By Natalie Burduli
The European Union has worked to promote peace and unity ever since its creation, and it has largely ensured the freedom, security, and flourishment of its people. Taking into account its rich history, diversity of languages, traditions, and cultures, it becomes easy to see the beauty of being a member country.
In 1948, leaders from around the world came together in the Hague to lay the groundwork for Europe and discuss the future cooperation and unity of countries that share similar values. However, times have changed since the historic birth of the European Union, and today’s Europe is faced with new political, economic, and social issues that need to be resolved through different approaches. The project “Message to Europeans 3.0” aims to create a new narrative, to unite young and skillful students who are not afraid to voice their opinions, and who are ready to identify current problems and propose innovative solutions.
On April 11th and 13th, a re-enactment of The Hague Congress of 1948 took place in the same picturesque and vibrant city of the original. Students from around the world were chosen to participate in an event that has once already changed the course of Europe by establishing peace in the post-war era, and is, yet again, reinventing itself and aiming to improve the values and goals that were proposed in 1948. During this three-day event, students were divided into three committees: Political, Socioeconomic, and Cultural. Their task was to brainstorm and explore the issues that needed to be addressed. Issues such as the migrant crisis, minority rights, freedom of press and many more were discussed. This was followed by drafting the solutions and presenting them to the entire group.
As a non-citizen of the EU, who has nonetheless grown up and lived in Europe, it was a groundbreaking experience for me to see how diverse and complex the framework of the European Union really is. While sitting together with the incredibly intelligent participants who were eagerly bursting with different visions and ideas, I was inspired to further my knowledge and explore the ways that I can contribute to the intricate community that I have called home since I was a child.
An important topic that was brought to light during the first day of the conference was the consideration: what does it mean to be European?
This struck me, and the rest of my team, deeply. After engaging in a long discussion, we came to the conclusion that we all share something very special: the place that we live in, where our friends and family are, where we wake up and take the train to school every morning, and where we envision our future. The place that we share is Europe, a place where we co-exist peacefully and where we welcome each others’ cultures and traditions with open arms.
This discussion truly opened up a different perspective for me, a non-EU student who had, for the first time in my life, the feeling that I was part of something much bigger than myself. Therefore, my participation in this event had a sense of larger value, not only because I was experiencing self-growth, but also because I could offer my own, not very typical, interpretation of what it means to be European. Following this fruitful discussion, I urge every single person to reflect on this question and reconsider their role within this community.
The atmosphere during the whole conference was truly empowering. It is often easy to forget that each person, who is, in one way or another, present in the everyday life of the EU, has the power and capability to engage in civic discussions that could lead to much more prominent changes. As a citizen of Europe, it is essential to remember that we possess the power to address and resolve the issues that we are confronted with.
Moreover, it is often hard to believe that young students can have a say in the big political picture of so many member states, but these kinds of events are exactly what is needed to start a new vision for a better Europe. It is almost unbelievable that during three days of inspirational talks, countless ideas, and exchanges of knowledge, us students were having an impact, not only on the lives of each other, but on the course of the whole of Europe.
The journey is not over yet – if you want to become part of the initiative “Message to Europeans 3.0”, check out this website:
Natalie Burduli, Class of 2020, is a Law and Politics Major from Tbilisi, Georgia.