European Forum of Young Leaders – an amazing experience to build cooperation for the future
In such turbulent times, it is more important than ever to bring together young leaders for fostering cooperation and innovative thinking. With these aims in mind, more than 50 Young European Ambassadors participated in the European Forum of Young Leaders on April 25-27, 2022. The city of Katowice in Poland welcomed the YEAs from the European Union, the Eastern partner countries, Western Balkans and the United Kingdom for panel discussions and thematic sessions by experts in various fields.
The European Forum of Young Leaders accompanied the European Economic Congress, so the YEAs also had the opportunity to attend the first day of the largest business event in Central Europe. This year around 15,000 people participated in the European Economic Congress, which shows its scale and significance. The YEAs attended the inauguration of the Congress with a speech from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Later such topics as ‘Europe and the world in 2030’ and ‘International youth exchange’ were discussed by renowned experts in the field.
“Having the privilege to attend the European Economic Congress was one of the highlights,” says Mariam Ketsbaia, a YEA from Georgia. “We had the opportunity to listen to experts and decision-makers, and hear their perspectives on various topics, including plans for rebuilding Ukraine and strengthening the partnership between countries.”
During the three fruitful days, the European Forum of Young Leaders sought to address a range of pressing issues experienced by the world and specifically by youth. One of the themes that ran through many sessions was Russia’s war in Ukraine. Loredana Avram, a YEA from Moldova, reflects on this: “During the Forum we massively tackled the topic of the war happening in Ukraine, an international issue which can only be solved through the active involvement of every single individual”. A YEA from Belgium, Nicolas Vande Kerckhove, also said: “This forum allowed me to understand the issues surrounding the war in Ukraine from a Polish-Ukrainian point of view. Indeed, these two peoples have not ceased to dialogue during this event in front of an audience all ears and full of empathy.” Ukrainian YEAs, such as Nadiia Kasianchuk, were grateful for keeping the issue high on the agenda and mobilising support in these crucial times: “I immensely appreciated that the main topic covered during the Forum was related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We attended many lectures, public discussions, and workshops about the future of Ukraine and Europe, EU values, and prospects. One of my favorite workshops was about famous Ukraine-born start-ups in Europe. Besides, we had a lot of informal discussions with participants from all over the world about Ukraine, EU-Ukraine relations, and possibilities for young people to help our country to resist the war.”
Other themes on the forum’s agenda included digital transformation and data protection, technologies and critical thinking, cities of the future, inclusion and diversity, democracies and social participation, the environment, and various global threats. Besides receiving valuable insights from experienced professionals, the participants also had the chance to develop their practical skills. Yuliia Vaida, a YEA from Ukraine, particularly liked the session ‘Changemakers – leaders of change in local communities’: “Participating in the session was an amazing experience as we could hear about the speakers’ experience of making a change in communities and implementing projects. Also, we had the chance to develop a project idea that would solve a pressing issue in the society.” Moreover, a YEA from Azerbaijan, Aytaj Mohsumzade, added: “I especially appreciated the speakers coming up with innovative ways of youth participation in civic engagement activities and discussions on many other important issues.” Matilde Fabrizio, a YEA from Italy, also highlighted the importance of the discussions: “What I appreciated the most about the forum was that it was an opportunity to reflect on different topics from different points of view. I particularly liked smaller sessions where we could ask questions, have debates and express our points of view.”
Networking activities and other events such as the concert by Ethnos Ensemble and the evening of culture allowed the YEAs from different countries to establish connections, share their perspectives, experiences and simply enjoy each other’s company.
Jala Maharramova, a YEA from Azerbaijan, describes the significance of this: “What I loved the most about the event was the fact that it put so many cultures and different mindsets together that in the end, we realised that no matter how different we are, we are stronger together. We put our differences aside, and focused on the common things that connect us, therefore, we gained not only a useful experience but also unforgettable friendships and moments.”
Another YEA from Ukraine, Valeriia Yefimenko, also found the networking aspect to be crucial: “The European Forum of Young Leaders helped me establish a lot of new connections with people from various fields and countries. Networking for me has an incredible value as it helps to get to know new people, explore people’s worldviews and enable future cooperation“.
“The event brought a lot of thoughts about implementing new projects, creating new ideas and engaging in different European projects and activities to strive for a better future,” summed up Irina Sebeko, a YEA from Latvia. The European Forum of Young Leaders served an important role of allowing the participants to share their experiences and come up with innovative plans. This way the YEAs from all over Europe, the UK, Western Balkans and Eastern partner countries could look back on what they had achieved in the past and hoped to achieve in the future. Reflecting on the work that was done during those few days, all the participants certainly agree that the European Forum of Young Leaders was a huge success.
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