Larkin: We, the younger generation, are the future of Europe and I do believe it will be a bright future indeed

We have prepared for you a special interview with Larkin Zahra, who was a part of the EU delegation that received the Nobel Peace Price in Oslo. Larkin was one of the winners of the Facebook contest “What does peace in Europe mean to you?”, in which had participated thousands of people. The whole idea was based on the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize also belongs to us, to all citizens. Therefore the European institutions wanted to give EU citizens this opportunity of receiving a Nobel Peace Price. Larkin won the competition because of his statement: My grandparents would have said “a dream”. My parents would have said “a process”. I say that it’s my everyday reality!

Larkin is 23 years old and comes from Malta. During his studies he was very active in organizations such as JEF Malta (Young European Federalists), National Union of Students of Malta, that falls under the European Students’ Union (ESU), as well as the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). We are very pleased that Larkin have found some time to answer our questions. We would like to thank him for his time and we wish you a pleasant reading.

1. What have inspired you to create your winning statement?
The question ‘what does peace in Europe mean to you’ immediately reminded me of my childhood days, when one of my grandparents used to recount his story of a child being brought up during WWII. Years have passed from those days and I can now fully realise and appreciate better the stark difference of today’s peaceful reality. Different generations would have answered this question differently according to the reality they faced. That is why I decided to include their experiences in my statement, in order to appreciate better how far we have come in such a relatively short period of time.

2. What were your feelings when you learned that you are the winner who will travel as a part of EU delegation to receive the Nobel Peace Prize?
You can imagine how excited and extremely happy I was when I realised I was the winner of this EU competition. It was a great relief after six days of constant work to make this dream come true. It was also a moment of appreciation and gratitude towards all the Maltese and Europeans who have supported my vision of peace in Europe. Finally, it was a moment of great responsibility as I realised that I will be one of only four European citizens who would represent more than five hundred million Europeans from all around the continent during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.

3. Could you briefly describe the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony?
Having the opportunity to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was something out of this world! It is as if you are living a dream: you realise that you’re participating in history in the making; you see all the major European leaders, both on a national and EU level, sitting right in front of you who are probably as excited as you are to be able to attend this ceremony; being in the Oslo City Hall in this wonderful setting where other major personalities have already been awarded this prestigious prize in the past years; and above all, you listen to the speeches made by Presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso who make you feel proud you are European.

4. What were your feelings after you presented your statement also in European Parliament?
I have the European Parliament extremely at heart, and having had the opportunity to present my idea of peace in Europe during one of the plenary sessions in Strasbourg was definitely one of the highlights of this experience. I have graduate in European Studies from the University of Malta and in European Public Affairs from the Maastricht University, so you can also appreciate how interested I am in European affairs and how much all this meant to me!

5. During the Nobel Peace Price ceremony, you had couple of interesting interviews with various personalities of the European Union. Which one was the most interesting?
There are a number of moments which I will treasure for the rest of my life. Speaking to European Commissioners Maroš Šefčovič and Neelie Kroes about multiple European issues, the various times where I got the opportunity to speak to the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso or when I got introduced to the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. However, I think the most interesting discussions where with the European Parliament President, Martin Schulz. These discussions made me realise how humble, hard working and down to earth Schulz is and that he is genuinely interested in what the European citizens’ concerns are.

6. How would you evaluate the current situation in the EU, from the perspective of a young person?
At this point in time, where many European citizens are struggling to make ends meet, where many countries are still in a deep recession, where the EU has to decide whether to deepen or widen its integration process, it is always the younger generation who suffers the most from this turmoil. We have seen high unemployment rates for young people, the steep increase in tuition fees and the reduction in spending on matters that mean most to young people such as education. However, even though we are living in this current reality, as a young European I believe we should have more and not less Europe. It is through unity that we will be able to become stronger, and the EU, with its own imperfections, is still the best opportunity (and I dare say, the only opportunity) we all have to improve and move forward from the current situation.

7. What kind of message would you like to leave to young people in Europe?
During this experience, I had the opportunity to give a speech along the European Parliament President Martin Schulz during the inauguration of the Nobel Peace Prize photo exhibition in Strasbourg. I ended this speech with a message to all the young people in Europe and I would like to share the same message: “Believe in yourself, have goals in life and try your very best to achieve them. I would have not lived this experience if I didn’t give it a shot! Disappointments might still arise, but I do believe that a cup is never half empty but rather half full. We, the younger generation, are the future of Europe and I do believe it will be a bright future indeed!”

Miroslav Hajnoš