Message to our world leaders

Professor Pohl

Today we stand at an era of major change, but we are also at a crossroad where we have to make decisions on how we want to live our lives in the future.

The terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015 and the terror in many parts of the world today (e.g. IS and Boko Haram) illustrate in an extreme way that patriarchal structures are still very dominant in most parts of the world.

Not only have men invented religion but they also use religion to justify their actions. They want to decide on how people should live their cultural, religious as well as their social and professional lives. They misuse religion as a justification for their terrorist acts and want to create chaos, fear and a feeling of insecurity worldwide.

The consequence in western countries is not only the fear of more terrorist attacks but also an increase of right-wing extremism. In other words, liberal democracy is threatened from two sites: Global terrorism and right-wing radicalism.

We also know that the world has become more connected through modern digital communication systems that enable the sharing of information on a global level within seconds. Yet, at the same time terrorists are also using the same media for their own purposes.

Thus, the world has become more connected but also more vulnerable. What can we do about it?

  • We need a global territorial reform. The main world leaders, who are currently meeting at the G20 summit in Turkey have to send a strong political signal showing that they condemn the terrorist acts and that they do not tolerate war and terror. Moreover they need to demonstrate their will to solve current and arising conflicts between their countries. This means that state borders have to be determined and guaranteed. The use of armed forces will be necessary to carry out this task.
  • Furthermore it is indispensable to promote the inclusion and equal opportunities in countries with a high number of socially deprived groups and a high unemployment rate. It is important to create structures with equal access to education as well as economic and social help for those who need it, so that people get the chance to live in their own countries and are not forced to be refugees in the search for a better life.
  • Finally, the separation of state and religion is necessary for a successful global territorial reform. Moreover, the acceptance of every culture and every religion are fundamental requirements for a peaceful coexistence.

All of this might seem utopian. However, it is a project that is feasible if the powerful of the world today are willing to put it into practice.


About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…


Speak Out

Two women on the street talking to each other. Both are dressed in long coats, Spotlight Europe
“My mother said ‘That’s my coat.’ The woman answered with a laugh. ‘No it’s not, it’s mine and very expensive’’. She meant that my mother could never afford that kind of coat.” (Flickr: randallo/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I am sitting at the school bench and thinking about what to write. It’s an early Tuesday morning and I can’t find anything that I think is a problem in the EU. My thoughts are spinning around in my head but suddenly I am starting to think about my parents, about immigration in the EU. My mother is from Iraq and my dad is from Bosnia, they were coming to Sweden about twenty years ago. They both have their stories that I love to listen too, but if I have to connect one of their stories with the EU, it will probably be my mother’s.

My mother has had a fulfilling childhood. In her family it was very important that you reveived a good education. So she became an engineer. It was the beginning of the war and my mother and her family needed to leave their country. I could tell you her story about her trip, but it would not tell you anything about the EU.

When my mother came to Sweden she was sad that she had lost her career. She had no job, not so much money but she made the best of it. She started cleaning to get money. During that time she has met my dad. She cleaned about 10 hours a day but still had not much food on the table.

“It was not any coat you could buy anywhere.”

My dad liked to surprise my mother, so one day when she was coming home from a day of cleaning he gave her ’’that coat’’. It was not any coat you could buy anywhere. It was the coat my mother saw in the glass window in the very famous luxury gallery that has its name ’’NK’’ in Stockholm. It was too expensive for my mum to buy it.

Next day it was cleaning time. She was going to clean a big house where a very rich family lived. This woman who lived there had a career and looked down on people like my mother who didn’t have much money.

My mum wore her very expensive coat that day and she had left it in the hall. This woman was going out to run an errand. While she was putting on her shoes she took my mother’s coat on. My mother said ’’That’s my coat.’’ The woman answered with a laugh ’’No it’s not, it’s mine and very expensive’’. She meant that my mother could never afford that kind of coat. My mother asked her to look for the size. The woman saw that my mum was right. It was her coat. She left it and walked out without saying a word.

“Don’t let your career ever take over your self-esteem.”

Your education is important but don’t let your career ever take over your self-esteem. Today my mother is working at an office. We are neither rich nor poor. My parents always want that we get everything they can afford.

Maybe you wonder what my mother’s story has to do with the EU? I want to confirm that it’s a tragedy how society is built. We are all human beings, why don’t we act like that? You who’s reading this, you are a part of society, we all are. Never think that someone is better than you because they’re not.

My EU 2030 would be different when it comes to society and education. Your career is telling you who you are today: If you have a bad job there are always people who will look down on you and you will feel that you’re not their ’’level’’. That is scaring me.

In 2030 the EU parliament should start an project about how we can save society. It will organize events around the EU area and you will get to know people from the different layers of society. And if you come from a country with education you will have the opportunity to still have a job.

“I want 2030 to be released from the word snob, poor and average.”

I want 2030 to be released from the word snob, poor and average. If we look back at my mother’s story we can see that even if she had been rich or poor she would never have been rude to someone. It’s about respect. Maybe you wonder why you need to care? Well, my mother grew up privileged in the beginning before her life changed so drastically. It can also happen to you. Tomorrow there could be a war in your country and you will be in the situation where you have to leave everything.

One of the foremost reasons to create the EU was that they wanted a world with peace. If we let down on society and our education we will never find that ’’Peace’’ we are looking for. It’s not too late to build up a society with more opportunities and it’s not too late to build up a ‘’healthier’’ society either. We all earn this.

I was relating to my mother because this is how the reality looks like. With my article I wanted to confirm that showing respect in society and having more choices in the job market should be a more important discussion in the EU parliament.

About the author:
Melissa Haurdic, Spotlight Europe
Melissa – Author at Spotlight Europe

Melissa participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Stockholm in November 2014. She goes to the ESS-gymnasiet in Stockholm.

Young World-Wide-Minded Europeans towards the EU Political Union (2/2)

People standing before the EU banner crossing hands, Spotlight Europe
If all European nations worked closer together, the enforcement of human rights and immigration issues could be simplified. (Flickr: European Parliament/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Every European citizen should be aware of the fact that since 1950, when the European Convention for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was signed, countries are obliged to respond to any possible violation of human rights to a sovereign Court; this guarantees not only a major respect for every single person but also a stronger persistence of peace and democracy. Therefore Europeans should sensitize national governments to these Court’s functions to be enlarged and made more powerful, being it not only a guarantee for European citizens but also for foreigners who happen to be on the EU territory in order to escape from a dangerous situation for their own freedom or safety.

I am strongly faithful that this further step towards a complete unification can be reached and would mean the best possible guarantee of freedom. Indeed many doors have already been opened in the last 60 years by the EU. Lightening example of this appeared in the 1980s when Greece, Spain and Portugal had to embrace democracy as a fundamental condition for their membership; furthermore, we cannot forget about the situation of permanent peace between France and Germany (comparing to the 3 wars they fought in the last centuries) or still, about many chances of integration with Eastern countries begun after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

Italian coast, Spotlight Europe
Italy is particularly affected by illegal immigration. (Flickr: Paolo Margari/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

What particularly concerns me among the recent issues Europe has to deal with, is that of immigration. Italy, among all European Mediterranean countries, is increasingly and considerably touched by the phenomenon and evidently the measures taken to face it are neither efficient nor sufficient. Though, this is not just a problem linked to Southern nations. This is not only because we all need to develop the idea that all the topics concerning one European country actually concern all of them as parts of a single union. It also brings many more immediate and practical consequences: countries such as Italy are often seen by immigrants just as “Transit Countries”, the first of a long series of steps towards a family reunification up North. My personal interest on the point developed in 2009 when a group of Eritrean and Somalian immigrants arduously arrived next to Italian costs, were collectively sent back to Libya by the Italian authorities. All of this happened without any kind of acknowledgment about their personal backgrounds and any care for the risky and tiring trip they had just faced. The question naturally raised by such an event relates to how it is possible that nowadays a declared democratic country commits such an action, with total disregard to human dignity. Moreover several conventions signed by all European countries state that it is necessary to guarantee immigrants a refugee status whenever they run through the risk of ill-treatment in the country of origin (as in the case previously mentioned).

“It is necessary to make the citizens feel involved.”

My personal requirement to the new European leadership would develop on two levels. First of all, from the European prospective, it is necessary to make the citizens, especially the new generations, feel more involved and personally touched by the problem. The second point would be to better organize and structure more in depth the procedures to welcome, host and help the incoming immigrants.

Indeed the European natives, especially in my country, do not conceive immigrants as a special chance to enlarge the national cultural horizons and as a resource but simply as the “others”, the “different ones” etc. All these feelings belong to a phenomena which should no longer appear in a 21st century democratic society such as racism, xenophobia and so on. A concrete episode which made me develop this belief is happening in my country. In the last 20 years, Lampedusa Island (situated in the extreme South of Italy) has been the symbol of hope and freedom for many refugees escaping from North African coasts.

Sadly, in such an historically fascinating place the first and most cruel kind of Italian stereotype against African immigrants originated.

Girl with a European flag paint on her cheek, Spotlight Europe
“Strengthen a unique European identity, especially among the young generation.” (Flickr: European Parliament/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

To conclude, my personal requirement to the new EU leadership would be to work in order to develop and strengthen a unique European identity, especially among the young generation. The crucial point to focus on would be the respect for human rights; young generations especially should be made more aware of the fact that giving more power to over-national institutions, towards a Political Union, would be the only way to guarantee equal rights and opportunities to every person residing on EU territory. Additionally, young people should especially be taught how to develop a world-wide open way of thinking. For this reason, a common feeling of fear of the other such as the one nowadays present towards immigrants, is no longer acceptable.

About the author:
Camilla Crovella, Spotlight Europe
Camilla – Author at Spotlight Europe

Camilla (21) is a member of the Eustory Alumni Network and writes articles for online magazines. She studies Law at the University of Turin.

“I Still Have the Dream to Go Home One Day”

Two women sitting near the Black Lake, Montenegro, Spotlight Europe
Two different ladies with a different background – yet they both still long for their home countries. (Flickr: amira_a/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Clara: Where are you from? How long do you already live in Germany? What motivated you to come?

Biljana: Originally, I am from Kosovo. I fled to Germany about 15 years ago, due to war in my country. It wasn’t safe anymore for me in my home country.

Karina: I am from Montenegro. My husband and I were pursued due to our political convictions and so we decided to flee to Germany about 17 years ago.

Clara: How did you come?

Biljana: Since I had the right to come to Germany as a war refugee, I came by plane. Although I came legally, the bureaucratic process was really hard and took me an enormous amount of effort and time.

Karina: I am what you can call an illegal immigrant, but actually, once I arrived, we were all treated the same way. For me, the bureaucratic process was also really tough. Since we were classified as numbers, we felt quite humiliated. We kind of feared the administration, because they could decide if you stay or if you have to return where you came from. At that time, I always feared opening my mailbox, because I thought there could be a letter telling me I have to go back. And I know I wasn’t the only one having that fear.

Clara: Have you had difficulties with the language?

Biljana: The switch from Montenegrin to German was really difficult, because both languages are quite different. I still have some difficulties nowadays, although I have lived here for 15 years now. Additionally it was not mandatory to learn German at that time as it is now. There weren’t free German courses. We had to learn everything on our own.

Clara: What was your economic situation before you came? How did it change?

Karina: In fact, I had a good life: I liked my city, I liked my job and I had a good income. When I arrived in Germany, everything changed for me. Although the German and Montenegrin cultures weren’t so different, I couldn’t speak German and therefore I was only able to do the most basic jobs. That was a big economic and professional crash for me.

Clara: How did the Germans receive you?

Karina: In fact, the Germans were quite different. There were Germans who were very nice to me. They gave me help and shelter and they helped me to integrate.

Biljana: There were also people who weren’t nice. One day my son was on a school excursion and there was one bed, which was broken and nobody wanted to sleep on it. So, the teacher decided, that my son had to sleep there, although there was no reason except for the fact that he was a refugee.

Clara: Was it worth for you to come to Germany?

Karina: Yes, I think so. I still have the dream to go home one day, but my children live here and I am quite integrated today. So I can say, I have a new and normal life, which I definitely wouldn’t have had if I had stayed in Kosovo.

Biljana: If you ask me, I’m still not sure, if it was worth it. I still dream a lot of my home country and I still want to go back there. But it was not possible to stay in Montenegro during the war. And so things happened like they did. I can’t change it today. But sometimes I regret having left my home country.

About the interviewer:
Picture Clara Hachmann_small, Spotlight Europe

Clara (18) participated at the My Europe workshop in Munich, Germany, in 2013. She is involved in the work with the Youth Council for the Future.

Laura G. from Madrid

Call- button with a nurse figure on it, Spotlight Europe
Laura found a job as a nurse in Germany – a profession still demanded there. (Flickr: Nat/licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Due to great unemployment among the youth, many young people from Spain have decided to come to Germany to find a job. Laura G. (name changed as requested) is a young women from Madrid, who was fed up of not finding a job in her home country and decided to try her luck in Germany. She agreed to share her experience with me in this interview:

Clara: What motivated you to move to Germany?

Laura: After finishing my schooling to become a nurse, I waited two years for a job in Spain. A friend of mine (also a nurse) had already moved to Germany and told me there was still work left. As I couldn’t wait for a job any longer, I decided to move to Germany.

Clara: How did you get to Germany?

Laura: I saw an announcement on the web, proposing such a travel. First I contacted a company in Spain, which then contacted a company in Munich. I worked in this temporary employment agency in Munich as a nurse for a year, then changed for a private hospital. The whole organisation of this change cost me a lot of effort and time.

Clara: Did you have great difficulties with the language?

Laura: Since I’ve never learned German at school or anywhere else while I was in Spain, it surely was quite difficult. I began to have German classes three weeks before my departure, but it wasn’t enough.

Clara: Has your move been a big change in your life?

Laura: Yes, since I moved alone. My whole family still lives in Spain and even though the support they give me, I miss them a lot. Also, you have here a different culture, different weather…

Clara: Do you feel integrated now?

Laura: The people are really nice here and give their best to make me feel integrated, but since my German isn’t that good, I cannot say that I am perfectly integrated now. I can’t go to the Bank, the doctor or the hairdresser without having difficulties to express myself and I think if you really want to feel integrated you have to do all these things without major difficulties.

Clara: Was it worth it?

Laura: It surely was worth it! I now have a great job with great colleagues and friends. I am really satisfied with my decision to move here!

This interview was translated from German to English

About the interviewer:
Picture Clara Hachmann_small, Spotlight Europe

Clara (18) participated at the My Europe workshop in Munich, Germany, in 2013. She is involved in the work with the Youth Council for the Future.

Kindness Knows No Borders

Young Afghan immigrant waiting hopefully, Spotlight Europe
Thanks to the help of socially committed citizens, immigrants may find new hope. (Flickr: ResoluteSupportMedia/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Not only because of its wealth, but also because of its ideal geographic location right in the middle of Europe, Austria has become an important destination for immigrants and asylum seekers, mainly from Eastern Europe. As the refugee camps fill up and the government is trying to come up with a solution, some citizens have decided to take action themselves.

Mr. Huber (name changed as requested) has been living with a family from Afghanistan for three months now. Since we live in the same neighborhood, he’s been an acquaintance of my family ever since we moved here and when I heard of his rather extraordinary living situation, I knew I had to grasp my opportunity. I invited him over to our house:

Benedict: What was your motive to accommodate this family of three?

Mr. Huber: As I read the newspaper every day, I can’t even miss the countless articles and headlines on refugee camps being full, the government not knowing what to do and, in consequence, the hatred against foreigners growing. I simply felt the urge to do something about this situation. Being 75, my wife has passed away six years ago and my children have obviously moved out as well. I thought to myself: This is a big enough house and I could use some company anyway! So I phoned my daughter and discussed my idea with her.

Benedict: How did she respond?

Mr. Huber: She was definitely a little hesitant at first. She complimented me for wanting to help actively, yet she also pointed out that it would be a little dangerous and unsafe for me to have complete strangers in my house. It took me at least four hours and countless phone calls, but in the end I managed to convince her!

Benedict: Whom did you turn to after your decision?

Mr. Huber: My daughter was very helpful with all of the paperwork and the research. She contacted the Bundesamt für Fremdenwesen und Asyl and they eventually found a family that agreed on leaving a refugee camp to live in a private household. I was especially surprised when I learned that the state would pay me, after all I just wanted to do something good.

Benedict: Do you get on well with the family?

Mr. Huber: I honestly couldn’t be happier with them. I’ve rarely ever met someone as appreciative and polite as them. They (father and mother) raise their two-year-old girl with so much love and even started to teach her the few basic German words that they learnt in the German class I signed them up for.

Benedict: Do you know why they had to leave Kabul?

Mr. Huber: They were surprisingly open about it and sat down with me to tell me the whole story. They are Shiite and when a Sunnite family threatened them with honor killing they knew they had to flee. The trip to Austria must have been terribly exhausting. They fled to Greece, where they were staying illegally for about five days, until the father was arrested. They didn’t really tell me how, but after he got out of prison a few months later, they somehow managed to get to Austria. What makes the whole situation especially dramatic is that the mother is soon expecting her second child and was therefore already pregnant during the trip.

Benedict: Have you already thought about what’s going to happen after they move out from here? After all they can’t stay forever.

Mr. Huber: Unfortunately no one really knows how and when the asylum proceedings are going to end. But as soon as they will receive their basic care money (Grundversorgungsgeld), they will have to start looking for their own place to stay.

This interview was translated from German into English.

About the author:

Benedict Winkler - Author at Spotlight EuropeBenedict (16) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Vienna, Austria, in 2013. Since then he has been a member of the Youth Council for the Future (YCF).