Participation: The event involved 35 citizens, including 13 participants from the city of Bad Kötzting, Germany; 6 participants from the city of Kőszeg, Hungary; 9 participants from the city of Marsaskala, Malta; 3 participants from the city of Chojna, Poland; 4 participants from the city of Velletri, Italy.
Location / Dates: The event took place in Bad Kötzting, Germany, from 7/06/2018 to 10/06/2018.
The aim of the third event was to deepen the theme of “Europe” in general and to discuss the issues of “Why to be in the EU?” and “Do we respect the EU?” in panel discussions and workshops. The workshops took place in a former military base near the border with the Czech Republic, which was used as a listening station during the Cold War and today, so to speak, is a “memorial” for this period. Before the fall of the Iron Curtain, this was the border of the EU. In preparation of the discussion, that is part of the EULOCAL-meeting in Bad Kötzting, students of the Benedikt-Stattler-Gymnasium prepared an exhibition about their idea and questions: What is EU at all, how does it function, what is its present and future, its fate.
The other theme of the meeting was “Beekeeping and the Aspect of World Bee Mortality”, which highlights the importance of these little insects to people around the world. This topic is treated in a theoretical and a practical part. Not only the project participants from the partner cities should have the opportunity to participate in the workshops and discussions, but also the citizens of Bad Kötzting. This topic was prepared and worked out in cooperation with the local high school Benedikt-Stattler-Gymnasium under the direction of the teachers Karsten Nasdal and Simon Haselbauer.
In preparation of the workshop, that is part of the EULOCAL-meeting in Bad Kötzting, students attending the 10th grade of the Benedikt-Stattler-Gymnasium conducted a preliminary project, that investigated different types of grassland with a focus on biodiversity and accommodation of bees.
The background was the recommendation of various environmental interest groups to build strips of flowers alongside fields, in order to increase the ecological value of those landscapes and provide nourishment for bees. During this project said flower strips were compared to a conventional meadow, a two-year bee pasture and a lawn, measuring biodiversity and accommodation for bees, in order to answer the question, which form of management is the most meaningful. The projects and its results were presented to the EULOCAL-participants during the bee-workshop.
March 2018: A flower strip was created by the students of the tenth grade. Beginning of June: Investigation of the four different areas described in section above. In those areas the vegetation was documented and biodiversity (of fauna and flora) was measured.
In addition to the vegetational surveys, the accommodation of bees was also investigated. To achieve this, the number of blossoms, that are pollinated by insects was counted and compared. Those investigations were followed by a survey of the number of pollinations and species that pollinate the blossoms.
The data collected was refined during regular classes and interpreted for the EULOCAL-Workshop.
Finally, the results were presented to the participants of the workshop.
Running of the event:
Thursday, 7th of June 2018 – After all participants arrived in Bad Kötzting, they met for an initial conversation for dinner. Mr. Wolfgang Pilz, 2nd mayor, city councilor in Bad Kötzting and county council in the district of Cham welcomes the guests, emphasizing the importance of their friendship with their partners in Europe. Afterwards the project manager, Dr. István Mátrai welcomed the participants and described in a short speech the topics of the event in Bad Kötzting. The main theme is beekeeping and the worldwide extinction of the honeybee. Other topical issues besides the ones already mentioned will be the future of the EU in terms of refugee issues within the EU and the border area before and after the fall of the so-called Iron Curtain. The workshops, which cover these topics, are carried out on a study trip to the former Nato towers on the mountain Hohen Bogen because of the border proximity to the former states of communism.
Friday, 8th of June 2018 – The day is devoted entirely to the topic of “beekeeping” and “worldwide bee mortality from diseases and epidemics”. This topic was prepared and worked out in cooperation with the Benedikt-Stattler-Gymnasium Bad Kötzting. The project participants as well as the pupils and the citizens were already prepared in advance for this topic and local beekeepers were invited to this event. Already in the spring of 2018, a flower strip was planted by the students of the high school as a reference area in contrast to the usual forms of cultivation in this area.
After welcome speeches by the director of the Gymnasium, headmaster Ms. Birgit Maier, and the first mayor of Bad Kötzting, Markus Hofmann, the teachers Karsten Nasdal and Simon Haselbauer introduced the topic of the day, which consisted of a theoretical and practical part.
The intention of the workshop is to raise awareness for the difficult situation of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) and the resulting problems for mankind. In the context of the EULOCAL-project the focus was on the possible contribution of small municipalities (the little ones) to solve this problem.
Next two speakers (Mr. Simon Haselbauer and Mr. Karsten Nasdal) were conducting a bilingual public lecture with information about the basics and current state of research concerning the honey bee. The content of this lecture included the achievements of the honey bee in everyday life, its ecological value and problems concerning bee mortality. The lecture was adjourned for a coffee break to discuss this complex issue. Special focus was set on the contributions each individual and each municipality can make, leading to focused discussion.
After the lecture, and a public discourse of the topic, the EULOCAL participants were invited to a lunch, providing additional opportunity for further discussion.
The second, practical part of the workshop focused on beekeeping and the results of the investigation, presented by the students on location. The participants were split in small groups introduced to basic beekeeping, having a chance to do some of the work with their own hands. This presented an opportunity to repeat the content of the lecture in a practical sense, working with the animals themselves.
Afterwards the students had an opportunity to present the findings of the preliminary project to the participants of the workshop. This was done on location visiting the different areas described. The students elaborated on the methods used, how they designed their experiments and all of their findings visible on the objects at hand. The participants of the workshop were encouraged to do some of the practical work themselves, for example identifying plants and animals, to deepen their knowledge further and go beyond a pure theoretical approach.
After this scientific part of the day we had the chance to have a closer look at the posters exhibited. It was very useful for all of us to see how youngsters see the EU and its future and we all were happy about their positive attitude.
In conclusion of the day a social gathering with coffee and cake offered an opportunity to discuss the impressions and recap the events of the day.
Saturday, 9th of June 2018 – That day the project participants dived into the past. Bad Kötzting is only a few kilometers away from the Czech border and was thus directly affected by the so-called Iron Curtain and the accompanying border surveillance. With the chairlift the group reached the mountain station of the Hohenbogens before a 20-minute walk led the participants to the former NATO listening towers – telecommunications sector F.
The European group was already expected there by two former soldiers, Mr. Franz Treml and Mr. Hubert Wenzl, who today act as volunteers to explain visitors the history of this area. The participants learned that the first tower was built in 1965. In addition to members of the Bundeswehr, American units (until 1992) and French units (until 1994) were stationed there. 2004 the system was shut down. Inside the towers, the visitors were able to examine original equipment and learned from the two experts more interesting things about life in the border region during the Cold War. Some of the older participants reported how they perceived the Cold War. The young people could hardly imagine a life in the “unfree, divided Europe”. All visitors were impressed by the equipment of the towers, even if the techniques of that time today are considered obsolete.
A highlight was the (voluntary) ascent to the 50m high view platform, which has been attached to one of the towers in 2014. From there, the participants had an impressive view of the region. The transition between Germany and the Czech Republic is flowing – there is nothing to see and feel of borders.
In the ensuing workshop, the participants discussed the following questions in small groups: Why to be in EU? Why do we respect the EU? The groups should consider both pan-European and concrete examples of the participating countries.
The delegation from Marsaskala (Malta) argued that Malta as a small country is confronted with problems that it can only cope with the support of other EU countries. Countries can benefit from one another in cultural, economic and social areas. Only through close cooperation and mutual respect it is possible that the long period of peace can be maintained.
For the guests from Velletri, the focus was particularly on the freedom of movement. The young people could not imagine living in a Europe with borders. Nowadays, it is no longer a problem to shop, travel or study abroad in Europe. Because of these benefits, it is important that countries respect and work together.
The Polish participants stressed that Europe is looking back on a turbulent past. Especially the Second World War was a formative phase. Such a tragedy can be prevented by cooperation, mutual respect and control in the European Union. A consistent exchange can solve conflicts more quickly. As a further point, the group mentioned a mutual support, particularly in economic matters. Weaker countries receive help from economically stronger nations.
The Hungarian delegates joined the previous speakers and added that there are also problems outside Europe that can only be overcome together. With a view to the (foreign) policy of US President Trump, a strong Europe is more important than ever. Each country has its strengths and weaknesses. In the EU, each country can make its important contribution to a peaceful, stable and successful Europe.
Wolfgang Kerscher (Bad Kötzting) summed up all the answers. The participants agreed that life in Europe offers many advantages and it is worth fighting for a united Europe. Through the exchange, people can learn a lot from each other.
After the participants returned to Bad Kötzting, they had the opportunity to prepare for the final event at the European Stone Circle in the spa gardens.
In the spa gardens in Bad Kötzting in 1999 the so-called European stone circle was inaugurated. At that time, the Douzelage town twinning had 15 members and the circle also consisted of 15 landmarks, each representing a Douzelage twinned city and thus represent the unity of Europe. Because today the Douzelage has grown to 28 members, it was agreed in the context of this EULOCAL event, this “European Monument” to complete by the missing 13 landmarks and to transform the circle into a spiral – “Europe does not stop”. This was an excellent opportunity to involve many local citizens in the project serving both visibility and dissemination.
After the local music group played the European anthem, the stones were unveiled and the 1st mayor Markus Hofmann greeted the guests in his address:
I am very glad to receive all the guests who came to visit us, regardless of the long distance, from the Baltic Sea to Malta, from Romania to the Netherlands. Your presence at this event is a great honor for us. Special greetings for the Europe for Citizens supported EULOCAL project participants from several Douzelage towns and Velletri.
Welcome on behalf of the town of Bad Kötzting!
Today our lovely spa gardens are again the location of the installation of a work of art. We are happy, to set a symbol now for all the twenty-eight Douzelage towns by placing their boundary stones in the park’s lawn. The idea of this installation of land-art was conceived by Bad Kötzting’s artist Alois Öllinger. Unfortunately, he is not able to take part in the final realization of his concept personally. He has to stay in hospital due to a disease. From here I wish him all the best for his recovery.
In 1999 Alois Öllinger had the idea, to place 15 boundary stones from the 15 partner towns of the Douzelage at that time in a circle in the spa gardens. Harmony and solidarity between the partners should be emphasized by the symbol of a circle, recumbent in itself and overcoming boundaries. In 2016 the boundary stone of our Czech partner town of Sušice was added.
Since that time the Douzelage has grown. Meanwhile many new partners have joined the Douzelage. Twenty-eight partner towns, one of each country of the European Union, are intending to foster Europe jointly. It motivated the artist to upgrade his concept. The recently added boundary stones form a spiral. It stands as a symbol for the dynamics of the partnership, which overcomes boundaries without obliterating the characteristics and specifics of each partner town. The original meaning of the boundary stones therefore is changed playfully. The physical presence of the stones from all over Europe makes this work of art a special experience. Let us unveil the new boundary stones today.
Let me say thanks to all those who helped to realize this project. First of all let me mention the team of the local building yard, the Fuchs Marketing Company who created the labels, and my staff in the town hall who helped preparing this event and last but not least Mr Wolfgang Kerscher, our Douzelage-Manager.
Dear friends, in these days the European Union faces a lot of challenges. We experience a plenty of criticism on the EU, sometimes qualified and not the least because of a sometimes exorbitant bureaucracy. Yet in some states of the EU we see the growth of a nationalism, worrying us because of its challenge or even fundamental denial of the values of the EU.
We are a small community and we don’t go for the big politics today. In fact our answer is: We have become a partner of the Douzelage because we believe in a Europe for citizens. We will live Europe, with projects with partners, with mutual visits, with personal friendships beyond all boundaries. You, who are celebrating this event today, you are welcome as citizens of Europe and our friends.
Let us now unveil the boundary stones.
The meeting in Bad Kötzting ended with this event and a small barbecue party.
Sunday, 10th of June 2018 – Farewell and departure of guests from Italy, Malta, Poland and Hungary.
Next EULOCAL event will take place in July 2018 in Chojna/Poland.