Cultivating youth potential: YEAs at Europafest
May 27, 2024

Cultivating youth potential: YEAs at Europafest

Authors: Shahru Shabanov and Nilufar Ibrahimi

The Thuringian Europe Festival event took place on 27-28 April, 2024, in the city of Gera in Germany. The festival combined fun activities and informative discussions about Europe, and underlined the importance of the upcoming European elections. 

As Gera hosted this unforgettable weekend, the festival unfolded amidst perfect weather and an electric atmosphere. Over 25,000 visitors flocked to the event, transforming the park into a vibrant hub of international music, dance, entertainment, and community spirit.

Gera is a city in east-central Germany’s Thuringia state. It is located southwest of Leipzig along the Weisse Elster River. With a population of about 93,000, Gera is the easternmost city in Thuringia and the third-largest after Jena and Erfurt. Since 2017, the European Information Centre of the Thuringian State Chancellery and The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) have organised the annual European Festival, which takes place at various locations throughout Thuringia. This year, a vibrant educational and musical programme was held at Gera’s Hofwiesen Park, open to all.

The festival started with an opening speech by Deputy Headteacher Martina Lorey (Henfling-Gymnasium Meiningen), which underlined the importance of the Erasmus+ project, the EU programme aimed at promoting general and vocational education, youth, and sports in Europe, which is intensively utilised by both students and teachers.

Throughout the weekend, visitors had the opportunity to explore activities organised by local and international clubs including our EU NEIGHBOURS east YEAs stand. The intercultural festival and a presentation by the Bundeswehr added to the diverse array of experiences available, ensuring there was something for everyone to enjoy.

And of course, no festival would be complete without delicious food, and the festival certainly delivered on that front. Organisers were kept busy grilling thousands of sausages, serving up tasty treats that kept participants fuelled for the festivities.

As YEAs, our participation in the annual regional Europe festival holds significant importance. Having been invited back for a second consecutive year, our presence highlights the festival’s commitment to fostering cross-cultural understanding. Our primary objective at the festival is to represent our organisation and its mission while also engaging with participants, particularly young people, to promote awareness and encourage those who are interested to join us.

One of the key aspects of our involvement is to set up our infopoint, where people can approach us to learn more about who the Young European Ambassadors are, what we do, our goals and purpose. Through engaging conversations and informative materials that we share at our stand, we aim to provide a deeper understanding of the scope of impact that our work has on communities across Europe and the Eastern Partner countries. In addition, we offer YEAs merchandise and snacks from EaP countries to allow people not just to learn about our initiative, but also to taste and experience a slice of EaP culture.

In light of recent trends towards right-wing extremism in parts of Eastern Germany, where awareness of Eastern Partner countries may be limited, our participation in events like this is particularly crucial. By engaging with communities affected by these trends and sharing insights into the diverse cultures and perspectives of EaP countries, we strive to foster understanding among young people in the region and counteract the spread of extremist ideologies by changing mistaken beliefs.
We believe we can contribute to positive social change and have a meaningful impact on the attitudes and perceptions of youth by promoting the values of diversity, inclusivity and shape the future of Europe through education, dialogue, and collaboration.

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