The spirit, energy and commitment of the participants of the Europe-themed youth BarCamp in Leipzig was impossible to underestimate, even though the agenda was packed and some attendees had a long journey behind them. 100 young people had accepted the invitation of Federal Youth Minister Franziska Giffey, travelling to Leipzig on 3 May to attend the event and, as the invitation indicated, to make new friends, too. The evening’s festivities were an ideal opportunity to get started with that: a disco with DJ Boureni at Moritzbastei, a cultural centre in the city centre. Thomas Thomer, Deputy Director-General at the Federal Youth Minister and Ulrich Hörning, Mayor of Leipzig, welcomed the guests and had a chat with them.
Opening event with the Federal Minister and Lord Mayor
The morning of 4 May brought what everyone had feared: cold and rainy weather. The opening ceremony with Federal Youth Minister Giffey and Lord Mayor Burkhard Jung, had to be relocated from an open-air stage to the inside of the Moritzbastei in record time – which went well. However, Giffey and Jung had not just come to the event to speak at their young audience, they also wanted to speak with them. Representatives of various NGOs took to the stage to illustrate how committed and serious they were about making their own lives and environments better and how much they wanted to help others to do the same. Europe in general and German-Greek youth exchanges in particular, they felt, were a great way to get to know the world. However, everyone on the panel was well aware that these opportunities are under threat. As Minister Giffey said, “A democratic and peaceful Europe cannot be taken for granted. It is important that we keep working on it together.”
Demanding BarCamp sessions
The actual BarCamp started after the lunch break. When facilitator Nadia Zaboura asked who’d been at a BarCamp before, just three people raised their hands. In other words, for almost everyone present this was a completely new format. A BarCamp is not about listening to a speaker; rather, it invites all participants to take an active role, get talking and try out new things – a concept that everyone had understood in no time at all.
The participants had been requested to submit their ideas for the sessions in advance. These suggestions formed an agenda that was equally as demanding as that of the German-Greek Youth Forum for experts. It comprised project presentations, training sessions, information on going abroad, as well as more fundamental issues such as democracy, youth participation and Europe.
Particularly popular were the sessions that involved physical activity. The dance session organised by the Greek project “Dare Dance Digitalize” was so oversubscribed that it had to be repeated. The session on language animation also turned out to be very physical. One exceptionally popular session was the one organised by the two UN youth delegates Josephine Hebling and Nikolas Karanikolas – it, too, had to be repeated on day 2. The need to reflect on one’s own concerns in an international context apparently resonated with everyone.
What’s an anacalypse? No, not the end of the world. It’s a way to explore a city by giving a group a certain task to complete on, say, urban environment and sustainability, or gender roles, using a defined instrument. The results of this experiment were presented on Sunday afternoon, producing an entertaining programme with drama, video, photography, interviews and dance. Some participants opted for a more traditional alternative: thematic guided tours to the city. The morning session on 6 May was a chance to get to know some of Leipzig’s youth facilities, an opportunity just as enthusiastically embraced, despite a palpable sense of fatigue – possibly owing to the previous evening’s lively karaoke session.
The establishment of the German-Greek Youth Office is imminent, as confirmed by Germany’s Federal Youth Ministry. Pafsanias Papageorgiou, the Greek Secretary-General for Youth, also confirmed this in a video message screened during the youth BarCamp’s opening session. The formalities ought to be completed by summer 2019, with two branch offices in Greece and Germany starting work in late 2019 or early 2020. The Federal Youth Ministry has set aside an annual budget of EUR 3 million for the Youth Office. In other words, the groundwork has been laid to ensure that the connections forged at the Leipzig BarCamp are genuinely sustainable.
For more information on the youth BarCamp and German-Greek youth exchanges, go to https://agorayouth.com