My Europe Is a Part of This World

Traditional parade, Spotlight Europe
Open-mindedness and curiosity for other cultures: “We want our volunteers to understand, not to judge. We want them not only to understand structures, but people.” (Flickr: Marc Sardon/licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Some time ago I had the pleasure to read Alessia Tavarone’s post on her visit to the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. 70 years after its liberation, Alessia reflects on the patterns that made segregation, persecution and subsequently Auschwitz possible. Her reflections come with a warning: Do not trick yourself into thinking that this is something 70 years and a world away. Until today people are made victims because of their descent, their beliefs or their sexual identity. If we want to live in open and peaceful societies we have to create and recreate them—one day at a time. Or to put it in Alessia’s words: “Change the world. Promote respect, promote peace.“

“We need more than mere political and economic ties between societies in Europe”

It is no coincidence that UNESCO was established in the same year the camps and Europe were liberated. The United Nations and UNESCO themselves are reactions to the Second World War. Their major task is what Alessia just described: to promote respect and to promote peace. Therefore we need more than mere political and economic ties between societies in Europe and around the world. We also need a deeper understanding of each other and a more intense cooperation with each other in the fields of education, science and culture. This firm belief is expressed in the preamble to UNESCO’s constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

As German Commission for UNESCO we want and we have to add to this vast goal. And we understand ourselves as part of a global neighborhood—including Europe but not excluding the rest of the world. To me global thinking is a necessity in a globalized world. When UNESCO and its National Commissions promoted the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, they called for a broad change in educational policies worldwide. If we want e.g. slow climate change it is not enough to change the mindset of only a few people. Since everybody on this planet is affected by its impacts we have to rethink as humankind. If we want to consume responsibly and sustainably—to give others the chance to lead the lives and future they want for themselves—we have to understand global production chains and how interwoven they are: between Germany and Greece, but likewise between Europe and South East Asia.

“Learn what it really means to be a stranger”

But we also have to have less abstract knowledge about our global neighbors. Our Commission does not solely aim at strengthening the bonds to fellow National Commission for UNESCO, but between people from around the globe as well. With our youth voluntary service kulturweit we offer people aged 18 to 26 the chance to work in German cultural and educational institutions abroad: in countries of the Global South, in Eastern Europe and the CIS. During their service all our volunteers share the same experience. They learn what it really means to be a stranger and that structures in daily life may differ from the ones known to them. In this situation we want our volunteers to do one thing: trying to understand, not to judge. And we want them not only to understand structures, but people. Therefore our pedagogical program follows a transcultural approach. We try to convey a complex model of cultural identity: One where identity is to be understood as an individual mosaic of attitudes shaped by personal experience. This way we can learn to perceive our global neighbors for what they really are: individuals with diverse backgrounds rather than Germans, Greeks or Argentinians.

“Europe must no longer think of itself as an island.”

And in the very same way Europe must no longer think of itself as an island. It is more than that. The European states and their Union are connected to regions around the globe. What Europe needs is a more open approach towards itself and towards others. Promoting respect and peace starts with practicing it—notwithstanding economic and political interests. In the famous film “Cabaret” the famous song goes: “If you could see her with my eyes….”.

About the author:
Dr. Verena Metze-Mangold, Spotlight Europe
Dr. Verena Metze-Mangold (Original Picture by UNESCO)

Dr. Verena Metze-Mangold is President of the German Commission for UNESCO. Being a political scientist and journalist she is a Commission member since 1982. More

About the voluntary service kulturweit:
kulturweit is the international youth voluntary service of the German Commission for UNESCO. From April 1 to May 5, 2015 people aged 18 to 26 living in Germany can apply online for a voluntary service in educational and cultural institutions around the world. For further information go to

Let`S Be Clear

Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl, Spotlight Europe
A new series by the “My Europe” initiator Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl has started. (picture: Remix by Spotlight Europe)

A new series has started on Spotlight Europe! Each week, the founder of “My Europe” Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl will present his thoughts on ongoing matters in the European Union. He will show which role the youth can take to make its interests in current and future European affairs known.

Riots, fear and uncertainty about tomorrow’s events prevail in Europe. Populist left-wing and right-wing groups threaten to compress freedom and jolt the doors of the European fortress:

– In Greece Alexis Tsirpas who is leading the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) has recently become prime minister.

– In Spain, the new populist left-wing movement Podemos has assembled a considerable amount of supporters.

– In France, Marine Le Pen is constantly gaining support for her right-wing party Front National.

– In Italy, Matteo Salvini has successfully transformed the conservative Lega Nord party into a populist, right-wing Anti-Euro party.

– In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders advocates nationalism with his right-wing party PVV.

– In Great Britain, the patriotic Ukip party which is led by Nigel Farage (who has a seat in the European Parliament by the way) demand their country to leave the eurozone.

– In Denmark, the Danish right-wing populist party DF rejoices at an increasing support among voters.

– In Austria, the Freiheitliche Partei Österreich (FPÖ) is also gaining momentum.

These parties clearly want to build a different Europe and seek to abolish its common currency, the Euro. Their further claims are regionalization and nationalization. With the help of negative populist slogans these groups discredit the unity of Europe and deliberately endanger the common currency.

“Europe has a historic obligation.”

Once you have taken notice of their statements, you also have to keep in mind that after centuries of war and expulsion which resulted in the death of millions of people, the unification of these European countries is historically unique and shows that peace is always an option. Sometimes the fact is forgotten that European nations like Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, France and to a minor degree also Germany (and since the beginning of the 20th century also the United States of America) used to dominate the world and exploited their colonies causelessly. The afflicted nations in South America, Asia and Africa still haven’t forgotten about this difficult time. Especially Europe – the European Union – has a historic obligation to do its utmost to promote a peaceful coexistence of people on all continents.

Europe’s youth, which is heir to this historical dimension, wants peace and freedom. The young Europeans aged between 15 and 25 years who engage in the “My Europe” initiative, stand together behind a unified Europe and the Euro as common currency.

For them, the Euro is not only a solely financial factor but a common culture and identity that they will defend with all possible means.

“We want to call the youth for advocating the European values.”

The Youth Council for the Future has recently presented five criteria that clearly and uncompromisingly indicate how Europe’s future should be designed. These are: Gender, Education, Religion, Tolerance and Employment.

These are the central topics that have been voted on in a poll among the adolescents. These are also the topics that they want to work on in order to shape a peaceful future.

You as young people – your are Europe´s future!

We want to call the youth for advocating the European values and to resist all groupings that seek to defeat these values or make use of them exclusively, that discriminate minorities and/or work against the equality of people.

Young people of all countries, unite! Make it plain to all political, economic and social groups that you want to live in freedom and peace.


About the author:

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