JEF Exchange 2015 - Discussing European Identities from Czech and German perspectives

By Hannah Illing

May 16 and 17 2015 in Passau (East-Bavaria)

Thirty years ago it would have been unthinkable for a potential JEF Czech Republic to join JEF Passau for a weekend of workshops and debates on the European Union. However, thanks to the fall of communism and the eastward enlargement of the EU in 2004, luckily it was no problem for the Czechs to drive the four hours journey from Prague to Passau. And thus JEF Passau and JEF Prague started a fruitful exchange between two JEF sections at the heart of Europe.

Given the fact that our parents grew up in two completely different political systems, what could be more interesting than to discuss "European identities" and the question of what it means to be European? Thus we organized a discussion led by Felix Baumgärtel, member of the Czech-German Youth Forum, on the topic "Identities in Europe". Since Felix is the organizer of an exhibition on "Czech-German identities in Europe", he is well aware about the extent to which the opinion of Europeans on their belonging diverges. What was our conclusion after two hours of debating? Identification with the values of the European Union is the first step to building a European identity. But at the same time we will always remain connected to the region we grew up in, with its cultural peculiarities.

The second part of our program consisted of intensive debates on the European Financial Crisis, the Migration Policy of the EU and the Czech-German Relations. Moreover, during a workshop, we created a mind-map of the "future of the EU".  It consisted of different factors which we think are inevitable for a successful European Union.  One of the requirements on our list was common federal armed forces, as well as a stronger common foreign and security policy - and of course a European federal constitution. Moreover we welcome the quota system for refugees, which the European Commission has recently proposed.

The two days passed by quicker than expected. Actually, we were so satisfied with the exchange that we decided to start planning a return visit of JEF Passau to Prague. It will probably take place by the end of 2015. We are sure that up till then, there will be numerous opportunities to continue our discussions on brand new topics of EU politics.

See the photos from the meeting here.