The special young ambassadors programme that will run throughout EUROCITIES 2018 Edinburgh aims to give young people an insight into how we work and the challenges we're addressing and an opportunity to get involved in our discussions. Here we get to know Nanouk Lemmerling from Ghent, Rok Milavec from Ljubljana and Sonia Singh from Vantaa and find out what they would do if they were mayor of their city for a day and whose future vision for Europe involves flying cars, high educational standards and the circular economy.
Tell us about yourself
Nanouk: I graduated in international politics at Ghent University. I did internships at the United Nations in New York and at the Belgian embassy in Beirut. I want to learn as many languages as possible during my lifetime. I appreciate being direct and sincere.
Rok: I am 18-years old and currently in the senior year of high school. In my free time I like to play sports, debate various controversial topics with friends and organise events. I love to meet new people and learn new things.
Sonia: I’m a young 18-year-old student who loves sports, politics and learning. I enjoy travelling and learning about different cultures. I feel honoured to be able to participate in this conference at a young age and I’m excited to meet the young participants from all around Europe!
Why did you want to be a young ambassador for your city?
N: I love debating with other people, especially those of my own age. Having interesting conversations with people who are equally as passionate about politics is something I expect from the experience. To become a young ambassador we had to give a TED-style talk and get elected. The whole contest was so exciting. I enjoy public speaking so much and I wish to continue it during the conference.
R: I have always wanted to be an active citizen and participate in local, as well as national and international, community, so I saw a great opportunity to learn about inter-city connections and cooperation and contribute my ideas. I hope to meet new wonderful people and broaden my knowledge on inter-city cooperation. Furthermore, I wish to exchange ideas with the people I meet and hopefully learn something new.
S: I have been a member of our local youth council for several years. This felt like a great opportunity to represent all the young people who are trying to make a difference in their local community despite their young age. I expect to learn a lot from all the influential people and to become more aware of the problems in Europe and how to handle them.
What message would you send to the president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont?
N: Hey Mr. Termont. You have been the mayor of my city since I was small and I have always admired you. We might not always share the same political views, but I am so proud you served our city for so long in such a beautiful way and I know the real Gentenaren will miss you when you leave us in October!
R: In my opinion it is very important for young people to be included in politics, so I would like to thank you for the opportunity you have given us at the EUROCITIES Edinburgh 2018 conference.
S: To begin with, I would like to mention that it was a great idea to involve young people in this conference. Decision making shouldn’t always be the older people’s job and this is a great step towards changing people’s perception of decision making.
What one thing do you really like about your city?
N: Gentse Feesten - our 10-day annual festival! Every third week of July you don’t want to be anywhere else but in Ghent! There are 10 days of street theatre, concerts and DJs on the banks of our beautiful river - and Irish coffees until 10 o'clock in the morning. You just switch your biorhythm for these 10 amazing days!
R: My favourite thing in Ljubljana is the city centre at Christmas time. It is decorated with Christmas lights of various shapes such as comets and stars and all the trees are covered with lights as well. The lights are lit at the end of November and stay lit until February. During that time the atmosphere in the centre of the city is amazing. Although I do not like winter this is the best part of the year in Ljubljana.
S: I have always loved how there are such different kinds of areas in my city. On the one hand, Vantaa has all kinds of services nearby, good public transportation, an international airport and all the things that every big city has. But on the other hand, it also has some countryside, forests, lakes and beautiful nature. This variety of environments is what I really like about Vantaa.
What three items would you take to a desert island?
N: Boggle - a stressful yet amazing game, especially if you are grammatically competitive. My GoPro - because I assume there wouldn't be any phone reception so I might as well take my good, waterproof camera. My toothbrush and nail set - sorry that’s two, but it counts as basic hygiene!
R: A knife since survival is the top priority on a desert island. A guitar since I have always wanted to learn how to play, but I have never had time, so this would be a great opportunity. A plastic container for storing water.
S: I would take my sister, a 1,000-page book and a basketball.
What three things would you do if you were mayor of your city for a day?
N: I would get very innovative and create green cycling paths and bridges. I'd also organise a high-level artificial intelligence conference - Elon Musk would be a main speaker. And I'd invest in many more ATMs (we barely have any and it’s so inconvenient).
R: Firstly, I would implement traffic zones solely for electric vehicles, dedicate a high proportion of parking spaces to electric cars and equip them with charging stations. Furthermore, I would aim to expand the city centre in order to prevent overcrowding and evenly distribute tourists throughout the city. Lastly, I would work on the problem of housing availability, as this is the biggest problem young people face when starting a family.
S: I would build an underground train. I would organise more events and things to do in Vantaa. I would involve more young people in decision making.
How would you complete this sentence: ‘My Europe in 2030 will…'?
N: … be a cultivated democracy that has found a long-term solution for the migration influx. We will be driving flying cars and having a personal robot will be normal.
R: …be inclusive to people of all races and religions. The states will work together towards implementing the circular economy and shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Furthermore, they will fight poverty and famine and strive for a high standard of living for all people.
S: …have high-class education and healthcare and approximately the same standards of living in every European country.