On Friday, November 8th, I found myself sitting in a train heading to Lille, France as a representative of JEF-Liège. Expectations, excitement, worries, feelings of unknown, maybe a bit of fear was crossing my mind when I was dragging my luggage through rainy Lille, passing magnificent Le Palais des Beaux-Arts. After asking eight strangers on the street, challenging my (poor) map reading skills, and using “phone-a–friend” option more than necessary, I successfully reached my destination, the office of JEF-Lille! A warm and friendly welcome by the president, Pierre Marie-Simon and other participants, made me feel comfortable and thus I officially joined the Second Cross Border seminar on “Breaking borders: Nationalism and populism as a dangerous path for Europe?”.
I have to admit, those three days were the most active days of my entire life. Just to mention some highlights of our busy program: a welcome speech by the Member of European Parliament, Gilles Pargneaux, with an informal “beer” tasting afterwards. A morning lecture by Prof Dr. Steven Van Hecke that provoked hot debates (no harm done), interactive workshops, speed dating on cross border cooperation with influential people, such as the President of JEF Europe: Pauline Gessant. Energetic street action in the hearth of Lille, and most importantly, amazing parties lasting till the morning. On our last day of the seminar, we symbolically crossed the borders with Belgium when we visited the city of Kortrijk situated only 25 km from Lille, France.
However, this seminar did not only broaden my horizons. What is more, I came across enthusiastic people passionate about politics and world around them. I met young, intelligent individuals from all over the world, from differing political affiliations, backgrounds, who were not afraid to speak up, or show the desire to act in favour of the European construction and promoting the European citizenship. I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that this seminar was a great opportunity as it gave us a voice and encouraged us to get involved in issues around us. Populism and the new rise of nationalism is definitely a much discussed topic, present in several EU countries and we all agreed that it should be addressed responsibly, with caution.
At the end of the day, it is up to us young people of Europe who can make a change. We inherited our Europe, very “colourful” Europe, full of different ethnicities, races, cultures, nationalities and religions. This melting pot undoubtedly creates prejudices, ethnic stereotyping, political and racial tensions which only deepen euroscepticism and leave young people inactive and careless about the society they live in. Therefore, it is amazing that there still exist people who care, put in their time and passion to discuss current issues challenging Europe. I believe, together we can make a difference and only active participation of European citizens can bring real results and changes.
“The future depends on what you do today.”
? Mahatma Gandhi
Simona Popovicova (22)