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Five years of the German Turkish Youth Bridge: Greater confidence in relations Turkey

Foreign Minister Maas with participants in the German Turkish Youth Bridge

Foreign Minister Maas with participants in the German Turkish Youth Bridge, © Felix Zahn/photothek.net

19.09.2019 - Article

The German Turkish Youth Bridge celebrated its fifth anniversary from 16 to 18 September 2019 with the German Turkish Youth Exchange Future Forum. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was right in the middle of things.

Young people from Germany and Turkey gathered in Berlin for three days for the German Turkish Youth Bridge. At workshops and public events they reflected on projects that have already been implemented and discussed future formats. Young German diplomats met the young German-Turkish ambassadors at the Federal Foreign Office. On the evening of 17 September, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas discussed German-Turkish relations with around 150 participants in the Heeresbäckerei in Kreuzberg.

Promoting dialogue: Greater confidence in relations

Foreign Minister Maas at the German Turkish Youth Bridge panel discussion
Foreign Minister Maas at the German Turkish Youth Bridge panel discussion© Felix Zahn/photothek.net

The participants included many school pupils and teachers. The fishbowl discussion focused on the many different challenges and opportunities that crop up in practice, but also on current issues in bilateral relations, visa procedures, the refugee agreement and Turkey’s prospects for EU accession.

Foreign Minister Maas emphasised the “close personal ties between Turkey and Germany”, as reflected by the three million or so people with Turkish roots in Germany and in the two countries’ intensive economic relations.

He also addressed the current challenges in Germany’s and the EU’s relations with Turkey. He said he hoped there could be greater confidence in German-Turkish relations in future, and called the German Turkish Youth Exchange Future Forum the best example of that optimism that relations needed:

Exchange is an indispensable prerequisite for better understanding. My wish is that German-Turkish relations be characterised by confidence. The Youth Bridge shows us what form that might take, and how close we are to each other. Because friendships grow here. And what can be better for mutual understanding than friendship?

“Young people are being listened to more – because they are making their voices heard”

The discussions were a good example of how young people’s voices are being heard more and more, the Minister went on, because they are making themselves heard. German-Turkish exchange needed to go beyond dialogue between government representatives. Generally, said Foreign Minister Maas, young people from all social groups could and should organise themselves and create space for themselves. The state needed to create the necessary framework for civil-society initiatives. Because, as one teacher who spoke in the discussion said, exchange helps us to recognise not our differences, but everything we have in common.

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