Demková: EU is for many kind of a black hole

Who are young Europeans and what do they do? We talked to Miroslava Demková a President of Young Europeans about these issues as well as issues that will explain Young Europeans group, their activities, values on which they are based on together with their visions and aims.

Could you describe activities and aims of YE? How do you work, what is your structure and possibly tell us some “behind the scene” curiosity?

The Young Europeans are trying to get to know each other through Europe and beyond to create mutual cooperation. Awareness is the main aim. Education and raising of the awareness about the Community life, examples and experiences of our friends (not only) in Europe.

Even though we are not the youngest members for EU and EEA anymore, awareness of their importance, advantages and utilization is still very low. Expecially the young people who have never traveled beyond the borders of Slovakia usually only rely on the information provided by domestic media, sometimes on rendering of the EU as the cause of worsening of economic conditions. EU is for many kind of a black hole that is consiming money of the Europeans and drives us towards poverty. Or for some it is the cause of meaningless bureaucratic obstructions and laws. This trend presents risks that directly affect us. You need to have knowledge about the community that you live in, as it is the only way to be able to change something. Therefore, the aim of YE is to become yet another source of information for all the people, especially for the new generations that might have a problem to find the answers. Our activities contribute to the cornerstone of a healthy community and its balanced future in favour of democracy development, tolerance and gender equality.

Nowadays, the Young Europeans are lead by a small team of people with a big heart under the guidance of General Manager Linda. Executive body – the bureau has got 5 members and is further comprised of a President, two vice-presidents and one member. With civil associations, as usually, we have our own conciliation and control comission (3 members), a person responsible for management, or the expert groups (comprised of members or non-members) as for example the advisor on marketing or the liaison person for issues of Roma culture.

A curiosity about YE could be that our honorary chairman is not really a typical Slovak man. While the reorganization of our organization at the beginning of this year we decided to keep this possition for Antonio Parziale – an italian native known to the public who came to Slovakia with a daring plan. To found and build a Pan-European political party which was (and still is) unique in our part of Europe. The history of YE is conected to the creation of this political party when based on the idea of Antonio a youth platform with the same name was created. We did not want our history to be forgotten. Even though today we operate as an independent civil association, due to the above mentioned platform, we have got our own name, logo and our values and visions.

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What is your vision about YE for the future? What are you planning?

My wish for YE is to become a reliable source of information in the eyes of young people, based on healthy human values that teach young people to think with their own heads.

I imagine anyone who has got a positive experience from this area wants to share it with others, give advice, hints, ideas..and they are gonna ask: “why now with YE?” This applies to the negative experiences, things that make us angry and things that we want to change or highlight. No matter which political party you are a fan of, whether you are religious or not, whether you prefer marriage or a partnership life…YE is the roof under which we can meet, get to know each other and discuss without a mask on our face, without hate and without support of any kind of violence.

My vision for the future is more effective decision-making processes so the young people have the opportunity to witness the decision-making, understand it, become a part of it and control it. I believe this is the way how to influence decision-making processes towards openness, more efficient and developed democracy. Currently, many activities of young people’s participation are based on confrontation, especially in the places where violation of rights and communication was detected (public protests atc.). And we need to change this!

Young people, however, need to take responsibility and seize the opportunity. They should not wait for the authorities to create the space for them. This is one of the issues that our activity should help with.

The largest event that we are planning for this year and for which we sucessfully gained funding from EP is a seminar with the series of workshops focused on the question of the importance of equality in political and daily life. It is mainly about respect and acceptance of so called disadvantaged groups in society – young people, women and Romas. We are preparing diligently for this event for which we have invited several speakers not only from home, but also from abroad as well as intergovernmental organizations and MEPs. We belive they will confirm their participation despite their busy schedules.

Another event should be taking place at the same time – international organization assembley that gathers young people from 7 European states – Young Democrats for Europe. The assembley will be organized under our sponsorship, our team. The delegates will attend the conferences and workshops. It will be a great opportunity to meet young Europeans here. We have been members of YDE for several years now, we have inhereted the membership during a platform, we have been joining international events of our member partners and together we have a place in YDE Council. Since 2013 I am a Plenipotentiary for international association management. Thanks to the active work we menaged to make ourselves home among the founding countries such as France or Italy. Also these achievments make us exceptionally happy and we are proud that within the social circles noone confuses us with Slovinia or Czech Republic. :-)

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What is your opinion on whether it is necessary to integrate young people into national or European politics?

I think it is an integral part of development of the environment in which we live both socially and economically. Active participation in decision-making processes of young people at all levels. I think that local goverments and schools should not be avoided. It is often much easier to get into a smaller local government in a smaller village as a an MP than to get into European Parliament. The inclusion of young people into politics, starting with the local governments is not unimportant, it is crucial!

These are young people who are not commited to anyone or anything, they are usually reliant to do various interesting activities within their networks with no funds. They are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and find alternative solutions and join good projects as volunteers.
General and political terms recognition and aspirations of young people who are educated, (and I do not only mean academical education) young people who value their origin, language and culture and who are able to accept otherness of others (origin, language, culture, gender, religion, sexual orientation, …), young people for whom intolerance, aggresion, hatred, young people who do not respect when human rights are exceeded…these are the kind of young people the world and Europe needs.

The framework document on which YE is based is participation. Its basic principle states that the existing problems (issues) should be dealt with on a level where they originated. Since 1990 there have been a decentralization process in Slovakia which, among other things transfers competence of youth care or area of education and self- government. In order to survive it is essential to work within this area. Obviously, the changes cannot be made from one day to another. It for sure is a long-term process which includes previously mentioned education. The later we start being seriously involved in this are and the later we are leading younger generations towards passivity, the later we will see the results.

How would you evaluate current situation in EU from the perspective of a young person?

If we look at the EU as a group of communities, it is understanable that actual situation as a whole unfolds according to each individual member which reflects its status.

We do not have to go far, even at home, we can see that the unemployment rate, especially in less developed regions is increasing. For the first quarter of this year the average unemployment rate is at 15%, in areas close to my house the numbers are much higher, for example Snina: 22%. Gross public dept of Slovakia in the first quarter of 2013 exceeded the second constitutional treshold (53%). And we are far from the worst ranking…
Debt burden families are dependent to sacrify their quiet family life, they travel abroad for work that often leads to alienation…even the trend that young people used to come back eventually to start their family in Slovakia is the past now. There is many examples, almost for writing a novel.

Situation in other countries is not different to ours, right the opposite, for example in Italy, Spain and elsewhere people (not only young people) live in worse conditions.

The current situation of EU in the EU countries is complicated. We need to understand, that the politics in EU is created by their members and representatives of national governments. Unless we make order in our own country, to influence European policy migh be even more complicated. To our representatives that we vote for in political sector have a powerful tool in their hands, that can influence our future. This principle has always been working but we should not forget that noone has a power to better the situation with inefficient management over night without consequences.
However, as a young person I cannot ignore the advantages that the EU brought to my life. Young people like me only know from their parents’ memories about the good life of past. When everybody had a job and you could buy milk for one crown. I think the new generations will not be able to imagine a life without EU. Even for me it is impossible to imagine past, when a person could not leave the country freely, attend a university or a teacher to baptize their child…. And a wide range of other aspects in the area of education that is missing as a consequence of isolation, even though we are trying to catch up with self-learning (in the areas of culture, cinematography, music culture…).
I am not blindly passionate pro-European, but I believe that we need a common and united Europe. But there is still a lot of work to do. A change is needed from the current functioning of EU.

As Schumann said in his declaration in 1950: “Europe will not be made all at once, or according a single plan. It will be built through concerete achievements which will firstly create real solidarity.”

I think we need to come back to the values that the forefathers of Europe were trying to teach us and to take the steps that the national policies were not brave enough to take in the past because of unwillingness to retreat from their own interests and nationalism. As I already mentioned it is not possible not to deal with the consequences for decisions in the future. A typical example of a monetary system and CBU which got back to us as a boomerang in full strenght and we all know why… I think we need to learn from the past and take the human values back to the people in order to secure a safe future for our children.

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Is there something you want to tell to the young people of Europe?

I would like to finish this interview with the words of one of the greatest fighters for human rights and democracy development: “Education is the most effective tool that can change the world.” (N. Mandela)
Do not be afraid to ask questions, keep looking for your own answers and do not be satisfied until you understand the argument. Believe in yourself, keep looking for ways, alternatives, solutions and especially, do not keep them for yourself. Talk, write, blog, connect through networks, organizations, groups. Be active! After all, democracy means making continuous compromises and most important is to achieve a common aim. Try to overcome your own prejudices, there are many projects that bring together, under normal conditions, groups of people or organizations with different values. There are milions of ways. The first step migh also be a simple “like” on our Young Europeans facebook fan page.

Do not hesitate to join us! ;)

Miroslav Hajnoš and Vanda Nutarová

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