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Sergi Corbalán: the Fair Trade movement’s man in Brussels

Age: 37
Nationality: Spanish
Occupation: Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office
Languages: Catalan, Spanish, English, French and a bit of Dutch
Hobbies: Reading, travelling, walking
Interview in Deutsch
Another campaigning voice: Joschka Knuth
Joschka in Deutsch

 

 

Sergi Corbalan, fair trade advocate

Sergi Corbalán, fair trade advocate

Why are you working for Europe?
The reason I came to Brussels to work is directly linked to the fact that Brussels is the European political capital. I have always been interested in politics, EU affairs and international relations. So, after studying law in my hometown Barcelona and an additional year studying and working in Geneva (another city in Europe of interest to international relations geeks like me ☺) the choice of moving to Brussels was obvious. Since then, I have been working for the last 15 years for organisations and networks that are active in EU and global policy-making, both for industry and civil society networks. It’s the classic story: I came here for six months and now I feel completely at home in Brussels. I live with my partner in the neighbourhood of Saint-Gilles, which is a vibrant well-connected area with people from all over the world.

You are the Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office. What are the goals of your organisation?
A large part of my work involves trying to bring EU policies more into line with the EU’s own sustainable development objectives laid down in the Treaties. I therefore consider myself as working for Europe, or at least for a particular vision of what Europe should look like in the coming decades. Since 2009, I have led the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, the Fair Trade movement´s political representative platform in Brussels. A typical day at the Office includes meeting at least six different nationalities by 10 o’clock! An example of the type of issues I work with is linked to 2015 having been declared the European Year for Development. It is the first time that a European year has been devoted to an EU External Action policy area. The Fair Trade movement wishes to take advantage of this opportunity to raise awareness of Europeans about the difference they can make both as citizens (as political actors or as volunteers in a Fair Trade Town local group, for example) and as consumers (voting with their wallet). A sub-page on Fair Trade has been created on the official website of the European Year for Development to show EU citizens how Fair Trade can be a tool for citizens to contribute to fairer trade and sustainable development.

Most strategic decisions taken at EU level are pushed by the national governments. We need to make national governments accountable for the decisions they push at EU level.

What is the greatest success of Europe for you and where could it do better?
Slowly but steadily, a growing number of European citizens are starting to identify themselves not as having a single national identity but rather as having multiple identities. I think the European idea is a great antidote against parochialism and the assumption that people have only one identity.

Eurosceptic Members of the European Parliament have recently established the group “Europe of Nations and Freedoms”. They argue that Brussels has too much power.
The biggest myth is that the EU institutions equal Europe and that “Brussels” decides everything. I wish people would make the difference. It’s healthy, from a democratic point of view, to be critical of how the EU institutions work, but it’s simply not true that all decisions are taken in Brussels. Most strategic decisions taken at EU level are pushed by the national governments. We need to make national governments accountable for the decisions they push at EU level.

Europe is serious project, but sometimes it is good to see the human side of it.
One of the most funny moments in Brussels happened at a meeting of around 15/20 people from various EU Member States. Everybody was speaking in English, but, obviously with our own accents and using our own expressions. Yet everybody seemed to understand each other well enough. The conversation was a long animated debate which was, in my view, going very smoothly with most participants taking an active role. But then the silent man next to me whispered in my ear “Sorry Sergi, but I can’t manage to follow the conversation”. He was the only British person in the group.

How do you feel about being part of the European project as one of the 500 million Europeans?
I feel very proud to be representing the Fair Trade movement at EU level because there are so many motivated people working for Fair Trade across Europe, most of them on a voluntary basis. One of them is Joschka Knuth (see related “Hearts and Minds for Europe” interview), a talented young Fair Trade movement activist in Germany.
When I talk about the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, I feel like a citizen of Barcelona because it’s a European city but it’s also Mediterranean. I also feel Catalan and Spanish. I also have other identities that are not linked to where I come from. There is no ‘either/or’. It’s great to have multiple identities. Vive l’Europe!

Fairness, Solidarity and Diversity. Europe is our future, it is up to all of us!

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Sergi Corbalán: Der Kopf der Fair Trade – Bewegung in Brüssel

Alter: 37
Nationalität: Spanien
Beruf: Geschäftsführer des Fair Trade Advocacy Office (Büro für fairen Handel) in Brüssel
Sprachen: Katalanisch, Spanisch, Englisch, Französisch und ein wenig Niederländisch
Hobbies: Lesen, Reisen, Spazieren

Warum arbeitest du für Europa?
Der Grund, dass ich nach Brüssel kam, um dort zu arbeiten geht Hand in Hand mit der Tatsache, dass Brüssel Europas politische Hauptstadt ist. Ich habe mich schon immer für Politik, die Angelegenheiten der EU und internationale Beziehungen interessiert. So war die Entscheidung nach Brüssel zu gehen offensichtlich, nach dem ich in meiner Heimatstadt Barcelona Jura studiert und ein weiteres Jahr in Genf (noch so eine Stadt in Europa die für die Geeks der internationalen Beziehungen wie mich sehr interessant ist  ) studiert und gearbeitet hatte. Die letzten 15 Jahre habe ich für Organisationen und Netzwerke gearbeitet, die sowohl innerhalb der EU aber auch auf globaler Ebene politisch aktiv sind. Es waren diese sowohl Netzwerke der Industrie aber auch der Zivilgesellschaft. Das ist eigentlich die klassische Geschichte: Ich bin für sechs Monate gekommen und nun fühle ich mich hier komplett zuhause. Ich lebe mit meinem Partner in der Nachbarschaft von Saint-Gilles, einem lebendigen Stadtteil mit Menschen aus aller Welt.

Die meisten strategischen Entscheidungen, die auf EU-Ebene getroffen werden, werden von den nationalen Regierungen angestoßen. Wir müssen die nationalen Regierungen für die Entscheidungen, die sie auf EU-Ebene fordern und gemeinsam treffen, zuhause zur Verantwortung ziehen..

Du bist der Geschäftsführer des Fair Trade Advocacy Office. Was sind die Ziele Deiner Organisation?
Ein großer Teil meiner Arbeit besteht darin, die Politik der EU stärker in Einklang mit den ihren eigenen Zielen für nachhaltige Entwicklung zu bringen. Deshalb verstehe ich meine Arbeit auch als eine Arbeit für Europa, oder zumindest für die Vision, wie Europa in den kommenden Jahrzehnten aussehen sollte. Seit 2009 leite ich jetzt das Fair Trade Advocacy Office (Büro für fairen Handel), die politische Repräsentation der Fair Trade – Bewegung in Brüssel.

Wie sieht Dein Arbeitstag aus?
An einem typischen Tag im Büro habe ich schon vor 10 Uhr zehn verschiedene Nationalitäten getroffen. Ein Beispiel der Aufgaben, die wir hier zu erledigen haben ist direkt mit dem Europäischen Jahr für Entwicklung verbunden, das 2015 ausgerufen wurde. Das ist das erste Mal, dass ein Europäisches Jahr einem Politikfeld gewidmet wird, das klassischerweise außerhalb der EU liegt. Das Fair Trade Advocacy Office hofft, dass damit das Bewusstsein der Europäerinnen und Europäer für die Entwicklungszusammenarbeit geweckt wird. Wir brauchen dazu alle Bürger, seien sie Politikerinnen und Politiker, Unterstützer einer lokalen Fair Trade Town Bewegung oder einfach Verbraucher (die mit ihrem Geldbeutel abstimmen). Wir haben auf der Internetplattform des Europäischen Jahres für Entwicklung eine Unterseite für den Fairen Handel eingerichtet, die den Bürgerinnen und Bürgern der EU zeigen soll, dass Fair Trade ein Werkzeug für fairen Handel und nachhaltige Entwicklung sein kann.

Was ist deiner Meinung nach der größte Erfolg Europas und wo gibt es noch Verbesserungsbedarf?
Langsam aber sicher fängt eine wachsende Zahl der Europäerinnen und Europäer an, nicht nur eine nationale Identität, sondern mehrere Identitäten zu haben. Ich denke, dass die Europäische Idee ein super Gegenmittel gegen Provinzialismus und die Annahme ist, Menschen hätten nur eine (nationale) Identität.

Euroskeptische Mitglieder des Europäischen Parlamentes haben vor kurzem die Fraktion „Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit“ gegründet. Sie behaupten, Brüssel hätte zu viel Macht.
Das größte Märchen ist, dass die Institutionen der EU alles vereinheitlichen und „Brüssel“ alles entscheidet. Ich wünsche mir, die Menschen würden aufhören, das zu glauben. Unter demokratischen Gesichtspunkten ist es sicher gesund, die Arbeit der EU-Institutionen kritisch zu betrachten, aber es stimmt einfach nicht, dass alle Entscheidungen in Brüssel getroffen werden. Die meisten strategischen Entscheidungen, die auf EU-Ebene getroffen werden, werden von den nationalen Regierungen angestoßen. Wir müssen die nationalen Regierungen für die Entscheidungen, die sie auf EU-Ebene fordern und gemeinsam treffen, zuhause zur Verantwortung ziehen.

Europa ist ein sehr seriöses Projekt, manchmal ist es aber gut, die menschliche Seite dieses Projektes zu sehen.
Einer der lustigsten Momente in Brüssel passierte bei einem Treffen von 15/20 Menschen aus verschiedenen Mitgliedsstaaten. Alle sprachen auf Englisch, aber natürlich mit unseren Akzenten und unseren eigenen Ausdrücken. Dennoch schienen sich alle ausreichend gut zu verstehen. Das Gespräch war eine lange und lebhafte Debatte, die in meinen Augen aber auch recht reibungslos ablief und an der die meisten Teilnehmer sich aktiv beteiligten. Irgendwann flüsterte ein Mann, der lange ruhig neben mir gesessen hatte in mein Ohr „Sorry Sergi, ich kann dieser Diskussion irgendwie nicht folgen. Ich verstehe vieles einfach nicht.“. Es war der einzige Engländer am Tisch.

Wie fühlst du Dich als aktiver Part des Europäischen Projekts als einer von 500 Millionen Europäerinnen und Europäern?
Ich bin sehr stolz, dass ich die Fair Trade – Bewegung auf EU-Ebene vertreten darf, es gibt so viele motivierte und engagierte Menschen die in ganz Europa für den fairen Handel arbeiten, und das meist auf ehrenamtlicher Basis. Einer von ihnen ist Joschka Knuth (siehe auch das untenstehende Hearts and Minds Interview), ein talentierter und junger Mensch, der sich für den fairen Handel in Deutschland einsetzt.

Wenn ich über das Mittelmeer- und das südliche Europa rede, fühle ich mich auch als Bürger Barcelonas, es ist eine wunderbare europäische Stadt und zugleich am Mittelmeer. Ich fühle mich auch als Katalane und als Spanier. Ich habe auch andere Identitäten, die nicht damit zusammenhängen, wo ich herkomme. Es gibt kein „Entweder – Oder“. Es ist toll, so viele Identitäten zu haben. Vive l’Europe!

Fairness, Solidarität und Diversität. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Joschka Knuth: Social market economy and solidarity are not bound by national borders!

Age: 22
Nationality: German
Occupation: Student
Hobbies: Sports, politics
My link with Sergi: I got to know him working on my registration for the European Future Leaders Programme 2015
Joschka Knuth

Joschka Knuth

How does Europe impact on your life?
Europe impacts on my life in many ways. You could say that European laws and guidelines affect my life in an unnecessary and bureaucratic way, but as I grew up as a European citizen and in freedom, I prefer to focus on the fact that I am free to move between all these fascinating regions of Europe and that I have the chance to get to know so many different people and cultures and to benefit from them.

Can you give us some example where you feel that European laws affect you?
As a local politician and a person in authority in my community, the laws and guidelines of the European Union accompany me in many of my decisions. As an employee of the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, I have to take into account the guidelines of the European Union in many of my projects. As a campaigner for the Fairtrade Town Movement, I deal a lot with agricultural policy, which is of course decided and shaped at EU level. In all of these areas I meet people who complain about the different levels of bureaucracy and administration, but the moment they start to criticise the EU I appeal to their rationality and remind them that the EU is a project of freedom and solidarity.

I prefer to focus on the fact that I am free to move between all these fascinating regions of Europe and that I have the chance to get to know so many different people and cultures and to benefit from them.

Eurosceptics say that the European Union reduces freedoms and tries to uniform the whole of Europe.
You can’t have freedom as long as different interests are pitted against each other. You can’t declare solidarity as an international goal on the one hand and then try to stop and criticise every proposal designed to help reach this goal. There are many different interests in an organisation of 28 states; everyone is starting from a different point of view. No-one denies this. But setting goals and then simply refusing to try to reach them is futile.
Solidarity is not about making the regions of the European Union all look and sound the same; it is not about erasing cultures; it is not about making life better for every single person overnight. What solidarity is about is trying to make everybody understand how important it is to respect and have those diverse cultures and regions and about trying to make life better for everybody in the long run.

What do you think that people in your country are most worried about when it comes to Europe?
There are many people in Germany who see the EU as a bureaucratic monster. There are many people in Germany who are concerned about the freedom of movement, which they owe to the EU. And there are many people who are concerned about Germany’s responsibility in Europe. On the one hand, those who really support the European project consider it a responsibility to ensure that European countries never go to war with each other again, and that we have therefore a further responsibility to put in place the structures that will make sure this is what happens. This means reducing social distinctions not only between Member States but also between the EU and other states, notably to the south. On the other hand, there are some people in Germany who say it is not our responsibility to compensate for the mistakes of other states, especially with regard to the financial crisis and the euro rescue package. They are of the opinion that it is not their responsibility to help other Member States solve their problems and that these states should not benefit from Germany’s flourishing economy. To those people I say: “You not only failed to understand the idea behind the European Union, you also failed to understand the idea of a social market economy and of solidarity – which are not bound by national borders.”

What is your biggest wish for Europe?
I wish the EU to become a role model for international solidarity.

How do you know Sergi Corbalan? And if Sergi was your personal ambassador to “Brussels”, what message would you like him to deliver there for you.
I got in contact with Sergi during the application process for the European Future Leaders Programme, where I registered as a candidate of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office.
If Sergi was my personal ambassador to “Brussels”, I would like him to tell the members of the Council of the European Union to take their positions and responsibility more seriously and to stop using Europe to simply defend their national interests. This would help to increase citizens trust in the EU.

Freedom, Solidarity and Responsibility. Europe is our future, it is up to all of us!

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Joschka Knuth: Soziale Marktwirtschaft und Solidarität sind nicht an nationale Grenzen gebunden!

Alter: 22
Nationalität: Deutschland
Beruf: Werksstudent im Ministerium für Energiewende, Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und ländliche Räume des Landes Schleswig-Holstein In Deutschland
Sprachen: Deutsch, Englisch
Hobbies: Laufen, Fitnesssport, Politik

Wie beeinflusst Europa Dein Leben?
Europa beeinflusst mein Leben auf vielen Wegen. Manch einer könnte sagen, dass Europäische Gesetze und Richtlinien mein Leben auf unnötige und bürokratische Weise beeinflussen, aber als junger Mensch, der ich als Europäischer Bürger und in Frieden aufgewachsen bin, möchte ich viel stärker hervorheben, dass ich mich in ganz Europa frei bewegen kann, dass ich die Chance habe, so viele faszinierende Regionen und Menschen kennenzulernen und von ihnen zu profitieren.

Wenn ich Menschen treffe, die sich über die bürokratische EU beschweren, appelliere ich an ihre Vernunft und Rationalität. Es ist wichtig, die Menschen immer wieder daran zu erinnern, dass die EU ein Projekt des Friedens und der Solidarität ist.

Kannst du uns ein Beispiel geben, wo Europäische Gesetze dich beeinflussen?
Als Kommunalpolitiker und damit auch Verantwortungsträger treffe ich auch auf regionaler Ebene immer wieder auf Europäische Gesetze und Richtlinien in vielen meiner Entscheidungen. Als Werksstudent im Ministerium für Energiewende, Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und ländliche Räume des Landes Schleswig-Holstein in Deutschland muss ich Europäische Richtlinien ebenfalls in vielen Aspekten meiner Arbeit berücksichtigen. Während meiner Arbeit für die Fair Trade Town Kampagne setze ich mich in vielfältiger Art und Weise mit der gemeinsamen Agrarpolitik der Europäischen Union auseinander. In all diesen Bereichen treffe ich auf Menschen, die sich über die verschiedenen bürokratischen und administrativen Ebenen beschweren. Doch wenn immer sie anfangen, die Europäische Union aus diesen Grünen zu kritisieren, appelliere ich an ihre Vernunft und Rationalität. Es ist wichtig, die Menschen immer wieder daran zu erinnern, dass die EU ein Projekt des Friedens und der Solidarität ist.

Europaskeptiker hingegen sagen, dass die Europäische Union die Freiheit begrenzt und versucht ganz Europa zu vereinheitlichen.
Wir erreichen auch keine Freiheit, solange verschiedene Interessen gegeneinander ausgespielt werden. Man kann nicht erst Solidarität als internationales Ziel ausrufen und dann jeden Vorschlag, der darauf zielt, dieses Ziel zu erreichen, kritisieren und verhindern. Selbstverständlich gibt es viele verschiedene Interessen in einer Organisation mit 28 Mitgliedern; jedes einzelne Mitglied startet ja auch von einem anderen Ausgangspunkt. Das verneint glaube ich niemand. Es geht jedoch nicht, dass man sich Ziele setzt und dann nicht versucht, diese zu erreichen. Wenn wir über Solidarität reden, dann wollen wir doch nicht alle Regionen in der Europäischen Union gleich aussehen lassen; wir wollen auch nicht die verschiedenen Kulturen auslöschen und vereinheitlichen; wir können auch nicht das Leben jeder einzelnen Person von heute auf morgen besser machen. Worum es bei diesem Europäischen Projekt geht, ist doch, zu versuchen jeden verstehen zu lassen, wie bedeutsam es ist, diese verschiedenen Regionen und Kulturen zu haben und die Leben aller Menschen auf lange Sicht zu verbessern.

Was beunruhigt die Menschen in deinem Land am stärksten, wenn die Rede auf Europa fällt?
Viele Menschen in Deutschland sehen die EU als bürokratisches Monster an. Viele Menschen machen sich auch Gedanken über die Bedeutung der Bewegungsfreiheit, welche sie der EU verdanken. Wieder andere – und ich denke im Kern sind dies doch die meisten Menschen – machen sich Gedanken über die Verantwortung Deutschlands in der Europäischen Union. Auf der einen Seite sind das jene, die die Idee der Europäischen Union wirklich unterstützen und sie als Projekt ansehen, mit der sie der Verantwortung nachkommen, in Europa nie wieder Krieg herrschen zu lassen. Hierzu sehen sie es als unsere Verantwortung an, für Strukturen zu sorgen, die den Frieden in der EU garantieren. Hierzu müssen soziale Unterschiede nicht nur zwischen den Mitgliedsstaaten der EU, sondern auch der EU und anderen Staaten – insbesondere im Süden – zunehmend abgebaut werden. Für diese Sicht der Verantwortung kann ich durchaus Sympathie entwickeln.

Auf der anderen Seite gibt es aber auch Menschen, die – insbesondere mit Blick auf die Finanzkrise und den Euro-Rettungsschirm – sagen, dass es nicht unsere Verantwortung ist, für die Fehler anderer Staaten aufzukommen. Sie sind der Meinung, dass es nicht ihre Verantwortung ist, anderen Staaten zu helfen und dass diese nicht von der florierenden Wirtschaft Deutschlands profitieren sollten. Zu diesen Menschen kann ich nur sagen: Ihr habt nicht nur versagt, wenn es darum geht, die Idee der Europäischen Union zu verstehen, ihr habt auch versagt, wenn es darum geht die Idee einer sozialen Marktwirtschaft und der Solidarität zu verstehen – welche nicht an nationale Grenzen gebunden sind.

Was ist dein größter Wunsch für Europa?
Ich wünsche mir, dass die Europäische Union ein Vorbild für internationale Solidarität ist.

Wie hast du Sergi Corbalán, den Leiter des Fair-Trade Advocacy Office (Büro für Fairen Handel) in Brüssel kennen gelernt? Wenn Sergi dein persönlicher Botschafter in „Brüssel“ wäre, was sollte er für dich dort ausrichten?
Ich habe Sergi während der Arbeit an meiner Bewerbung für das European Future Leaders Programme kennengelernt, bei dem ich mich als Kandidat für das Fair Trade Advocacy Office beworben habe. Wenn Sergi mein persönlicher Botschafter wäre, würde ich mir wünschen, dass er den Mitgliedern des Rates der Europäischen Union ausrichtet, dass diese ihre Position und Verantwortung endlich ernster nehmen und damit aufhören, Europa zu nutzen um ihre nationalstaatlichen Interessen gegeneinander auszuspielen. Das würde helfen, den Glauben der Bürgerinnen und Bürger an die Europäische Union zu erhöhen.

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Sue Bird: My appreciation of being together as the European Union springs from an innate connection with people

Age: 55
Nationality: United Kingdom
Occupation: Policy Coordinator at the European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Languages: English, French, and a little Spanish
Hobbies: involved in religion and politics, travel, music (classical or rock ‘n’ roll, choral or instrumental), sport
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

Sue Bird 2013You are British. How did you come to Brussels?
I grew up in the rural Midlands, where my parents were both local bankers. Studying French introduced me to other European countries, and I spent a formative year in the coalfields of northern France teaching conversational English to lycée (high school) students. I began a career in banking, but soon left to focus on new opportunities in UK local authorities. This put me in touch with – and soon brought me to – Brussels and the European Institutions. And I have been in Brussels for some 23 years now……

International relations and travel had always fascinated me. Early on in my career, I soon discovered that even city life in the UK could seem rather limited, as people around me focussed only on the everyday ups and downs of British life and culture. I started to “get itchy feet”, and wanted to be able to use my French, as well as to return to some of the thrill of international projects I had known during my student holidays. Bradford City Council seconded me to Brussels as a trainee with the European Commission at a time when the Commission was looking to recruit new officials to temporary contracts. I was taken on… and I stayed…

What drives you after all these years?
I have a streak of idealism in me, and working for the European Union has always been a vocation for me – what could be more satisfying than working at a strategic level to bring people of different backgrounds together in a way that has not been done before?

I am a Christian believer and see working for a better European Union to be perfectly in keeping with the values of my faith. In fact, this is something I am writing about in the context of the UK’s relationship with the EU……My appreciation of being together as the EU springs from an innate love I have for people. You can learn so much from others, and meaningful interaction is so enriching.

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but for me the European Union’s biggest achievement remains that we are now at peace with each other for 70 years, after the horrors of two world wars during the 20th century.

What are you doing in your job?
I am in charge of corporate social responsibility policy. We try to encourage the private sector to be more inclusive socially and environmentally in its everyday business practices.
A typical working day will consist of reading many documents; on average two meetings per day with Commission services, with Member States, or with stakeholders; writing reports or briefings and keeping up with emails throughout the day. And, I like to fit in a visit to the swimming pool on the days that I can.

What do you like most in your job?
Firstly, it is a unique experience to be working with up to 28 different nationalities within such an important policy area as employment, social affairs and inclusion. To be able to work constructively together, we need to maintain high standards of respect for and attention to each other. Secondly, with the good education systems in the European Union, I welcome the intellectual challenge from those around me, as this spurs my own personal and professional development. Thirdly, I really enjoy having a lot of contact with officials in Member State administrations, as well as with our stakeholders who are concerned about how to optimise European policy-making and to better fight unemployment and the social crisis. This dialogu enables the European Commission to have a good sense of what is happening on the ground within Member States, regions and local communities.

What is the greatest success of Europe for you and where could it do better?
Maybe I am old-fashioned, but for me the European Union’s biggest achievement remains that we are now at peace with each other for 70 years, after the horrors of two world wars during the 20th century. Looking to the future, we have created an institutional structure and ways of working together that hopefully make war among us unthinkable.
The greatest challenge for the EU today, in my view, is creating a positive vision for its future development with which citizens can identify, and which carefully balances who does what, while gaining genuine integral commitment from Member State governments.

Has there been a moment when you were particularly proud of being part of the European project?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A significant moment for me historically in my career with the Commission was the day in May 2004 when 10 new Central and Eastern European countries joined the EU – the EU’s biggest enlargement to date. At the time I was in charge of the Structural Funds for Slovakia – which are designed to narrow the gap between the richer and poorer parts of Europe – and remember being at their Ambassador’s Brussels residence when the clock struck midnight……

Is there a negative myth about Europe you want to rectify? What is your biggest wish for Europe?
I come from the UK – my roots are in Northamptonshire – and so am quite concerned at the state of my country’s relationship with the EU, against the backdrop of a possible referendum on its membership. The UK media promote such a deceptively negative view of the EU that my perpetual cry is, when will the truth come out?
If there is a referendum, my hope is that we vote to stay in and commit ourselves to working positively within it for a common vision everyone can agree on. With our systematic and value-for-money-seeking approach, I think we British have a lot to contribute. But we can also learn much from other people’s norms and cultures – a mutually enriching experience.

Peace, Diversity and Mutual understanding. Europe is our future. It is up to all of us!

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Sue Bird: Gemeinsam Lösungen finden – das ist, was mir an Europa gefällt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Man mag das altmodisch finden, aber für mich ist und bleibt der größte Erfolg der Europäischen Union, dass wir nach den Schrecken der zwei Weltkriege im zwanzigsten Jahrhundert nun im Rahmen der EU seit mehr als 70 Jahren in Frieden leben.”

Nach ihrem Studium der französischen Sprache und einem Aufenthalt in Frankreich startet Sue ihre berufliche Laufbahn zunächst in einer lokalen Bank in England. Der Wunsch Neues zu entdecken und mit anderen Menschen etwas gemeinsam aufzubauen, führt sie nach Brüssel, wo sie in der Europäischen Kommission im Bereich Beschäftigung und Sozialpolitik tätig ist. Für Sue ist ständiger Dialog Kern ihrer Arbeit, sei es in Brüssel mit den Kollegen aus anderen Mitgliedstaaten oder den nationalen Regierungen der Europäischen Union. Um gemeinsame Lösungen in Europa zu finden, muss Vertrauen bestehen. Dazu braucht es Dialog. Sue ist davon überzeugt, dass ein gemeinsames Europa ein Gewinn für alle EU Staaten ist, da jeder Staat etwas Wertvolles beiträgt. Das Vereinigte Königreich sei z. B. deshalb ein Gewinn für Europa, weil es eine ausgeprägte politische Kultur in der Findung pragmatischer Lösungen mitbringt. Dass man weiterhin gemeinsam vorangeht in Europa, das ist Sues Hoffnung.

Frieden, Vielfalt, und gegenseitiges Verständnis. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Sue Bird: Etre ensemble, c’est ce qui me plait dans le projet européen

« Peut-être que je suis vieux jeu, mais pour moi la plus grande réussite de l’Union européenne reste que nous sommes maintenant en paix les uns avec les autre et cela depuis 70 ans, après les horreurs des deux guerres mondiales du 20ème siècle. »

Après avoir commencé sa carrière dans la banque en suivant l’exemple familiale, Sue s’est tracé un tout autre chemin en prenant celui de Bruxelles. Au départ démangée par une curiosité de l’autre et une passion pour l’échange, elle a fait du lien social son quotidien en rejoignant l’équipe en charge de l’emploi, des affaires sociales et de l’inclusion à la Commission européenne. Les notions de respect et de dialogue continuent d’irriguer son travail au quotidien, que ce soit à Bruxelles ou avec ses interlocuteurs dans les différentes capitales européennes. Sue estime que l’Europe a beaucoup à gagner de chacun de ses pays membres, et que l’approche pragmatique et économe de son pays d’origine, le Royaume Uni, n’est pas inutile dans le débat européen ! Même si elle est convaincue que c’est d'”être ensemble” qui reste le plus précieux.

Paix, diversité et compréhension mutuelle. L’Europe est notre avenir, cela ne tient qu’à nous!


 

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Caroline Mattias: Europe is everyone’s business!

Age: 24
Nationality: German
Occupation: Trainee at the European Commission (September 2014–February 2015)
Languages: German, English, French
Hobbies: Cooking, Reading, Travelling
Interview in Deutsch
Another German voice: Annette Leisse
Sommaire en français

caroline mattiasYou are a trainee at the European Commission. Why are you working for Europe?
Because I am a European – although this might be the first time that I have actually written these words. Most of us, at least outside the Euro-bubble in Brussels, have probably never even given a second thought as to whether we are European or not. I applied to work for the European Commission because I think Europe is everyone’s business. We are all inevitably part of it. I would like to see people realise that Europe is a crucial part of their identity.

What do you do at the European Commission?
For the moment I am on a traineeship at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communication. This means that I play an active part in developing and carrying out various communication activities designed to reconnect the idea of ‘Europe’ with the people who live there. In addition, I am a member of the Trainee’s Solidarity Sub-Committee, whose job is to raise awareness of our charity events and volunteering opportunities and to collect funds for a water sanitation project in Uganda.

How is life in Brussels?
Having studied and lived in a variety of countries including the Netherlands, the US and the UK, I love working in a vibrant, international environment such as Brussels. I enjoy making new friends from different cultural backgrounds and learning about their stories. I am trying to learn ‘proper’ French, I like exploring the city and cooking dinner with my flatmates – although I have to admit that you can very often also find me in the queue at the “Maison Antoine” on Place Jourdan where you can get the most delicious fries in town.

I hope that one day the majority of people will not only feel part of their respective states, but also part of the European community as well.

How would you explain what the ‘European project’ means?
Last night, I asked my British flatmate what image comes to his mind when he thinks about Europe. It was not an easy question to answer. Finally, he explained to me that when asked about Europe, he immediately thought about the holidays he spent with his family in France when he was a kid, and the vineyards they would visit. For him, this was a distinct experience in a foreign country, where he nonetheless felt very comfortable and welcome.
For me, one of the most European “images” is an inspiring speech by Jean-Claude Juncker about the significance of the European idea that I heard when I was 17. It was the first time I felt truly European.
In the end, I think the common European project is a complex concept made up of personal narratives, collective memories, present realities and future hopes and visions. It is as unique in its diversity as the diverse views about it are unique.

What is the greatest success of Europe for you and where could it do better?
From a purely personal perspective, the greatest success of Europe for me is the free movement of people. It enables young Europeans like me to study, work and live in different countries without facing any major obstacles. Interaction with people from different EU member states fosters mutual understanding, broadens our horizon and provides a multitude of opportunities.
I also care much about the EU’s efforts in terms of environmental and consumer protection policies such as the Ecolabel scheme. Initiatives like this ensure a good quality of life for present and future generations.
Obviously Europe is not perfect. One area where there is certainly room for improvement is its communication strategy. Instead of one-way communication, offering mere information, the European Union should aim to create a real two-way communication that guarantees an honest, sustainable and long-term engagement with its citizens.

Is there a myth about Europe you want to rectify?
There was a recent Euromyth circulating in Germany that is probably representative of almost all of them. Some media claimed that due to new EU regulations, German mothers or fathers would not be allowed to take cakes to their toddlers’ kindergarten bake sale anymore unless they declared every single ingredient. This is of course nonsense. The regulation only covers commercial businesses which have to declare the ingredients of the products they sell. This case illustrates clearly how the EU is often portrayed as a dysfunctional bureaucracy that rather than working to make life better for ordinary people simply makes things harder.

What is your biggest wish for Europe?
My biggest wish is that more people would talk positively about Europe. We need strong, courageous voices able to reach the hearts and minds of citizens, we need a clear and simple narrative everyone can understand and a meaningful two-way engagement with citizens. I hope that someday people think of Europe not only in terms of geography but also as an idea and a positive force that impacts us all. I hope that one day the majority of people will not only feel part of their respective states, but also part of the European community as well.

Why do you think we need the European Union?
Tackling issues such as climate change or cyber-crime needs to be done at the international level. Many of today’s problems are trans-national, and can only be effectively dealt with at the European or wider level. Yes, the European project is challenging and difficult, but it is also very rewarding and useful.

Do you have a particular hobby or motto?
Any book by the Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón, lazy Sunday mornings and art exhibitions are things I like very much. While I do not really have a personal motto, there is a quote by Mary Ann Evans, a female journalist and writer from the Victorian era better known by her male nom de plume George Eliot that means a lot to me. She said that “it is never too late to be what you might have been.” These are words I try to remind myself of from time to time.

Freedom and Opportunities. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Caroline Mattias: Europa geht uns alle etwas an!

Alter: 24
Nationalität: Deutsch
Beruf: Praktikantin bei der Europäischen Kommission (September 2014 bis Februar 2015)
Hobbies: Kochen, Lesen, Reisen
Sprachen: Deutsch, Englisch, Französisch

Caroline MattiasSie sind eine Praktikantin in der Europäischen Kommission. Warum arbeiten Sie für Europa?
Ich bin Europäerin und das ist wahrscheinlich das erste Mal, dass ich diese Worte aufschreibe. Viele von uns, außerhalb des “Euro-Dorfes” in Brüssel, haben sie wahrscheinlich noch nicht einmal gedacht. Ich habe mich bei der Europäischen Kommission beworben, weil ich finde, dass Europa für uns alle relevant ist. Es geht uns alle etwas an, weil wir alle unvermeidbar Teil von Europa sind. . Ich wünsche mir, dass die Bürger mehr wahrnehmen, dass Europa ein bedeutender Teil ihrer Identität ist.

Was tun Sie in der Europäischen Kommission?
Zur Zeit bin ich Praktikant in der Generaldirektion Kommunikation. Das bedeutet für mich, dass ich daran mitarbeite konkrete Kommunikationsprojekte zu entwickeln und umzusetzen, die beitragen, Europa den BürgerInnen näherzubringen. Außerdem bin ich Mitglied im “Stagiaires Solidarity Subcommittee”, wo wir verschiedene Wohltätigkeitsveranstaltungen organisieren, VolontärInnen vermitteln und Geld für ein Wasser Sanitärprojekt in Uganda sammeln.

Wie ist das Leben in Brüssel?
Ich habe in den letzten Jahren in einigen verschiedenen Ländern wie den Niederlanden, USA oder England gelebt und studiert und deswegen liebe ich es in einem pulsierenden, internationalen Umfeld wie Brüssel zu arbeiten. Ich lerne gerne neue Leute mit verschiedenen kulturellen Hintergründen und kennen, um mehr über ihre interessanten Lebensgeschichten zu erfahren. Ich lerne Französisch, erkunde die Stadt, koche mit meinen MitbewohnerInnen und manchmal bin ich auch in der Schlange von Maison Antione am Place Jourdan zu finden, wo ich für die besten Fritten von Brüssel anstehe.

Ich hoffe, dass sich die Menschen irgendwann nicht nur als Teil ihres Heimatlandes, sondern auch als Teil der Europäischen Gemeinschaft sehen.

Wie würden Sie das “Europäische Projekt” erklären?
Kürzlich habe ich meinen britischen Mitbewohner gefragt, welches Bild er im Kopf hat, wenn er an Europa denkt. Es war keine einfache Frage für ihn. Er hat mir schließlich geantwortet, dass wenn er über Europa gefragt wird, sofort an die Familienurlaube als Kind in Frankreich denkt und die Weingüter, die er mit seinen Eltern dort besucht hat. Für ihn war das ein einprägsames Erlebnis in einem fremden Land in dem er sich doch zu Hause und willkommen gefühlt hat. Ich fand dieses Bild von Europa in einer wirklich inspirierenden Rede über die Europäische Idee von Jean-Claude Juncker, die ich im Alter von 17 Jahren auf einer Konferenz gehört habe. Es war das erste Mal, dass ich mich als Europäerin gefühlt habe.
Letztendlich denke ich, dass Europa ein komplexes Konzept ist, bestehend aus persönlichen Geschichten, kollektiven Erinnerungen, individuellen Lebensrealitäten und zukünftigen Hoffnungen und Visionen. Es ist so einzigartig in seiner Vielfalt wie die vielfältigen Ansichten darüber einzigartig sind.

Was ist Ihrer Meinung nach der größte Erfolg Europas und wo kann es sich noch verbessern?
Aus meiner persönlichen Perspektive ist der größte Erfolg Europas der freie Personenverkehr. Er ermöglicht jungen Europäerinnen und Europäern wie mir in anderen Ländern zu studieren und zu leben ohne große Hürden zu überwinden. Der Dialog mit Menschen aus verschiedenen Mitgliedsländern fördert das gegenseitige Verständnis, erweitert unseren Horizont und bietet eine Vielzahl neuer Möglichkeiten.
Außerdem, halte ich die Bemühungen der EU bezüglich Umwelt- und Verbraucherschutz wie die Einführung des Öko-Labels für sehr bedeutend. Initiativen wie diese garantieren eine gute Lebensqualität für gegenwärtige und zukünftige Generationen. Allerdings ist Europa, bestimmt nicht perfekt. Ein Aspekt, in dem es sich verbessern sollte, betrifft die Kommunikation. Anstatt einseitiger Übermittelung von Informationen, sollte die EU noch mehr als bisher eine beidseitig gerichtete Kommunikation anstreben, die einen ehrlichen, nachhaltigen und langfristigen Dialog mit den Bürgerinnen und Bürgern Europas garantiert.

Gibt es einen Mythos über Europa, den Sie richtigstellen möchten?
Vor kurzer Zeit gab es einen “Euro-mythos” in Deutschland, der wahrscheinlich repräsentativ für fast alle anderen ist. Einige Medien haben behauptet, dass auf Grund einer neuen EU-Verordnung, engagierte Mütter und Väter keinen selbstgebackenen Kuchen mehr zu Kindergartenfesten bringen dürfen, es sei denn, sie benennen jede einzelne Zutat. Das ist natürlich Unsinn. Die Verordnung gilt nur für Unternehmen, die auf ihren Produkten Zutaten ausweisen müssen. Dieses Beispiel veranschaulicht, dass die EU oftmals als “Verwaltungsmoloch” dargestellt wird, der das Leben der BürgerInnen nicht erleichtert, sondern im Gegenteil, noch erschwert.

Was ist Ihr größter Wunsch für Europa?
Mein größter Wunsch ist, dass mehr Menschen positiv über Europa sprechen. Wir brauchen starke und mutige Stimmen, die es schaffen die Herzen und Köpfe der Menschen zu erreichen, ein klares, transparentes Image, mit dem sich jeder identifizieren kann und ein tiefgreifendes Engagement mit den BürgerInnen. Ich hoffe, dass die Europäischen BürgerInnen eines Tages Europa nicht nur als geographischen Begriff, sondern als wertvolle Idee und positiven Einfluss in ihrem Leben sehen. Ich hoffe, dass sich die Menschen irgendwann nicht nur als Teil ihres Heimatlandes, sondern auch als Teil der Europäischen Gemeinschaft sehen.

Warum brauchen wir die Europäische Union?
Wenn ich z.B. über den Klimawandel oder Cyber-Kriminalität rede, dann fühle ich mich als Europäerin, weil transnationale Probleme von einer internationalen Gemeinschaft gelöst werden müssen. Viele Probleme, mit denen wir heutzutage konfrontiert sind, sich nicht mehr auf die Nationalstaaten alleine beschränken. Sie überwinden unsere Landesgrenzen und können nur mit Hilfe einer internationalen Gemeinschaft gelöst werden. Ja Europa ist ein schwieriges und anspruchsvolles Projekt, aber es ist nützlich und lohnbringend.

Haben Sie ein besonderes Hobby oder Motto?
Bücher des spanischen Autors Carlos Ruiz Safón, gemütliche Sonntagmorgen und Kunstausstellungen gehören zu den Dingen, die ich liebe. Obwohl ich kein Lebensmotto habe, gibt es ein Zitat von Mary Ann Evans, einer Journalistin und Schriftstellerin des Viktorianischen Zeitalters, die eher unter ihrem männlichen Pseudonym “George Eliot” bekannt ist, das mir sehr viel bedeutet. Evans sagte “es ist nie zu spät, das zu sein, was du hättest gewesen sein können.” Worte, an die ich mich von Zeit zu Zeit erinnern muss.

Freiheit und Chancen. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es geht uns alle etwas an!

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Annette Leisse: Europe needs a smart and human asylum policy

Age: 26
Nationality: German
Occupation: Physician
Hobbies: Reading, Cooking, Ballet, Travelling
Link with main interviewee: Caroline is my oldest friend

How does Europe impact on your daily life?
I am part of the generation that cannot imagine Europe without the European Union. This is why the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about how Europe impacts on my life is the free movement of people! When I am waiting at passport control on another continent, I often get this unpleasant feeling that they might not let me into the country for whatever reason. It is at times like these that I really appreciate the open borders we all benefit from in the European Union. The free movement of goods in the European Single Market also brings many benefits, particularly for the German export-oriented economy that crucially contributes to our prosperity.

What do you think that people in your country are most worried about when it comes to Europe?
I believe that many people feel that Europe takes more than it gives and that is why they see mainly the disadvantages of the European Union. I think the media is often one-sided and too EU-critical. In Germany, it is the EU’s “regulatory overkill” and the common agricultural policy that are most commonly criticised. I think it’s also true that more recently the impression has grown that Europe is not really interested in what people think but that it is really run by lobbyists. I find this growing influence of lobbyists on European policymaking quite disturbing.

What is your biggest wish for Europe?
Peace and freedom are in my view the most important values for Europe. Europe was divided in the past by many wars, but the creation of the European project has led to the longest ever period of peace in Central Europe. My biggest wish for our continent and for the European Union is that the current conflicts affecting the EU’s neighbours can be solved peacefully, and that we can develop a smart and human asylum policy.

How do you know Caroline and how do you view what she is doing in Brussels? If Caroline was a direct link for you to communicate with “Brussels”, what message would you like her to deliver for you?
Caroline is my oldest friend and I know that whatever she is asked to do in her job she does so with conscientiousness and care. One thing she could do for me would be to encourage the European Union to take a tougher stand on data protection legislation. I’d also like to see the EU become more transparent in the way it works, because I think this would be a great way to help overcome many of the prejudices against it.

Peace and Freedom. Europe is our future. It is up to all of us!

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Annette Leisse: Europa braucht eine intelligente und menschenfreundliche Asylpolitik

Alter: 26
Nationalität: Deutsch
Beruf: Ärztin
Hobbies: Lesen, Kochen, Ballett, Reisen
Meine Beziehung zu Caroline: Caroline ist meine älteste Freundin

Welchen Einfluss hat Europa auf Ihr Leben?
Ich stamme aus einer Generation, die sich ein Europa ohne den Staatenverbund nicht mehr vorstellen kann. Deshalb fällt mir dazu natürlich als Erstes die Reisefreiheit in Europa ein! Warte ich in einem anderen Kontinent an der Passkontrolle, beschleicht mich immer wieder das mulmige Gefühl, man wolle mich aus unerfindlichen Gründen doch nicht einreisen lassen – in diesen Momenten weiß ich die offenen Grenzen in der EU jedes Mal mehr zu schätzen. Ganz zu schweigen von den Vorteilen der freien Warenströme für die europäische Wirtschaft, von denen besonders Deutschlands Exporthandel profitiert und einen wichtigen Beitrag zum Wohlstand des Landes leistet.

Worüber glauben Sie sind die Menschen in Deutschland bezüglich Europa am meisten besorgt?
Ich denke, dass die Menschen das Gefühl haben, dass Europa mehr nimmt als gibt und sie deshalb eher die Nachteile sehen. Außerdem finde ich die Berichterstattung oft einseitig EU-kritisch. In Deutschland werden oft die Überreglementierung und die Landwirtschaftspolitik beanstandet. In letzter Zeit könnte man meinen, dass nicht der Wille des Volkes zählt, sondern hinter den Kulissen mehr und mehr Lobbyismus betrieben wird und auch ich sehe die Abhängigkeit der Politik vom Lobbyismus kritisch.

Was ist Ihr größter Wunsch für Europa?

Frieden und Freiheit sind meiner Meinung nach die wichtigsten Werte, die es in Europa zu verfolgen gilt. Europa hat in der Vergangenheit viele Kriege erlebt, seit der Einführung der EU herrscht die längste Friedensphase in Mitteleuropa. Ich wünsche mir für unseren Kontinent und von der EU, dass die neuerlichen Konflikte an den Ländergrenzen friedlich gelöst werden können und eine intelligente und menschenfreundliche Asylpolitik betrieben wird.

Woher kennen Sie Caroline und wie sehen Sie, was sie in Brüssels macht? Wenn Caroline Ihr Sprecher in Brüssel wäre, welche Nachricht sollte sie übermitteln?
Caroline ist meine älteste Freundin und ich weiß, dass sie sich um die an sie herangetragenen Ansuchen nach bestem Wissen und Gewissen und mit besonderer Sorgfältigkeit kümmert. Ein großes Anliegen wäre zum Beispiel, dass sich die EU um einheitliche europäische Datenschutzrichtlinien kümmert und dazu als eine Gemeinschaft Stellung bezieht. Und dass sie – in diesem Sinne – transparenter für die BürgerInnen wird, so dass sich Vorurteile leichter beseitigen lassen.

Frieden und Freiheit Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Caroline Mattias: L’Europe, c’est l’affaire de tous !

« J’espère qu’un jour la majorité des citoyens ne se sentiront pas seulement partie de leurs Etats d’origine, mais qu’ils se sentiront tout autant partie de la communauté européenne. »

Caroline a choisi de compléter ses études par un stage à la Commission européenne, et a posé ses valises à Bruxelles pour cinq mois. Elle y observe de l’intérieur le fonctionnement des institutions européennes, et en particulier la façon dont l’Union européenne interagit avec ses citoyens. Caroline se désole de ce que cette communication se fasse surtout à sens unique, et préférerait que les institutions soient davantage à l’écoute de ceux qui l’interpellent. Mais elle conclue avec philosophie que le projet européen cela reste avant tout un ensemble de récits personnels, de mémoire collective, de réalités actuelles, d’espoirs et d’ambitions.

Liberté et opportunités. L’Europe est notre avenir, cela ne tient qu’à nous!


 

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David Barnes: The EU is built on strong values and open democratic processes!

Age: 44
Nationality: Australian
Occupation: social researcher presenting the ‘Solidarity Proposal’ for human resources and volunteering to the EU Institutions.
Languages: English, intermediate Spanish and French, and polite niceties in a few others.
Hobbies: adventure, the outdoors and reading
Most important things in life: spirituality, family, friends, to embrace one’s life and to support others to do the same.

Another Australian voice: Pieter Verasdonck
A view from Britain: Gerry, David’s sparring partner
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

Solidarité_25thStage_Anniversay_Feb2011 (176)Why as an Australian did you decide to work for Europe?
I was basically a country kid with a pretty normal background – from a big, outgoing and fairly conservative family. I was shaped by ‘down-home’ values – where what you see is what you get, where you leave your front door unlocked, and where sharing bikes and clothes with my brothers and sisters was commonplace. My dad taught me that you could tell something about people by whether they looked you in the eye or not and by the way they shook your hand. You ask how I ended up ‘working for Europe’? Well, because, I want to help change the world, it’s as crazy, lofty and simple as that. And Brussels is one of the best places in the world to inspire and change the world. Europe is relatively small in global population and geographical terms, but so is a key to a car. Europe is a global player, both respected and imitated around the world, and influential in terms of the world’s past, present and future.

Some critics say Europe is about bureaucrats and administration. Are they wrong and can one really change the world from Brussels?
The fact that the EU even exists is vastly impressive. Sure, the EU project has its trials and tribulations, but so do football teams and plants trying to grow. One great thing about my ‘European career’ in Brussels is seeing people who are passionate about people and about their work, investing knowledge and teamwork in reports, policy and seminars etc, and dedicating themselves to a better world. The EU institutions are built on strong European/universal values and rigorous and open democratic and social processes. The challenge is to live the values and then the processes take care of themselves.

The great thing about my ‘European career’ in Brussels is seeing people who are passionate about people and about their work, dedicating themselves to a better world

And how would you change the world from Brussels?
Winston Churchill said: “What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” One of the principles I try to follow is to have an uplifting vision and then just take a positive step, no matter how small it is. Thus, together with some of these dedicated EU civil servants, I am presenting a proposal to the EU institutions – called the ‘Solidarity proposal’ – for a joint human resources programme among the EU Institutions to facilitate the involvement of staff and trainees in benevolent humanitarian and social activities, both as part of current staff training and in staff’s own time. This ranges from EU staff’s practical, voluntary involvement in local humanitarian activities, such as reading to the elderly, to an option for staff training through genuine community engagement (as opposed to training in a conference room). Research shows that such training is cheaper and more effective in developing skill-sets transferable to the workplace. About 20 such pilot training events have taken place throughout the EU institutions and the response has been positive. Such things are also in line with EU policies such as proximity to the citizen.

What does this involve?
When in Brussels, I spend my days sharing and explaining the ideas behind the proposal with key people throughout the institutions, lobbying for support, problem-solving, researching, developing best-practices, meeting people and deepening contacts and foundations for the proposal. We have a letter supporting the Solidarity proposal signed jointly by the leaders of every political group in the European Parliament – on paper this is amazing and is something to help keep one’s faith and a testament to democracy, European values and the European process.David Barnes

Isn’t it hard to always be in the driver’s seat, to be the ‘motivator’?
The toughest, and sometimes the saddest thing about being in Brussels is indeed the mammoth task of creating change, of trying to keep a fire burning in this challenging environment amid the institutions’ vast range of priorities, expectations, systems and almost an invisible, heavy mood at times. People are so busy and their work priorities so strong that it seems to also take over the head and heart. It’s understandable and it’s tough under such conditions. If you believe in something that helps others, it helps you to try to find the strength, the people and the ways to support a foundation and ongoing engagement with the cause.

Many people working in Brussels feel that what they do is misunderstood and not valued by citizens.
There are moments of joy for those working on European projects and wanting to ‘change the world’… moments of air-punching jubilation at successes. There are also moments of gratitude and awe or disillusionment and disappointment. We all share them in Brussels, wondering if it is worth it… and then, hopefully, even though we may have to adjust our sails, we know that it is. I remember being alone on a snowy winter night, looking to the sky and thinking this is too hard, the institutions too cold, and people too stuck. And within moments a friend walked past encouragingly and my phone started suddenly ringing with friends doing what friends do best.

What is your wish for Europe?
That it can be a bastion of values, example and encouragement to the world for a happier world of human connection and sustainability – and that it authentically generates things supporting this which become as normal as football and brushing your teeth.

Respect and Solidarity. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Pieter L.J. Verasdonck: Europe has to guide the world economy to enlightened sustainability!

David’s sparring partner
Age: 65
Nationality: Australian
Occupation: retired, this year, from the New South Wales Public Service
Hobbies: gardening, oil painting, journalism,
My link with David: from his work for the ‘New Italy’ project, a long-standing community-based organisation that promotes Italian heritage and culture.

AU-EUYou are Australian, living in Australia. What is your link with Europe?
I was born in The Netherlands in 1948 and received my degree from Nijenrode University International Business School in 1970 so I have a strong attachment to Europe and an interest in how the EU is progressing. A keen student of history, economics and political philosophy, I am a supporter of European unity and integration. My siblings live in Europe and keep me up to date with information. Since migrating to Australia in 1974, the European impact on my life has been markedly less, as Australia is progressively becoming more a part of the Asia Pacific sphere, through its trade relations and vehicles such as APEC and ASEAN.

How is Europe’s reputation down under?
Australia is the beneficiary of millions of gifted European migrants bringing their skills and resources to Australia, and there are powerful links to ‘the old country’. The initial creation of the EU however came at substantial cost to Australia and New Zealand in terms of trade. The EU seems too navel-gazing in its internal bickering, often too shy of its global role, and greatly burdened by excessive levels of bureaucracy. This undermines the strength of its potential role. Australia needs long-term partnership and a can-do outlook, a world player that does not need to make much use of a fist, but offers abundance in culture and community values.

Would that be your biggest wish for the EU?
I would like the EU to become a more significant driver towards the truly global community of the future. It would be good if Europe progressively fills a growing void in world affairs, providing a workable socio-economic model for the 21st century that is an exciting alternative to the US and Asian spheres. I would like Europe to guide the world economy and political frameworks over the coming century from an unsustainable materialist perspective to a quality of life perspective. A perspective that accepts and measures progress less in terms of GDP and more in terms of enlightened sustainability.

How do you know David?
In my role as Community Economic Development Manager for what was then the Department of State and Regional Development in New South Wales and in his advisory role for the New Italy project. He has kept me informed over the years about his work and progress with the EU. I am not only impressed by his vision but also inspired by the wisdom of his initiative to build bridges between the EU civil servants and the communities they serve. To grow, the EU needs to ground itself stronger… and so better reach the hearts and minds of Europeans!

Imagine David would be your direct line to EU decision makers, what message would you like him to deliver?
My wife and many of my friends hope for greater European global leadership, bringing stability. Personally, I would like him to stress that the EU needs to invest much more in space and change waste and weapons not into ploughs but into spacecraft, and claim a vital part of the high frontier… We need a Europe that accepts that space travel is the long-term social and environmental safety valve, and a tremendous economic frontier of the future. The people need not only an improving quality of life but also a splendid vision, as President John F Kennedy so aptly proved.

Innovation and Science, Prosperity, Peace. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Gerry Simpson: Europe is my home!

David’s sparring partner
Age: 39
Nationality: British
Occupation: human rights lawyer/researcher for Human Rights Watch
Hobbies: listening to and playing classical music and jazz, yoga, running and being a dad
My link with David: good friends since 1998-99 when we did the Commission traineeship together

How does being an international human rights lawyer influence your view on Europe?
Having worked a lot in insecure places in Africa and the Middle East, Europe for me is home, it is safety, it is the luxury of belonging. I am half German, half English. As a middle class Englishman with a good school education, I am lucky and privileged to speak various European languages and to have studied European law and the basis of the European project. Europe is my home.

Are the people that surround you concerned about the European project?
In France, where I now live, I think people worry most about the EU taking away agricultural subsidies or, if they support the far right, about French identity being destroyed by the European project. In the UK, I think most people don’t care or don’t have an informed opinion or support a more moderate version of the French far right’s position.

What do you think about the European project? Can it do better?
It could if it would get rid of the career-oriented mind some bureaucrats have and if it would replace it with the mindset thousands of highly educated, kind, charitable and visionary young Europeans out there who are dedicated to turning Europe into a continent that cares for people, not for money. Let’s get these people on board!

Do you think David could help you with this?
If there is one way one could change the EU from within, it would be through David and his ‘Solidarity’ project.

Prosperity, Identity, Safety. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us.

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David Barnes: Die EU ist auf Werte und Demokratie gegründet!

Solidarité_25thStage_Anniversay_Feb2011 (177)“Du fragst mich, warum ich mich entschieden habe, “für Europa zu arbeiten”? Ganz einfach, weil ich helfen möchte, die Welt zum Besseren zu verändern.”

Brüssel ist für den Australier David Barnes einer der besten Orte, um die Welt zu inspirieren und zu verändern. Besonders bereichernd war für ihn, hier so viele Menschen kennenzulernen, die mit Leidenschaft ihre Arbeit tun.
So hat er gemeinsam mit einigen engagierten EU-BeamtInnen den europäischen Institutionen einen Vorschlag für ein Programm (“Solidarity proposal”) zur Förderung der Freiwilligenarbeit von MitarbeiterInnen in den EU Institutionen in humanitären und sozialen Projekten ausgearbeitet.
Wenn auch seine Vorreiterrolle nicht immer leicht war, er bereute seinen Weg nie und gab niemals auf. Denn Freunde waren immer im richtigen Moment für ihn da und bestärkten ihn in seinem Tun.
David ist überzeugt: Europa basiert auf universellen Werten und starken demokratischen und sozialen Inhalten. Die Herausforderung besteht darin, diese Werte zu leben. Und Europa kann eine Bastion der Werte und Vorbild für eine bessere Welt sein.
In seiner Freizeit liebt David das Abenteuer und Lesen. Auf Spiritualität, Familie und Freunde will er auf keinen Fall verzichten.

Respekt und Solidarität: Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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David Barnes: L’Europe est construite sur des valeurs solides et un processus démocratique ouvert à tous

« Pourquoi je travaille pour l’Europe alors que je suis australien ? Tout simplement parce que je voulais aider à changer le monde ! »

David est a beau être Australien de part sa nationalité, c’est de l’Europe dont il s’est fait l’avocat. Car il voit dans l’Union le moyen de changer le monde, surtout quand elle fait rayonner les valeurs qui la portent, et qu’elle est source d’inspiration pour les autres pays. Et tous les jours, il travaille à faire avancer son idéal de solidarité au sein même des institutions européennes, en leur proposant de mêler la formation continue des fonctionnaires à des projets caritatifs.
Ce n’est pas sans moments de découragement, surtout quand les institutions européennes semblent trop lourdes pour être capable de s’adapter à ses propositions avant-gardistes. Mais l’Union restera toujours un phare pour les valeurs démocratiques et humanistes, ce qui continue de motiver David à frapper à toutes les portes pour faire avancer ses idées. Quand son enthousiasme n’est pas entièrement consacré à ce but, David est toujours candidat à un peu d’aventure et beaucoup de sport en plein air.

Respect et Solidarité. L’Europe est notre avenir. Cela ne tient qu’ à nous !


 

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Petr Blizkovsky: Europe is built on many levels and on dialogue

Age: 50
Nationality: Czech
Occupation: Director at the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union
Hobbies: Music, travelling, history, nature
Languages: Czech, English, Russian, French, German and Slovak
Years in Brussels: 14
My Preferred Dish: Roast lamb with spring vegetables with a glass of good red wine such as a Blue Portugal from Moravia
Literature: Historical autobiographies and books about history (novels are too long and sophisticated for me)
Music: Classical music from the early20th century (such as: Janacek, Shostakovich, Ravel)

Čtete v češtině
Petr’s friend. Další český hlas: Petrův kamarád.
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

petr bilzkovsky 4Why does Europe matter to you?
Before my country joined the EU, I worked in local government and as a civil servant at a number of national ministries in Czechoslovakia and, later, in the Czech Republic. This meant that I was able to play my part in changing my country from the old centrally planned economy and controlled society into a free and democratic nation state. I never doubted for a moment that my country would join the EU, and I was lucky enough to again play a role in this momentous occasion for the Czech Republic as I worked on preparing the country for EU membership in areas such as agriculture, regional policy and other economic areas. Once we had finally joined, I decided I wanted to be one of the people working on the inside, trying to build a future for Europe. That is why I am very happy to work for the Council Secretariat. I feel useful in my job and it fits with my earlier interests and direction.

What does an average day at the Council secretariat look like?
In my job, I am part of a team that helps the Council to adopt EU-wide laws. The Council often does so together with the European Parliament. In concrete terms, I have been serving as a Director since 2004 – at first in the area of economic and regional policies and currently in the area of agriculture. My colleagues and I prepare documents for meetings of experts, meetings of ambassadors and ministerial meetings (which are called Council sessions). More specifically, this involves drafting compromise texts of the various legislative proposals so that at the end of the process the Council (i.e. in my case the agriculture ministers from each national government) can agree on them by the necessary majority. These meetings are chaired by the national minister from the country holding the rotating EU Presidency (which changes every six months) and together with my team, I also provide advice to the Presidency both on the content of the files to be discussed and on the procedures that need to be followed in order for them to be agreed in the Council meeting.

Brussels doesn’t decide anything; it is 28 member states, often together with the European Parliament, who decide.

It sounds like a complicated job! Do you find it rewarding?
For me it is. I feel that my job is important because the Council Secretariat attaches such importance to making sure that the agreed rules governing the decision-making process are respected. This, in my opinion, is the best guarantee that the laws that are agreed will be as good as they possibly can be. And this has a real knock-on effect for citizens, if you consider that many of the files on which I’ve worked have been major economic reforms prompted by the economic crisis. For example, these included an agreement to provide financial assistance to a number of troubled countries during the sovereign debt crisis, a deal on a proposal to create a new banking union and new rules on the use of EU money to support infrastructure, business and social projects in the member states.

Is there a particular myth about the EU that you would like to bust?
The myth that says it is Brussels that decides everything. Brussels doesn’t decide anything; it is 28 member states, often together with the European Parliament, who decide. Another myth is that the European Union is too busy fiddling with unimportant things and so overlooks the fundamental issues that need to be addressed. There is an element of truth to this, but it stems in fact from a lack of understanding about the European Union’s competencies. The EU is not responsible for everything but only for those specific issues that are laid out in the Treaties. Another myth is that the EU decision-making process is the over-complex and that there are too many languages being used. Again, there is some truth to this: the decision-making process can sometime be heavy, but it is for a good reason, as it has to make sure it balances EU-wide interests with national interests, as well as including input from regions and local authorities and civil society. It can be a lengthy process, but it is certainly in the long-term interest of the EU as a whole. And yes, there are many official languages involved in the legislative process but, once again, this is for a good reason: if we want the EU to connect with the citizens it represents, we have to speak to them in their own language, and this includes making sure that all EU laws are available in all 24 official languages so that they can be more clearly understood.petr bilzkovsky 1

The EU must seem very complex to anyone who is not a Brussels insider…
Of course it does. I don’t have to look far to get a sense of that: my brother, who visits me occasionally, always asks me: “So you work for the Council of Europe, is that right? Or is it the European Commission, sorry the Parliament?” The names of the various European bodies are difficult enough for people to remember, let alone what it is that each one of them does exactly. But in the end, every single national constitutional system is complex, isn’t it? How could the European Union be any simpler when there are 28 member states working together in the interests of 500 million people?

What is the EU’s greatest accomplishment, in your view?
For me Europe’s biggest success is the fact that we have had no wars inside the EU since it began, and that rather than fighting each other, the 28 member countries now prefer to discuss their joint concerns and look for common solutions. This should never be taken for granted, and in fact I think that the European Union should build on this foundation and go even further in the future. In my view, the key challenges ahead for the European Union is to make sure that its economic and social systems remain strong and robust and that it is also able to be a leading global player, shaping international policies in these key areas. I think we also need better dialogue between citizens, municipalities and regions and the EU level.

Peace and Prosperity. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Petr Blizkovsky: Evropa je postavena na mnoha úrovních a na dialogu

Věk: 50
Národnost: česká
Zaměstnání: ředitel v Generálním sekretariátu Rady Evropské unie
Zájmy: hudba, cestování, historie a příroda
Jazyky: čeština, angličtina, ruština, francouzština, němčina a slovenština
Roky v Bruselu: 14
Oblíbené jídlo: pečené jehněčí se zeleninou a sklenkou dobrého červeného vína, např. Modrý Portugal z Moravy
Literatura: historické životopisy a knihy o historii (romány jsou na mě příliš dlouhé a sofistikované)
Hudba: vážná hudba ze začátku 20 století (jako Janáček, Šostakovič a Ravel)

petr bilzkovsky 3Proč vám záleží na Evropě?
Ještě před připojením České Republiky k Evropské unii jsem pracoval v místní samosprávě a jako státní úředník na několika ministerstvech v Československu, později v České republice.
To mi umožnilo hrát roli ve změnách, které probíhaly při přechodu od centrálně plánované ekonomiky a kontrolované společnosti do svobodného demokratického státu.
Byl jsem přesvědčen o tom, že se naše země se má připojit k EU a tomuto projektu jsem mohl napomoci v mých minulých zaměstnáních. Bylo to zejména při přípravě naší země na členství v EU v oblastech jako je zemědělství, místní rozvoj a ekonomická politika. Krátce po přistoupení jsem se rozhodl, že bych se rád stal součástí týmu lidí “uvnitř”, kteří usiluji o formování budoucího směřování Evropské unie. Tento můj záměr se naplnil a moji dnešní práce pro Generální sekretariát Rady považuji za smysluplnou.

Jak vypadá obyčejný den v Generálním sekretariátě Rady?
Ve své práci jsem součástí týmu, který pomáhá Radě přijímat zákony zasahující celou EU. Rada takto činí společně s Evropským Parlamentem. Konkrétně v na Sekretariátu Rady působím jako ředitel a to od roku 2004. Nejdříve to bylo v oblasti ekonomické a regionální politiky a momentálně v oblasti zemědělství. Společně s kolegy připravujeme dokumenty pro jednání expertů, velvyslanců a ministrů. Moje práce zahrnuje přípravu polických kompromisů různých právních návrhů tak, aby na konci procesu Rada, v mém případě ministři zemědělství z každé členské vlád, mohla souhlasit potřebnou většinou s finálním změním unijního zákona. Těmto jednáním přesedá ministr členské země, která vykonává rotující prezidentství. To se mění každých 6 měsíců. S mým týmem poskytujeme předsednické zemi podporu jak z hlediska obsahového, tak i procedurálního a právního.

Brusel nerozhoduje nic, rozhoduje 28 členských států, většinou spolu s Evropským parlamentem.

Zdá se to jako celkem složitá práce. Naplňuje vás?
Práce je to zajímavá, někdy složitá a líbí se mi. Jedna z mých rolí je zajistit to, že Rada respektuje pravidla, která si sama schválila a která říkají, jak má rozhodovací proces probíhat. Jde o to, aby se hrálo fair-play, transparentně a všem státům se měřilo stejným metrem. To je podle mého názoru nejlepší záruka toho, že zákony které Rada odsouhlasí budou maximem možného a vývodné pro EU a členské státy nebo alespoň pro jejich většinu. Moje práce má také reálný dopad pro občany. Řada návrhů, na kterých jsem pracoval, se váže na velké ekonomické reformy vyvolané ekonomickou krizí. Například se jednalo o dohodu o poskytnutí finanční pomoci několika zemím, které měly dluhové potíže v průběhu nebo návrh na vytvoření bankovní unie. Dalšími příklady jsou nová pravidla na užívání EU peněz pro podporu infrastruktury, inovací a sociálních projektů v členských státech.

Je nějaký konkrétní mýtus ohledně EU který byste rád uvedl na pravou míru?
Například mýtus, který říká, že Brusel rozhoduje. Brusel nerozhoduje nic, rozhoduje 28 členských států, často ve spojení s Evropským Parlamentem. Dalším mýtem je, že EU se zabývá příliš mnoha nepodstatnými věcmi a proto přehlíží zásadní problémy, které by se měly řešit. Tento názor může být někdy oprávněný. Problém je však v tom, jaké kompetence má Evropské Unie a jaké si ponechaly členské státy. EU není zodpovědná za vše, pouze za konkrétní záležitosti stanovené v Smlouvách. Dalším mýtem je, že rozhodovací proces EU je příliš složitý a používá se příliš mnoho jazyků. Opět musím připomenout, že částečně je to pravda, rozhodovací proces je někdy komplikovaný, ale má to svoje dobré důvody. Během rozhodovacího procesu se vyvažují zájmy celé EU a národními. Může to být zdlouhavý proces, který je nicméně v dlouhodobém zájmu EU jako celku. A ano, v tomto legislativním procesu se používá mnoho oficiálních jazyků, ale k tomu je dobrý důvod: pokud chceme aby se EU přiblížila občanům, které reprezentuje, musí k nim hovořit jejich vlastním jazykem. Proto klade důraz na to, aby všechny EU zákony byly k dispozici ve všech oficiálních jazycích.

EU musí vypadat příliš složitě pro každého kdo není z Bruselu
Ano, souhlasím. Na to nemusím chodit příliš daleko, můj bratr, který mě občas navštěvuje se mě vždy ptá: “Takže ty pracuješ pro Evropskou radu, že? A nebo je to to ta Evropská komise, vlastně parlament?” Jména různých evropských institucí jsou trochu zavádějící a lidé mají potíže si je zapamatovat, natož aby věděli, co vlastně dělají. Ale koneckonců každý národní ústavní systém je složitý, nebo ne? Jak by mohla být EU jednodušší, když zde spolupracuje 28 členských států v zájmu 500 milionů lidí?

Co je podle vašeho názoru největším úspěchem EU?
Pro mě je největším úspěchem skutečnost, že od založení EU neproběhla v jejím rámci žádná válka a že místo vzájemných konfliktů nyní 28 členských států dává přednost debatě o společný zájmech, problémech a jejich řešení. To není samozřejmost. Podle mého názoru hlavní výzvou EU do budoucna bude udržet silný ekonomický a sociální systém a to, aby EU byla efektivním globálním hráčem. To jí umožní utvářet mezinárodní strategii v důležitých oblastech. Osobně si myslím, že EU také potřebuje lepší dialog mezi občany, místními správami a svými regiony.

Mír a Prosperita: Evropa je naše budoucnost. Záleží na nás všech!

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Lubor Lacina: Co pro mě znamená Evropa

Petrův kamarád
Věk: 45
Národnost: česká
Zaměstnání: docent, Jean Monnet Chair
Zájmy: rozhovory s přáteli, procházky krajinou, vážná hudba (Janáček, Rachmaninov, Prokofjev)
Moje spojení s Petrem: akademický kolega z university, zástupce ČR v institucích EU

petr bilzkovsky 5Jak Evropa ovlivňuje Váš život?
Významně a pozitivně. Patřím mezi generaci, která zažila Evropu rozdělenou “železnou oponou”. Integraci České republiky do struktur EU považuji za zcela přirozenou jak z historických tak současných a budoucích důvodů. České země vždy hrály významnou roli v dějinách evropského kontinentu. S prohlubující se globalizací je integrace Evropy obrovskou ochranou bariérou pro malé země a jejich ekonomiky, které v globálním rozměru nemají možnost samostatně téměř cokoliv ovlivnit. Evropská integrace ovlivnila celou mou dosavadní profesní kariéru. Na Mendlově universitě v Brně vyučuji kurzy související s evropskou ekonomickou integrací a pozicí EU ve světové ekonomice. Od roku jsem držitelem titulu Jean Monnet Chair a od roku 2012 ředitelem Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence a think tanku Mendel European Centre (mec.mendelu.cz). Každý rok využívám možnost programů Socrates a Erasmus v rámci zahraničních učitelských mobilit, které mi umožňují srovnávat evropské vzdělávací systémy.

Čeho se lidé ve Vaší zemi podle Vašeho názoru nejvíce obávají v vztahu k Evropě?
Názor občanů ČR na evropskou integraci je silně ovlivněn euroskeptickým postojem bývalého prezidenta Václava Klause a spíše europesimisticky laděnému tónu médií při komentování evropského integračního procesu. Ačkoliv většina očekávání identifikovaná v průzkumech veřejného mínění před rokem 2004 (možnost cestování a práce v jiných zemích EU, růst životní úrovně, finanční prostředky z rozpočtu EU) byla naplněna, ve společnosti rezonují spíše názory o vysoké byrokratizaci celého procesu, nařizování nesmyslných zákazů (žárovky, rum, pomazánkové máslo), zvyšování cen po zavedení eura, neudržitelnosti společné měny. V současných průzkumech veřejného mínění se ČR řadí mezi nejvíce skeptické členské země.

Co je Vaše největší přání Evropě?
Za největší dosavadní přínos evropské integrace považuji udržení míru a růst životní úrovně. Považuji životní standard své generace za jedno z nejlepších období v historii. Evropě proto přeji dostatek osvícených politiků typu Jeana Monneta, Roberta Schumana, Jacqua Delorse, Francoise Mitteranda, Helmuta Kohla, kteří by byli schopni nalézt shodu na základních principech a směřování evropského integračního procesu. Instituce EU a představitelé členských zemí by měli věnovat více úsilí připomínat občanům EU přínosy integračního procesu, vytvářet prostředí ve kterém občané členských států posílí pocit své identity s evropským kontinentem.

Jak znáte Petra Blížkovského a jak hodnotíte, co dělá v Bruselu?
Petr Blížkovský je prozatím nejvýše postavený občan ČR v institucích EU. Byl bych velmi rád, kdyby měl vice času veřejně vystupovat, diskutovat se studenty, občany ČR. Mohl by tak ukázat, že Brusel není pouze něco vzdáleného, anonymního, bezpohlavního, tvořícího legislativu ovlivňující následně členský stát, jeho občany a firmy. Podobní lidé by také měli najít odvahu vystoupit z anonymity institucí EU a uvažovat o návratu do státní (veřejné) správy a aktivně ovlivňovat nejen tvorbu evropské legislativy ale také postoj národních reprezentací a občanů k evropskému integračnímu procesu.
Evropský integrační se jako již několikrát v historii nachází na své křižovatce. Společnou snahou institucí EU a národních reprezentantů by měla být aktivnější komunikace výhod, které přináší proces evropské integrace jejím občanům. Je známým paradoxem, že lidé berou pozitiva za dané a soustředí svou pozornost na negativa. O to více úsilí by mělo být věnováno debatě (diskusi) o budoucím směřování evropského integračního procesu nejen mezi nejvyššími politickými představiteli, bruselskými elitami ale i mezi obyčejnými občany.

Mír a Prosperita. Evropa je naše budoucnost. Záleží na nás všech!

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Lubor Lacina: What Europe means for me

Age: 45
Nationality: Czech
Occupation: Professor, Jean Monnet Chair
Hobbies: discussion with friends, nordic walking, classic music (Janáček, Rachmaninov, Prokofjev)
My link with Petr: colleague from the university

How does Europe impact on your life?
Significantly and positively. I belong to the generation that has experienced Europe when she was divided by the “Iron Curtain”. I consider integration of the Czech Republic into the EU structures as a completely natural, as regards reasons given by the history, nowadays and future. Czech lands have always played a significant role in the history of the European continent. With the deepening globalisation, European integration acts as a great protective barrier for small countries and their economies that have no realistic influence in the global dimension. European integration has shaped my entire professional career. At Mendel University in Brno I teach courses related to the European integration and the EU’s position in the world economy. I hold the title of Jean Monnet Chair and since 2012 I am a director of Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and a director of the Mendel European Center think-tank Mendel (mec.mendelu.cz). Every year I use the opportunity of international teacher motilities within the Socrates and Erasmus programs, what allows me to compare European educational systems.

What do you think that people in your country are most worried about when it comes to Europe?
Opinions of Czech citizens on the European integration is strongly affected by the attitude of euroskepticism of former President Vaclav Klaus and by rather euro-pessimistically tuned media when it comes to the European integration process. Most of the expectations identified by the opinion polls before 2004 were really fulfilled (as opportunities to travel and work in other EU countries, increase of living standards and financial means from the EU budget). However, there are opinions resonating in the society about high bureaucratization of the whole process, imposing absurd prohibitions (for example light bulbs, rum, butter spread), price increases induced by the introduction of euro, the unsustainability of the common currency. In the current opinion polls, the Czech Republic ranks among the most skeptical member states.

What is your biggest wish for Europe?
As the most important contribution of the European integration I consider maintaining of peace and increase of standards of living. I consider the living standards of my generation as one of the best in the history. Therefore I wish to Europe a lot of enlightened politicians such as Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Jacques Delors, Francois Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, who would be able to reach agreement on basic principles and directions of the European integration process. EU institutions and representatives of the Member States should devote more effort to remind citizens the benefits of EU integration process, thus creating an environment in which citizens of the Member States will strengthen their feeling of identity with the European continent.

How do you know Petr Blížkovský and how do you see what he is doing in Brussels?
Petr Blížkovský holds so far the highest position in the EU institutions among the Czech citizens. I would be glad if he had more opportunities to speak on public, discuss with students and citizens of Czech Republic. He could be the one to show that Brussels is not only something distant, anonymous, amorphic, that adopts legislation affecting consequently Member States, its citizens and businesses. People like him should also find the courage to step out of anonymity of EU institutions and return to the state (public) administration and influence actively not only the creation of the European legislation but also the attitude of national representations and the citizens towards the European integration process.
European integration as many times in history is at a crossroad. The joint efforts of the EU institutions and national representatives should lead into a more active communication of advantages the process of European integration brings to its citizens. It is well-known paradox that people take the advantages as default and focus their attention on the negative aspects only. Hence, more effort should be devoted to the debate on the future direction of the European integration process, not only among the top political leaders, the Brussels elites but also among ordinary citizens.

Peace and Prosperity. Europe is our future. It is up to all of us!

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Petr Blizkovsky: Europa wird auf vielen Ebenen im Dialog gebaut

petr bilzkovsky 2“Für mich besteht der größte Erfolg Europas darin, dass es seit Beginn des europäischen Integrationsprozesses keinen Krieg zwischen den EU-Mitgliedsländern gab. Denn die Staaten lösen Probleme mit Sachargumenten und streben Kompromisse an, anstatt zu den Waffen zu greifen.”

Der Tscheche Petr Blizkovsky ist stolz, dass er mit seiner Arbeit in den Bereichen Landwirtschaft, Regionalpolitik und Wirtschaft zum EU-Beitrittsprozess seines Landes beitragen konnte. Heute bereitet er als der für Landwirtschaft zuständige Direktor im Generalsekretariat des Rates der Europäischen Union Sitzungen von ExpertInnen, BotschafterInnen und MinisterInnen vor und berät die jeweilige EU-Präsidentschaft, die alle sechs Monate von einem anderen EU-Mitgliedsland wahrgenommen wird, in diesem Bereich. Somit nimmt sein Team eine wichtige Rolle im EU-Gesetzesprozess in Sachen Landwirtschaft ein.
Er bedauert den weit verbreiteten Mythos, dass „Brüssel“ auf europäischer Ebene alles entscheidet. Dabei entscheidet „Brüssel“ nichts: es sind vielmehr das Europäische Parlament und die 28 Mitgliedstaaten.
Für den polyglotten Tschechen (er spricht sechs Sprachen) ist es logisch, dass das EU-System der Entscheidungsfindung komplex ist. Wie sollte es auch einfacher sein als das System eines einzelnen Mitgliedslandes, wenn die EU 28 Staaten mit 24 offiziellen Sprachen unter einen Hut bringen muss?
Den größte Erfolg Europas sieht Petr in der Friedenserhaltung. Anstatt zu Waffen zu greifen, finden Mitgliedsländer gemeinsam Lösungen. Die großen Herausforderungen bleiben natürlich die Erhaltung eines starken wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Systems und dass Europa seine Rolle als globaler Player beibehält. Der Dialog mit den BürgerInnen, Gemeinden und Regionen sollte gestärkt werden.
Ausgleich zur Arbeit findet der reise- und naturbegeisterte Tscheche bei klassischer Musik aus dem frühen 20. Jahrhundert oder er vertieft sich in der Lektüre von historischen Biographien und Geschichtsbüchern.

Frieden und Wohlstand. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Petr Bilzkovsky: Construire sur l’échange

“Pour moi, c’est une réussite européenne que nous n’ayons pas eu de guerre au sein de l’Union depuis que celle-ci a été fondée : plutôt que de s’affronter, les 28 états membres préfèrent débattre de leurs problèmes communs pour leur trouver des solutions communes.”

Petr a commencé à travailler sur les questions européennes avant même que son pays, la République Tchèque, ne devienne membre de l’Union : il en connait donc bien les rouages et les institutions. Bien qu’il admette que le tout reste compliqué. Petr rappelle qu’au final ce sont toujours les représentants des 28 gouvernements nationaux, souvent avec le Parlement européen, qui décident.
Cette culture de dialogue et d’échanges forme la base de l’Union européenne, et a garanti la paix sur le continent depuis 50 ans. Demain, il faudra que cette recherche de solutions partagées puisse aussi permettre de consolider les systèmes économiques et sociaux européens. Quand il a du temps libre, Petr aime lire des biographies historiques, sans doute parce qu‘elles lui donnent un éclairage sur son observation quotidienne du système politique européen.

Paix et prospérité. L’Europe est notre avenir. Cela ne tient qu’à nous!


 

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Maria Te: Brussels must listen and communicate

Age: 33
Nationality: Bulgarian
Occupation: External consultant on information and communication at the European Commission
Hobbies: Literature, music, movies, social media, and my only sport for the moment – running after my 1-year-old daughter
Languages you speak: Bulgarian, English, French, Italian, Spanish, basic Russian

Прочетете текста на български
Another voice from Bulgaria: Teodora. Също така в българското.
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

maria te 2How important is it for Europe to invest in its communication?
I have been working as an external consultant for the European Commission for three and a half years, in the area of internal communication. Currently, I am involved in expanding the Commission’s intranet portal to include all internal websites under one umbrella. My choice to work in communications was very simple – I wanted to help spread the word about the great job being done at the European Institutions. Even if the Commission is accomplishing the most incredible results in its work, no one will appreciate this unless the results are well communicated. I believe good two-way communication is a key factor for citizens’ support for the EU. And I also believe that it all starts with internal communication. We have to communicate well internally and engage staff in order to be able to pass the message to the public and engage citizens in the European project.

Can you think of a myth harming the EU that needs busting?
There is this wide-spread myth that Brussels gives orders to the Member States against their will. This is perpetually fuelled by certain government officials who prefer to blame tough measures on Brussels. The truth is that, in most cases, it is these same government officials who sat in the meetings where the said measures and regulations were approved. Most people are not familiar with the complex decision-making process of the European institutions and politicians often use this.

Most people are not familiar with the complex decision-making process of the European institutions and politicians instead of explaining often use this against Europe.

What is it like communicating in a multicultural and multilingual environment?
I remember one meeting where the working language was English, but there was only one native speaker present and he was taking the minutes. Towards the end of the session, we were in a hurry to agree on a decision and the participants got very passionate to get their ideas across. As the debate got rather intense, people often forgot their English grammar, which resulted in some rather bad ‘Globish’. However, we seemed to understand each other perfectly – probably because we were all making the same mistakes. The only person who was clueless about what was being said was … the English colleague taking notes.

Being a convinced European, what do you wish for?
My biggest wish for Europe is that more and more people feel proud to be Europeans – the same way they are proud of their own country. I would really like to see the EU become a more political union, in addition to the economic one.Maria_Te_3

Do you see yourself as a European, or more a Bulgarian living in Europe?
When I talk about nice places worth visiting in Europe, I feel a citizen of Sofia, because Sofia is a city with a great atmosphere and spirit, but one has to know where to go – and I like giving foreigners tips for discovering Sofia’s ‘hidden treasures’.
When I talk about cultural traditions, I feel Bulgarian, because no matter where I live, there are some Bulgarian traditions I like to follow. Martenitza, for example – the bracelets of white and red threads we exchange on 1 March to mark the beginning of springtime.
When I talk about my vision for the future, I feel European, because I cannot imagine a future for any EU country in a context different than the EU.

Communication and Sense of belonging. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Мария Те: Брюксел трябва да се вслушва в хората и да комуникира с тях

Възраст: 33
Гражданство: българско
Професия: Външен консултант в областта на комуникациите, Европейска комисия, Генерална дирекция Човешки ресурси
Хобита и интереси: литература, музика, филми, социални медии и единствения спорт, които практикувам в момента – тичане след едногодишната ми дъщеря
Говорими езици: български, английски, италиански, испански и малко руски

maria te 1Доколко е важно за Европа да инвестира в добрата комуникация?
През последните три и половина години работя за Европейската комисия, в сферата на вътрешните комуникации. В момента работя за проект, който предвижда разрастването на интранет платформата на Комисията, така че да тя да обхване всички вътрешни сайтове на Комисията под шапката си. Изборът ми да работя в областта на комуникациите беше лесен – исках да допринеса за популяризиране на успехите на Европейските институции. Защото дори и Комисията да постига най-невероятните резултати в работата си, никой няма да може да ги оцени, ако тези резултати не се разгласят, не се комуникират. Вярвам, че добрата комуникация и диалог с гражданите са решаващи, за да може ЕС да се радва да силна подкрепа от страна на обществото. Също така вярвам, че този процес започва с добрата вътрешна комуникация. Трябва да можем да общуваме добре в рамките на собствената си организация и да мотивираме първо и преди всичко колегите си, за да можем да изпратим силно послание на обществеността и да спечелим гражданите за каузата на Европейския проект.

Сещате ли се за мит, който вреди на ЕС и който трябва да бъде развенчан?
Съществува един широко разпространен мит за това, че Брюксел налага норми на Страните-Членки, едва ли не против волята им. Този мит се поддържа от определени политици, които предпочитат да обвинят ЕС за трудните промени и мерки. В действителност, в повечето случаи същите тези политици са били на масата на преговорите, когато са обсъждани и гласувани въпросните мерки. Повечето граждани не са запознати в детайли със сложния процес на взимане на решения в Европейските институции и политиците често се възползват от това.

Повечето граждани не са запознати със сложния процес на взимане на решения в Европейските институции и политиците често се възползват от това.

Какво означава да се комуникира в мултикултурна и многоезична среда?
Помня едно заседание например, при което работният език беше английски, но имаше само един англичанин и го бяхме натоварили да води записки. В края на срещата всички бързахме да гласуваме решение, преди да си тръгнем, и участниците ставаха все по-настоятелни да прокарат идеите си. С нарастване на напрежението, хората често не мислеха за английската граматика при изказванията си, в резултат на което нивото на английския спадна значително. Въпреки това, участниците изглежда разбираха прекрасно изказванията на колегите си, вероятно защото всички допускахме едни и същи грешки на английски. Единственият участник, който гледаше дискусията без да разбира казаното, беше … английският колега, водещ записки.

Като един убеден европеец, какво пожелавате на Европа?
Най-голямото ми желание за Европа е все повече хора да се чувстват горди, че са европейци, по същия начин както се гордеят с държавата си. Бих искала ЕС да засили политическата интеграция, в допълнение към икономическата.

Като каква се възприемате –като европейка или по-скоро като българка, живееща в Европа?
Когато говоря за места, които си заслужава да се посетят в Европа, се чувствам като софиянка, защото София е град с невероятна атмосфера и дух, но човек трябва да знае къде точно да отиде и ми харесва да упътвам чужденците към “скритите съкровища” на града.
Когато говоря за културни традиции, се чувствам като българка, защото където и да живея, винаги спазвам някои български традиции, като например мартениците.
Когато говоря за представата ми за бъдещето, се чувствам като европейка, защото не мога да си представя бъдещето за която и да било държава от Евросъюза в контекст различен

Добра комуникация и чувство за принадлежност. Европа е бъдещето ни. Зависи от всички нас!

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Teodora Gandova: In Europe I can express my opinion freely

Maria’s sparring partner
Age: 43
Nationality: Bulgarian
Occupation: NGO activist
Hobbies: Anthropology, travelling, skiing
My link with Maria: a close friend

Teodora, Maria's friend

Teodora, Maria’s friend

How does Europe impact your life?
Europe’s impact on my life can be easily traced in my daily routine. In the morning, I go to work using the metro which was co-financed by EU funds. I follow the news not only in the Bulgarian but also in the European media. I work in a non-government organisation (NGO) on various projects which give me the opportunity to meet people from different European countries. So I form my opinion on the basis of various viewpoints, and feel I have a more ‘cosmopolitan’ than ‘nationalist’ perspective. In my work with the European institutions, however, I don’t like the heavy bureaucracy which comes with it.
Since last summer, after work, I have been taking part in the protests against the Bulgarian government, because now I can express my opinion freely. I buy my groceries in one of the many stores in Sofia, but I don’t like the homogenisation of the big retail chains and the fact that most fruits and vegetables being imported from other EU countries are rather tasteless. When I come home, I can read European books and watch European films – and this is not forbidden anymore, unlike before 1989. I can also make plans to visit friends who live in other EU countries. This is how Europe impacts my life.

What do you think that people in your country are most worried about when it comes to the European Union?
When Bulgaria joined the EU, people here were mostly afraid that prices would rise and they wouldn’t be able to cope with it. They were insecure whether Bulgaria would be able to meet the high EU requirements and that it would bring a large percentage of the population to the brink of poverty. There were fears that we would lose our national identity because we are a small country and cannot defend our interests against the ‘big and rich’. One example was the closing down of Units 1-4 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant – people were afraid that it would lead to electricity shortages and increases in household electricity prices. However, I would like to underline that me and my friends in Bulgaria would like to convey the message that we want to stay in the European Union and be regarded as full Europeans, despite the strong pro-Russian trends in our country at the moment.

What is your biggest wish for Europe?
I would like the EU to be more flexible and faster in its decision-making processes.

How do you know Maria Te and how do you see what she is doing in Brussels?
I know Maria well, and believe that her work in Brussels contributes to bringing EU legislation closer to people, because she and her colleagues in communication try to translate them into a simpler and more understandable language.

Freedom of speech, Culture, Fight against poverty. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Теодора Гандова: В ЕС мога свободно да изразявам мнението си

Възраст: 43
Гражданство: българско
Професия: НПО активист
Хобита: антропология, пътуване, ски
Връзката ми с интервюираната: близък приятел

Teodora_Gandova_2Какво влияние оказва Европа върху живота Ви?
Влиянието на Европа може да се проследи в един мой обикновен ден. Сутрин отивам на работа с метро, финансирано с европейски средства, следя новините не само на българските, но вече и на европейските медии. Работя по проекти за неправителствена организация, които ми дават възможност да се виждам с хора от различни европейски страни, да формирам мнението си на базата на различни гледни точки и да се чувствам част от нещо по-голямо и по-скоро “космополит”, отколкото “националист”. В работата ми с европейските институции не ми харесва тежката бюрокрация. След работа, от лятото на миналата година, ходя на протест срещу българското корумпирано и некадърно правителство и мога свободно да изразя мнението си. Имам избор да пазарувам в един от многобройните магазини, макар да не ми харесва унификацията на големите вериги. Не ми харесва, че повечето плодове и зеленчуци са внос от ЕС и са доста безвкусни. Прибирам се и мога да чета и да гледам “незабранени” европейски книги и филми. Говоря си с приятелите ми, които живеят в ЕС кога и как ще си ходим на гости.

Според Вас, какво в ЕС тревожи най-много хората в България?
При влизането на България в ЕС хората се притесняваха най-вече от повишаването на цените, как ще се справят с това и че няма да могат да се справят с високите изисквания на ЕС, а това ще доведе до обедняване на голяма част от населението. Имаше притеснения, че ще изгубим националната си идентичност, защото сме прекалено малки и не можем да отстояваме интересите си пред “големите” и “богатите”. Един такъв пример беше затварянето на блоковете на АЕЦ “Козлодуй”, което ще доведе до липсата на ток и повишаване на цените за потребителите.

Кое е най-голямото Ви желание за Европа?
Да бъде по-гъвкав и не толкова тромав при взимането на решения.

Откъде познавате Мария Те и как разбирате работата и в Брюксел?
Познавам Мария добре и мисля, че работата й в Брюксел е “да превежда” на прост и разбираем език европейските норми. Посланието на мен и моите приятели в момента е, че искаме да останем в Европа и да ни приемат като европейци, въпреки гръмогласните проруски настроения в България.

Свобода на словото, култура, борба с бедността. Европа е бъдещето ни. Зависи от всички нас!

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Maria Te: Brüssel muss zuhören und kommunizieren

“Die Entscheidung in der Kommunikation zu arbeiten war sehr leicht: ich wollte dazu beitragen, dass Menschen über die großartige Arbeit der europäischen Institutionen informiert werden. Selbst wenn die Kommission die unglaublichsten Ergebnisse erreicht, sie werden von niemand wahrgenommen werden, wenn diese Resultate nicht gut kommuniziert werden.”

Die 33-jährige Kommunikationsexpertin Maria Te arbeitet seit dreieinhalb Jahren als externe Beraterin für die Kommission. Derzeit hilft sie bei der Neugestaltung des Intranetportals der Institution. Die Bulgarin ist davon überzeugt, dass gute externe Kommunikation mit guter interner Kommunikation beginnt. Nur wenn wir intern gut kommunizieren, können engagierte MitarbeiterInnen unsere BürgerInnen gut über Europa informieren.
Der weit verbreitete Mythos, dass Brüssel über die Mitgliedstaaten hinwegentscheiden würde, stört Maria sehr, weil doch die Minister der Regierungen der Mitgliedstaaten im Ministerrat selbst die Entscheidungen in Brüssel treffen! Ihr größter Wunsch für Europa ist, dass mehr Menschen stolz darauf sind, EuropäerIn zu sein und dass die EU sich stärker hin zu einer politischen Union entwickelt.
An die Heimat denkt die Mutter einer einjährigen Tochter besonders zu Frühlingsbeginn, wenn ihr die schöne bulgarische Tradition “Martenitza” zum Frühlingsbeginn in den Sinn kommt, bei der weiß-rote Armbänder unter FreundInnen am 1. März ausgetauscht werden. Europa heißt für sie Vision, denn eine Zukunft ohne Europa kann sie sich nicht vorstellen.
Neben Arbeit und Kleinkind bleibt Maria Te im Moment nicht viel Zeit für ihre Hobbies wie Literatur, Musik, Kino, soziale Netzwerke.

Kommunikation und Zugehörigkeit. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Bruxelles doit écouter et communiquer

“J’ai choisi le domaine de la communication parce que je voulais expliquer au plus grand nombre la valeur ajouté du travail des institutions européennes. La Commission obtient peut être des résultats importants tous les jours, mais personne ne pourra s’en rendre compte sans un effort de communication.”

Maria est Bulgare, et spécialiste de la communication interne : elle aide la Commission européenne à mieux interagir avec son propre personnel, dans un contexte où 28 nationalités travaillent ensemble au quotidien. A l’intérieur comme à l’extérieur des institutions, Maria cherche avant tout à stimuler la fierté de chacun d’être un citoyen européen, en plus de la fierté de leur pays d’origine. Elle regrette que les hommes politiques nationaux se servent souvent de la complexité des institutions pour critiquer l’Union, en oubliant bien souvent que leurs représentants sont les acteurs de la prise de décision européenne. Mais aujourd’hui, Maria ne peut pas imaginer le futur des Etats européens sans l’UE.

Communication et Sentiment d’appartenance. L’Europe est notre avenir. Cela ne tient qu’à nous!


 

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Maria Phanti: Europe must use social media because citizens want to communicate!

Age: 40
Nationality: Cypriot
Occupation: Press Counsellor at the Cyprus Permanent Representation to the EU
Languages you speak: Greek, English and French
Favourite dish: French fries (so Brussels is the right place for me)
Hobbies: Listening to world, classical and jazz music and baking during my little free time with my daughter.

Διαβάστε στα ελληνικά
Another voice from Cyprus: Maria’s friend. Και στα Ελληνικά.
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

maria phanti1What is it like to be a Press Officer at a Permanent Representation to the EU?
Since September 2013, I have been serving as the spokesperson for the Cyprus Permanent Representation to the European Union. , My main responsibility is to help to communicate Europe to Cypriot citizens and to bring Cyprus closer to Europe. My daily work includes talking to journalists about issues on the European agenda or about things happening in Cyprus that are of interest to the European audience.

How do you get in touch with citizens being in Brussels?
In the last few months, I have become really involved in engaging through social media. At the beginning of 2014, we set up Twitter (@CyprusinEU) and Facebook accounts for the Permanent Representation. The most unexpected result of this project is how this tool enables us to connect directly with citizens from Cyprus and other European countries. Through our experience with social media, I am convinced more than ever, that, used cleverly, this can become one of the most effective tools in bringing Europe closer to its citizens. I am amazed with people’s willingness to engage with us and I believe social media provide them with the adequate tools. I hope that our use of social media will become more interactive in the future which will be mutually beneficial.

Working together, with a true sense of solidarity and in a consensual manner, is the only way to face the many challenges that come across Europe’s path.

What would you describe as Europe’s most important task?
I believe that Europe’s ability to uphold democratic values and human rights must remain at the epicentre of the European project. At the same time, European institutions should never forget that they are there to serve the citizens of Europe as a whole. For this reason, working together, with a true sense of solidarity and in a consensual manner, is the only way to face the many challenges that come across Europe’s path, whether these are economic, political, social or cultural. I think we need to communicate Europe better to the citizens and one of the main ways to do that is to adjust the message to the national and local audiences, and to engage in a real dialogue with the citizens of the European Union.

What attracts you most to the European project?
I admire the way Europe can be the driving engine for change and reform on our continent and beyond. This is especially important in these economically difficult times. I also believe that the essence of being European can be found in the fact that we are ‘united in our diversity’. Europe is a space where diversity is not only accepted, but actively encouraged, through universally accepted common values. This is something that has always inspired me and will continue to inspire me long after I will have left Brussels. It is a characteristic that transcends every aspect of life here – definitely in my professional capacity, but also when visiting a restaurant or looking at my child’s school class and her classmates.

Did living in Brussels change you?
Coming from an island, I think the European value I would like to take back is the true sense of multiculturalism and mutual respect that you experience when you live in Brussels. I feel very fortunate that my daughter has the opportunity to experience a truly multicultural and multilingual environment which, I hope, will install and reinforce her sense of accepting the other and of celebrating difference.

Multiculturalism, Human rights, Openness. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Μαρία Φάντη: Στην Ευρώπη πρέπει να κάνουμε χρήση των κοινωνικών μέσων δικτυώσεις γιατί οι πολίτες μας αποζητούν την επικοινωνία!

Ηλικία: 40
Εθνικότητα: Κυπριακή
Επάγγελμα: Σύμβουλος Τύπου στη Μόνιμη Αντιπροσωπεία της Κύπρου στην ΕΕ
Γλώσσες: Ελληνικά, Αγγλικά και Γαλλικά
Αγαπημένο φαγητό: Πατάτες τηγανιτές (έτσι οι Βρυξέλλες είναι το ιδανικό μέρος για να ζω!)
Χόμπι: Η μουσική (διεθνής, κλασική και τζαζ) μ’ αρέσει πολύ. Στον λίγο ελεύθερο μου χρόνο μαγειρεύω με την τετράχρονη κόρη μου.

maria phanti2Ποιος είναι ο ρόλος του Λειτουργού Τύπου σε μια Μόνιμη Αντιπροσωπεία στην ΕΕ;
Βρίσκομαι στις Βρυξέλλες από το Σεπτέμβριο 2013 στη θέση της εκπροσώπου Τύπου της Μόνιμης Αντιπροσωπείας της Κύπρου στην ΕΕ (ΜΑΕΕ). Κύρια ευθύνη μου είναι να μεταφέρω τα μηνύματα της ΕΕ στους Κύπριους πολίτες και να τους φέρω πιο κοντά στην ΕΕ. Στα καθημερινά μου καθήκοντα περιλαμβάνεται η επικοινωνία με δημοσιογράφους για θέματα που άπτονται της ευρωπαϊκής ατζέντας ή για εξελίξεις και ζητήματα που αφορούν την Κύπρο και ενδιαφέρουν το ευρωπαϊκό κοινό.

Πως επικοινωνείς με τους πολίτες από τις Βρυξέλλες;
Τον τελευταίο καιρό έχουμε αρχίσει την ενημέρωση των πολιτών μέσω των κοινωνικών μέσων δικτύωσης. Στις αρχές του 2014 λειτουργήσαμε λογαριασμό της ΜΑΕΕ στο Twitter (@CyprusinEU) καθώς και ειδική σελίδα στο Facebook (facebook.com/permrepeu). Ήταν απροσδόκητη για μένα η αμεσότητα στην επικοινωνία μέσω αυτών των εργαλείων, τόσο με τους Κύπριους πολίτες όσο και πολίτες άλλων ευρωπαϊκών χωρών. Μέσα από την εμπειρία αυτή, είμαι πλέον πεπεισμένη ότι, όταν χρησιμοποιούνται σωστά, τα μέσα κοινωνικής δικτύωσης αποτελούν ίσως τα πιο αποτελεσματικά εργαλεία που φέρνουν την Ευρώπη πιο κοντά στους πολίτες της. Με εξέπληξε πραγματικά η προθυμία των ανθρώπων για επικοινωνία μαζί μας. Ελπίζω ότι στο μέλλον θα είμαστε σε θέση να κάνουμε πιο διαδραστική χρήση των μέσων κοινωνικής δικτύωσης, κάτι που πιστεύω θα έχει αμοιβαία οφέλη.

οφείλουμε να συνεργαστούμε για να αντιμετωπίσουμε τις προκλήσεις που έχουμε ενώπιον μας, είτε αυτές είναι πολιτικές, οικονομικές, κοινωνικές ή πολιτιστικές.

Ποιο είναι για εσένα η πιο σημαντική αποστολή της Ευρώπης;
Θεωρώ ότι ο ρόλος της Ευρώπης ως θεματοφύλακας των δημοκρατικών αρχών και των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων αποτελεί τον πυρήνα του ευρωπαϊκού μοντέλου. Ταυτόχρονα, υποχρέωση των θεσμικών οργάνων είναι να υπηρετούν τον Ευρωπαίο πολίτη. Λαμβάνοντας αυτές τις παραμέτρους υπόψη, οφείλουμε να συνεργαστούμε με υπευθυνότητα, πνεύμα συναίνεσης και με πραγματικό αίσθημα αλληλεγγύης, για να αντιμετωπίσουμε τις τόσες προκλήσεις που έχουμε ενώπιον μας, είτε αυτές είναι πολιτικές, οικονομικές, κοινωνικές ή πολιτιστικές. Πιστεύω ότι πρέπει να φέρουμε την Ευρώπη πιο κοντά στους πολίτες και να εξηγήσουμε στους πολίτες τι σημαίνει η Ευρώπη. Γι’αυτό το λόγο πρέπει να ενθαρρύνουμε το διάλογο με τους πολίτες της ΕΕ και να προσαρμόζουμε τα μηνύματα έτσι ώστε να έχουν απήχηση τόσο σε ευρωπαϊκό όσο και εθνικό επίπεδο.maria phanti3

Τι είναι εκείνο που σε προσελκύει περισσότερο στο ευρωπαϊκό μοντέλο;
Πραγματικά θαυμάζω τον τρόπο με τον οποίο η Ευρώπη μπορεί να λειτουργήσει ως η κινητήριος δύναμη για αλλαγή και μεταρρύθμιση στην ήπειρό μας και όχι μόνο. Αυτό είναι ένα σημαντικό στοιχείο ιδιαίτερα εν μέσω της παγκόσμιας οικονομικής κρίσης. Πιστεύω, επίσης, ότι η ουσία της Ευρώπης βρίσκεται στην έννοια του να είμαστε «ενωμένοι στη διαφορετικότητα μας». Στην Ευρώπη η διαφορετικότητα, όχι μόνον είναι αποδεκτή, αλλά και ενθαρρύνεται ενεργά μέσω καθολικά αποδεκτών κοινών αξιών. Αυτό είναι κάτι που με έχει εμπνεύσει και θα συνεχίσει να με εμπνέει. Είναι ένα χαρακτηριστικό που διαπερνά κάθε πτυχή της ζωής μου εδώ. Το διακρίνω σίγουρα στην επαγγελματική μου ζωή, αλλά και στην καθημερινότητά μου, όταν πάω σε ένα εστιατόριο ή όταν βλέπω τους συμμαθητές της κόρης μου που προέρχονται από όλες τις γωνιές της γης.

Θεωρείς ότι η ζωή στις Βρυξέλλες σε έχει αλλάξει;
Όπως γνωρίζετε, κατάγομαι από ένα μικρό νησί της Μεσογείου. Γι’ αυτό το λόγο, μια ‘ευρωπαϊκή αξία’ που συγκρατώ και θα πάρω πίσω μαζί μου είναι η πολυπολιτισμικότητα και το αίσθημα σεβασμού προς άλλες κουλτούρες. Αυτό είναι ένα στοιχείο που ξεχωρίζει στις Βρυξέλλες και νοιώθω πραγματικά τυχερή που η κόρη μου έχει την ευκαιρία να ζήσει σε ένα πολυπολιτισμικό και πολύγλωσσο περιβάλλον. Ελπίζω αυτή η εμπειρία να της δημιουργήσει και να της ενισχύσει το συναίσθημα της αποδοχής της διαφορετικότητας των άλλων.

Πολυπολιτισμικότητα, Ανθρώπινα Δικαιώματα, Διαφάνεια. Η Ευρώπη είναι το μέλλον μας. Από εμάς εξαρτάται να το αξιοποιήσουμε σωστά!

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Anastasia Adamidou: Europe needs a greater sense of humanity and respect for the less powerful

Name: Anastasia Adamidou
Age: 48
Nationality: Cypriot
Occupation: Press and Information Officer in Cyprus
Hobbies: Photography, travelling, music
My link with Maria: Friend and colleague

Anastasia, Maria's friend

Anastasia, Maria’s friend

Do you see a lot of Europe in your daily life in Cyprus?
Cyprus is a small country which was fortunate to join the large and diverse European family. As a result, Cypriots have introduced new practices and ways of thinking in their daily lives. All spheres of our activity have changed in accordance with European rules and standards, and this harmonisation process helped our society but also each Cypriot to mature. Since we are now more aware of our rights as individuals and as citizens than we ever were in the past, we are also more alert and active in protecting them.

So being part of the European Union has changed your views?
Our constant exposure to other European cultures through different exchange programmes, visits and events, provides us with knowledge and skills to expand our horizons on all levels. I am sure that our closeness to Europe has triggered our interest in what goes on in the other member states, the difficulties they face and the ways they overcome them.

What sorts of critical remarks do you hear about the EU in Cyprus?
A common and legitimate concern, in my opinion, is that despite its value and weight as a political union, the often conflicting interests and priorities of the individual member states as well as political power struggles within Europe lead to problems and imbalances.

Can you give a concrete example?
There is a sense of political insecurity amongst Cypriots who look to the EU with great expectations and hope for more political engagement in the efforts to reunify our island and end the illegal Turkish occupation of one third of Cyprus’ territory. As far as Europe itself is concerned, I think Cypriots long to see economic stability across the Union. This will ensure a safe environment in which not only the large but also the small states will have the chance to develop and prosper.

In your view, what should be the top priorities for the EU right now?
Europe needs to leave the economic crisis behind and start focusing on building a better future for all Europeans with a greater sense of humanity and respect for the less powerful. And people like Maria Phanti can help accomplish this. She has built excellent working relationships with eminent journalists and other stakeholders in Brussels, which help her carry out her demanding duties. In the current dire economic climate, Maria is the right person to communicate to Brussels that Cyprus has got the message and will make it, provided that it is treated as a credible and equal partner. Her long experience in the field of communication makes her an ideal representative of Cyprus in the broad and diverse European environment of Brussels.

Prosperity, Respect, Growth. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Αναστασία Αδαμίδου: Η Ευρώπη χρειάζεται να επιδείξει πιο ανθρώπινο πρόσωπο και σεβασμό προς τους αδύναμους

Ηλικία: 48
Εθνικότητα: Κυπριακή
Επάγγελμα: Λειτουργός Τύπου και Πληροφοριών στην Κύπρο
Χόμπι: Φωτογραφία, Ταξίδι και Μουσική
Σχέση με τη Μαρία: Συνάδελφος και φίλη

Διακρίνεις πολλά ‘ευρωπαϊκά στοιχεία’ στην καθημερινή σου ζωή στην Κύπρο;
Η Κύπρος είναι μια μικρή χώρα που είχε την τύχη να ενταχθεί στη μεγάλη και ποικιλόμορφη ευρωπαϊκή οικογένεια. Ως αποτέλεσμα της ένταξής μας, έχουμε εισαγάγει νέες πρακτικές και τρόπους σκέψης στην καθημερινή μας ζωή. Όλοι οι τομείς δραστηριοτήτων μας έχουν αλλάξει, σύμφωνα με τους ευρωπαϊκούς κανόνες και πρότυπα. Αυτή η διαδικασία εναρμόνισης με το κοινοτικό κεκτημένο βοήθησε την κοινωνία μας, αλλά και τον κάθε Κύπριο πολίτη ξεχωριστά, να ωριμάσουν. Έχοντας τώρα μεγαλύτερη επίγνωση των δικαιωμάτων μας, ως άτομα και ως πολίτες, είμαστε πλέον και πιο απαιτητικοί και δραστήριοι για την προστασία τους.

Η ένταξη στην ΕΕ έχει διαφοροποιήσει τις απόψεις σου;
Η συνεχής έκθεσή μας σε άλλους ευρωπαϊκούς πολιτισμούς μέσω των διαφόρων προγραμμάτων ανταλλαγής, επισκέψεων και εκδηλώσεων, μας παρέχει τις γνώσεις και τις δεξιότητες για να διευρύνουμε τους ορίζοντές μας σε όλα τα επίπεδα. Η ιδιότητά μας ως κράτος μέλος της ΕΕ μας έφερε πιο κοντά στην Ευρώπη και προκάλεσε το ενδιαφέρον μας να μάθουμε τι συμβαίνει στα άλλα κράτη μέλη, ποιες δυσκολίες αντιμετωπίζουν και πως ξεπερνούν τα δικά τους προβλήματα.

Τι επικριτικά σχόλια ακούς για την ΕΕ στην Κύπρο;
Μια κοινή και εύλογη ανησυχία, κατά τη γνώμη μου, είναι ότι, παρά τις αξίες και το βάρος της ΕΕ ως πολιτική Ένωση, τα συχνά αντικρουόμενα συμφέροντα των κρατών μελών και οι πολιτικές αντιπαραθέσεις εντός της ΕΕ δημιουργούν προβλήματα και ανισορροπίες.

Μπορείς να μας δώσεις ένα συγκεκριμένο παράδειγμα;
Στους Κύπριους πολίτες επικρατεί αίσθημα πολιτικής ανασφάλειας. Αναμένουν και προσδοκούν από την ΕΕ να έχει μεγαλύτερη ανάμειξη στις προσπάθειες που καταβάλλουμε για επανένωση της πατρίδας μας και για τερματισμό της παράνομης τουρκικής κατοχής του ενός τρίτου του εδάφους της Κυπριακής Δημοκρατίας.
Νομίζω, επίσης, ότι οι Κύπριοι επιθυμούν να δουν επιστροφή της οικονομικής σταθερότητας σε ολόκληρη την Ένωση. Αυτός είναι ο μόνος τρόπος για να διασφαλιστεί ότι τόσο τα μεγάλα όσο και τα μικρά κράτη μέλη της ΕΕ μπορούν να αναπτυχθούν και να ευημερήσουν.

Κατά την άποψή σου, ποιες πρέπει να είναι οι προτεραιότητες της ΕΕ αυτή τη στιγμή;
Θεωρώ ότι η έξοδος από την οικονομική κρίση αποτελεί την κύρια προτεραιότητα της ΕΕ αυτή τη στιγμή. Η ΕΕ πρέπει να προβεί στις αναγκαίες ενέργειες για ένα καλύτερο μέλλον για όλους τους Ευρωπαίους πολίτες, όπου κύριο λόγο έχει ο ανθρώπινος παράγοντας και ο σεβασμός των αδύναμων, και άνθρωποι, όπως η Μαρία Φάντη, μπορούν να βοηθήσουν στο να πετύχουμε αυτό τον κοινό στόχο. Η Μαρία έχει αναπτύξει άριστες σχέσεις με επιφανείς δημοσιογράφους και άλλους παράγοντες στις Βρυξέλλες, γεγονός που τη βοηθά στην εκτέλεση των καθηκόντων της. Πιστεύω ότι στη σημερινή δύσκολη οικονομική συγκυρία, η Μαρία είναι το άτομο που μπορεί να μεταφέρει στις Βρυξέλλες το μήνυμα ότι η Κύπρος κάνει ότι είναι δυνατόν προς αυτή την κατεύθυνση και ότι αναμένει να αντιμετωπίζεται από την ΕΕ ως ένας αξιόπιστος και ισότιμος εταίρος. Η πολύχρονη εμπειρία της στον τομέα της επικοινωνίας, την καθιστά ιδανική εκπρόσωπο της Κύπρου στο ποικιλόμορφο, ευρωπαϊκό περιβάλλον των Βρυξελλών.

Ευημερία, Σεβασμός, Ανάπτυξη. Η Ευρώπη είναι το μέλλον μας. Από εμάς εξαρτάται!

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Maria Phanti: Europa muss die sozialen Netzwerke nutzen, denn die Bürger wollen kommunizieren!


“Ich bewundere wie stark Europa der impulsgebende Motor für Änderung und Reform auf unserem Kontinent und darüber hinaus ist. Dies ist besonders in wirtschaftlich schwierigen Zeiten wichtig.”

Maria Phanti arbeitet als Pressesprecherin für die Ständige Vertretung Zyperns bei der Europäischen Union. Dabei sind die Social Media für sie ein unerlässliches Kommunikationsmittel geworden. Eine Welt ohne Twitter und Facebook kann sich die Zypriotin nicht mehr vorstellen, da sie das Tor zur Kommunikation mit den BürgerInnen öffnen.
Für die Mutter einer Tochter sind demokratische Werte und Menschenrechte die zentralen Themen Europas. In diesem Sinne ist Europa immer für die BürgerInnen da und sollte besser mit ihnen kommunizieren, und zwar besonders auf nationaler und lokaler Ebene. Maria Phanti ist überzeugt, dass die Herausforderungen Europas nur in Solidarität und im Konsens bewältigt werden können.
Sie sieht Europa als den impulsgebenden Motor für Reformen, besonders in wirtschaftlich schwierigen Zeiten. Das Motto “In Vielfalt geeint” (seit dem Jahr 2000 das Motto der EU), trifft für sie den “Nagel auf den Kopf”.
Privat verbringt Maria ihre Freizeit mit Musikhören (besonders klassische Musik und Jazz) und wenn es die Zeit erlaubt, bäckt sie für ihr Leben gern.

Kultureller Reichtum, Menschenrechte, Offenheit. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Maria Phanti: L’Europe doit se mettre à l’heure des media sociaux si elle veut communiquer avec ses citoyens

“J’admire la façon dont l’Europe stimule réformes et les changements sur le continent et au-delà. C’est en particulier important quand les temps sont durs.”

Maria a fait de la communication son métier, elle est aujourd’hui la voix de la représentation des intérêts chypriotes auprès de l’UE. Ces dernières années, les media sociaux ont renouvelé la façon qu’elle a de parler de l’Europe avec ceux qui s’y intéressent de près ou de loin: le dialogue peut s’engager de façon plus immédiate et la discussion résonner plus loin. Et les valeurs de démocratie et de droits de l’homme de l’Europe y trouvent un nouvel écho. Mais ce que Maria n’oubliera jamais de son expérience européenne, c’est la façon dont l’Europe accepte la diversité qui la compose, qu’elle encourage et chérit. Ce multiculturalisme imprègne tous les aspects de la vie quotidienne bruxelloise, et la toute jeune fille de Maria s’en imprègne tous les jours.

Multiculturalisme, Droits de l’Homme, Ouverture. L’Europe est notre avenir. Cela ne tient qu’à nous!


 

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Hrvoje Butigan: A Europe full of opportunities!

Age: 29
Nationality: Croatian
Occupation: Official representative of the Dubrovnik Neretva Region
Hobbies: Gym, swimming
Languages: English, Italian, German
Personal motto: Be the change you want to see in the world
Preferred dish: Charbroiled fish from the Adriatic Sea with potatoes
Literature you like: William Shakespeare and Ernest Hemingway
Music you like: Pop and jazz

Read it in Croatian
Another voice from Croatia: Hrvoje’s friend. Also in Croatian
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

Hrvoje in Brussels

Hrvoje in Brussels

How long have you been in Brussels?
I arrived one year ago. Before that I worked for the regional development agency DUNEA in the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Now I work at the Dubrovnik Neretva Region’s representation office in Brussels – the first contact point for the EU institutions and other EU countries and regions interested in my region. What I like about my job is that it illustrates the fact that we have so many opportunities in Europe. Anyone who wants to initiate – or prevent something – can take advantage of the European Citizens’ Initiative. Anyone who wants to found or build something can apply for a grant.

So you still have strong links with your home country through your work?
Yes, indeed. The office in Brussels serves as the front office for the Dubrovnik Neretva Region and DUNEA. My main task is to represent and promote my region’s economic, touristic and cultural potential in relations with the European institutions and other organisations based in Brussels.

What does your day at the office look like?
I inform institutions and citizens back in the Dubrovnik Neretva Region about current European programmes and give them updated information on open calls (for projects) and EU funding. I also present ideas for projects and promote successful projects with other European regions and the EU institutions. I also provide institutional support and expert help for partners in projects financed from EU programmes.

We have access to a greater range of goods and service and comparing prices has become much easier since the introduction of the euro.

For you, what is Europe’s greatest success?
Free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. Individuals can travel across most borders without any formality and it has become much easier to work, spend a holiday or study in another EU Member State. We have access to a greater range of goods and services and comparing prices has become much easier since the introduction of the euro. The free movement of workers and the coordination of social security systems are a huge accomplishment. All EU nationals are entitled to work, without any discrimination, in another Member State and to benefit from its social insurance system. Full membership in the European Union is at the core of stable peace, democratic freedoms, and economic development.

Yet, people around Europe do not always see this positive side?
Unfortunately not – in some Member States people are afraid they are the ones footing the bill in this crisis. In others, there is growing fear of facing ever harsher austerity measures and falling into poverty. For many ordinary people in Europe, the balance between giving and receiving, between debt and liability, responsibility and a place at the table no longer seems fair. Therefore, we all need a positive view on the future of the Union. I personally see the European Union as an opportunity for all European nations to unite in building a future based on common values and principles, with the preservation of state, national, political, cultural and economic identity, and mutual cooperation and interfusion.

Dubrovnik: Hrvoje's home region

Dubrovnik: Hrvoje’s home region

Do you see yourself more as European, Croatian or a citizen of Dubrovnik?
It depends on the context. When I talk about culture, history and liberty, I feel like a citizen of Dubrovnik, because in the past it was the first republic that banned slavery in Europe. In Dubrovnik, freedom was the most respected. It had its own flag with the image of the patron saint St Blaise and the letters “LIBERTAS” (Latin for ‘Freedom’) on it, with envoys at the courts of European monarchs and embassies in many European countries, protecting our interests and our sailors at the same time. In the past, Dubrovnik had the motto ‘Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro’ – Latin for ‘Liberty is not well sold for all the gold’.
But when I talk about tourism and sport, I feel Croatian. Many tourists visit to experience the country’s extensive coastline and well-preserved coastal Renaissance towns, with the country being advertised currently under the slogan ‘The Mediterranean As It Once Was’. Sport also has a significant role in Croatian culture, and many local sports clubs and national squads enjoy strong followings in the country. I can’t wait for the Fifa World Cup 2014 in Brasil. Croatia and Brasil will play in the opening match.
And I feel European when I talk about a knowledge-based society. The European Union has set itself the objective of becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society in the world. Every year, thousands of European citizens benefit from cross-border education or training programmes which foster intercultural understanding and make it possible to live, study, specialise and work in other European countries.

Freedom, Mobility, Innovation and Science. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Hrvoje Butigan: U Europi se nudi toliko mogućnosti!

Godine: 29
Državljanstvo: Hrvat
Zanimanje: predstavnik Ureda Dubrovačko-neretvanske županije u Bruxellesu
Hobiji: fitnes, plivanje
Jezici: engleski, talijanski, njemački
Životni moto: Sam budi promjena koju želis vidjeti u svijetu
Najdraže jelo: riba s gradela iz Jadranskog mora s krumpirom
Omiljena literature: William Shakespeare I Ernest Hemingway
Omiljena glazba: pop i jazz

Koliko dugo živite u Bruxellesu?
Doselio sam se ovdje prije otprilike godinu dana. Prije toga radio sam u regionalnoj razvojnoj agenciji DUNEA u Dubrovniku u Hrvatskoj. Sada sam zaposlen kao predstavnik Ureda Dubrovačko-neretvanske županije u Bruxellesu- prvoj kontaktnoj točki kojoj se mogu obratiti EU institucije i druge zemlje i regije Europske unije zainteresirane za moju županiju.Ono što volim kod svog posla su mogućnosti koje nam Europa pruža. Svatko, tko želi inicirati (ili spriječiti) nešto, može iskoristiti Europsku građansku inicijativu. Svatko, tko želi nešto pokrenuti ili izgraditi, može se prijaviti za financiranje putem europskih fondova.

Hrvoje Butigan3Još uvijek Vas posao čvrsto veže za Vašu domovinu?
Da, upravo tako. Ured u Bruxellesu ima ulogu predstavništva Dubrovačko-neretvanske županije I DUNEA-e. Moj glavni zadatak je predstaviti i promovirati ekonomski, turistički i kulturni potencijal svoje regije vezano uz europske institucije i druge organizacije smještene u Bruxellesu.

Kako izgleda Vaš tipičan dan u uredu?
Ponajprije sam tu da informiram institucije u Dubrovačko-neretvanskoj županiji o trenutnim europskim programima te da im pružim aktualne informacije o natječajima i financiranju iz europskih fondova. Također predstavljam ideje za projekte te promoviram uspješno realizirane projekte u suradnji s drugim europskim regijama i institucijma Europske unije. Takodjer im pružam institucionalnu podršku i stručnu pomoć pri traženju partnera za projekte financirane od strane EU programa.

Što smatrate najvećim uspjehom Europe?
Slobodno kretanje ljudi, dobara, usluga i kapitala. Građani mogu putovati i prelaziti većinu granica bez ikakvih formalnosti. Postalo je mnogo lakše zaposliti se, studirati ili otići na odmor u neku od država članica. Imamo pristup širem spektru dobara i usluga, a uspoređivanje cijena postati će mnogo lakše zahvaljujući uvođenju eura. Slobodno kretanje radnika i ujednačavanje sustava socijalne sigurnosti također su veliko postignuće. Državljani svih zemalja članica Europske unije imaju pravo raditi i koristiti sustav socijalnog osiguranja u drugim državama članicama bez ikakve diskriminacije. Puno članstvo u Europskoj uniji temelj je mira i stabilnosti, demokratskih sloboda i ekonomskog razvoja. Hrvoje Butigan2

Ipak, ljudi širom Europe ne vide uvijek ove pozitivne strane?
Nažalost ne, stanovnici nekih država članica boje se da su oni oni koji plaćaju ceh krize. Drugdje je prisutan rastući strah od suočavanja sa sve oštrijim mjerama štednje i osiromašavanjem. Za mnoge stanovnike Europe, ravnoteža između davanja i primanja, između duga i obaveza, odgovornosti i mjesta za stolom ne čini se više pravednim. Zbog toga svi mi trebamo gledati pozitivno na budućnost Unije. Ja osobno vidim Europsku uniju kao mogućnost ujedinjenja, suradnje i prožimanja svih europskih nacija koje bi izgradile budućnost utemeljenu na zajedničkim vrijednostima i principima, u isto vrijeme zadržavajući njihov zasebni državni, nacionalni, politički, kulturni i ekonomski identitet.
Smatrate li sebe ponajprije Europljaninom, Hrvatom ili Dubrovčaninom?
To zavisi o kontekstu kako ga uzmete. Kada govorim o kulturi, povijesti i slobodi, ponajviše osjećam pripadnost Dubrovniku jer je on u povijesti zapamćen kao prva država koja je zabranila ropstvo u Europi. U Dubrovniku se sloboda izrazito cijenila. Čak je postojala i zastava Republike s prikazom svetog Vlaha na kojoj je stajao natpis “LIBERTAS” (što na latinskom znači sloboda), kao i izaslanici na sudovima europskih monarha i ambasade diljem Europe koje su štitile interese Dubrovnika i njegovih pomoraca. Moto Republike glasio je “Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro” što na latinskom znači “Sloboda se ne prodaje ni za svo zlato”.
Ali kada govorim o turizmu i sportu, osjećam se ponajprije kao Hrvat. Brojni turisti posjećuju Hrvatsku kako bi uživali u njenoj razvijenoj obali i dobro očuvanim renesansnim gradovima, a država se trenutno promovira pod sloganom “Mediteran kakav je nekad bio”. Sport također igra važnu ulogu u hrvatskoj kulturi te mnogi lokalni klubovi i nacionalne reprezentacije uživaju veliku podršku. Jedva čekam Svjetsko prvenstvo u nogometu 2014. koje će otvoriti Hrvatska utakmicom protiv Brazila.
Ipak, osjećam se prvenstveno Europljaninom kada je riječ o društvu utemeljenom na znanju. Europska unija postavila je sebi za cilj razviti se u najkompetentnije i najdinamičnije društvo utemeljeno na znanju. Svake godine tisuće mladih dobije priliku sudjelovati na međunarodnim obrazovnim programima i radionicama koje jačaju međunarodno razumijevanje i omogućuju sudionicima da žive, studiraju, usavršavaju se i rade diljem Europe.

Sloboda, pokretljivost, inovacije i znanost. Europa je naša budućnost. To ovisi o nama samima!

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Leon Leskovec: Europe made me the person I am today!

Age: 27
Nationality: Croatian
Occupation: accredited parliamentary assistant
Hobbies: sports
My link with Hrvoje: flatmate

Leon, Hrvoje's best friend in Brussels

Leon, Hrvoje’s best friend in Brussels

You work at the European Parliament. How does Europe impact your life?
Besides my work, Europe impacts my life in that it provides me a safe haven to live in, without wars and extreme poverty. If I would live in any other place in the world, which is not shaped by Christian heritage and is not a cradle of civilisation, I would not be the person I am today, in the sense of my views, beliefs and values.

Do people back home have worries about the European project?
Yes, they are worried that there may come a time again in history when they will serve as a test dummy for new political experiments or as a defensive wall against Europe’s potential enemies. At the same time, they are afraid that Europe will not apply the same standards across Europe.

How do think Europe should meet these concerns?
Above all, Europe has to continue to be the symbol of economic prosperity and peace building and to preserve the Christian and democratic values it is based on. This is the only way all Europe’s citizens can achieve better lives. At the same time, we cannot forget the responsibility Europe has towards former colonies and that many immigrants who want to come to Europe come from those countries. The integration processes have to be as similar as they can be across the whole of Europe, so all citizens have the same chance of prosperity.

Prosperity, Integration, Peace. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Leon Leskovec: Europa je učinila od mene osobu kakva sam danas!

Godine: 27
Državljanstvo: Hrvat
Zanimanje: asistent zastupnika u Europskom parlamentu
Hobiji: sport
Moja veza s Hrvojem: cimer

Radite za Europski parlament. Kako Europa utječe na Vaš život?
Osim preko posla, Europa utječe na moj život time što mi je pružila mirno utočiste, bez rata I ekstremnog siromaštva. Kad bih živio na bilo kojem drugom mjestu na svijetu, koje nije oblikovano kršćanskim naslijeđem I nije kolijevka civilizacije, ne bih bio osoba kakva sam danas u smislu mojih stajališta, uvjerenja I vrijednosti.

Imaju li ljudi u Vašoj domovini brige vezane uz projekt Europa?
Da, oni su zabrinuti da bi se povijest mogla ponoviti I da će postati marionete novog političkog eksperimenta ili ce poslužiti kao obrana od potencijalnih neprijatelja Europe. Mnogi u isto vrijeme strahuju da Europa neće primjenjivati jednake standarde na sve države članice.

Kako bi Europa trebala reagirati na njihovu zabrinutost?
Prije svega, Europa treba ostati simbol ekonomskog napretka, izgradnje mira te zaštite kršćanstva i demokratskih vrijednosti na kojima je utemeljena. To je jedini način na koji svi europski građani mogu postići bolje životne uvjete. U isto vrijeme, ne smijemo zaboraviti odgovornost Europe prema bivšim kolonijama kao ni da većina imigranata koja želi ući u Europu dolazi upravo iz tih zemalja. Proces njihove integracije mora biti što sličniji diljem Europe kako bi svi građani imali jednake šanse za napredak.

Napredak, integracija, mir. Europa je naša budućnost. To ovisi o nama samima!

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Hrvoje Butigan: Wir haben so viele Möglichkeiten in Europa!

Hrvoje Butigan6“Ich sehe die Europäische Union als eine Chance für alle europäischen Nationen, eine gemeinsame Zukunft mit gemeinsamen Werten und Prinzipien aufzubauen.”

Seit einem Jahr lebt der 29-jährige Kroate Hrvoje Butigan in Brüssel und arbeitet für das Vertretungsbüro seiner Heimatregion Dubrovnik Neretva.
Die vier Freiheiten, die der Binnenmarkt mit sich gebracht hat, zählen für ihn zu den größten Errungenschaften der EU. Die Mitgliedschaft bei der EU ist ein Garant für Frieden, demokratische Freiheiten und wirtschaftliche Entwicklung.
Für ihn ist besonders seit dem Ausbruch der Wirtschaftskrise das Gleichgewicht zwischen Geber- und Nehmerländern aus dem Lot geraten. Daher ist es umso wichtiger, dass alle europäischen Nationen die Chance ergreifen, eine gemeinsame Zukunft mit gemeinsamen Werten und Prinzipien aufzubauen.
Kultur, Geschichte und den Wert der Freiheit verbindet er eng mit Dubrovnik. Beim Fußball ist er ganz Kroate. Und wenn es um die Wissensgesellschaft und den Austausch von Wissen und Forschung geht, wird er zum begeisterten Europäer.
Der Fitness- und Schwimmbegeisterte entspannt mit William Shakespeare und Ernest Hemingway und hört gerne Pop- und Jazzmusik.

Freiheit, freier Personenverkehr, Innovation, Wissenschaft. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Hrvoje Butigan: Nous avons tant d’opportunités en Europe!

“Je vois l’Union européenne comme une opportunité pour tous les pays européens de s’unir afin de construire un avenir fondé sur des valeurs et des principes communs.”Hrvoje Butigan5

Hrvoje est arrivé à Bruxelles il y a un peu moins d’un an, au moment où son pays, la Croatie, entrait dans l’Union européenne. Pour autant, il a gardé des liens étroits avec sa région d’origine, puisqu’il est désormais l’ambassadeur de la région de Dubrovnik Neretva à Bruxelles. Cela fait de lui un trait d’union entre cette région de bord de mer et l’Union européenne et ses institutions.
Pour lui, un des grands succès de l’Union européenne est d’avoir permis à tous les ressortissants de l’UE de travailler dans un autre État membre, tout en bénéficiant d’une couverture sociale. Hrvoje s’inquiète néanmoins de ce que, pour certains européens, l’équilibre entre ce qu’ils contribuent et ce qu’ils reçoivent de l’UE n’est plus une évidence. Il n’en perd pas son optimisme et son enthousiasme, tout comme il reste convaincu des chances de victoire de l’équipe croate de football lors de son match contre le Brésil, en ouverture de la prochaine coupe du monde.

Liberté, Mobilité, Innovation et Science. L’Europe est notre avenir. Cela ne tient qu’à nous!


 

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Ahmed Aboutaleb: Europe is about being part of something bigger!

Nationality: Moroccan and Dutch, migrated to the Netherlands at the age of 15
Occupation: Mayor of Rotterdam and member of the EU’s Committee of the Regions
Hobbies: Spending time with my family, riding my bicycle, travelling, and reading

Lees het in het Nederlands
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

As mayor of Rotterdam and a member of the EU’s Committee of the Regions, what do you think is Europe’s most important task?
To answer this question, you have to look back at why people, in the beginning, longed for some kind of unity. They did so because they were tired of war. The two World Wars started in Europe. There were casualties in nearly every family and people wanted peace and reconciliation. This led to what I see as the most important project of collaboration in Europe. To the benefit of many peoples, we wanted to pool our knowledge and power to create a better life, more wealth and more solidarity amongst the citizens of Europe. This is, to me, the European Union’s most important task. It’s the result of steady cooperation amongst different countries in the interest of all of us.

You migrated from Morocco to the Netherlands and you even remember the exact timing of the trip. Why is that?
Migrating from one country to another at such a significant age – at 15 – is a day a man should never forget. I was born in Morocco and migrated to the Netherlands in 1976 – on Sunday, 16 October at 9.30 am. Obviously, it’s a giant step in one’s life.

Having the euro or not makes the distinction between an isolated country and a country that gives up a part of its identity – its own monetary system – by joining a bigger system to secure its political and economic influence in a globalised world.

When you look back to the seventies, how has European integration changed the Netherlands?
The major difference between the Netherlands of the 70s – when I arrived, in the years after the oil crisis – and the Netherlands of today is, of course, the euro. For me, it is the biggest symbol of the European Union. Having the euro or not makes the distinction between an isolated country, with its own coins and bills, and a country that gives up a part of its identity – its own monetary system – by joining a bigger system to secure its political and economic influence in a globalised world. To me, this is a fascinating phenomenon to observe.
Ahmed Aboutaleb - courtesy of the City of Rotterdam. Photo by Marc Nolte

Ahmed Aboutaleb – courtesy of the City of Rotterdam. Photo by Marc Nolte

What’s it like being the first Muslim mayor of a large European city?
Indeed, I am the first one in the Netherlands of Moroccan decent to become mayor of the second largest city of this country. I think the Netherlands can be very proud of this. One must not forget that, during the last decades, the Netherlands started to get this image of a country moving towards racism and xenophobia. There is still a heavy debate about immigration and the role of the Islam in our country. I am one of the public examples in the Netherlands that this debate can be democratic and open. For a modern country and for Europe, this is essential.

Rotterdam is the city of Pim Fortuyn, a politician who was not very fond of the multiculturalism he saw around him?
That it was Rotterdam’s city council, in the city of Pim Fortuyn, where 12 years ago some kind of revolution occurred, accepting me as mayor – this says a lot about the Netherlands and Europe. I do not like to use the word tolerance as much, because it says something about neglecting the other. What it is all about is acceptance that we all are different. I am well aware of the fact that being the first one is not without obligations. But I think that one should be proud of the citizens of Rotterdam to have accepted this step. Let the world know – yes indeed, we have a tough debate on integration and we are working on it, and this man, our mayor, has been accepted by us. This should give us all hope in Europe that we can succeed in having a common prosperous future without war and aggression if we work hand in hand.

Acceptance, Mobility, Respect. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us!

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Ahmed Aboutaleb: Europa gaat erover deel uit te maken van iets groters!

Nationaliteit: Nederlands en Marrokaans, naar Nederland geëmigreerd op 15 jarige leeftijd
Beroep: Burgemeester van Rotterdam
Europese activiteiten: Lid van het Comité van de Regio’s
Hobby’s: Samen zijn met de familie, fietsen, reizen en lezen.

Wat denkt u als burgemeester van Rotterdam en lid van het Comité van de Regio’s dat de belangrijkste taak voor Europa is?
Om deze vraag te beantwoorden, moet je terugkijken waarom mensen, bij de start, verlangden naar een soort van eenheid. Dat deden zij omdat ze genoeg hadden van oorlogen. De twee wereldoorlogen startten beiden in Europa. Er vielen slachtoffers te betreuren in bijna elke familie en mensen wilden vrede en verzoening. Dit leidde tot wat ik zie als het belangrijkste project van samenwerking in Europa. Ten gunste van vele mensen, wilden we onze kennis en onze krachten samenbrengen om betere leefomstandigheden, meer welvaart en een grotere solidariteit onder de burgers van Europa te realiseren. Dit is voor mij de meest belangrijke taak van de Europese Unie. Het is het resultaat van een stabiele samenwerking tussen verschillende landen in het belang van ons allen.

U herinnert zich nog exact de timing van uw emigratie vanuit Marokko naar Nederland. Hoe komt dat?
Het migreren van één land naar een ander op z’n belangrijke leeftijd als 15 jaar is een dag die je niet mag vergeten. Ik ben in Marokko geboren en kwam in Nederland in 1976, op zondag 16 oktober om half tien in de ochtend. Logisch dat je dit onthoud, het is een gigantische stap in iemands leven.

Het wel of niet hebben van de Euro maakt het verschil tussen een geïsoleerd land met een eigen munt
en een land dat haar identiteiten deels opgeeft om in een globaal systeem haar politieke en economische invloed te garanderen.

Wanneer u terugkijkt naar de jaren 70, hoe heeft de Europese integratie Nederland veranderd?
Het belangrijkste verschil met het Nederland van de jaren 70 – toen ik in Nederland kwam, in de jaren na de oliecrisis – en het Nederland van vandaag is natuurlijk de Euro. Voor mij is dit het grootste symbool van de Europese Unie. Het hebben van de Euro of niet maakt het verschil tussen een geïsoleerd land met eigen munten en bankbiljetten, en een land dat een deel van de eigen identiteit opgeeft – dat van het eigen monetaire systeem – door toe te treden tot een groter systeem teneinde zijn politieke en economische invloed in een globaliserende wereld te verzekeren. Dit is voor mij een fascinerend fenomeen.
26 February 2014. Public debate organized in Rotterdam City Hall by the European Commission representation in The Netherlands on  international trade Amont the panelists: the CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority Mr Allard Castelein and MEP Marietje Schaake. Photo: Erno Wientjes

26 February 2014. Public debate organized in Rotterdam City Hall by the European Commission representation in The Netherlands on international trade Amont the panelists: the CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority Mr Allard Castelein and MEP Marietje Schaake. Photo: Erno Wientjes

Hoe is het om de eerste moslim burgemeester van een grote Europese stad te zijn?
Ik ben inderdaad de eerste van Marokkaanse afkomst die in Nederland de burgemeester is geworden van de tweede stad van het land. Ik denk dat Nederland daar erg trots op kan zijn. We moeten niet vergeten dat Nederland een imago heeft gekregen van een land dat richting racisme en xenofobie beweegt. Er is nog steeds een stevig debat gaande over immigratie en de rol van de Islam in ons land. Ik ben een van de voorbeelden in het openbaar bestuur dat in Nederland dat debat democratisch en open gevoerd wordt. Voor een modern land en voor Europa is dit essentieel.

Rotterdam is de stad van Pim Fortuyn, een politicus die niet veel op had met het multiculturalisme dat hij om zich heen zag.
Het was de gemeenteraad van Rotterdam, in de stad van Pim Fortuyn, waar 12 jaar geleden een soort van revolutie plaatsvond, die mij naar voren schoof als burgemeester. Dat zegt veel over Nederland en Europa. I hou niet zozeer van het woord tolerantie, omdat dat iets zegt over het negeren van de ander. Waar het allemaal om draait is accepteren dat we allemaal verschillen. Ik besef me terdege dat het zijn van de eerste, niet zonder verplichtingen komt. Maar ik denk dat we trots moeten zijn op de burgers van Rotterdam die deze stap hebben geaccepteerd. Laat het de wereld weten, ja we hebben inderdaad een stevig debat over integratie en we werken er aan, en deze man, onze burgemeester wordt door ons geaccepteerd. Dat moet hoop geven voor Europa dat als we de handen ineenslaan we een gezamenlijke toekomst met hoge welvaart en zonder oorlog en agressie kunnen realiseren.

Acceptatie, Mobiliteit, Respect. Europa is onze toekomst, het is aan ons!

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Ahmed Aboutaleb: Europa bedeutet zu etwas Größerem zu gehören

“Immigration und die Rolle des Islam sind nach wie vor schwierige Themen in meinem Land. In den Niederlanden bin ich das gelebte Beispiel, dass diese Debatte offen und demokratisch sein kann. Das ist für ein modernes Land und für Europa wichtig.”

Ahmed Aboutaleb besitzt eine doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft: Der gebürtige Marokkaner lebt seit seinem 15. Lebensjahr in den Niederlanden. Als Bürgermeister von Rotterdam vertritt er die Interessen seiner Stadt auf europäischer Ebene im Ausschuss der Regionen in Brüssel. Dass er der erste Bürgermeister marokkanischer Herkunft in der zweitgrößten Stadt der Niederlanden ist, zeugt von einer wachsenden Toleranz und einer offenen Gesellschaft in seiner Heimat.
Der Wunsch der Menschen nach Frieden stellt für Ahmed die Basis für die europïsche Einigung dar. Das gemeinsame Ziel der Europäischen Union ist, ein besseres Leben und Wohlstand zu schaffen und Solidarität zu fördern. Der Euro, die gemeinsame Währung ist für ihn das wichtigste Symbol der EU, sie schafft politische und wirtschaftliche Sicherheit in einer globalisierten Welt. Er ist das sichtbare Zeichen der Gemeinschaft der Völker in der EU.
Seine Freizeit verbringt Ahmed Aboutaleb mit seiner Familie, liebt wie viele seiner Landsleute das Fahrradfahren, Reisen und Lesen.

Akzeptanz, freier Personenverkehr, Respekt: Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Ahmed Aboutaleb: L’Europe, c’est faire partie d’un tout!

“L’immigration et la place de l’Islam sont toujours en débat dans mon pays. Je suis l’une des figures publiques aux Pays Bas qui prouvent que ce débat peut être ouvert et démocratique. Pour un pays moderne et pour l’Europe, c’est essentiel.”

Ahmed est arrivé aux Pays Bas à l’âge de quinze ans, laissant derrière lui son Maroc natal. Il a été élu à la tête de la deuxième ville du pays, Rotterdam, et fait son parcours un exemple pour l’Europe quand il dit qu’il faut savoir accepter les différences des uns et des autres.
La paix, la prospérité et la solidarité sont, pour lui, les éléments qui définissent le projet européen. Ce sont les fruits d’une coopération continue entre des pays différents. Et lorsqu’il évoque ses origines, Ahmed souligne que l’immigration est peut être en débat dans son pays d’adoption, mais que ce débat est ouvert et démocratique. C’est aussi là un exemple à suivre pour l’Union européenne.

Acceptation, Mobilité, Respect. L’Europe est notre avenir. Cela ne tient qu’à nous !


 

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Martins Zemitis: Europe will not be undone!

Age: 35
Nationality: Latvian
Family info: Married, 2 kids: Martins Jr. – 4.5, Esther – 3
Occupation: (since 1 January 2014) European Commission, Riga, Latvia; before: Administrator, European Parliament, Brussels
Hobbies: Fitness, squash, alpine skiing, theatre, travel, debating and reading biographies of noted statesmen.
Languages: Latvian, English, Russian, French
Favorite dish: Steak with “frites”
Personal motto: If you do something, why not do it to the highest quality?

Another voice from Latvia: Martins’ sparring partner
Read it in Latvian
Deutsche Zusammenfassung
Sommaire en français

martins zemitis 6You were born in Latvia, you studied in the United States but in the end, you picked Brussels – the very centre of the EU – to settle. Why is that?
Coming from newly independent Latvia, which was a closed society under the Soviet Union but aspired to become a member of the European Union, I did my undergraduate studies in America. Through studying world and European history, literature and economics, I became acutely aware of the diversity of cultures, which permeates the European project. The unique way Europe was able to turn historical differences into positive values through common institutions, markets and mobility was an astonishing story.

You wanted to be part of this European project?
Indeed and it is amazing; this ‘machine’ of 28 countries (and counting) and 24 languages shouldn’t really work, but it does. And this is why I work for Europe – out of admiration for the project, but mainly for the opportunity to make this project better, in some small personal way.

The greatest success in the history of the EU is that Europe is at peace and still remains a magnet for other countries which aspire to the same high standards of democracy, human rights and rule of law.

What is a typical day in the office like?
Let me give you a concrete example of what I do, and what I am also very proud of. Some time ago the European Parliament voted on the budget framework for the next seven years. As a member of the Budget Secretariat team, I was involved on a daily basis in preparing the EP positions, votes, amendments, strategies and positions and advising the MEPs involved. My particular area of responsibility was related to citizens and security. As a part of our work, the Parliament emphasised that to tap into the potential of European artists, designers, students, actors and other creative minds we should give more money to “creative industries”, even if the total amount of the budget is significantly reduced. In the end, the Parliament succeeded in improving the Commission’s proposal and convinced them that a 10% increase in Creative Europe programme was warranted. This was a great day for me.

And were you able to share this success with friends and family?
I posted this news immediately following the vote in Strasbourg on my Facebook wall, and budding actor friends who are studying drama in London started immediately putting “likes” and “sharing” this entry. They wrote personal messages of appreciation. I could feel how my work with charts, graphs and legal arguments had finally resulted in something concrete, directly felt and appreciated by a group of my artist friends. That is quite rewarding!

Some people believe the EU bureaucratic machinery is too big.
A lot of people think that European bureaucracy is huge and the European budget is wildly out of proportion with the savings and cuts that the national budgets have experienced. But in reality, the total number of bureaucrats working in the whole European system is comparable to that of public administration of the city of Edinburgh, and the management of the European Parliament costs each European tax payer €3 per year – a cost of a nice cup of coffee in Paris. Can anyone really say that this is too big?martins zemitis 7

But is there room for improvement regarding the EU’s organisation?
For sure, the EU can still do more to further modernise European public service. There is still a lot of undue bureaucracy and sub-optimal process management in place, partly due to the rapid expansion from the original six member states in the 1950s to 28 member states now. The institutional structures, while always in a state of transition, have not kept pace with the cutting-edge discoveries in efficiency, ergonomics and process optimisation. Lengthy deliberations and long transposition times sometimes mean that the fruits of one’s labour are not easily visible or tangible in the short term. One must learn to be patient and base one’s motivation on more abstract ideals rather than concrete impacts.

How do you see Europe’s future? What are the long term projects the EU stands for?
The greatest success in the history of the EU is that Europe is at peace and still remains a magnet for other countries which aspire to the same high standards of democracy, human rights and rule of law. The way Europe has been able to stick together and exhibit solidarity with countries in financial crisis in the north and south alike further reinforces the understanding that splits and cleavages are no longer possible. This is a project from which there is no return. Europe will not be undone. Yes, it will debate the right way to continue. Yes, it will take two steps forwards and one step back. And yes, it will stop to reflect every once in a while on the best way to develop. But that is ok.

Is there a particular moment in Brussels you remember?
When the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize, I was on my way to lunch with some colleagues in the Jacques Delors Building (the home of the two EU consultative committees, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee). The ceremony was being broadcast live on a big screen in the lobby. I missed lunch that day, but being a part of a project whose accomplishments include winning the world’s most prestigious peace prize has been a source of inspiration to me, not only on that day but for many days since. But I guess that day in particular I was really proud to be a part of it.

martins zemitis 4Do you see yourself as a citizen of Europe, Latvia or Brussels?
I think it is a mixture of all three. For example, at home we like to cook Belgian recipes but with Latvian ingredients. For instance, the very basic pommes frites – double cooked oil-fried potatoes – you can’t get a more Belgian dish than this, but we bring the potatoes from ‘home’ in Latvia, because we find that they just don’t taste the same here – and tastes tend to linger with us strongly as memories from childhood… But at the same time, when I talk about Cultural Capitals of Europe, I feel like a citizen of Riga because my home town will be the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2014. When I talk about the “singing revolution” I feel Latvian, because this is what the transition to democracy in Latvia was called. And finally, when I talk about history I feel European, because history has so often divided Europe and Europeans but it is also our challenge to build a common history now and to develop a more common understanding of our past history.

Diversity, Solidarity, Peace. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us.

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Ina Strazdina: It is time to turn the tide!

Age: 37
Nationality: Latvian
Occupation: Journalist
Hobbies: arts and literature
Link with Martins Zemitis: Many years of professional links

Ina, Martins' sparring partner

Ina, Martins’ sparring partner

As a Latvian journalist you must have a good sense of how people in your home country feel about the EU?
Latvia is a Member State of the EU which means that it follows EU legislation and values. Freedom in Europe was a long-time dream for my country and it also inspired its desire for freedom. As an EU correspondent for the Latvian media, covering a lot of Latvian-EU issues I feel that we still have a lot to do to regain the level and status Latvia enjoyed before the Soviet occupation.

Are people in Latvia worried about what is being decided in Brussels?
Joining the eurozone [it happened on 1 January 2014 for Latvia] is something that people are concerned about. We have changed currency before, but there is a lot of uncertainty currently associated with the eurozone. The euro crisis is not really helping either. Moreover, Latvians are also afraid to lose their beloved lats as it is more than just our currency, it is also regarded as one of the strongest symbols of Latvia as an independent state.Ina Strazdina1

How do you know Martins Zemitis?
I have known Martins Zemitis for a long time. We met in Brussels more than 10 years ago. He has worked in Brussels for many years, with a couple of years break in Riga. He was very successful in the European Parliament’s Budget Committee and has helped me to understand and to explain complicated topics related to the EU budget issues. Martins is a good example of an EU civil servant; they are not faceless bureaucrats but highly committed and intelligent servants working on behalf of European citizens.

What do you think should happen to strengthen peoples’ confidence in the European Union?
Europe has to get out of the crisis. I really hope that Europe gets back to normalcy in the foreseeable future. I’ve had enough reading and writing about the crisis and about job losses. It is time to turn the tide.

Freedom and Prosperity. Europe is our future. It’s up to all of us.

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Age: 37
Vecums: 37
Tautība: Latviete
Nodarbošanās: Žurnāliste
Vaļasprieki: Māksla un literatūra
Saistība ar Mārtiņu Zemīti: Daudzgadīgas profesionālas attiecības

Ina Strazdiņa: Ir laiks pārvarēt krīzi!

Kā Latvijas žurnālistei Jums visdrīzāk ir labs priekšstats par to, ko cilvēki Latvijā izjūt pret Eiropas Savienību…
Latvija ir Eiropas Savienības dalībvalsts, kas nozīmē, ka tā seko Eiropas likumiem un vērtībām. Brīvība kā viena no Eiropas pamatvērtībām iedvesmoja arī manas valsts tiekšanos uz brīvību, bet kā Latvijas mediju Eiropas korespondente, kurai ikdienā jāveido ziņas par daudziem ES lēmumiem un to ietekmi uz Latviju, es jūtu, ka mums vēl daudz jāpaveic, lai sasniegtu to līmeni un statusu, ko Latvija baudīja pirms padomju okupācijas.

Vai cilvēki Latvijā ir norūpējušies par to, kas tiek izlemts Briselē?
Šobrīd Latvijā cilvēki ir satraukušies par Latvijas pievienošanos eirozonai [tā notika 2014.gada 1.janvārī]. Latvijā nauda ir mainījusies daudzreiz, bet šobrīd ar eirozonu saistās daudz nedrošības. Eirozonas krīze, kura jopojām dominē ziņu virsrakstos, saprotams, nepalīdz. Latvieši baidās arī pazaudēt savu iemīļoto latiņu, kas ir bijis kaut kas vairāk nekā tikai naudas vienība. Lats bijis viens no spēcīgākajiem Latvijas neatkarības simboliem.

Kā Jūs pazīstat Mārtiņu Zemīti?
Es Mārtiņu pazīstu ilgus gadus – mēs pirmoreiz satikāmies Briselē pirms vairāk nekā 10 gadiem. Viņš savu karjeru attīstījis Briselē, ar dažu gadu pauzi Latvijā. Viņa pēdējais amats Briselē bija Eiropas Parlamenta Budžeta komitejas administrators, un viņš man ir daudz palīdzējis, izzinot sarežģītos Eiropas Savienības budžeta līkločus. Mārtiņš ir labs Eiropas ierēdņa piemērs – ierēdņi nav tikai neredzami birokrāti, bet ļoti inteliģenti un atbildīgi darbinieki, kuri strādā Eiropas pilsoņu labā.

Kam, Jūsuprāt, būtu jānotiek, lai stiprinātu cilvēku uzticību Eiropas Savienībai?
Eiropai ir jātiek ārā no krīzes. Es patiešām ceru, ka Eiropa atgriezīsies pie normālas lietu kārtības pārskatāmā nākotnē. Man jau ir apnicis lasīt un rakstīt par krīzi un bezdarbu. Ir laiks griezt vēstures ratu uz priekšu.

Brīvība un labklājība. Eiropa ir mūsu nākotne, tā ir atkarīga no mums!

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Mārtiņš Zemītis: Eiropu nevienam neizjaukt!

Vecums: 35
Tautība: Latvietis
Ģimene: Precējies, 2 bērni: Mārtiņš juniors – 4.5 gadi, Estere Elizabete – 3 gadi
Nodarbošanās: (kopš 2014.gada 1.janvāra) Ekonomists, Eiropas Komisija, Rīga, Latvija
Iepriekš: Administrators, Eiropas Parlamenta Budžeta komitejas sekretariāts, Brisele
Intereses: Fitness, skvošs, kalnu slēpošana, teātris, ceļošana, debates un politiķu biogrāfiskie romāni
Valodas: Latviešu, angļu, krievu, franču
Mīļākais ēdiens: Steiks ar ceptiem kartupeļiem
Moto: Ja kaut ko dari, kāpēc to neizdarīt izcili?

martins zemitis 3Jūs esat dzimis Latvijā, mācījies Amerikā, bet šobrīd par savu mājvietu esat izvēlējies Briseli – Eiropas Savienības epicentru. Kāpēc?
Piedzimu un skolā gāju Lavijā, kas tajā laikā bija slēgta sabiedrība Padomju Savienībā, bet studēt augstskolā devos uz Ameriku, jo dzelzs priekškars jau bija pavēries. Augstskolā, studējot un iedziļinoties pasaules un Eiropas vēsturē, literatūrā un ekonomikā, es sastapos ar to kultūru daudzveidību, kas caurstrāvo vienotās Eiropas projektu. Unikālais veids kā Eiropa spēja pārvērst savus vēsturiskos konfliktus pozitīvās vērtībās caur kopīgām instiūcijām, tirgiem un mobilitāti bija stāsts, kas mani patiešām iedvesmoja un aizrāva.

Un tad jūs izlēmāt, kā vēlaties piedalīties šajā Eiropas projektā?
Tieši tā, un tas patiešām ir aizraujoši; šai 28 valstu un 24 valodu “mašīnai” īstenībā nevajadzētu darboties, bet tā darbojas. Un tas ir nozīmīgs iemesls, kāpēc es strādāju Eiropas labā – apbrīnojot sasniegto, bet vēloties padarīt Eiropas Savienību labāku, kaut mazā, personiskā veidā, savu iespēju robežās.

Lielākais sasniegums Eiropas vēsturē ir tas, ka Eiropā valda miers un tā joprojām ir magnēts valstīm, kuras tiecas uz augstiem demokrātijas, cilvēktiesību un likuma varas standartiem.

Ko jūs ikdienā darāt savā birojā?
Dalīšos ar kādu konkrētu darba piemēru, par ko esmu lepns. Pirms neilga laika Eiropas Parlaments nobalsoja par budžeta ietvaru nākamajiem septiņiem gadiem. Kā Budžeta sekretariāta komandas loceklis ikdienā biju iesaistīts eiroparlamenta pozīciju, balsojumu un stratēģiju sagatavošanā un padomu sniegšanā parlamenta deputātiem. Mana atbildība bija budžets kultūras, pilsonības un drošības jomās. Parlamenta pozīcija šajā budžeta sadaļā bija sakņota pārliecībā, ka Eiropas mērogā vairāk jāinvestē mūsu māksliniekos, dizaineros, studentos, aktieros un citos radošajos prātos, lai piesaistītu viņu potenciālu “radošo industriju” attīstībai, pat ja budžeta kopapjoms tiek samazināts. Galu galā, pēc divu gadu darba, eiroparlamentam izdevās uzlabot Eiropas Komisijas sākotnējo priekšlikumu un pārliecināt dalībvalstis, ka 10% pieaaugums finansējuma programmai “Radošā Eiropa” ir pamatots un nepieciešams. Diena, kad notika parlamenta gala balsojums par šo programmu, man bija laimīga diena.

Vai jūs dalījāties savā priekā ar draugiem un ģimenes locekļiem?
Uzreiz pēc plenārsēdes balsojuma Strasbūrā, es ierakstīju jaunumus par finansējuma palielināšanu uz savas Facebook “sienas”. Mani draugi – topošie aktieri –, kas Londonā šobrīd studē aktiermeistarību, nekavējoties sāka spiest “man patīk” un izplatīja tālāk manu ziņu. Viņi pievienoja komentārus, kuros apliecināja pateicību. Tajā brīdi es sapratu, ka mans daždien nepateicīgais darbs ar tabulām, grafikiem, notām un juridiskiem argumentiem ir vainagojies ar konkrētu rezultātu, ko novērtē un izjūt grupiņa topošo profesionāļu. Tā bija patīkama, labi izdarīta darba sajūta.

Vienlaikus, tas ir arī konkrēts piemērs tam, ko ikdienā dara Eiropas ierēdņi. Tomēr daudzi uzskata, ka birokrātiskā mašinērija ir pārāk liela…
Patiešām, daudzi domā, ka Eiropas ierēdniecība ir bezizmēra un Eiropas budžets nav samērojams ar tiem ietaupījumiem un griezieniem, kurus iepriekšējos gados piedzīvojuši dalībvalstu nacionālie budžeti. Tomēr realitātē kopējais “birokrātu” skaits visā Eiropas sistēmā ir salīdzināms ar vienas Edinburgas (Skotija) pilsētas pārvaldes darbinieku skaitu un, piemēram, Eiropas Parlamenta gada budžets vienam nodokļu maksātājam gadā izmaksā ap 3 eiro – tikpat, par cik var nopirkt vienu labu tasīti kafijas Parīzē. Vai tiešām šādi – salīdzinoši – paskatoties, kāds vēl apgalvos, ka birokrātija ir par lielu?martins zemitis

Bet jūs taču nenoliegsiet, ka ES varētu būt efektīvāka tās darba organizācijā?
Neapšaubāmi Eiropas Savienībai ir jātiecas uz tālāku pārvaldes modernizāciju. Pastāv vēl pārāk daudz, manuprāt, lieku procedūru un uzlabojamu sistēmu. Daļēji tas skaidrojams ar “straujas augšanas sindromu” – no sākotnējām sešām dalībvalstīm 1950.gados līdz 28 dalībvalstīm šodien. Institūcijas, kaut arī mainījušas, ne vienmēr mainījušās tik ātri, lai samērotos ar jaunākajiem atklājumiem efektivitātē, ergonomikā un optimizācijā. Ilgie kompromisa meklējumi starp institūcijām un garie likumu ieviešanas termiņi reizēm padara neiespējamu ātri plūkt sava darba augļus. Ir jāiemācās pacietība un darba motivācija reizēm jārod vairāk abstraktos ideālos, nekā konkrētos sasniegumos.

Kādu jūs redzat Eiropas nākotni? Ko Eiropa mums visiem nozīmē ilgtermiņā?
Lielākais sasniegums Eiropas vēsturē ir tas, ka Eiropā valda miers un tā joprojām ir magnēts valstīm, kuras tiecas uz augstiem demokrātijas, cilvēktiesību un likuma varas standartiem. Veids, kā Eiropa ir spējusi “saspiesties ar mugurām kopā” un parādīt solidaritāti ar valstīm gan ziemeļos, gan dienvidos, kuras smagāk skārusi finanšu krīze, vēl un vēlreiz apliecina, ka dalīšanās un dziļi konflikti vairs nav iespējami. Šis ir projekts, kurš nav atdarāms. Protams, Eiropa debatēs par pareizāko ceļu uz priekšu. Protams, Eiropa katrreiz spers divus soļus uz priekšu un vienu – atpakaļ. Un, protams, ik pa brīdim Eiropa apstāsties, lai pārdomātu, kurš ir pareizākais ceļš uz priekšu. Bet Eiropa nenoies no sliedēm.

martins zemitis 2Vai jūs esat lepns piedalīties šajā procesā?
Kad Eiropas Savienībai pasniedza Nobela miera prēmiju, es kopā ar dažiem kolēģiem biju ceļā uz pusdienām Jacques Delors ēkā (kurā izvietotas divas ES kosultatīvās komitejas – Reģionu komiteja un Eiropas Ekonomiskā un sociālā komiteja). Ceremoniju no Oslo pārraidīja uz liela ekrāna Delors ēkas lobijā. Todien es nokavēju pusdienas, bet apziņa, ka esi daļa no projekta, kurš nopelnījis pasaules augstāko miera prēmiju, iedvesmoja mani gan tajā dienā, gan daudzas dienas uz priekšu. Bet todien es biju īpaši lepns.

Vai jūs sevi uzskatāt par eiropieti, latvieti vai Briseles pilsoni?
Kaut kādās proporcijās, pa daļai no katra. Piemēram, mājās mums patīk gatavot belģu receptes, bet ar Latvijā augušām sastāvdaļām. Tos pašus parastākos pommes frites – divreiz eļļā ceptus kartupelīšus, kas ir tipiski beļģisks ēdiens, mēs cepam no izejvielām, kas Briselē atgādātas no Latvijas, jo mums šķiet, ka kartupeļi Briselē negaršo tā, kā Latvijā, un tieši garšas kā bērnības un dzimtenes atmiņas svešumā pietrūkst visvairāk. Tajā pašā laikā, kad es runāju ar kolēģiem par Eiropas kultūras galvaspilsētām, es jūtos rīdzinieks, jo mana dzimtā pilsēta šogad ir visas Eiropas kultūras galvaspilsēta. Kad stāstu par “dziesmoto revolūciju”, es jūtos latvietis, jo tā saucās revolūcija, kas atnesa Latvijas neatkarību. Visbeidzot, kad es domāju par vēsturi, es jūtos eiropietis, jo vēsture tik bieži ir sadalījusi Eiropu, bet mūsu izaicinājums tagad ir veidot gan kopēju Eiropas nākotni, gan arvien kopīgāku izpratni par Eiropas pagātni.

Daudzveidība, Solidaritāte, Miers. Eiropa ir mūsu nākotne, tā atkarīga no mums!

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Martins Zemetis: Europa wird nicht auseinanderbrechen!

“Die Anzahl der MitarbeiterInnen aller EU-Institutionen gleicht dem des öffentlichen Dienstes der Stadt Edinburgh.”

Nach seinem Studium in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, widmete sich der sport- und kulturbegeisterte Vater zweier Kinder, Martins Zemetis, ganz Europa und arbeitete zunächst im Budgetausschuss des Europäischen Parlaments, bevor er im Jänner 2014 in die Vertretung der Europäischen Kommission in Riga wechselte. Das Brüsseler “Steak-frites” ist nach wie vor seine Lieblingsspeise.
Für den Letten ist es wichtig, dass er als Teil des europäischen Projekts seinen Beitrag zu einem besseren Europa leisten kann. Ganz besonders stolz war er, als die Europäische Union mit dem Friedensnobelpreis ausgezeichnet wurde. Er betont, dass die Anzahl der EU-MitarbeiterInnen entgegen einer weit verbreiteten Meinung relativ gering ist. Aber auch die europäische Verwaltung muss verbessert werden und sich auf das Wesentliche konzentrieren.
Der Erfolg Europas? Der Frieden. Und dass andere Länder nach wie vor der Europäischen Union beitreten wollen, um von unseren hohen Standards in Demokratie, Rechtsstaatlichkeit und Menschenrechten profitieren zu können.
Europäisch fühlt sich Martins Zemetis beim Gedanken an die Geschichte Europas, wogegen er ganz Lette ist, wenn er an die “singende Revolution” denkt, die die politische Änderung in seinem Lande brachte. Und er ist stolzer Bürger von Riga, der Europäischen Kulturhauptstadt 2014.

Vielfalt, Solidarität, Frieden. Europa ist unsere Zukunft. Es liegt an uns allen!

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Martins Zemitis: L’Europe ne sera pas défaite!

“Le nombre total de fonctionnaires qui travaillent pour l’Union européenne de 28 états membres est comparable à celui de l’administration de la ville d’Edimbourg”

Martins a étudié aux Etats Unis, mais c’est en Europe qu’il a décidé de travailler. D’abord à Bruxelles puis depuis peu de retour en Lettonie, son pays d’origine, il reste fasciné par le projet européen. C’est pendant son séjour de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique qu’il a compris que ce projet à 28 dans 24 langues n’avait rien d’ordinaire, que malgré ses soubresauts la machine allait toujours trouver en elle l’énergie d’aller de l’avant.
Pour Martins, même si les processus de décision sont longs et compliqués, il n’en reste pas moins que c’est ce magnétisme qui continue d’attirer des candidats à l’adhésion, aspirant aux mêmes standards que l’Union en terme de droits de l’homme, d’état de droit et de démocratie. L’Union peut toujours mieux faire pour moderniser son administration, au service de ses citoyens, il le reconnait volontiers. Alors il essaie d’appliquer au quotidien cette maxime qu’il a trouvée dans une des biographies politiques qu’il aime lire, et qu’il a fait sienne « quand on entreprend quelque chose, pourquoi ne pas le faire le mieux possible ? »

Diversité, Solidarité, Paix. L’Europe est notre avenir. Cela ne tient qu’à nous!


 

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