Throughout EUROCITIES 2018 Edinburgh a young ambassadors programme will give young people the chance to learn from and contribute to the conference and its debates. Here we get to know Marion Seisenbacher from Vienna, Ovidiu Cimpean from Cluj-Napoca and Victoria Afnani from Kungsbacka and discover why they were inspired to become young ambassadors and why equality, inclusivity and environmental protection are among the issues that matter most to them.
Tell us about yourself
Marion: I studied spatial planning at the Vienna University of Technology. For the last three years of my academic path, I worked at KDZ - Centre for Public Administration Research as a project assistant. I am now a research associate at KDZ and my main focus is on public finances and European governance.
Ovidiu: I am the director of local development at the City Hall of Cluj-Napoca, in charge of European funding projects and the management of the city's Innovation and Civic Imagination Centre. I have a bachelor’s degree in Political Sciences from Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, a master’s degree in Comparative European Political Studies, a master's degree in Political Sciences and a PhD in International Relations and European Studies.
Victoria: I’m 18 years old and study social science with an economic focus in high school. I work as a tutor and sports instructor as well as participating in different projects and I am really looking forward to being part of Eurocities 2018.
Why did you want to be a young ambassador for your city?
M: It is very important for citizens to get involved in future developments and I try to start with myself. I applied for the young ambassadors programme because I am very interested in the development of European cities and often dealt with different city affairs, especially in Vienna, in the course of my spatial planning studies. I want to exchange experiences with people from other cities and create future cities as well as a future Europe together.
O: Being nominated to represent my city as a young ambassador is a responsibility and also a self-acknowledgement of my role in the local ecosystem of one of the most dynamic cities in this part of Europe. I believe in the importance of assuming one's role in the community to create a context for development and make the younger generation's voice heard at the decision making level. At the same time, I take all opportunities to learn and develop myself, to meet the expectations of my community. I strongly believe in working in a team, in the importance of creating a local ecosystem not an ecosystem. It is always exciting to meet new people and hear their views.
V: I believe that it will be very educational to be part of this programme as a young ambassador and to develop my competencies as well as build contact networks for the future. To be able to meet people from all over Europe helps one become a more open and understanding individual.
What message would you send to the president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont?
M: EUROCITIES, as a network of major European cities, has the ability to have an essential impact on how decisions in a multi-level governance structure can be made. It is very important to get people involved in these decisions and to show them the possibilities to participate. We have to generate interest in designing the future of Europe, the countries and the cities together.
O: I would like to thank Mr Daniel Termont for the`Cities4Europe - Europe for Citizens` project, which shows the importance of putting different communities from the EU together. It also creates a context for each city to acknowledge for its inhabitants their European identity and the way Europe makes a difference in their everyday life. Recognising European young leaders as a driving force to move their local communities, all over the continent, creates an environment where communication and partnership are at the heart of the process. It also helps drive energies towards changing and merging the mindset of the individuals who will have a say in how Europe will look tomorrow.
V: I thank you greatly for giving me the opportunity to discuss various topics concerning the future of Europe with different cities and people. It is a great honour to be attending the EUROCITIES conference in Edinburgh 2018.
What one thing do you really like about your city?
M: One of my favourite places in Vienna is the Alte Donau, a branch of the Danube. It’s a very green spot with lots of places where you can go swimming in the river or sit at the waterside and enjoy a good book or have a coffee. I like it very much because you meet lots of different people and most parts of this public space are free to use.
O: Cluj-Napoca is fortunate to have its own historical dish, 'cabbage a la Cluj' (varza a la Cluj), which reinterprets the taste of the traditional Romanian stuffed cabbage through Cluj's multicultural taste into a dish that everybody enjoys.
V: One of my favourite things to do during the summer is to visit an event called the Culture Party in Gothenburg (20 minutes from Kungsbacka), which lasts for five days. During the event there are stands serving food from all over the world and concerts with artists from each corner of the planet. In my opinion, nothing that beats the festive feeling and the multicultural atmosphere.
What three items would you take to a desert island?
M: A book on how to survive on a desert island, a sketchbook and a pen
O: Water – to live, books – to nourish the mind, lighter – because fire is the element that will push evolution.
V: A toolbox, 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D Salinger and my dog.
What three things would you do if you were mayor of your city for a day?
M: I would definitely focus on the allocation of affordable housing of an acceptable standard. I would also place emphasis on reducing the use of motorised individual transport within the city and beyond its borders. I would try to maintain the high quality of living and attempt to further fulfil the needs of society, ecology and the economy.
O: Sustainable mobility, electric cars and bikes and smart city solutions would be on the top of my agenda. Involving citizens in the decision making process would also be important in order to have the best solutions for our city. Access to education, culture and sport would be at the core of local public policies since these are the key factors for ensuring citizens' quality of life. If I was mayor for a day I would invest my energy in achieving the goals of this vision at the local level.
V: I would focus on equal studies in school to stop the gender gaps that cause sexism and affect people's lives. I would spread awareness about the reasons behind migration to stop the increasing xenophobia and racism, especially towards refugees who have fought their way to Europe. I would also spread awareness about the environmental issues our world is facing. I would provide people with hope for a better future and focus on the positives in how far we’ve come regarding climate goals.
How would you complete this sentence: ‘My Europe in 2030 will…'?
M: … live human rights, provide everyone with a home of decent quality and ensure public transport enables people to avoid motorised individual transport. Everyone will have equal chances within an inclusive education system. The future Europe will have managed to create and secure jobs and to raise its overall quality of living.
O: … stand for the liberty of all individuals. It will be a Europe that ensures freedom of speech, movement and work and a Europe that leaves no one behind. Europe in 2030 will be the leading power in the world in education, research and innovation. We will be environmentally friendly and we will protect our planet.
V: … be a place where unity and diversity go hand in hand and where millions of people are able to live their lives in an equal democracy. As the world-famous actor Charlie Chaplin once said, "In this world there's room for everyone and a good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful."