As soon as I’ve heard about the Young European Ambassadors initiative in the framework of ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project in October 2016, I knew that I wanted to join, so I’ve wasted no time in applying. Approximately one month later, I received an email informing me that I have been selected as a Young European Ambassador! To be honest, I had been eagerly awaiting for that e-mail and the extent of joy I have experienced was incomparable to anything else.
Since I became a Young European Ambassador, I have gradually gained a unique and comprehensive knowledge about the European Union, its institutions, the culture of various European countries and, most importantly, learned a lot about the Eastern Partnership and what it offers to our countries. As a Young European Ambassador I have to date participated in a myriad of events, civic engagement activities and projects. Amongst the ones to highlight is my recent experience attending the 10th Anniversary of Eastern Partnership Launch event that was held in the heart of the European Union, Brussels.
From the beginning to the end, the journey was full of exciting adventures and incredible moments that will befor ever rooted in our memories. When starting the journey in Baku, I was able to see the anticipation in the eyes of my fellow, Young European Ambassadors from Azerbaijan. The excitement filled everyone from top to toe. With news of a strike in Belgium we were thinking that everything will be canceled, but were so nicely surprised by the determination and swift actions of the EC Services and the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ to still go ahead and find alternative solutions for our travel. With great pleasure we learned that, instead of our original plans to fly to Brussels, we would now be flying to Paris and then will be taken by bus to our final destination. Whilst this detour could have easily turned out to be a disappointment for some, I would like to say thank you for this!
Once we arrived in Paris airport, we met with the YEAs from the other Eastern partner countries and we all got on the same bus. This was a great opportunity as we had the chance to get to know each other. During the journey, I have learned interesting and unique facts about the fellow YEAs from the other countries. For instance, did you know that there are 300 potatoes dishes made in Belarus; that Georgia is the cradle of winemaking (they have been producing wine for at least 8000 years, and that it is considered the birthplace of the beverage); that the first ever church was built in Armenia; that L’viv, in Ukraine, is home to the highest number of cafes per capita in the world - almost 1,500 establishments, and that the CRICOVA wine cave in Moldova is the largest in the entire world (80 km underground and you could drive through streets of Cabernet, Sauvignion, etc..). One of the best parts of the journey by bus was when everyone began singing in different languages…. it was so funny! I feel so happy as during this journey and the few days in Brussels, I made new friends across the region and have learned so many new things about our cultures, traditions and shared values.
During the two days we had very productive workshops and meetings and also visited many institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the Permanent Representation of Estonia to EU. We were given the chance to meet and discuss in an informal manner with high-ranking European politicians and officials, and ask them various questions covering many diverse areas. Amongst these dignitaries were Mr. Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East at DG Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Mr. Luc Devigne, Deputy Managing Director of the European External Action Service. Mr. Meredith and Mr. Devigne welcomed us and exchanged their views with the Young European Ambassadors on the challenges and opportunities encountered by the Eastern partner countries. Many questions were asked. The meeting with Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice President of the European Commission was a great opportunity and experience. Many Young European Ambassadors asked different questions, particularly about the future of the Eastern Partnership, and the opportunities that the EU offers for youth in the Eastern partner countries. Mr. Dombrovskis was impressed with so many important questions and it was obvious when he praised everyone by saying that he saw a great future ahead of us. This is so inspiring!
We also have organised a flashmob in front of the European Commission at Schuman roundabout, This was such a great experience! The weather was great, the YEAs were dressed in national costumes and full of joy. All the national flags of the Eastern partner countries and the EU flag were flown throughout the flashmob and, at the end, bio-degradable balloons were released into the air as a token of gratitude.
The visit to the European Parliament with a tour and informative presentation was another un-believable experience for us all – we were dreaming all our lives to visit this institution, and here we were… and of course plenty of videos and pictures were taken! I can say that the European Parliament is a unique and spacious place, and I hope that one day I can return and to see/experience the legislative process in action with plenty of heated discussions.
Despite the busy schedule, we did have a chance to explore Brussels and, unquestionably, Brussels enlivens and lights up much more at night than during the day. We saw many sights, including the Palace of Egmon, Brussels Cathedral, the Royal Palace and many other incredible landmarks. What I really liked about Brussels is the candor of people, the romantic weather and, most importantly…. the most tasty chocolate in the world!
A big thank to the European Union for giving us the opportunity to gather together, to learn from each other and to find ways of working together for a better future for us all.
This journey was not only informative and enlightening, but at the same time it was full of collaborative exchanges of information and bold ideas which will surely benefit the youth of our Eastern partner countries. This indispensable experience with cross-functional and international teams has taught me the importance of building trusted relationships, be inspired about everything we do, have a shared vision and work together for our present and out future.
This journey helped me really feel that we are only stronger together!