Author: Lorène Weber
Policy Officer for Youth, Confrontations Europe
Throughout the year 2019, Confrontations Europe conducted the « Solidarity Tour ». Supported by the « Europe for Citizens » programme of the European Commission, this Tour gathered young people from seven European countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Poland and Serbia) in six European capitals (Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Athens, Belgrade and Paris). During the Tour, they discussed topical European subjects, issued recommendations, and discovered other countries’ history and culture, along with a shared European history.
All information about the Solidarity Tour and the programmes of the different seminars are available on our website’s dedicated section.
Now that the Tour is over, we are sharing the direct testimonies of some of our participants, who wished to express what the Solidarity Tour has meant to them.
The Solidarity Tour is, in my opinion, a unique and amazing project. At the same time, it is ingenious, because the idea to visit several European cities to discuss the most important issues for the young generation is a really interesting approach. NSZZ « Solidarity » did not have to think long before joining this journey. We were willing to choose a group of participants able to attend all meetings because we felt that the Tour would bring positive effects for them and for the whole Union. We were not mistaken. The participants developed and increased their knowledge and skills at each successive stage. I also consider the seminar we organised in Warsaw a success. First of all, because it was attended by young people coming from outside (from vocational schools) who haven’t been confronted with matters of employment and trade unions. They told us that it was worth visiting us and discussing together. It was definitely worth participating to this trip and looking for sources of European solidarity together. (Mateusz, NSZZ Solidarnosc partner)
I am 26 years old, I come from Belgium, and I think that the Solidarity Tour is pretty cool in terms of discussions. We talk about various topics regarding the European Union, and I think that the main asset that this Tour provides is that we can share opinions on any kind of topics. We can merge them, we can forge a new opinion on things. For instance, I’ve learned a lot about the political situation of different countries within the EU, and I haven’t had this chance in the past. I am not sure about the reach of our recommendations towards national and EU decision-makers, because it is too early to know which results it will bring, but let’s hope it will be for the best. I just want to outline that these moments that we share are the key to any solution we can provide in this world. I guess that this ability of changing our opinions by talking with others is the best thing that could happen in this Tour. (Saji, Belgium)
I am 23 years old, I am still a student, and I also work for EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy, which is one of the partners of the Solidarity Tour. I am from Slovakia but I am based in Prague in Czech Republic. I am the head of the Czech group in this Tour. What this Tour meant to me is actually quite simple: I really appreciate the project, or the concept, as both a nice and very effective opportunity for students from these countries to discuss those challenging topics that Europe needs to face nowadays. It is a chance to see the world, meet new people, experience new cultures and make new friends, which happened to me as well, so I am really thankful for that. My group is very happy, they extremely improved their English and they really enjoy the project. For me, it is a nice change to see that there is a movement for young people to discuss topics which should be discussed nowadays, and that there is an opportunity for young people to travel abroad, not only to discuss topics at school but to discuss them with so many other nationalities and bring different opinions in the discussions and also… have fun! (Alexandra, Czech Republic)
I am 17 years old, I am Hungarian and American, I live in Budapest but I am originally from California. Through the Solidarity Tour, I have learned a lot from different people in different countries. It has given me the opportunity to talk with people coming from other countries, having different backgrounds, I have learned from their political, economic and also cultural opinions, about a lot of issues that are ongoing in Europe and the world. It has also given me the opportunity to talk with people my age, especially in Belgrade, about how they feel about the country they live in and how they feel about what they have to do in their life to succeed. I am very grateful for being able to take part in this programme. (Harrison, Hungary)
I am 32 years old and I am coming from Normandy in France. The Solidarity Tour brought me a lot of things, especially cultural exchanges, different opinions, travels in Europe, and a historical dimension which I have been especially interested in. It allowed me to discover and understand Europe better, and to better understand topical issues. (Jeremy, France)
I am working for a trade union, and I think that the Solidarity Tour is a good idea because it allows young people from different countries to exchange views on politics and on important topics such as immigration, and to share experiences from our different countries. (Sebastian, Poland)
Participating in this project has been valuable to mefor a number of reasons. I am 39 years old and I am an art teacher at the School of Shipping, Shipbuilding and Hydro Building in Belgrade, where I am also the Coordinator of the School Team for Professional Orientation and Career Guidance. I think the whole system of education should be organised around what is essential for the students: the skills they have acquired after completing the study course. The aim of our Team is to help students to understand their own values, interests and skills through specific activities, to learn about the professional and educational opportunities that lie ahead. When I was invited to be a Coordinator for Serbia in the Solidarity Tour project, I saw an opportunity to involve students about to graduate, facing professional challenges, opportunities, obstacles and other issues that these challenges carry. The topics raised by this project – labour market integration, mobility, the future of EU, democratic participation, immigration, formal and non-formal education, competency development – are precisely the outcomes underlying the process of the educational system. This project provides an opportunity to develop interpersonal and civic competences, the ability for intercultural understanding in a direct and meaningful way through meetings with young people from other countries, an opportunity to exchange experiences, expectations, ideas, the opportunity to meet different cities and cultures, associations and organisations, to talk and to discuss the topics with experts. After the first meeting in Warsaw, my students had a strong response to the idea of the project. They told me they had the impression that in three days they had grown, which was satisfying to me as a teacher. This gave meaning to my role in the project and significance to the whole endeavour.
I had a very strong experience after the Conference in Belgrade. A class of my students, aged between of 15 and 19 discussed the topic of European integration. I was amazed by how passionate they were, going into details and personal experiences they had, the reasons they cited, discussing Serbia’s position between the EU and Russia, the political atmosphere, the media image, the past, present and future, how present it is in their lives and how much they care. The opportunity to listen to my students discussing these topics was a revelation, a pleasure, and an impetus that led me to think about these topics more responsibly.
Also, throughout this tour, it was nice for me to witness the connections between all these cities and cultures, a sense of closeness to the city where I live, Belgrade. I see this as a reflection of communication and the encounter of ideas and concepts that have been around for a long time. The results of that communication can be seen through architecture, art, science and human experiences, obstacles and struggles. (Mihajlo, Serbia)
I am working for the trade union Solidarnosc. The Solidarity Tour is a great opportunity to meet new people, to discover other cultures, and to take other perspectives on European issues and European problems. We can understand more when confronted with other points of views, and not only with local ones (Polish for example). I have been able to develop my understanding of how people think in other countries about very important issues in Europe and in the European Union. I think this Tour is an excellent idea and a very important project for young people. I am very grateful to be part of this Tour. (Jakub, Poland)
It was a chance for me to meet young people from different countries. During the project I learned a lot of interesting information about the political issues of the European Union. I got to know new cultures and how they live in different countries. It was also beneficial for my English. I like this project and I would recommend it to my peers. (Michaela, Czech Republic)
I come from Poland from a small city near Poznań. I am 20 years old. I work in a car manufacturing company. The Solidarity Tour has been a very important event in my life. I learned a lot myself, and other Solidarity Tour participants also taught me a lot. An important lesson for me was getting to know new cultures and how life in a given country looks like. Each workshop was very important because it gave the possibility to fit in wwith other participants and to discuss problems in a given country. I will certainly not forget those moments. (Hubert, Poland)
The Solidarity Tour was a great experience and challenge for me. Visiting so many different countries, learning about their culture and way of life was very interesting. It was very nice to be able to meet new people, to learn about the problems they encounter in their countries etc. I liked it very much! (Milosz, Poland)
The Solidarity Tour has been a cultural adventure, full of discussions, where I saw new places and heard new views and ideas. For me, it has been much more than just interesting events, because I also made good friendships. We were like a family, speaking at least 7 languages! It also opened my mind and one thing was sure: although we come from different countries with different political opinions, we all want the same thing… making the world a better place. (Bori, Hungary)