The young ambassadors programme we're running at EUROCITIES 2018 Edinburgh aims to give young people interested in Europe's challenges and solutions the chance to promote their own ideas and learn how to develop their own cities. Here we meet Mark Szucs from Espoo, Paula Schmidt-Kittler from Munster and Rok Stemberger from Ljubljana and discover what they want to gain from the experience, why having five city centres is better than one and what their vision for Europe looks like.
Tell us about yourself
Mark: My parents came to Espoo to pursue their studies, fell in love with the city and I was born and raised here. I organise sports events to contribute to Espoo’s welcoming environment. I’m an economics student, hoping to equip myself with the best tools to be a positive influence for the future of my city.
Paula: I am 21 years old and currently study Public Governance in Muenster and at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. I am part of one of the student associations at the University of Muenster called Visions for Europe.
Rok: I am 27 years old and have a master's in Biochemistry. Last year I was accepted onto the IMB programme of the Faculty of Economics. I am kind, communicative, a quick-learner, proactive, positive, intelligent, open to new challenges and social.
Why did you want to be a young ambassador for your city?
M: I believe I can inspire other young people in my city to have an early start in making a difference. I want to learn how Europe’s major cities plan to improve the lives of their citizens. I believe that an interconnected Europe would help any city in achieving a happy and healthy future. I expect to learn how I can help in developing my city and how we can connect Europe for everyone’s benefit.
P: As Visions for Europe frequently worked with the City of Muenster, I’m now honoured to represent the association in this project. I think such a cooperation is very beneficial for both sides. Of course, I’m also keen to learn a lot personally. Since my studies focus on policy implementation, it will be a fantastic opportunity for me to get to know more about policy implementation in different European cities.
R: I have lived in Ljubljana for more than 27 years and would like to promote the city and its projects globally. I want to inspire others about Ljubljana and put it on the map. The experience will enable me to network with other ambassadors and gain knowledge about other good practices in bigger cities and capitals. I will also get an opportunity to hang out with people like me.
What message would you send to the president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont?
M: I would like to thank you for involving the youth of Europe in important matters. It inspires young participants who get to see directly how today's influential figures can improve the future. More importantly it also sends a message to the youth of Europe, it tells them they are important and that their ideas and decisions make a difference. Thank you for involving us!
P: I would like to thank you for organising the event in November and for inviting young ambassadors from different European cities to join the conference. I’m looking forward to meeting many new people and gaining lots of experiences.
R: I would like to thank you for this amazing opportunity and will use this experience in the best way possible. The communication and presentation skills I possess should be put to good use in terms of presenting Ljubljana and its projects as well as participating in icebreaker sessions and the final act of the conference. My performance will be professional and thorough, which will enable me to send the message I want.
What one thing do you really like about your city?
M: Big cities are usually built around one city centre, but Espoo is not limited to a single city centre. There are five separate areas in Espoo that could be considered as the city centre. All five areas offer a unique environment which allows almost anyone to find a suitable living place. We are also lucky to have forests all around Espoo offering a peaceful environment for many activities.
P: It is difficult to name just one thing I really like about Muenster. I would say the city offers a certain incomparable quality of life. The lovely city centre has lush green surroundings, including the iconic Aasee (a lake). I enjoy spending a relaxing afternoon in one of the cafes in the city centre, but I equally love to go for a run around the lake. So, there is lots to love about Muenster.
R: There is a place in Ljubljana, alongside the Ljubljanica River, that used to be a parking lot but is now a gorgeous promenade filled with cafes and restaurants. I like to come here with my friends for a cup of coffee or a drink. The view is amazing because you can see a lot of the river, the vibrant city life filled with tourists in the summer and a castle as well.
What three items would you take to a desert island?
M: I would take a lighter, a Swiss knife and a hammock for survival and a bit of rest.
P: A friend, coffee and a good book
R: The book Psi (Psi is Greek letter Ψ, it is a book written by a Slovenian but his identify has been hidden, nobody knows why). A solitary board game. A sleep diary.
What three things would you do if you were mayor of your city for a day?
M: I would remind the citizens that their opinions are heard and matter. I would promote sustainable and healthy life choices to ensure that our environment is protected, we stay healthy and we have a bright future ahead. Finally, I would encourage citizens not just to seek opportunities for their own benefit but to also search for opportunities to give back to others and contribute to our community.
P: I would focus on more ecological projects when working on urban planning. For example, I would promote urban gardening. I would also try to develop a more socially inclusive city with, for example, more community centres for people to meet and share their ideas, passions and hobbies. Furthermore, I think an extended exchange programme for all students (not just university students), is a good investment of effort. Thirdly, I think a sustainable infrastructure is vital.
R: Decrease the number of commercial panels everywhere because they distort the city image. Improve public transport with better connections and more frequent buses and trains. Increase the quality of city life with small, different projects so there is something for every age group.
How would you complete this sentence: ‘My Europe in 2030 will…'?
M: … be a place where people can truly feel safe and happy, knowing they are being taken care of and that they themselves can be the driver for positive change.
P: … be sustainable and socially inclusive.
R: ... be filled with electric cars.