Press review The South-eastern beacon

Youth struggles in South-eastern Europe: Depression, work abuse, and privacy worries

Each month, in partnership with Display Europe, we take a close look at media coverage in South East Europe. With the first month of the new school year already behind us, it's a good time to take a look at the fragile state of Southeastern Europe's youth.

Published on 30 October 2023 at 10:08

In Greece, mental health among young people continues to be a major issue. As evidence, iMEdD Lab, a Greek platform focused on investigative and data-driven stories, reported on a study involving 40 Greek schools that came to 3 revealing conclusions about teenagers:

  • 65% think school increases their anxiety and stress;
  • 50% have no idea where to turn for mental health issues;
  • Around 47% claim they don’t feel comfortable discussing mental health issues with teachers. 

The young and the exploited

As well as dealing with mental health issues, young people in this part of Europe, especially those who are struggling financially, face tough working conditions.For example, Kosovo 2.0, an online magazine focusing on explanatory, contextual and narrative journalism, spoke to three food delivery drivers aged 17-21 who claimed that they pay for their own medical expenses after road accidents, work 8 hours a day without a contract or protective equipment, and are rewarded with a disappointing monthly salary. What's more, one of the drivers confessed that he didn't even have a driving licence. Armend, one of the young delivery men, said that he had been doing similar jobs since he was 12 years old, such as making hamburgers, waiting tables and working in construction. As quoted by Kosovo 2.0, the 2022 Labour Force Survey shows that "young people aged 15-24 make up 14.6% of the labour force and the majority work without a contract".

Outside Kosovo, the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet reported the tragic death of a 22-year-old brick factory worker. Just two days before his death, the young man used social media to draw attention to the dangerous machine that accidentally crushed his leg and ended his life. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a human rights NGO founded by self-exiled Turkish journalists, highlighted a report showing that the number of fatal workplace accidents in Turkey reached a record high in 2022 (1,843). According to Health and Safety Labor Watch (İSİG), the reason for the many deaths is the AKP party's aim "to turn Turkey into a source of cheap labour for Europe".

Romanian professor: ‘School can’t do it all, maybe nothing’

Some might blame the school for failing to deal with the children's problems, but professor and writer Horia Corches, writing in the Romanian magazine Dilema Veche, takes a different view. He believes that the school "can't do everything, or maybe nothing, if society and the family don't fight to highlight true principles and values". Specifically, the professor blamed rich people without values for setting negative examples for his country's children. 

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EU: between protecting and harming its youth

One of the solutions to the mental health problems faced by young people is artificial intelligence. As Efi Vagena, professor of bioethics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, pointed out for the Greek investigative platform iMEdD Lab, AI tools can help children if they are well regulated and introduced in a "system of accountability".

Vagena's two characteristics, however, are not met by the controversial proposal by the European Union's Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, ostensibly aimed at combating child sexual abuse. But there is a downside. According to the influential Greek media Solomon, which focuses on public interest issues and investigative projects, if Johansson's proposal is accepted, the regulation would oblige social platforms to snoop on their users' systems, including private chats. Children's privacy will therefore be put at risk. 

All in all, whether it comes from schools, institutions, better parenting, AI, or all of the above, it's clear that young people need more help from society. 

More picks

Not Ukraine, but Russia’s exports are pushing the price of wheat

Todor Todorov | Kapital | 19 September | BG

The culprit behind Bulgaria's cheap wheat prices is Russia's behaviour of flooding markets with cheap grain at below market prices while global demand is falling. Russia can afford to do this as data shows it has the largest surplus of wheat produced in the world. So Bulgarians should stop blaming Ukraine's exports, which are insignificant. Still, there's a bright side, according to Reuters analyst Karen Brown, because "wheat prices will reach their historic lows in mid-2024, which can be seen as good news. Because after a low, there is always a rise".

Goodbye, guns! The Romanian army faces the biggest wave of resignations

Andrei Udișteanu | Recorder | 4 September | RO

While a war rages nearby, the number of resignations from the Romanian army has tripled in just three years, despite announcements of massive military investment, and soldiers have begun to blow the whistle on one of the main reasons for the negative trend. Along with dissatisfaction with salaries and the danger on the Ukrainian border, the Romanian armed forces blame outdated attitudes promoted by decision-makers and the daily realities faced by military personnel, even in peacetime, such as having to use brute force to unjam old equipment or transporting hay. Contrary to what the whistleblowing soldiers say, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told the NATO summit in Vilnius that all promised investments in military infrastructure have been met and that there's been "sustainable progress".

Report from Odessa: The Ukrainians have already won no matter how the battle ends

Faruk Sehic | Oslobodenje | 9 September | BH

In a fascinating account, Bosnian writer Faruk Sehic reflects on his experiences in war-torn Ukraine. He describes how he learnt about essential medical equipment used on the battlefield, such as tourniquets and chest seals, and their role in saving lives. Despite the war, he is struck by the cleanliness and order in Ukraine. Sehic also highlights the resilience and determination of the Ukrainians, who show an inner desire to move forward within Europe. Towards the end of his report, Sehic shares this message he received from a young Ukrainian called Oleksi: "Odessa is beautiful! Air raids 5 times a day. At night rockets, kamikaze drones. Romance."

In partnership with Display Europe, cofunded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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