German-Italian relations are rich and wide-ranging. The two Foreign Ministers Heiko Maas and Luigi di Maio often discuss issues such as Libya, COVID-19 or European foreign policy. What is more, the two countries’ civil societies have been closely interconnected for a very long time. A prime example of this is schools. That is where young people learn about the language and culture of the other country. As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe and keen to listen to young people and hear about their expectations of the EU, Foreign Minister Maas and his colleague di Maio spoke today online to 30 pupils.
The Conference on the Future of Europe was launched in Brussels in May. Governments, parliaments as well as citizens are taking part. It is a process in which citizens can discuss and present their ideas. The ideas will then be discussed in several plenary sessions and are intended to be incorporated into European policies.
Solidarity and sovereignty
Foreign Minister Maas said that the EU had shown during the COVID-19 pandemic that it could stand united when the going got tough. This includes both the measures to tackle the health crisis and the large-scale European Recovery Fund. However, mutual solidarity, for instance when it comes to accepting COVID-19 intensive care patients from other countries, is another factor which defines the EU as a community of shared values.
On the international stage, the EU’s united front is more important than ever. For only by working together can the EU member states truly make a difference in the sphere of foreign policy. Even if it is not always easy to establish consensus among 27 states, the EU is always best heard and best understood when it speaks with one voice.
New ideas through young people
For the sake of the EU’s future, we need to find fresh ideas and to listen to the young generation. After considering Europe’s future in a virtual workshop yesterday, today the pupils put forward their wishes to the two Foreign Ministers. The participating schools included the Albert Einstein Gymnasium in Berlin and the German school in Rome.
With the aim of fostering solidarity, one group proposed the establishment of a European student’s charter to subsidise trips by young people to other EU member states and visits to cultural institutions. They also wanted to see Europe playing a more prominent role in school curricula, possibly as a subject in its own right. A second group proposed the establishment of European civil defence capacities, which could be deployed rapidly in the event of a natural disaster or a pandemic.
Another group had looked at how to strengthen human rights and proposed an EU action plan 2030 to foster the global promotion of education as a human right. In order to tackle discrimination more effectively, pupils proposed, among other things, that the fates of refugees be conveyed better to the public and that more decisive action be taken against fake news.