Results of the European Youth Forum EYFON
From September 8 to 13, Forchtenstein Castle (Neumarkt, Austria) opened its doors to participants of the International Youth Forum EYFON. Guests from Switzerland, Romania, Austria, Croatia, Moldova and Russia came to the castle. With the active support of the Forum “Sochi Dialogue”, four students from the universities of Moscow and St. Petersburg had the opportunity to represent their country and take part in a series of lectures, seminars and discussions on current European politics, its most important issues and problems.
The aim of the EYFON International Camp is to bring together young people from all over Europe who are interested in discussing a wide range of issues: for example, what will Europe look like in 50 years? What would happen in Europe if there were no EU? What can I personally do for the future of Europe? The forum participants not only listened to lectures from leading experts from European universities, but also tried to find answers to these important questions themselves, working in groups and then presenting the results of their discussions to each other. The discussions were attended by representatives of various countries, some of which are not even part of the European Union — therefore, a wide variety of opinions were expressed within the walls of the castle as to whether the EU's activities are now correct and effective both for the participating countries and for Europe as a whole. The most important unifying factor for the inhabitants of Europe turned out to be, however, not politics, but a single history, a common culture. A vivid confirmation of this was the lecture on migration, where the history and experience of past generations became the starting point for understanding the causes, course and consequences of today's migration process in Europe.
The Forum participants discussed EU-Russia relations with particular interest. The country, about which there is a huge number of stereotypes and opinions among the European population, has always been an important partner for Europe. Now, however, the relations between Russia and European countries are ambiguous, and it is our generation that is destined to determine what they will be in the future. The Sochi Dialogue Forum, created only in March this year (on March 12, 2018 in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl signed a statement on the establishment of the Forum), actively promotes the development of Russian-Austrian relations: among the priorities of the forum are issues of economy, culture, art, interuniversity cooperation, science and sports. In June 2018, the presidents of Russia and Austria, Vladimir Putin and Alexander van der Bellen, agreed to promote the implementation of the plans and ideas of the Sochi Dialogue Forum. The presidents noted that the Sochi Dialogue is the main platform for communication between representatives of civil societies of Russia and Austria — including the EYFON International Camp itself, which is a platform for exchanging views between young people from the two countries. Activities aimed at free communication of participants were also a significant part of the Forum program: guests of the forum overcame obstacles in the rope park, went on an excursion to neighboring cities, passed a quiz about the structure and tasks of the European Union, walked and talked with each other in the evenings.
"The EYFON Forum is a unique opportunity for young participants from European countries to learn each other's opinions on key issues, to get acquainted with each other’s point of view in relation to what is happening in the world. It is interesting to hear their opinions not only about the European Union, but also about Russia, - Yulia Dyukareva, a student of SPBU, shares her impressions of participating in the EYFON Forum. — It was very pleasant to understand that Russia is regarded positively, they want to cooperate with us, make friends, learn our culture and even learn the language! In fact, it's amazing that they are so interested in us and our country."
The International EYFON Camp and the Sochi Dialogue Forum are significant projects that help participants better understand the situation in Europe, exchange views and establish direct contacts with each other. Despite the difficulties in international politics, people from European countries are interested in communicating with Russia — and this interest, which is constantly growing and deepening, will be a key factor in the development of our relations in the future.
For me, this week at Forchtenstein Castle was my first experience of participating in an international youth forum. I study at MGIMO, and I only read about the European Union and the attitude of Europeans to our country in textbooks and heard something about the personal experience of teachers at lectures. The EYFON Forum is a chance to see everything with your own eyes and personally talk to young people from European countries, with those who, like me, are interested in political, economic and cultural issues within the framework of international communication.