13 Apr International Session in Novi Sad: Bridging the Culture Gap
The 95th International Session of the European Youth Parliament (EYP) took place In March in Novi Sad, Serbia. It brought together 175 participants from all corners of Europe in the first International Session taking place fully in person since the start of the pandemic. With its theme, Bridging the Culture Gap, the participants aimed to bridge cultural gaps and use these gaps, ranging from the old and the new, tradition and innovation, pro-EU and anti-EU, majority and minority, and rural and urban, as a starting point for conversation.
The session took place when Novi Sad was European Capital of Culture. The programme narrative of the Capital of Culture revolved around the “4 New Bridges”: Love, Hope, Freedom, and Rainbow. The session took this to heart in its theme and execution, forging many new friendships and sparking many enlightening conversations.
The ones that started this event and made it into what it became were its two Head Organisers: Jelena Valentik and Nikola Milenković. They created a safe space where all participants could develop and grow. Guiding the participants in that process was the academic team, led by Laura Joël, who together with her chairs team ensured the participants could share their ideas and tackle the issues facing Europe together. Finally, the media team under the auspices of the editor Christopher Nölte made sure that everything was captured, and memories were preserved in pictures and video.
The first day of the event, the delegates immediately started the process of getting to know each other, with some general teambuilding exercises, and Eurovillage, where each participant could show off the food and culture of their country to all other participants, starting off the intercultural exchange right away.
The next day, the delegates met in smaller groups of 10-12 and got to know the people they would be working on a common theme with over the next week. They learned to communicate and to solve problems together and created a well-functioning work atmosphere for the days ahead. On the evening of a day of teambuilding, they got to test their newly forged bonds in a quiz which pitted them against the other groups.
Next, the delegates commenced Committee Work, where they worked on tackling a variety of issues facing Europe today. They had to build bridges socially, culturally, and physically, with topics ranging from fiscal cohesion to making sports sustainable and accessible for everyone to improving Europe’s railway network. Under the guidance of their chairperson, they analysed the issues they were given from different sides, each bringing their own unique background and experiences to the table.
On the eve of the first day of Committee Work, the opening ceremony took place. The event kicked off with a special message by Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs & Social Rights of the EU. A panel discussion was then held under the theme “in diversity towards tomorrow” with speakers of the German, French, and Dutch embassies. They were then joined by Norbert Beckmann-Dierkes of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Serbia, Ognjen Marković, of the Regional Cooperation Council, Ivana Antonijević of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, Gordana Čomić of the Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue of Serbia, and Luisa Seiler, executive Director of the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe, all of whom addresses the participants. Finally, the leadership of the event gave their welcoming words, and kicked off the academic part of the event officially.
As committee work came to an end after 3 days of hard work, the participants had the chance to take part in a well-deserved cultural day, where they had the chance to explore Novi Sad and its long history. They could choose between 3 different events. Firstly, walking around the scenic Petrovaradin Fortress, where they crossed the Rainbow bridge and climbed up the steps of the storied location. Secondly, they could explore the city centre of Novi Sad, experiencing its multicultural diversity. This included a visit to the Synagogue, Roman Catholic Parish Church ‘The Name of Mary”, and Serbian Orthodox Church of Saint George, and a stop at the “Migrations in the 21st century” exhibition. Their last choice was visiting the Museum of Vojvodina and the Gallery of Matica Srpska, two of the biggest cultural objects of Novi Sad. They could explore thousands of objects from Novi Sad’s history from prehistoric times until now and see some of the most important works of art in Serbian history. This included an exhibition on Migrations in Art – the Art in Migrations. No matter what the participants chose to do on the cultural day, they had an unforgettable experience.
The evening activity of the cultural day, Euroconcert, took place at one of the venues some of the participants had the chance to visit, the Synagogue of Novi Sad. Here, participants showed off their singing, dancing, and music skills and showcased their culture. Be with a piano, guitar, or ukulele, all performers gave it their all in this lovely evening in a beautiful venue.
The last few days, the culmination of the hard work of all participants took place: the General Assembly. All participants presented the solutions they found after their days of deliberation and had a chance to comment on the solutions of the other groups. It was a creative and constructive space, where participants had a chance to voice their opinions on the future of Europe. On the evening of the last day, the Closing Ceremony was held, were the leadership and participants had a chance to reflect on the event that had passed and look to the future and what they would do next. Finally, after one last farewell party, all participants went home, no doubt carrying the memories and experiences they had during the event with them.