After months of preparation, especially by Aberdeen University’s Politics & International relations Society’s Vice-President, Satu Kuitunen, the long-awaited panel discussion finally took place on the 6th of October. The topic was “Your Culture, My Politics” and was in collaboration with A Soul for Europe. A Soul for Europe’s aim is to ” implement concrete steps and conduct projects to ensure that Europe makes greater and better use of its cultural assets”. The panel included Ana Gomes MEP, Nikolai Petersen, Rarita Zbranca, Sir Graham Watson, Ferdinand Richard, Kirsty Blackman MP, Stephanie Bonnici, Malcolm Harvey and Satu Kuitunen. The event was moderated by Simon Mundy, a member of the Strategy Group for A Soul for Europe. Nele Hertling, former director of the Berlin City of Culture and Berlin Festival, attended the event and gave a thought-provoking introductory speech as well as a wonderful closing speech to wrap up the event.
Though this forum gave light to many valuable points, one of the most memorable discussions was on the peaceful fluidity of the European Union. There was a visible generational gap between a majority of the panelists and those who attended. Most of the panelists had seen a Europe before the European Union while likely none of the students ever witnessed, or can recall, a Europe without the EU. Panelist Nikolai Peterson recalled his journey to Portugal in 1989, before the creation of the European Union. Throughout his trip he was stopped twice at the border of each European country he passed through. Peterson recalled being in Portugal on November 9th, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell. He expressed that “The fall of the Berlin Wall galvanized European integration!”. Today, due the creation of the European Union and the Schengen Convention, citizens are able to pass from one EU Member State to another with ease. It was good and interesting to see that many of the people attending the event were actually from mainland Europe and are in Aberdeen, making use of the privileges they are able to enjoy as citizens of European Union member states. One of these people is Satu Kuitunen, Vice-President of the PIR Society, panelist, and an organizer of the event, is in her fourth and final year at the University of Aberdeen. In response to the conversation on the creation of the EU, Kuitunen stated how she has “enjoyed the privileges of the EU [her] whole life”. This conversation provoked the young audience, who likely take the privileges of the EU for granted, to think about a Europe, and even a world, without the European Union and how different it would be. Rasmus Udde, who wrote an opinion peace in the follow-up to the panel discussion in Aberdeen, talks about this too. In this piece, he asks himself what Europe means to Estonian Rasmus and European Rasmus. This concept is quite thought-provoking. Rasmus argues that Europe to Estonian Rasmus (one that did not move to Brussels at age 12) is nothing. It’s like the US or Russia, “something to read or watch news about or visit as a tourist.” European Rasmus on the other hand has the “ability to relocate, explore, experience, and cherish different people, culture, locations, and opportunities”. Ana Gomes responded to the conversation by reminding the room that the privileges of the EU were not gifted to EU Member States; these privileges were fought for. Gomes stated, “I never took the EU for granted. It is the most important pace project for humanity”. The younger generation in the room will have a large role in guiding the future of Europe, and therefore, it was enlightening for this younger generation to be reminded that peace is not given, but fought for.
Overall, the feedback we received was very positive. The panelists seemed to have enjoyed themselves and the students learned a lot and (hopefully) got some refreshing thoughts in their mind. An event like this is not held very often, so most of the students really enjoyed this type of debate. The committee is very happy that the event was successful, but sad that the event is over. We had a great time too and it was great to see so many students attending. It was great to have the panelists join us at the pub after for an informal chat. We had much more personal discussions and the atmosphere removed the barrier that could have easily been put up by the panelists and attendees during the event.
On behalf of the entire Politics and International Relations committee, we would like to thank all the panelists for attending and for their thought provoking speeches. We would also like to thank everyone in the audience that attended the event. We hope you learned as much as we did and had fun in the process as well!
Rasmus Udde’s opinion piece: https://medium.com/asoulforeurope/europe-a-concept-filled-with-opportunities-4c729de5c1c
Aberdeen University’s PIR Society’s twitter (where one can find the tweets above and many more!): https://twitter.com/ABDNPIRSoc
A Soul For Europe: http://www.asoulforeurope.eu/
Aberdeen University’s PIR Society: http://abdnpir.co.uk