AEGEE Kiev and AEGEE Heidelberg are cooperating to organise a German-Ukrainian Youth exchange on European awareness, participation, identity and vision for the future this autumn. They also presented it on stage during Autumn Agora Catania.
What does the European Union mean to you? Asking this question, one will be given fundamentally different answers, depending on age, nationality, profession and mindset of the interviewed person.
Citizens of the EU tend to stress more practical, administrative aspects of the EU, its common currency, freedom of travel or the new Europe-wide abolishment of roaming charges for mobile phones.
But how do people from non-member countries view the EU, this unique and tremendous project of unifying a bunch of diverse countries into one political and economic union?
Particularly interesting is the Ukrainian perspective, for various reasons:
People in the Ukraine started a huge pro-European revolution in 2013, when their former president Janukowytsch refused to sign an association agreement with the EU, facing huge pressure from Russia. This protest resulted in an overthrow of the existing political elite and in intensifying the ties to the EU – at least for one half of the country. The Eastern part of Ukraine has been sinking deeper into a more or less camouflaged civil war ever since, with the Krim-peninsula being occupied by Russian troops, de facto turning it into Russian territory.
Is there something left of the pro-European spirit that emerged in the course of the Euromaidan 2013/14, how do people perceive the EU, its opportunities and challenges nowadays, to what extent do people in the Ukraine seek an association or even membership with the EU?
AEGEE Kiev, together with AEGEE Heidelberg, is organising an international youth exchange on exactly those topics this autumn. It aims at creating a platform for a frank and open-minded exchange of opinions between young students of both countries, continuing well beyond the few days of the actual encounter. What is the vision of young people in Germany and in Ukraine regarding the future path of the EU and its associated countries? What are the values of the EU worth promoting and fighting for? How do the impressions of young people in both Ukraine and Germany compare and maybe contrast to each other? How can young people participate in political decision-making, how can they shape the EU according to their vision of the future?
Ideally, this exchange will create lasting bonds and friendships between its participants and encourage young, motivated people to campaign for the European Union and its values. By exchanging their experience and different background stories, this congress will broaden their minds and also contribute to showing them new ways to get politically involved. Ultimately, the participants will be encouraged to switch perspectives.
Speakers from universities, institutions and governments of both Germany and Ukraine will be invited to talk about their specific involvement in the EU or in its relations with its neighbours in Eastern Europe. As physical outcome, a short movie will be created, documenting the most important issues of discussions that took place, but also highlighting the participants’ enthusiasm for the EU – this way it will be a means to multiply the message of the YOUrope exchange and to motivate more people all over Europe.
The EVZ – Foundation* (Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung, Zukunft), supports the project financially. This is why nobody is hindered to participate due to financial reasons: The costs of the exchange will be fully covered by EVZ.
Written by Theresa Schäfer, AEGEE Heidelberg
* This project was implemented within the “MEET UP! German-Ukrainian Youth Encounters” programme with support from the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (EVZ). The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily those of the Foundation EVZ. The author is solely responsible for the content.