09. October 2013
posted by Heidi Beha
The third Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius is approaching and the EU’s relations with the east have become a hot topic again. Poland, Germany and Russia serve as an important triangular in this netting of interests, historical experiences and present outlooks. Youngsters and seniors discussed this at the first Trilateral Youth Forum in Warsaw last week. Some believe in a Russian saying: “Chicken is not quite a bird and Poland is not abroad”, many Polish…emphasise their support for a strong and acting Germany quoting their foreign minister Radosław Sikorski. Others assume Germany is the secret advocate of Russian interests in the EU whereas some Germans still dream the dream of Russia adopting the European values and mindset. What are the common points?
Taking up a constructive, enthusiastic and optimistic approach to answer that question, the message of the first Trilateral Youth Forum was: Historic ties, future partnership – or what actually meets it much better: friendship and a deep interest for each other. This proved the invited ten youngsters (18-26) from each country already through their background. Among them were Germans who travelled from Hungary, Polish from Berlin and Russians who knew Warsaw better than their hometown. The common language was English but everyone was chatting in everyone’s languages.
The relations between Russia, Poland and Germany have become somehow also a part of my biography. My first experience east from West-Germany were fantastic months of Erasmus studies in Wrocław. I haven’t had a clue about Polish and I was a bit shy speaking English. This changed and also my “eastern border”. With five friends from Ireland, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy I travelled to Odessa, to Brasov, Grodno, Minsk and Chisinau. Poland had opened up a whole new world for me. So did Russia when I worked there for two years afterwards.
Europe – and I’m not only writing the EU – grows together through its people and their experiences. Common projects, business, forums to meet, exchanges – all this involves the citizens and strengthens common understanding. Ideological talking such as “A partnership can only exist with common values and Russia and Germany don’t have common values”, stated at the forum by Wolfgang Templin, head of the German Boell Foundation in Warsaw, help little when it comes to creating a common triangular space.
Find common topics
“Topics which concern the triangular equally such as the integration of immigrants or the demographic challenge of the ageing society are interesting for everyone” stated Milosz Zieliński from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The participants found common topics: Olga Korotkaya for example developed an idea to film the everyday life of young disabled people in all three countries in order to stimulate public discussion and awareness. In her project draft she intends to involve young film teams from the three countries.
Zieliński also mentioned the role Poland already played and plays within the EU when it comes to the relations with Ukraine. The EU can and should profit from this regional expertise and understanding. “The EU doesn’t know what to do with governments which say ‘No” to the EU. In Eastern Europe there are tendencies that more integration is not wanted and some countries become more eurosceptic” warned Andrey Makarychev, a professor from the University of Tartu. The only way how to convince people and through them their governments is to give them the chance to experience what Europe means. Within the triangular slumbers a huge potential of cooperation not only on top level but particularly among people which we wouldn’t call cooperation but simply: friendship and exchange. The Trilateral Youth Forum aims to transform the Russian-Polish-German trialogue into projects and will be continued next year in Moscow.
The trilateral relations might not always develop in logic or calculable ways but the Polish, Russian and German young generation has the chance and power to find common paths.
I conducted a workshop at the forum on: “Discussions or deeds? Project management in multilateral contexts” and had the chance to attend the final panel discussion.