The special young ambassadors programme running throughout EUROCITIES 2018 Edinburgh will enable young people to experience how we work, understand Europe's challenges and share their opinions. Here we meet Jasper Goossens from Ostend, Lauren Ross from Edinburgh and Franz-Josef Möller from Munich and hear what issues they would prioritise, from investing in green energy and banning disposable plastics to integrating creativity into the education system.
Tell us about yourself
Jasper: I am 22 years old and have a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and I’m currently studying for a master's in African Studies. In my free time I’m a scout leader in the Sea Scouts and I do voluntary work at mu-zee-um vzw, a non-profit art education organisation.
Lauren: I am 22 and study English Literature at the University of Stirling. I have been a member of Scotland’s National Youth Arts Advisory Group since it began in 2014 and am passionate about literature, the visual arts and history.
Franz-Josef: I have worked as a trainee in a dual study programme at the city administration of Munich since 2016. In addition I volunteer as a soccer referee. I am a go-getter and want to find a place where I can take care of the community and develop and execute projects.
Why did you want to be a young ambassador for your city?
J: I was doing an internship for my studies at mu-zee-um when I was asked if I was interested. I naturally said yes because I’m interested in European politics and curious about other cultures. From this experience I hope to hear a lot of different opinions about Europe from different people so that I can broaden my knowledge.
L: As a youth ambassador, I look forward to learning, connecting and being inspired and gaining knowledge about the culture of other cities alongside my own. I also want to make new contacts, join a new network and collect lots of influential ideas. In addition to all this, I applied to become an ambassador because I am proud of Edinburgh’s cultural vibrancy and diversity and expect to have many unique experiences from being a part of the conference.
F-J: I want to represent my home from the perspective of a young student. I hope that I can exchange and collaborate with the other ambassadors. We may not reinvent the European idea within a few days – but maybe we can start working on some new initiatives.
What message would you send to the president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont?
J: European politics is a very big part of our life. While there are, nowadays, a lot of Eurosceptics I still firmly believe in the European Union. I look forward to seeing what the future will bring for Europe and its cities.
L: I would like to extend my thanks for establishing EUROCITIES’s very first youth programme this year. It is incredibly exciting to be a part of what I believe will become a key development in the conference’s history. I look forward to welcoming the other youth ambassadors to my city, alongside all the other delegates, and to taking part in and being inspired by the conversations that will be had over the course of the summit.
F-J: I am looking forward to our conference in Edinburgh. I think it is a good idea to invite young ambassadors - because the younger generation should think about the world we want to live in. I hope we can continue this programme so that we, the young ambassadors, can work together after the conference.
What one thing do you really like about your city?
J: One thing that I find truly special about Ostend is how social the people are. When you are walking around in the city or queueing in a shop there is always someone who will have a conversation with you. Even if you are not feeling like it, it always makes the day a bit better.
L: What I love most about Edinburgh is being able to walk through the Old Town and feel centuries' worth of the city’s history surrounding me.
F-J: Munich is famous for the Oktoberfest. In my opinion, the Oktoberfest is not only a great thing because of the beer tents and the amusement park. It is unique because you can see both sides of Munich: thousands of people from the region along with visitors from all over the world. It is an example of the two sides of the city - traditional and modern - laptop and lederhosen (leather pants).
What three items would you take to a desert island?
J: A sailing yacht, fresh water and my iPod.
L: My favourite book, 'Gone with the Wind', my favourite film, 'Their Finest' and a very big sketchbook, so I could sketch my tropical surroundings and write about the adventures I have there.
F-J: Running shoes, white paper and a pen.
What three things would you do if you were mayor of your city for a day?
J: Attract more young families and artists to Ostend and keep them and their talent there - because they are the future of the city. I would invest in green energy so that Ostend would become carbon neutral. Environmental pollution should be every politician’s priority because it concerns the health of citizens. I would ban all disposable plastics because they are a major polluter of the ocean - and as a seaside city we are in the forefront of stopping ocean pollution.
L: I would trial a strategy in Edinburgh schools that better integrates creativity into formal education systems and establish a public event where young people are given the opportunity to speak about what concerns or motivates them to politicians and other young people. Finally, I would initiate an artwork, created collectively by Edinburgh’s citizens, which presents our individual differences and shared spirit and which would be shared across the globe to encourage international connection.
F-J: I would ask other cities for advice - Vienna about how to develop a cheap public transportation system or Talinn about e-government for example - and encourage the exchange of expertise. I would instruct my team to bring people from different cultures together to organise sport events, music and projects. I would offer my citizens the opportunity to learn at least basic English and negotiate exchange programmes - not only to typical destinations such as France or Italy but also to countries in the eastern part of Europe.
How would you complete this sentence: ‘My Europe in 2030 will…'?
J: … be one with open borders, equal rights, clean air and oceans, green energy, diversity and lots of cultural activities.
L: … be flourishing, with a culture of strong and diverse connections, prospering from a new wave of compassion and conscientiousness and, most importantly, giving everyone a reason to be hopeful for the future.
F-J: … be a community of destiny. And it will be the job of the Interrail and Erasmus generation to develop a community of equal opportunities, freedom and, of course, peace. My Europe will still be one of the most liveable regions in the world.