Europe is what we make of it!
Youth unemployment, the financial crisis, eurosceptic parties: Europe has had a bad reputation lately.
12 young Europeans from eleven countries are fed up with this 'doomsday mood'. They met traveling abroad, founded the "Young European Collective" and wrote a manifesto: "Who, if not us?"
Their message: We are all Europe and its future lies in our hands. The authors call upon us to network in order to achieve meaningful change and shape the continent the way want to.
We asked them to explain what they mean:
We will change Europe!
Vincent-Immanuel Herr, 27,
I have been traveling many European countries to learn more about my generation of young Europeans. Many times, I encountered young women and men with wonderful ideas, beautiful visions and quite some energy.
Yet most of the time, these individuals lacked the personal confidence and self-assurance to believe in their voice and ideas.
For many young Europeans, it seems that their perspective does not matter at all and that they will never be part of any substantial change in society or culture. But that is not true!
Only by relying on our generation's potential and visionary power is it that we can we build towards a fair and secure European future.
Let's cherish Europe's differences!
Katharina Moser, 32, Austria:
When I was 18, I lived in a flat with seven people from six countries. That time taught me how valuable differences are. It taught me how - through being different - we can learn from each other, exchange stories and create a broader understanding of the world we live in.
I truly believe this is where it all starts: at a personal level. Only if we create connections, knowledge and interest in each other at a personal level will we be able to cooperate on the broader political and economic level as well.
Europe isn't something abstract only concerning those with a degree in politics. It is something that we can all relate to, individually and personally.
Let's think beyond borders!
Antje, 28, Germany (lives in England):
We need to work together if we want to achieve a better future. Despite being affected by the same problems, we largely deal with the resulting challenges everyone by themselves.
Global warfare, climate change and migration, however, cannot be addressed on an individual level respectively on a nation-state level.
That’s why I believe in the idea of Europeans coming together to solve these mutual problems collectively.
Let's work together for peace!
Nini Tsiklauri, 23, Hungary/Georgia (lives in Austria):
I was 15 when I experienced the Russo-Georgian war at first hand.
Something is getting clearer with the recent proxy war in Syria between the U.S. and Russia: with the U.S and the European sphere on the one hand and the Russian Federation on the other, we are facing a new Cold War and the European spirit is in jeopardy like never before.
I believe in the power of our generation which should never forget what the European project was created for in the first place: to secure peace.
Europe isn't just for Europeans!
Amy Baldauf, 25, USA (half Finnish, lives in Germany):
Europe is a place to grow, build connections & find opportunities – not just for its own citizens.
I grew up in the United States but traveled regularly to central and northern Europe due to my father's Finnish background.
From an early age, I have made cultural comparisons, experienced societal differences, and posited strengths that stem beyond my own country's borders.
I have always taken my dual citizenship seriously, and I recognize the true expansiveness of being a global citizen.
Let's get involved!
Martin Speer, 29, Germany:
Europe's future lies in our hands.
I am convinced that whoever wants to be a part of the game for the future, has to get involved. This commitment is necessary especially today at a time where Europe faces big challenges.
I see that many people and organizations don't realize their potentials and that therefore Europe loses valuable ideas. Fears and old structures keep us from living a more active life.
Europe doesn't need any excuses!
Zlatin, 28, Bulgaria:
We all need to stop complaining and worrying, and start making decisions, every day.
With age, we all keep getting better at making excuses. Our low salary is our boss' fault, our low living standards are the government's and it's our parents that didn't support us enough growing up. It's never us.
Of course, in many cases we are right to complain. However, this does not really change many things. Change comes with decisions and we need to start getting better and better at making them.
Let's not just look after ourselves!
Krzysztof, 25, Poland (lives in Germany):
We’re all politicians. There’s no abstaining – choosing not to act is also acting and it doesn’t free us from our mandate.
I strongly believe that, with the opportunities we’re given in today’s Europe, everybody should feel obliged to be a politician, i.e. to act to the benefit of the public even in one’s everyday life. It doesn’t have to be much.
For the moment, their manifesto only exists as a printed book. The "European collectivists" want to spread it throughout Europe in schools, at universities, through youth organizations and at refugee shelters.
Readers are supposed to network through filling their contact information in a form at the end of the book and leaving it at a train station, for instance. In the age of Facebook, that is an interesting idea.