chaff of each household and according to the weight the cost is being estimated. Another suggestion from us was the charge of plastic bags in supermarkets, however Mrs. Panagiotou explained that this issue was discussed previously in the parliament but unfortunately did not pass.
Finally we discussed issues related to green jobs and eco-tourism as means of economic development. As we informed by Mrs. Panagiotou she is currently developing a package deal which will be launched abroad to attract tourists. The package includes elements of nature, culture and Cypriot cuisine. The area of eco-tourism has a huge potential but state needs the necessary funds for its promotion.
The discussion with the Environment commissioner and our involvement with this issue made us think that we, as youth who care about the environment, have much to do in order to create awareness and inform our fellow citizens about the environment. The voice of young people has power but is stronger when united, so we should set as our goal some of the changes that can be done now.
Prepared by: Sofia Katsamba & Constantina Christou