On May 29 2014, the German city of Aachen
hosted the annual International Charlemagne Prize ceremony. The Prize has a
64-year old history: it was initiated in 1949 by a businessman from Aachen, Kurt Pfeiffer, with the aim of acknowledging the
contribution to the development of a united Europe.
Since then, numerous politicians and European activists were honoured with this
high award, among others Sir Winston S.
Churchill, German Chancellor Angela
Merkel, former President of Czech
Republic Václav Havel, Pope John
Paul II and Bill Clinton. In
2014 the International Charlemagne Prize was awarded to the President of the
European Council Herman Van Rompuy
for his outstanding contribution to unity of Europe.
The prime-ministers of Ukraine,
Moldova and Georgia arrived to the ceremony in AachenerCity Hall to congratulate Van Rompuy.
Charlemagne Prize 2014 happened to take place in a difficult period for Europe:
flourishing crisis in a number of European countries, violent conflicts in Ukraine and the
triumph of right-wing parties at the European Parliament elections represent a
desperate need for change.
But if the
politicians are still searching for reasons, there are those who are brave
enough to deal with the consequences. 28 young people from all the EU member
countries who accepted the challenge of making a change, were celebrated on May
27 at European Charlemagne Youth Prize 2014 in the assembly hall of Rhine-Westphalia Technical
University in Aachen.
The European Charlemagne Youth Prize was
launched seven years ago as recognition of contribution of young Europeans to
the European integration and the development of European spirit. The variety of both topics and forms
of the projects presented was impressive: workshops, seminars, conferences,
work camps, Model European Parliament, cultural exchanges, online journal,
photo-contest, festival of cultures, orchestra and choir exchange. The issues
covered in the projects show the readiness of young people to overtake the
responsibility for Europe: developing
tolerance between communities, European integration through culture, mobility,
environmental protection, fighting stereotypes, human rights, building European
identity, education, bringing Europeans closer to each other. Still, the issue
of youth unemployment was on the top of the list on that day. No wonder that
two of the projects devoted to this topic were awarded with the 3rd
and the 2nd prizes.
Employment4U from Cyprus, which got the 3rd
award, organized a training week for 26 young people from the countries mostly
affected by the crisis with the goal of increasing their employability. Christiana Malay, who presented
Employment4U in Aachen,
has mentioned that most of the participants found a proper job after taking
part in the project. The goal of the Dutch initiative JouwDelft & Co, which gained the 2nd prize, was to increase the
employability and employment of young people on the local level. In November
2013 JouwDelft & Co together with youth from other European cities held a
congress, which resulted in the resolution on fighting youth unemployment that
was forwarded to the European Parliament.
But the winner of the contest became the
project which managed to cover all the significant youth issues in Europe at
Europefrom Denmark is a 12-month
long journey through 24 European countries, which portrays young Europeans with
their habits, wishes, fears and expectations.Peter
Laugesen, the heart and the soul of Our
Europe, confesses that he feels even more European after his journey. While
travelling, Peter discovered many similarities between different Europeans,
especially their openness to a dialogue and readiness to act. In the series of
reports from different countries Our
Europe brings young Europeans together, enabling them to be the voices of
their generation. Peter himself is a great example of a modern European, he is
enthusiastic, determined and full of ideas. He strongly believes in European
identity and is convinced that young generations are able to fight the
consequences of the crisis. His saying “We have to be strong and arrogant enough to
say it’s our Europe!” can be the motto for
the whole generation Y.
Charlemagne Youth Prize 2014 demonstrated the strong will of European youth to
get the situation under their control. They don’t want to wait and hope anymore
that tomorrow will be better than today, that someone will come and provide
them with jobs, education and European identity. The vice-president of the
European Parliament Anni Podimata has mentioned in her speech at the ceremony
that “these young people belong to the most educated generation in history and
with their projects they prove that united Europe
has future”. Unfortunately, the most
educated generation is still the most jobless: 2 out of 3 Europeans under 25
are unemployed. The issues of youth unemployment and disappointment in
Europe were in the air during the European Charlemagne Youth Prize 2014, as
well as during the Charlemagne Prize Forum on Europe
on May, 28.
included the podium discussion Europe 2.0: Who, why and where?, during which
the laureates of International Charlemagne Prize Jean-Claude Trichet and György
Konrád together with Luis Alvarado
Martinez from AEGEE-Europe (the winner of ECYP2013), Elina Makri (the winner of ECYP2012)
and John Holten (writer, the 2nd
winner of ECYP2010) were debating on the future perspectives of Europe. Luis
Alvarado Martinez pointed out that “The issue of youth unemployment is not an
economic problem – it is a social and psychological problem in Europe. People exclude themselves from the society, they
feel ashamed and faithless”. The problem is that for the majority of people Europe is still an abstract phenomenon they can’t
identify themselves with. The turnout of the voters at the recent European
Parliament election is the best evidence of it – in most countries the citizens are rejecting European institutions.
Mr. Alvarado Martinez has a solution of this problem: “We don’t have to take
for granted the rejection of Europe. We want a
new project to re-inspire youth and their belief in European dream”. This
attitude is shared also by Maja
Stojanovska, the national ECYP2014 winner from Sweden: “We need education about
European ideology, not about the European Parliament or the Council of Europe”
– stated the young activist at the Charlemagne Prize Forum.
The winners (left to right): Peter Laugesen, Aron van Wijk, Christiana Malay.
celebrations are over, the laureates and national winners got back to their
home countries to continue their activities for the good of European youth. The
European authorities got the message and hopefully will commit effectively to the
raising of the European spirit among the youth and getting them more involved
into life of united Europe. Peter Laugesen is
planning to produce a documentary about Our
Europe journey and share his enthusiasm with more Europeans.
What are you going to do to make Europe a
place to be for young people? Do you have any ideas? Share them with OneEurope, with your local AEGEE antennae or the
national winners of ECYP2014 you like. Who knows, maybe your project will
win the European Charlemagne Youth Prize 2015.
more about European Charlemagne Youth Prize at
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