Eastern Partnership Convention in Kraków: “Bringing attention to the region helps to get more recognition and support.”

From the 20th to the 24th of May, AEGEE-Kraków in cooperation with the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe (EaP) will organise a convention on the Eastern Partnership in the city of Kraków, Poland. The convention will host 23 people from all around Europe and will tackle issues such as European integration and the international relations with the countries from the Eastern Parnership. The AEGEEan spoke to Katarzyna Kluczka, organiser of the event, and Marta Wnuk, member of the EaP.

The AEGEEan: Why did you decide to organise the event?
AEGEE-Kraków has quite an experience in hosting international events, so as a strong and motivated antenna, we wanted to continue this tradition. Personally, I have been interested in the Eastern Partnership Project since I came into contact with it during Network Meeting in Poznań. I have dreamt about becoming more involved, so as soon as the opportunity to coordinate this event appeared, I had to take my chance. I wanted to be part of EaP in any way possible and this position gives me and my fantastic team a chance to become part of something great. In my opinion, here and now, we can redefine the term “integration” by showing our participants it is possible to create a united Europe with no political or economical borders, if only there is the will and ideas to change the current state. This vision makes me very enthusiastic and is one of the main driving forces to be the host of the Eastern Partnership Youth Convention.

Why Kraków?
If we ask foreigners which cities in Poland are the most familiar to them, we can be sure that Kraków will be at the top of the ranking. It attracts tourists from all over the world, offering rich history at every step – whether in words of inhabitants, or just by looking at monuments that surround us. Kraków has been the cultural heart of Poland for centuries. It has always been a symbol of many nations coexisting together in peace and harmony, sharing innovations and stories. Taking this into account, Kraków is the perfect city to host the Eastern Partnership Youth Convention and boast about cultural heritage. However, there are more than this reason why our city has the privilege of inviting 23 active, young people from the European Union and Eastern Partnership countries. For centuries Kraków was the capital of Poland and the main seat for kings. Nowadays it is called the capital of students and the little homeland for migrants. Also, I can proudly assure you, AEGEE-Kraków is very well-prepared to organise this event, being one of the most active and strongly developed antennae. Our members believe that they are young people who, today, can create the growth and innovation of tomorrow. To sum up: the charm of Kraków, the city itself, being a symbol of friendly cooperation between nations and the activity of society, are the main factors why Kraków is the best location for a project concerning the collaboration of the European Union and Eastern Partnership countries.

What can participants expect from the event?
To begin with, a warm welcome and great enthusiasm of the organisers! We can’t wait to meet these fantastic young people! I hope they will be satisfied. The workshops prepared by the Content Team sound thrilling – inspiration will be the keyword of this event. Another one can be the power of the team – I hope we will all become a well-knitted group who can learn from each other and share ideas or common experience. The location of workshops – The Embassy of Cracovians – is perfect for this kind of project – it is very cosy, well-equipped and also situated very close to the main square. You will love it! Another advantage: it is near to the One World Hostel, where the participants will be accommodated. Also, the food participants get will represent the traditional Polish cuisine – the part of our culture we are very proud of. And of course, there will be a lot of AEGEE spirit. Apart from the workshops we have planned integration activities and parties, the perfect mix for a successful event!

Can you tell us what the convention is about?
The Eastern Partnership Youth Convention is an event that will gather 23 young leaders coming both from EaP countries and EU states that focuses on foreign policy and state of relations between the EU and the EaP countries with regard to current international situation.

The participants will be introduced to the Eastern Partnership programme (EaP) and its main features. We want to identify the problems that the European continent is currently facing in this area, build an understanding image around them, and work on common approach to solve these problems.  The final result of the Convention will be a set of recommendations towards the European institutions on how the EaP programme should be improved according to young experts on the topic (our participants).

What is the role of the Eastern Partnership Project inside AEGEE?
The project’s values are based on belief that this initiative is an important element of AEGEE’s mission of bridging Europe. By our activity we would like to raise the level of knowledge about the Eastern Partnership countries and help to build understanding around issues that concern them. Our project organises various workshops during AEGEE events, writes articles and issues monthly newsletters. However, we do not restricts ourselves to delivering information. We see importance of discussion and exchange of views. We proposed the topic and helped to shape the content of EPM Burgos and right now we are in the process of organising the Convention. We see our role as advocates of the six EaP countries, which still remain an unknown part of Europe for many.

Why do you think bridging Europe is important?
It’s a question of European integration in fact. One of the biggest achievements of AEGEE was the decision on establishing new locals in Eastern Europe beyond borders of the EU. Now when our continent is free of the Iron Curtain there is still a need to create more links between its Western and Eastern parts. Awareness of the six EaP countries always remains an important issue to tackle. Bringing attention to the region helps to get more recognition and support.

Eastern Partnership is an EU programme oriented on making links between the EU countries and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine. Our project within AEGEE aims to bring this vision to AEGEEans and to build integrated Europe through the bottom-up approach, by involvement of young people.

Taking in consideration the current situation of Ukraine, what can be done by AEGEEans and young people in general to make the situation better?
I believe that communication and direct contact are always the key elements in conflict situations. Common projects allowing to meet and exchange opinions in a discussion-friendly environment can lead to facilitation of mutual understanding between all sides. Young people perhaps cannot change politics in a substantial way, but they can invest in themselves by becoming more knowledgeable, aware and open-minded people and in this way becoming advocates of consensus and spread this attitude about the crisis to others.

Written by Ruben Navarro, AEGEE-Tarragona