The Päijät-Häme Youth Leadership Program, coordinated by the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme and co-funded by the European Union, visited Brussels and various EU institutions at the beginning of May. Our three days were inspiring due to our visits to the Helsinki EU Office, European Investment Bank’s Brussels office, European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF, European Parliament, Cabinet of Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, Permanent Representation of Finland in the EU, as well as to the Directorate of Culture, Youth, and Education. Additionally, we spent Saturday, May 4th, in the spirit of Europe Day. 

The main objective of the excursion was to motivate youth about the rule of law, human rights, and all other core values and interests of the EU – not to forget the upcoming elections. The organizations we visited were a mix of well-known and lesser-known institutions. For example, one participant, Ada Kaipiainen, highlights that OLAF was an interesting organization. 

  • We learned through concrete examples how criminals try to make a living even at the expense of people’s health, says Ada Kaipiainen. 

Keynote speakers such as the Director-General of OLAF, Ville Itälä, Chief of Cabinet Taneli Lahti, and Mertens Saara Pokki, through their inspirational speeches, motivated the youth to take action in the European Union in the future. It’s safe to say these speeches succeeded, as one of the participants Lumi Reichenbach, who is aspiring to leadership positions in the international relations field, says that she gained courage to aim high and towards an international work environment through diverse Finnish experiences. Lumi also points out that she learned a lot about the application process itself, which helped her understand not only the required skills but also how to prepare for the process.  


Overall, the trip motivated participants to pursue their goals and dreams more determinedly. Particularly, the lack of Finns in European institutions was well emphasized during the visits. 

  • I saw so many different careers and paths, from which I gained inspiration and new knowledge for my own plans, as well as for the future, says one of the participants, Juuso Saari. 

An Erasmus+ funded excursion to European Union institutions is an excellent way to increase youth engagement within the European Union. Particularly in Finland, which is a peripheral country, young people may feel very distant from the EU structures and the so-called Brussels bubble. 

  • Visiting European Union institutions and bringing together a wide range of EU experts and youth not only fosters trust but also sparks interest in our common Europe. Brussels is an inspiring city full of opportunities. Moreover, the EU influences our daily lives in many ways, and therefore it’s important that young people become interested in EU affairs and decision making. It was great to observe positive curiosity and excitement among the youth during our trip. I hope that in the future, we will see some of these young participants working for EU institutions, comments regional mayor Niina Pautola-Mol. 

Based on a survey after the trip, all the participants recommend such an experience to other youth. Therefore, the Päijät-Häme Youth Leadership Program wants to show gratitude to all the experts and EU institutions for the warm welcome. Experiences like this can be expected to yield positive long-term effects. 

  • I was fascinated by the visit to the European Parliament when coming on this trip because it’s my dream workplace in the future, summarizes one of the participants Valeriy Kuivonen.   

Jayla Tammiharju  

Coordinator of Päijät-Häme Youth Leadership Program 

+358 44 077 3438