Make the Difference to combat the Indifference!

JEF seminar in Dworp 2009

, by Alexia Ruvoletto

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

Make the Difference to combat the Indifference!

From 30 March until 4 April 39 young people from 19 different countries gathered in the small and pleasant village of Dworp in the Flemish countryside just outside Brussels, Belgium. The main purpose of the seminar was to focus on the outstanding role that youth can have in struggling against the political disorientation and the lack of awareness in terms of European issues that we called INDIFFERENCE.

The first step was to explore the several suitable opportunities in order to achieve the goal. We kicked off with a presentation introducing the participants to the core values of JEF and the theoretical premises of federalism (rule of law,democracy,subsidiarity,human rights,freedom, equality). Next step was a power-brainstorming exercise in which we came up with some of the most prominent values that could build up a European identity such as peace, equality, freedom and democracy. However, a heated discussion, took place the day after between the participants, reminded us that the construction of a European awareness turns out to be a long-term process we should try to accelerate as much as possible, also through a deeper and more widespread interaction with the civil society.

As Denis Guenoun wrote in his “Hypothèses sur l’Europe”: “L’Europe n’est ni une origine,ni un fin:l’Europe n’est pas un fondation ,un fondament. Pas un but non plus un achèvement,mais ; un objet mèdian, intermédiare. Un milieu (mi-lieu) comme matière-à-penser, elle est en cours, en marche, se traverse.”

In the afternoon participants took part in the Café Mundus session, where discussions concentrated on the relations between Europe and the rest of the world. We ended up with the conclusion that defines the European identity through a distinction with other countries in the world could seem a granted way but yet, not the best one. The EU should find its own identity by being a new model of living, developing and administrating, able to win the new on-coming challenges of globalisation. The international evening, already a traditional event in JEF seminars, has been a great chance of getting to know each other both in terms of personal experiences and individuality and in terms of different culinary expressions of our diverse though European origin.

The EU should find its own identity by being a new model of living, developing and administrating, able to win the new on-coming challenges of globalisation.

On Wednesday an info-session on volunteering by Brian from EEE-YFU provided us with a focused analysis on several phases which compose the so-called “circle of volunteering” (recruitment, induction-integration, training and development, recognition and retention, succession) and which led us to a deeper reflection on how to maintain and develop our organization. Two questions we asked ourselves were: what do you do to facilitate these phases and what do you do to motivate people? Answering led us to share our personal experiences and compare the different realities of our JEF local sections.

After lunch we engaged in a panel debate with two external speakers, namely Marina from the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) and Srđ from the Young European Liberals (LYMEC), which has been a great chance to discuss and keep in touch with other political organizations. The discussion mainly concentrated on EP elections through the presentation of some actions pushed forward by these political groups for example the campaign “penetrate politics” for a more widespread participation and representation of women in European institutions.

In the evening everybody enjoyed the entertainment provided by the different short videos that participants brought along from home. Although the Czech contribution left all a bit astonished, it was the Turkish one entitled “smile” which won the competition with the majority of votes.

The morning after Pia and Julia introduced the main activity of the day with a brief presentation about campaigning. Then it was our turn to be creative and get active by thinking of many other possibilities to launch street actions in our local sections: we came up with many strange but funny and somehow useful ideas such as “European balloons day”, singing the European hymn on buses, distributing gadgets etc. In the afternoon all participants got really involved in a “World Trade simulation game”: everybody was supposed to represent a state among USA, EU, China, Russia and so on and trade with the others in order to get finished goods required for each year. Subsequently the discussion that followed pointed out several sensations, feelings and observations about the game: although many people claimed that the game was not true to reality others expressed their surprise in observing and somehow getting into the general world trade system by discovering some dynamics that could really explain how and why world trade goes always in a certain direction.

WTO simulation game

The Dworp part of the seminar was almost concluded: to everybody’s delight an “Absolute European Party” was waiting for us with music and dance to celebrate the conclusion of such a great experience. It’s important also to remind the great interaction that there has been between the participants of the seminar and another group of physically and mentally challenged people hosted in the “Vormingscentrum Destelheide” thanks to Flemish-speaking organizers we had also the possibility to take part in some activities with them such as the musical workshop, a game and every coffee break we spent together.

On Friday we went by bus to Brussels for the last day of activities. First we visited the European Parliament and meet up with the Belgian MEP Anne Van Lancker, followed by a tour of the Parliament building as well as a tour of the EU quarter and the obligatory stop at Place Jourdan and famous Belgian fritjes at Chez Antoine. In the afternoon we had another panel debate, this time with the Institute Montagne from Paris, a representative of the European Commission and the Young European Socialists (ECOSY), each speaking about their programme and experience in volunteering. We closed our event with a European living library and an alternative Eurotronic party in the centre of Brussels.

In the end some acknowledgements: first of all thanks to JEF-Belgium and the European Secretariat of JEF for their excellent job in organising this great event and thanks to everybody who took part in the seminar and showed the belief that youth can actually make a difference!

Image: Participants of the Dworp seminar. Photo by Elisabeth Velle [JEF].


- Javi TV [Flemish online youth TV channel] report from the Dworp seminar, click here
- Photo Gallery of the Dworp/Brussels seminar, click here

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