25 years of good neighbourship: under this heading, an invitation was extended by the German-Polish Youth Office (DPJW), the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation (SdpZ) and Deutsch-Polnische Wissenschaftsstiftung (German-Polish science foundation, DPWS) to attend their joint German-Polish summer party on 8 June 2016 in Berlin. The party was occasioned by the 25th anniversary of the signature of the Polish-German Treaty of Good Neighbourship, in whose immediate wake DPJW and SpdZ were established.
Input came from two panel discussions. The first involved panellists Rita Süssmuth, the chairwoman of DPWS and former President of the German Bundestag, Markus Meckel, co-chairman of the Council of the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation and former Foreign Minister of the GDR, and Matthias Kneip, writer and representative of Deutsches Polen-Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. The second discussion provided insights into youth work and discussed why youth exchanges will remain important for society in future, too. The panellists here were Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Stephan Schwieren, an international youth work expert, students who were in Berlin taking part in a German-Polish youth exchange, and Agnieszka Łada, member of the German-Polish Youth Council of the DPJW and director of the Europe programme of the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw.
The organisers were joined by around 250 invited guests from politics and civil society, including youth work experts, researchers and representatives of many other institutions from all areas of society who have been instrumental in shaping German-Polish relations. It is thanks to them that 25 years of neighbourship today mean one thing above all: the fact that German-Polish relations have normalised. In other words, an ideal occasion for a shared exploration of how we can continue to take responsibility for shaping Europe’s future together.
Enabling a civil society dialogue
On 9 June, celebrations took place in Moscow to mark the 10th anniversary of the German-Russian coordination office for youth exchanges and commence the German-Russian Year of Youth Exchanges, the patrons of which are the Foreign Ministers of Germany and Russia, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Sergey Lavrov. The ceremony was opened by Dr. Ralf Kleindiek, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs and Aleksander Stradse from the Russian Ministry of Education. It was immediately followed by a conference during which representatives of organisations and institutions from Russia and Germany sat down together to discuss the general environment for youth exchanges in light of the current political climate.
“Today, too, this ten-year anniversary is an ideal opportunity to look back on our positive achievements,” commented Thomas Hoffmann, managing director of the Foundation for German-Russian Youth Exchange. “While the circumstances under which exchanges take place have become more challenging over the last few years, we have stepped up our efforts to support the participating organisations in their work. Over the last decade, thousands of young people have engaged in a civil society dialogue with our assistance,” he continued. “School and youth exchanges are based on long-standing partnerships for whom everyday politics play a secondary role, if at all. The exchange of information and the diverse nature of the encounters between young people from these countries can help to neutralise the stereotypes that often persist between them.”
Commemorative stamps celebrating German-Polish relations
Celebrations were also under way in Warsaw. 14 June saw a ceremony to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the German-Polish Youth Office. By the way, on 2 June 2016 a commemorative stamp featuring the German-Polish Youth Office was jointly issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Polish postal operator Poczta Polska. With a face value of 90 cents, the stamp can be used to send letters to other EU countries. Poczta Polska simultaneously issued a 2.50 złoty stamp, suitable for priority mail inside Poland.
Sources: German-Polish Youth Office, Foundation for German-Russian Youth Exchange