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Thinking Europe further

Young people are essential for reinventing Europe. The Science Hub for Europe at the University of Passau brought together students, school pupils, teachers, and researchers through readings, workshops and the Bavarian State Chancellery's EUropaTour bus. Here are some highlights form the Europe Week

Europe is, above all, a collection of stories. Long before the European Union became a political reality, people had thoughts and visions about Europe. This European idea was a recurring theme throughout the reading evening "Europe: Vision, Utopia, Reality?" held in the Library Lounge at the University of Passau during Europe Week in May. Students Elena Goldhofer, Kevin Burger and Maximilian Hollweck presented selected texts reflecting thoughts and visions of Europe on the red sofa.

Kevin Burger began with an essay about a young man’s life in post-war Europe, sharing reflections on his childhood in bombed-out Vienna, teachers who were former Nazis, and the Cold War. Despite some criticism, the author summarises: "I feel quite good in Europe." Kevin Burger chose the essay with the upcoming European elections in mind, posing the central question: "Where does democracy begin?"

Maximilian Hollweck told the story of  Jean-Christophe, a young German artist who moves to Paris despite his initial scepticism towards the French. He experiences highs and lows with his French friend Olivier, ultimately concluding, "the German and the Frenchman both become Europeans". Hollweck views this as a call to action to "stand up for peace in Europe", emphasizing the responsibility everyone has, especially in the face of populism and wars.

Die Studierenden Elena Goldhofer (von links), Kevin Buger und Maximilian Hollweck bei der Lesung in der Library Lounge der Universität Passau.

Elena Goldhofer took the audience on a journey through Europe, showcasing both the continent’s beauty and its challenges. She concluded with a call to action: "We need young people to reinvent Europe." Goldhofer echoed this sentiment, noting that Europe has almost become a given in her social circle, and she aimed to stimulate discussion with her chosen text. 

The reading was part of the Europe Week, organised by the Science Hub for Europe at the University of Passau. "What is particularly important to us during this Europe Week is that everyone comes together: Researchers, teachers, students, to exchange ideas on a topic and think further about the idea of Europe," says Florence Ertel, Managing Director of the Science Hub for Europe, in this video:

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Every year since 1985, the European Union has celebrated peace and unity between the member states on 9 May. This tradition commemorates French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman’s proposal, made 73 years ago, to pool the production of essential war materials in the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), involving Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands to prevent further wars.

More than two years after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the topicality of this issue is evident. At the Bavarian State Chancellery's Europe bus, which stopped at the Kleiner Exerzierplatz on 7 May as part of its ‘EuropaTour Bayern’, citizens were able to write their wishes for Europe on star-shaped stickers. Messages like "Peace" or "no war" were common. Employee Yvonne Stirner was pleased with the participation, especially from school classes who tested their knowledge of Europe in a quiz or audio walk.

The 120 participants in the workshops, which were offered throughout Tuesday, also learnt a lot. "Europe Week 2024 has shown the diversity of the topics we research and teach at the university regarding our European profile," said Professor Christina Hansen, Vice President for International Affairs, Europe and Diversity.

One highlight was a workshop for first-time voters on the "Functionality and History of the EU", organized by the university group JEF, Young European Federalists. For the first time, young people aged 16 and over are allowed to vote in this year's European elections.

In the workshop "L'Union Européenne en BD et mon Europe en BD", students analyzed the highlights of the EU's history thorugh graphic narratives. Under the guidance of Marina Ortrud Hertrampf, Professor of Romance Literary and Cultural Studies with a focus on France, they created their own online "bande dessinée", a comic strip on the topic of "Mon Europe". These will be displayed from 20 to 26 May 2024, in the passageway between the Nikolakloster and Philosophicum at the University of Passau. Professor Hertrampf was impressed by the participants: "It was an extremely enriching experience to see first-time voters so interested and enthusiastic about the values of the EU - and in French. In light of the spreading anti-European nationalist discourse, these young people have encouraged me to stand up for the idea of Europe. I hope they will use their multilingualism to think and live Europe further."

The GoverNet university group organized a workshop on the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) led by Necati Naran. Students tested the EU's autonomous defence capability in fictitious scenarios, experiencing the challenges of building consensus among the 27 member states, reflecting real-world complexities.

In the workshop "Border Region Lower Bavaria: Understanding and Getting to Know Neighbours. Czech Language Course and Regional Studies", lecturer Kateřina Milotová, along with Czech students from the University of Passau’s Communitas Bohemica, introduced the basics of Czech language as well as interesting regional and intercultural information. Participants started by listing Czech word they knew, mostly related to food, and then engaged in interactive quizzes testing their knowledge of Czech cities. By the end, they were speaking basic Czech sentences. ‘Czech is not difficult’, said Kateřina Milotová, aiming to inspire interest in the language.

Dr Katja Reitmaier, a member of staff at the Chair of Educational Science with a focus on diversity research and educational spaces in middle childhood at the University of Passau, held a workshop on democracy education and participation opportunities with a view to children's rights as part of a World Café. Among other things, she explained how children can be shown ways to participate in society and demand their rights: "For example, we present the children's right to freedom of expression and freedom of information," she explained.

The organizers were satisfied with the Europe Day activities: "The University of Passau stands on the foundations of Europe. I am hoping for a high level of participation in the European elections, especially among young people who perceive Europe as an area in which they can have a say," said Professor Ulrich Bartosch, President of the University of Passau. The Science Hub for Europe’s partners included the Chair of Romance Literature and Cultural Studies (with a focus on France), the Initiative Perspektive Osteuropa and the Chair of Modern and Contemporary History of Eastern Europe and its Cultures, the Jean Monnet Chair of European Politics, the Chair of Educational Science with a focus on diversity research and educational spaces of middle childhood, the university groups GoverNet, Young European Federalist: innen Passau, Communitas Bohemica, the Alumni Club, the Bavarian State Chancellery, the State Centre for Political Education, the Liaison Office of the European Parliament in Munich and the Representation of the European Commission in Munich and EUROPE DIRECT.

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