The young ambassadors programme that will run throughout EUROCITIES 2018 Edinburgh empowers young people to speak their mind and promote their own agendas. Here we are introduced to Gabriel Pritz from Berlin, Jonathan Lessing from Dusseldorf and Karlijn Veltjen from Netwerkstad Twente and learn about their dreams for Europe, their favourite city events and places and their hopes of being inspired at the conference.
Tell us about yourself
Gabriel: I moved to Berlin for my voluntary service with a political NGO. Now I am looking forward to studying law. Besides that, I am active in the Young European Federalists section in my city. I am particularly interested in languages and literature and speak French, English and a little bit of Chinese.
Jonathan: Professionally, I am a banker and lecturer, work on my family’s farm and offer city tours in Duesseldorf. In my free time, I am involved in an NGO that works to promote cultural exchange and politics as well as in a young European party. I enjoy Jazz and travelling. I am a convinced European.
Karlijn: I am 23 years old. I am a creative, spontaneous and enthusiastic girl from the Netherlands. I work as a junior strategic advisor for the municipality of Hengelo. I enjoy learning new things and am not afraid to take on a good challenge.
Why did you want to be a young ambassador for your city?
G: The vision of a united, decentralised European Union with cities and regions having a strong say fascinates me. In Edinburgh, I hope to explore different solutions that cities all over Europe have found for similar problems and how EUROCITIES works together with the European institutions. I am also very much looking forward to exchanging my ideas with other young ambassadors!
J: Since my time in high school, I have involved myself in bodies and committees – discussing and developing positions on political questions has become a personal passion. Since I started studying economics in Dusseldorf I have started to get active, especially on behalf of European questions – culturally as well as politically. For me, EUROCITIES is a perfect way of combining my vision for Europe, my experience in committee work and my passion for Dusseldorf.
K: I am curious to meet all the other young ambassadors and enlarge my network. I expect to gain a lot of new knowledge and feel inspired by the full programme. I feel most comfortable when I can co-create and participate by working together in a group.
What message would you send to the president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont?
G: Thank you very much for your commitment to EUROCITIES’ cause and for giving young people the opportunity to participate in the conference!
J: Dear Mr Termont, with EUROCITIES you chair an important network representing interests from the local political level to the European Institutions. EUROCITIES offers cities an opportunity to cooperate in a cross-border way - to overcome the obstacles of national borders, as the EU should not only consider the position of a state’s government. To bring the EU closer to local needs, EUROCITIES should permanently form a local voice in the direction of Brussels.
K: Hi Mr Termont. What a great idea to augment the annual meeting with a dedicated programme integrated into the main conference programme for young ambassadors. In this way you give young people the chance to be present and active at a big event and conference. Let this be an example for other organisations, because a future without youth is no future at all. Thanks for this opportunity!
What one thing do you really like about your city?
G: The Schwedter Steg is a pedestrian bridge that was rebuilt after Berlin’s reunification. It runs high above railway tracks and green areas and when you jog over it on a summer’s evening you have a magnificent view of the city centre and the television tower.
J: In Dusseldorf I especially appreciate the carnival – a time starting in November and lasting until February filled with events of music, laughter and dance. What makes it special? Less the costumes and parties, more the fact that people are up for taking themselves less seriously. In parallel, it reinforces the tradition that a satirical critical eye on politics and society is not only tolerated but expected. From my point of view these are two ideas worth being spread widely.
K: On Friday 1 June 2018 we will celebrate the 43rd edition of the Stork Night of Hengelo. This is a really big professional cycling race of 90 kilometres through to the city centre. This event has grown into one big party for tens of thousands of enthusiastic visitors. Not only because of the always exciting cycling race but also because of the full programme of music, performances and festive activities.
What three items would you take to a desert island?
G: A good novel, swimming goggles and a satellite phone.
J: Pen, paper, piano.
K: A pocket knife. A toothbrush. A firestone (flintstone).
What three things would you do if you were mayor of your city for a day?
G: If I were mayor for one day, I would take steps to extend democracy in schools by initiating direct elections of student councils with their own budget and competences. I would favour alternative residential projects like housing cooperatives in the allocation of building permits and plots. I would take immediate measures to reduce space dedicated to automotive mobility to the advantage of cyclists and public transport.
J: Strengthen the cohesion of different cultures in my city. Deepen the European profile of my city with even more intercultural activities. Educate with a greater European focus, by having more European schools and lobbying for a European university.
K: First of all, I would like to fill up the empty buildings and plots in our city centre because this is where most of our cultural experiences happen. An even more attractive programme full of cultural activities and aspects would be a good start. My second priority would be a greener city. And last but not least, I would want to bring a better connected Europe to everyone’s attention.
How would you complete this sentence: ‘My Europe in 2030 will…'?
G: …be one united but decentralised republic built on the equality and sovereignty of all European citizens, protected by a European constitution.
J: …be a stronger political union with more legislative power and more focus on the European parliament. The common base will be more the shared values than the shared currency and the common aim will be a solid Europe, not a solid national state within it.
K: ...be better connected and smaller than ever so we can enjoy cultural events and cultural expression everywhere by travelling in an energy efficient and sustainable way. More fast train connections between different countries would be a great start!