The International Youth Forum Meetings – Focus Russia kicks off in Strasbourg
From July 29 to August 4, almost 200 international students and young graduates gathered in Strasbourg, France, with the common aim of strengthening Europe’s dialogue with Russia on issues ranging from the economy to international relations and culture. Organized by the Youth Association for a Greater Europe, a non-profit organization created in 2012, the Strasbourg Meetings received the support of both the Youth Department of the Council of Europe and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
thinkRUSSIA spoke with Lara Kaute – an international student at Sciences Po, the University of Paris VI and the Free University of Berlin – who serves as the president of this initiative.
Along with other young graduates and international students, Lara Kaute – who is a citizen of Germany and France with Russian origins – made the assessment that there was still a lack of comprehensive communication among young Russians and Europeans. They decided to join forces and develop a Forum “to dialogue with those from neighboring countries and bring young generations of the extended Europe closer together.”
This first edition of the Strasbourg Meetings, which ended last week, acted as “a conference for students and recent graduates who want to enlarge the contacts between various Europeans countries and Russia” according to the Forum’s website http://www.greater-europe.com. “Our initiative was very well received on the Russian side and by some European countries such as France,” comments Lara Kaute. The decision was taken to organize it in Strasbourg, given the presence of European institutions, in particular the Council of Europe “which has always been very supportive of youth initiatives,” and of which the Russian Federation has been a member since 1996.
During the one-week program, participants took part in workshops to discuss education, business adaptation between countries and diplomatic and cross-cultural cooperation. They also attended a number of high-level lectures, in the presence of important figures such as Alexander Orlov, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to France. In addition, participants had the opportunity to visit the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the city of Strasbourg itself.
The objective is “to trigger very strong human experiences among the young generations” but also to “transform these experiences into pan-European projects,” explains Lara Kaute. For instance, one of the goals of the Association is to “facilitate cross-border business for young entrepreneurs,” with practical training courses on accounting, marketing, taxation and the cultural business peculiarities of the EU and Russia. The Forum notably initiated an investor’s platform “which will serve as a catalyst for business start-ups and innovation programs.” A permanent think-tank will also be devoted to promote EU-Russia-CIS relations and exchange knowledge and ideas to continue bringing together these two regions.