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Portraits of young Europeans – do we have a common future?
(working title for a reportage from crisis-shaken Europe)
Let’s face it: there is no way to avoid Europe in the media anymore. But no matter if the topic is Greece or the ECB, mostly the media coverage is negative and focused on the economy. It seems as if the economy has overtaken Europe.
The original idea, to form a united Europe, where no country attacks another country seems to be forgotten, maybe because the mission is completed? But if Europeans don’t fear war anymore, what do they dream of instead when they think about Europe?
To explore this, I want to travel through seven European countries. I want to meet people of my generation, because if Europe has a future it has to be made by us. From Autumn 2012 till Summer 2013 I’ll travel to Belgium, France, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Latvia and Norway to portrait young people and their stories. I’d like to know what they expect from Europe, how they see Europe’s future and what Europe has to do with their lives.
European people are my main interest. However, there will be a different subtopic for every country I visit. This might make it easier to find interesting stories related to Europe.
Obviously, in Belgium I want to visit Brussels. I want to see the political heart of Europe and talk to the people who work for the EU. I want to ask them about their European dream. Hopefully, at the end of my project I can compare their answers to those of the young Europeans everywhere else. The next country will be France. In France I want to investigate the phenomenon of the growing right-wing populism in Europe. I was really shocked by the election success of Marine Le Penn this summer and even more so when a lot of observers said that she gained many votes of young people. It would be interesting to meet a young voter of Marine Le Penn. How does his or her vision for Europe look like? Additionally, France has got the largest community of Muslims outside a Muslim country. I want to know if and how the rise of right wing populisms affects Muslims’ lives and how they feel about Europe. From France I’ll go to Romania. Romania is a fairly unknown country to me. My family hosted a Rumanian exchange student two years ago. She told me about the Rumanian nature and the efforts made to protect it. That surprised me. I’ve never thought of Eastern Europe as an area so focused on nature protection. I’d like to find young caretakers of the nature reserves. Would these areas be existing without the help of the European Union? Is environmental protection something too big for national states and needs to be solved by a bigger community of states like it was with the war problematic in the 20Th century? Also I can’t make a reportage from crisis-shaken Europe without touching the Rumanian political crisis. Despite the EU intervention the crisis isn’t solved. The EU seems to be powerless if a Member State suffers from corruption, nepotism, plagiarism-scandals and power struggles. In Romania I want to find out about the limits of EU power. Do people wish for more or less intervention? And how can this intervention look like? My next country will be Greece. In Greece I want to concentrate on money issues. Often people say the Euro was an impossible idea from the very beginning, because the Euro-countries were too different. What needs to happen to make a European currency work? Are money saving and social cuttings the right way to make the Euro work? In Greece 50% of the young people are without work. Under these circumstances, does it matter which currency you have anyway? And apart from this, what perspectives do young people have for their likes in this society? I read that a lot of young Greek people are trying to live a life without money or they invent their own local currency. How does something like this work? If it comes to the Euro rescue, politicians like to make us believe the Euro is without any alternatives (“alternativlos”) for a common future. Is that true? Hopefully, I can find some answers to that question in Greece. My next country will be Turkey. Maybe I would not have chosen Turkey if I hadn’t have had so many Turkish pupils in my politics class in school, discussing every Turkey-related topic very passionately. Of course, one of the most burning questions was, if Turkey should be part of the European Union. I’ve been in Istanbul once and it seemed very European to me. But what about the rest of Turkey? And do the Turkish youth want to be part of Europe despite the crisis?The sixth country will be Latvia. In 2009 I stayed in Latvia for a year. I speak Latvian and know the country very well. In 2009, Latvia was in a big crisis. I was shocked when I saw the statistics. During my stay I heard the word “crisis” nearly every day. Nevertheless, life seemed quite normal to me. The crisis wasn’t as obvious as I expected a crisis to be. Now, a few years after the crisis, I want to know if life is different now. Is there a moment when you can feel that a crisis is over? And is the crisis really over for the people or just for the big companies? Maybe the Latvian youth can give advice on how to handle a crisis to the rest of Europe? Finally, I’ll go to Norway. In Germany my generation is called the pragmatic generation. All the surveys say that we fear the future and mainly hope for financial and personal security. After the horrible attack on Utoya 2011 I heard the Norwegian Prime minister say that a society has to grow even more tolerant, open and free after such an attack. I was astonished. If anything comparable happens in the rest of the world, I usually hear a call for more security and control. Maybe I’ll find a youth with less fear and more dreams in Norway? Also everybody says the Norwegian are Europe-friendly, although they voted against joining the EU in 1994. I want to know why and how they imagine a future in Europe without the EU. Who knows, maybe the youth got some new ideas for Europe?
To make it easier to find people in every country I’ve got a number of contacts in every country but mostly I’ll travel with couchsurfing to get to know people. By travelling with couchsurfing every stay could be the beginning of a new European story.
I want to write a blog about my experiences and findings and hope to interest my readers with it. I think the blog could be good for anybody who is interested in Europe and European politics in general, but also for anyone who follows news of one of the countries I travel to. With the blog I hope to create new perspectives for Europe and awaken the interest for the people rather than just the economy Hopefully, the writings will lead to a book.
Readers might wonder why I want to do this. I have been interested in politics since I was a little girl and always loved to talk to people and change things. I’m an open-minded girl with many travel- and couchsurfing experiences. Also, I’ve got a lot of writing experience. In 2008, I represented Berlin at the German speaking poetry slam championships in Zurich. During my exchange year in 2009 I wrote a Blog. I participated in many writing workshops and wrote for different local newspapers. In short, writing is a passion of mine.
I want to do this journey now – not only because Europe is at a historic point but also, because my age is my advantage. I can meet people from my generation easily and I have a different view on the world as older people may have.