"If the EU stops its engagement in its southern neighbourhood, we will have to build a new Berlin wall through the Mediterranean," Alar Olljum, representative of the European External Action Service, provocatively stated in front of 32 young leaders.
At the first Young Leaders for Europe forum held by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Heinz Nixdorf Stiftung on June 23-26, 2014 in North Rhine-Westphalia, 32 young leaders from selected EU member states and North Africa discussed the challenges of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
The ENP has failed. Against this background, participants from politics, business, the media and NGOs were supposed to develop potential reforms for the ENP.
A simulation game on crisis management in the European neighbourhood asked participants to demonstrate diplomatic susceptibility and negotiation skills. In several workshops, participants shared experiences from transformation processes within and beyond Europe and conceived improved strategies to support them more effectively. Close-to-reality and concrete projects were favoured, such as media trainings, initiatives to improve legal education, academic exchange programmes and concise labour market reforms benefiting young people, in particular.
Talks with personalities from German, European and international politics were special highlights. Former member of Deutscher Bundestag for the Greens, Viola von Cramon, and Elmar Brok, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, discussed Germany’s role in current European crisis management.
The Tunisian MP Moncef Cheikh-Rouhou particularly impressed the participants. He reported about the political transformation processes in Tunisia, explained the importance of the new constitution for the Tunisian people, and gave some background to the dialogue among the different political parties.
The role of the social media in the Arabellion and tips and tricks of communicating the hard stuff of political topics to a young audience were debated at the WDR headquarters in Cologne. At world heritage site Zeche Zollverein participants learnt more about structural change in North Rhine-Westphalia and the consequences of the German energy revolution. Speakers such as Vera Brenzel, Head of the E.ON representative office in Brussels, and Desertec spokesman Paul van Son helped understand the challenges.
Speakers from Egypt, Libya and Syria demanded more political commitment and presence from the EU. “It is high time for a post-modern European Neighbourhood Policy,” the Syrian speaker stated.
Michael Thumann, diplomatic correspondent of German weekly DIE ZEIT, examined the role of Turkey and Russia in the MENA region.
About Young Leaders for Europe
Young Leaders for Europe is the successor to the SommerAkademie Europa, a former cooperation project of the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Heinz Nixdorf Stiftung. With an international circle of participants, the new format focuses on European Neighbourhood policy issues.