Most of you will be familiar with the EU Youth Programme, which gives young people the opportunity to go to another country to experience the culture, the people, and to engage in projects by working there for several months (EVS, Leonardo), going to university (Erasmus), or do some exchange between a group/organization they belong to in their own country and a similar group in another country. Since a couple of years, exchanges can also be set up with all countries from the Mediteranean region. This part of the Youth Programme is called Euro-Med. But up until now, contacts and connections between European and Mediterranean youth organizations were not very widespread. To stimulate this and to enlarge the number of exchanges, the EU has founded the Euro-Med Platform. One of the main functions of this platform is to serve as a database, so youth organizations from Europe and Mediterranean countries can establish contacts and offer exchanges to their members.
To celebrate the start of this Platform, there was a launching meeting in Malta, the small but great archipelago between the so called North (Europe) and South (Africa, Middle-East), in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. In total some 120 young persons from all involved countries were present. The programme consisted of several lectures and workshops by many professional and interesting persons. One of the important and clear messages of the EU -officials was that the platform was created by them, but now it was ours, youth had ownership of it from now on. We can do with the platform what we think is best. Later on, in the open space technology, a big discussion arose about how the Platform should be governed/administered.
The programme was not overloaded, so there was time to have personal talks with other participants. Also, on the second day there was an info-market, where all organizations had a stall with information about themselves. I was representing DWARS, and Natalie was representing FYEG. Jan also did a good job for Jong Agalev. Unfortunately, there was no info about DWARS in English. So I had a nice stall, but it was all in Dutch. Then there was the small dilemma of staying with your stall, so you can inform others about your organisation, or going around yourself, getting informed. I chose to check out the other organisation, first as I am curious and secondly because I did not have any info in English. I I found a lot of people with whom I would like to do something interesting (I mean exchanges and contacts, ok!). Natalie and myself presented several green issues in the open space technology. I found some people to join the week of the forest working group of the FYEG. They mostly come from Northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), then Turkey and England. I explained the idea behind Forest Week and on arriving home, I put them on our email list. Natalie organised a very good and successful workshop about Gender and Politics, which was very well attended.
Of course there was also time for leisure. On the first evening we had welcome evening, with getting-to-know-each-other games and then drinks in the hotel bar. For the second evening, a big intercultural event with country presentations was planned. The idea was that people from each country should give a very short intro. 35 countries were to fit in total duration of 2 hours. With my FYEG experience with country presentations (Strasbourg, Sumava, Jahorina) I was very doubtful that this could actually happen but the problem solved itself when all participants brought a lot of their national dishes and sweets and then starting to eat each others excellent food! The music started, people danced and nobody gave a presentation!. This was a great experience for me, seeing all those persons, from all countries, partying and enjoying together, also the Palestinian and Israelis. That gave me hope for a better future for the actual very tense situation in P/I in specific and the many prejudices and friction between countries and regions in general. In the afternoon we had 3 options for a Maltese excursion. The greens opted to see Imnajda and Hagar Qim temples, the oldest free-standing temples in the world!! (note added by Natalie: That was when the world was still OK, as god was a woman!) In the evening we went to a Chinese dance and music presentations organised by the Chinese Cultural Centre in Malta, and then to eat and go to some bar/disco. Because with my tiny group we took a lot of time to find a place to eat, we did not have time to the visit a pub afterwards. The last evening we goodbye-party.
On top of the great experience with Euro-Med, I also had a very good experience visiting Malta! I arrived a couple of days before the launch and stayed a couple of days after. FYEG communication officer Natalie was so friendly as to let me stay in her apartment, although before the launch she was in Strasbourg working on a declaration for young women in politics. I visited Valletta the capital, and Mdina, the former capital. The days after the launch, I visited Sliema and the three cities or better called Cottonera. These cities which are part of the harbour, so they have a lot of history especially in the great siege of Malta in 1565 and the 2nd World War. The sea was very nice so I went snorkling and also took a boat ride. On the 23rd of September was the Autumnal Equinox, so after some pastizzi (Maltese cheese cakes) we went to the temples (at 0400hrs!!!) to see a phenomenon of the first rays of sunlight hitting the inner most alter. Such a perfect calender!