YOUTH AND THE FUTURE OF KALININGRAD
KALININGRAD, 18-20 OCTOBER 2002
Goal: To discuss the situation of young people in Kaliningrad, focussing on the priorities of the current situation and the needs of the future.
Organisers: Olof Palme International Center, University of Kaliningrad, European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity and Alfred Mozer Foundation.
Target group : Representatives of Kaliningrad’s political and civil society including youth, delegates from Eastern European social democratic parties, members of EU Parliament and representatives of international organisations active in Kaliningrad.
Venue : Kaliningrad
Date: 18-20 October 2002
Speakers : Vladimir Jegorov (governor), Vladimir Nikitin (speaker regional Duma), V. Bagalin, Y. Matochkin, and S. Ginzburg (deputies regional Duma), Eva Hedkvist-Petersen (MEP), Vladimir Bondarenko (Yabloko), S. Pasko (chairman Baltic Republican Party), I. Nastashev and M. Nikitin (professors), Oleg Skvortsov (European Students Forum), N. Mosjanova (Students Union), Giedre Leyelte (Young Falcons Lithuania), André Gerrits (chairman Alfred Mozer Foundation).
When Poland and Lithuania join the EU, Kaliningrad will become a Russian enclave within the EU. This future situation raises particular challenges and opportunities for Kaliningrad. Movement of Russian citizens between Kaliningrad and the rest of Poland and Lithuania after EU enlargement is an important issue. Another issue will be the raised attention from the EU for the region. To address these issues and to discuss – together with Kalingraders of all ages – the future of this region, a conference was organised in Kaliningrad on 18-20 October.
The goal of the conference was to discuss the situation of young people living in Kaliningrad and to find out how they see their future. Emphasis was put on priorities of the current situation and the needs of the future. Main themes were:
- European Enlargement: What does it mean to Kaliningrad?
- Kaliningrad and its neighbours
- Political strategies of Kaliningrad development
- Kaliningrad in ten years time
- Work, rest, health and crime. What can be done?
- Future needs and possible future cooperation
Various Russian and international speakers shed their light on the above mentionned topics. Workshops offered the possibility to discuss specific topics more thoroughly. Despite the many problems Kaliningrad is struggling with, the tone of the speakers was hopeful. The enlargement of the European Union is regarded a big chance to improve the socio-economic situation of both young and older Kaliningraders.
The visa-problem of Kaliningrad has received a lot of attention throughout Europe the last months. However, during the conference an effort was made to avoid the visa-problem. Most participants considered this problem to be of minor relevance, for which a solution will be found shortly. Instead of focusing on short-term problems, the enlargement of the European Union should be used for the socio-economic development of the region from a long-term perspective. Regional co-operation as is already taking place between Kaliningrad, the Baltic states and the Nordic countries, was considered of great importance.
From the discussions between young and older Kalingraders it became clear that conflicting views on the Kaliningrad identity exist. Whereas older speakers (professors, politicians) tended to focus on the self-awareness of the Kaliningraders and the necessity to recognise their Russian identity, young speakers consider themselves as Europeans. Many young people never visited mainland Russia, but did visit, work or study in one of the neighbouring countries (Poland, Lithuania) and see their future in a European context.
A considerable amount of students participated in the conference, but as became apparent in the contributions of the speakers, not many young people are active in politics. Young people who are active mainly work in student unions and NGO’s, but are not represented in local authorities. These organisations are many in number, and a problem seemed to be a lack of co-operation between these organisations. Because youth is not represented in local authorities, youth interests are not expressed at the decisionmaking level. A wish was expressed that youth should make more use of political institutions.
The conference ‘Youth and the Future of Kaliningrad’ offered the participants the possibility to discuss in an open manner the difficulties Kaliningrad ànd its youth are struggling with. For participants from outside Kaliningrad the event was a good opportunity to learn about the views of Kalingraders on their problems and their future. The speeches offered an adequate picture of the political, economic and social situation of Kaliningrad. The workshops offered a possibility, especially for the youth, to discuss amongst each other – without the adult participants - more thoroughly their problems.
In the contributions of the older speakers from Kaliningrad however, a touch of paternalism could not be missed. It appeared difficult for them to address specific youth topics (youth in politics, drug problems, criminality) and speakers not always seemed to take youth interests seriously. On the other hand, some of the younger participants themselves did not use the opportunity to express their own interests, but fell into lengthy political speeches. The workshops were a welcome change to this. Here young people discussed their identity and the necessity of more co-operation amongst their organisations in a very open way.
The conclusion was drawn that politically active youth from Kaliningrad in the future should be more involved in regional projects the European Forum organises, such as the Networking for Democracy seminar.