Many images remain impressed in my mind of this weekend spent with fellow EU YEAs. But one, in particular, will remain forever etched in my heart: all of us, gathered at the top of Belvedere di San Martino, exhausted by a thousand steps, but with eyes full of life, looking out over the Gulf of Naples, straight into the future. I like to believe that reflected in the lights of the city and Vesuvius on the horizon we were all looking at the same goal: a more united and welcoming Europe, with our arms wide open towards our neighbours, the countries of the Eastern Partnership.
We gathered in Naples with the EU-based YEAs to finally meet in person and be able to work together on a plan for this year. It is true, working through Zoom has its advantages, like working in pyjama pants (reader, I know you do too), but having the opportunity to meet offline allowed us to further our cooperation, taking it to another level. Through brainstorming and exchanging ideas in an active listening zone, we gave new life to our ideas.
I joined the network last November and so this weekend was an eye-opening opportunity to learn more about what our network’s goals are and what is expected of us as a YEA. What I learned and experienced went far beyond my expectations.
I was able to gain practical skills and learn how to put them into practice to best fulfill this role and contribute to the network in the most effective way. We have had the privilege of receiving advice from experienced and qualified individuals who can convey very important lessons without ever being boring or banal. Moreover, I had the opportunity to express myself, sharing personal opinions, but also to ask questions without ever feeling judged or misunderstood.
But above all, this weekend was about people. People are the vibrant heart of this network. Brilliant, enthusiastic, and curious young professionals and students, eager to engage in this project and shape the future through active involvement in the present. The exchange with these people has enriched me deeply, filling me with an indescribable energy. Even if in a few days, a unique and unbreakable bond has been created. We share the same desire to do and get involved, the same passion and curiosity for countries that seem so far away, but that we perceive as so close. This closeness is cultivated every day through dialogue with fellow YEAs from the countries of the Eastern Partnership, who are our window on those realities to which we want to give voice.
It is fascinating to see how each of us cultivates in their own way the interest in the Eastern Partnership, taking interest in a specific country, in a cultural or linguistic aspect; some of us know those realities directly, almost like their country of origin, and have been cultivating unique relationships with local people for many years; some use all possible means to learn and get to know more even from afar, and some others have no doubts about their next travel destination because they just can’t wait to discover what’s there.
Everyone in their own way, bringing in their originality and creativity contributes to this incredible network. That’s why at the end of the weekend I couldn’t help but smile thinking about my fellow YEAs and all that we shared in this kick-off event. Because beyond everything, it’s them, the people, who made this weekend so special and unforgettable.
Matilde Fabrizio is a student in Political Science and International Relations at the Cesare Alfieri University of Florence. She is currently in Paris where she is living the Erasmus+ experience at Sorbonne University. Matilde’s dedication to international affairs goes far beyond a simple passion and interest in her studies; thanks to the many experiences she had abroad, she has always felt part of a community much larger and broader than just that of her home country.
This website is managed by the EU-funded Regional Communication Programme for the Eastern Neighbourhood ('EU NEIGHBOURS east’), which complements and supports the communication of the Delegations of the European Union in the Eastern partner countries, and works under the guidance of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and the European External Action Service. EU NEIGHBOURS east is implemented by a B&S Europe-led consortium. It is part of the larger Neighbourhood Communication Programme (2020-2024) for the EU's Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood, which also includes 'EU NEIGHBOURS south’ project that runs the EU Neighbours portal.