Pupils from across Northern Ireland led a Mock Council of the European Union debate at Belfast City Hall today (Thursday, February 7).
Run by British Council Northern Ireland, the event aims to give Sixth Form students a chance to experience the EU's decision-making process, by representing the 28 EU countries in debates on topical policy issues.
This year’s debate – supported by Queen’s University Belfast – comes as the UK prepares to leave the EU and focused on two of Europe’s most pressing issues; Climate Change and Migration.
Chairing the first session on Climate Change was Dr Viviane Gravey, Lecturer in European Politics at Queen’s University Belfast.
Speaking about the event she said: “Well done to all today’s students – they all engaged really well and were keen to stay in role as long as possible.
“Participating in a Mock Council is a fantastic opportunity for students to step in to the shoes of ministers and get a taste for the variety of political opinions in Europe and what speaking for a country entails. Europe is constantly in the news and this event can help students make sense of our current situation.”
This year, the European Commission was represented by Regent House Grammar School.
Speaking after the event was sixth form pupil, Andrew Donnelly, who currently studies politics at Regent House Grammar school. He said: “It’s been very exciting being here today and I’ve enjoyed having to research the role of the European Commission and understand how the whole process works.
“When you’re put in to the role of a representative and able to speak on such a platform, it definitely gives you a lot more confidence. I’ve never considered going in to politics, but today has definitely given me something to think about!”
Also attending the event was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland. He said: “This event puts pupils in the hot seat by taking on the role of Ministers from the EU member states debating big issues affecting the EU. In preparation for today, students researched the various positions from the perspective of each of the member states, helping to develop greater intercultural understanding while learning more about the workings of the main decision making body of the European Union.
“This event, now in its 14th year, puts students at the head of the negotiating table and allows them not only to see how politics works at a wider European level, but also gives them the chance to understand the issues and challenges facing the UK and other member states in negotiating the complexities of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.”
The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation. For more information on current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org, or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI .