January 8, 2019

Event 5


The event involved 59 citizens, including 31 participants from the city of Kőszeg, Hungary; 8 participants from the city of Marsaskala, Malta; 9 participants from the city of Bad Kötzting, Germany; 6 participants from the city of Chojna, Poland; 4 participants from the city of Velletri, Italy.

Location / Dates:

The event took place in Kőszeg, Hungary, from 18/10/2017 to 21/10/2017.

Short description: 

The aim of the fifth, i.e. the last event among the altogether 5 ones was to summarize the general topic of the project, i.e. to list as many advantages of the European Union membership, as possible and analyze the Euroscepticism. Also, another aim was to show the advantages of being the member of the European Union through both the “theoretical part” of the event and the study visit.

The fifth event was organized by Kőszegi Testvérvárosi Egyesület (Kőszeg Town Twinning Association), where members prepared a very tight but beneficial program for the 59 official participants, 28 of which were from Germany, Italy, Malta and Poland.

The conference was opened with a folk-dance performance of two members of the association, Anikó Horváth and András Sudár. After this Dr. István Mátrai, the president of the association greeted the participants and asked Mr. László Huber, mayor of town Kőszeg to share his thoughts with the audience. In his speech he emphasized the importance of all those events where representatives of more nations get together to discuss remarkable questions of the European Union. He summarized the rich and challenging history of the town underlining that being at the border taught us to respect other nations. He gave examples how well we live together with the minorities in our area. He told, this makes our town colorful and successful.

After the speech of the mayor the gest groups gave the organizers the paintings, drawings, photos they brought for the exhibition. The organizers afterwards have set up the exhibition. (The opening ceremony was next day.) The dinner gave a good opportunity for the participants to get acquainted with each other.

Next day, October 19, Friday morning the program started with introductions. Some of the participants already knew each other, but many of them were unknown for most people. That’s why the heads of the delegations introduced them shortly. The vice-mayor of Bad Kötzting, Mr. Wolfgang Pilz introduced the 9-member-team, 3 of them youngsters. Mr. Mario Calleja, Mayor of Marsaskala introduced the 8-member-team. Mr. Janusz Cezary Salamończyk the president of Douzelage in Chojna talked about the Polish delegation, while the Velletri delegation of 4 participants were introduced by Mr. Edoardo Menicocci, town councillor. Finally, Dr István Mátrai, the president of the association introduced not only the Hungarian team from Kőszeg, but also warmly greeted Ms. Annigje Kruytbosch, the president of the European Douzelage from the Netherlands, who joined to the meeting. She gave a very nice, useful lecture during the meeting, and will help us with the wider dissemination of the project, as well.

Dr István Mátrai, the coordinator of the project introduced the website of the project which contains the most important information about the project and showed how it works, what files are already uploaded. Also, he showed the Kőszeg website, where the project events are already partially uploaded. He emphasized, how important this is, and it is compulsory for all towns involved in the project to create the same place in their towns’ website in order to get the financial support from the EU. He also underlined that the final report will be sent by the coordinator, but he will ask help from the partners.

After this session participants took part in the Water Workshop, which was prepared by Ms. Ilona Tálos-Mátrai and Ilona Mátrai-Halász. In the preparation phase they made large posters with some information about the water footprint in general and in some special cases. Also, to inform the participants (particularly those who came from other countries) about the world-famous Hungarian thermal waters, spas, they prepared an exhibition about them.

The work began with solving a test with 13 multiple choice questions. The first 10 questions related to water footprint. Among them there were questions like “What amount of water is needed to produce 1 cup of coffee?” (the answer shocked people: 140 liter), or “What amount of water is needed to produce 1 kg of beef?” (the answer was even more shocking: 15500 liter). Only some of the participants were well informed in this topic. The last 3 questions related to the fresh water: what % of the fresh water is used for the household, industry and irrigation. (The test questions can be found among the “Materials”)

Participants worked in groups. After the answers were checked the best group got chocolate, called “Balaton szelet”.

The second part of the workshop was moderated by Ms. Ilona Tálos-Mátrai. Five short dialogs were given to the five groups – one for each. They discussed the topics in 15 minutes and one spokesperson presented the result of their discussion. Each paper started with some pieces of information about water footprint, direct and indirect water use. (E.g. in Europe the average person directly consumes between 100-150 liters of water a day – as drinking water, for washing clothes, bathing and watering plants, but each person also indirectly consumes between 1,500 and 10,000 liters of per day depending on where they live and their consumption habits. (The discussion topics can be found among the “Materials”.)

Group A topic was eating meat or being vegetarian. Conversation of John (vegetarian) and a Tom (carnetarian) at a restaurant. Having the information about the water footprint of different foods the group had to discuss the topics and give their opinion. The spokesperson of the group talked about the advantages of the former eating habits of people: they ate meat once a week. However, the group did not suggest that all people should be vegetarian, but they suggested the balanced diet for everybody. This is not only because of the smaller water footprint, but we all should remember that the human being is omnivore.

Group B topic was food at school canteen. In the dialog two parents, Kate and Ann talked about the quality of the food at school canteen. The key question was how delicious the food at school canteen is. After the discussion they agreed that a balanced freshly prepared food would be healthy for the children. Using chemicals might make the food more delicious but different E-# components can cause health problem, e.g. they extremely increase appetite. Besides these factors their water footprint is very big.

Group C topic was a situation at a store. The key question was: what the consequences of banning plastic bags might be, particularly if we consider that trashcans should be cleaned with much more water. The group took into consideration of both factors: saving water and being environmentally friendly. They agreed with banning it in supermarkets (particularly the very thin ones), but they would still use them for trash. Also, they mentioned, even for trash recycled paper bags would be the best solution as it will be decomposed in the nature, but we save water to clean them.

Group D topic was to discuss the advantage of buying local products instead of transporting them from long distances. After the discussion the group listed the advantages and disadvantages of the use of local products. Taking into consideration the sustainable development it is better to use the local goods, because it does not require transportation, during which a lot of poisonous gases are released, fuel is consumed etc. Besides these, much less water is wasted for the unnecessary transportation.

Group E had to suggest ten water saving methods. They also had to decide, what age is the best to start to talk about water saving. This group was the last to give their summary where they stated that evet at an age of 5 we have to teach our children to save water. All ten listed methods can be seen in the “Material” part.

The moderator, Ms. Ilona Tálos-Mátrai summarized the theoretical part of the workshop. She mentioned, that in 1960s only two-thirds of the Earth’s resources were used by people. October 21, 1992 was the day of global overconsumption, from which the resources of the next year were consumed. To maintain our current lifestyle, we would need 1.7 Earth, but we have only one. Water use is growing at twice the rate of population growth. Unless this trend is reversed, and we come up with a way to share water fairly and sustainable throughout the planet two-thirds of the global population will face water stress by 2025. If all people will think about this responsible as we have done this morning, water stress will come much later. During the study visit we will see tomorrow; how local actions did improve the quality of some springs.

After the water workshop Ms. Ágnes Lepold opened the exhibition prepared last evening. She explained why we chose water as the theme of the youngsters’ paintings, drawings and photos. She also distributed little disks and asked the participants to decide later, during the day whom they would give the first prize. The opening ceremony was followed by a short coffee break.

After the coffee break, we continued our work with the European values. The first step was a lecture given by prof. Dr George Schöpflin, the Member of the European Parliament. Our invited guest was introduced by Mr. Béla Básthy, the vice mayor of the town.

The professor gave a talk about integration from the viewpoint of Hungary and other small countries and/or those that formerly belonged to the Eastern bloc. He also shared his views on the sources of Euroscepticism.

First, he stressed the fact that Hungary’s place in the EU is determined by its size and population and that the weight of large countries tend to dominate in the EU. However, when the EEC became into being after World War II the aim was to lead Europe out of the trauma not only economically, but also politically and to achieve this goal the equality of respect towards all members was established by creating institutions that would prevent large states from dominating small ones.

Dr Schöpflin explained that after WWII in the socialist-communist sector the development of these countries was artificially held back, the peasantry was transformed into city people and people were oppressed. However, oppression can never be 100% successful as examples of upsurge already signaled in the 1960’s. At last, with the peaceful revolutions in these countries there was a chance for them to rejoin Europe. After 1989 Hungary also had high expectations of being integrated.

So, the question is whether small states are parts of only a new empire in the EU, whether they have any means to validate their concerns. The professor underlined that the EU should be a forum for small states as well to sort out their problems. Dr Schöpflin stressed that EU membership has not fulfilled expectations in Eastern Europe in many aspects. For example, on an economical level it is obvious that the ranking of countries has not changed much in terms of living standards. Also, while 1989 was a move towards democracy, it was also a large step in national emancipation and with the rising popularity of nationhood, preserving national identity has become growingly important for small states.

Although it is obvious that EU integration is a success because it is possible to find compromise, with the growing importance of human rights normative in the last decade the question arises whether nationhood will get in the way of possible compromise in the EU.

After the lecture there were some questions, for example on the feelings of the Dutch, and maybe other Western European people too, who often feel that they pay high taxes to support Eastern Europe and ask how the EU is beneficial for them. The professor answered that the majority of EU-funded projects in Eastern Europe are carried out by western companies, so they benefit from these projects as well and about 90% of the funds go back to the west in this way. Before and after the lecture we distributed on of the newest article written by professor Schöpflin: “The small states of Europe and large whirlpools. The implications of a multi-polar world.”

After the lecture and questions the lunch gave the opportunity to relax a bit and allowed participants to prepare for the afternoon session.

The afternoon session began with a moving speech. We asked Ms. Annigje Kruytbosch, the president of the European Douzelage to answer the question: “What does the European Union mean for me?”

Ms. Annigje Kruytbosh first talked about the life of his father, as all 18-year-old men, should go to work for the Nazi’s. Instead, he went into hiding. After the war he went to University. With all his fellow students he dreamt of a strong, stable and foremost peaceful Europe. They all tried to look forward and the memory of a scattered Europe drove them to rebuild their Europe together in peace. After his studies, he got a job at Foreign Affairs and was quite quickly on his way to Paris to work for the European Coal and Steel Community. As we all know, this was a precursor of the Common Market and the EU. The Treaty of the European Coal and Steel Community was signed in 1951 and became effective in 1952, only 7 years after the war had ended. It was the most important initiative for European Integration and peace. She was just a baby when they moved to Paris, and 15 years later they moved to Brussels. In 1944 Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg decided to establish a Customs Union: free movement of goods and persons within these 3 countries.

I often hear: “Yes, but Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are so alike!”. I dare to dispute that. We speak different languages, we are from different religion, have a different history and different mentality. But it works and that is the most important!

Last fact about my father I am quite proud to say that he was the architect of the Treaty of Schengen. It was his dream to have open borders – as those within the Benelux – for the whole of the European (Economic) Union. It was signed in Schengen in Luxembourg in 1985.

So, what does the EU mean to me? I was clearly brought up in a pro-European environment. I did my final school exams on the European School in Brussels in 1980 where at that time 9 nationalities were gathered. We had fun with the Italians, tried to understand the Danish, because our languages are close, enjoyed perfect education from the English and were one big united family of friends. I grew up with the idea that we from Europe are united in diversity.

Western Europe has known nearly 75 years of peace. That is a very, very long time. I am aware of the fact that this does not go for our Eastern European friends: their recollection of uncertain and frightening times lies in a more recent past. We all have the responsibility to keep on walking the road of peace together! I am proud of the fact that my dad contributed to some European pillars that make us united today. His Europe, my Europe, your Europe: let us work together to keep Europe united, to educate and to respect one and other. I know we can do it!! (The whole speech can be found among the Materials.)

After this speech the participants started the workshop about the Euroscepticism. The whole workshop consisted of three parts.

First all participants got a 6-question-multiple choice test. They should find out if when Euroscepticism started, which are the most Eurosceptic countries, what % of the population had a positive image of the EU in 2015 etc. It turned out that only 2 of the answers were 100 % right. The moderators, Ms. Marietta Nagy and Ms. Claire Strasbaugh discussed the answers in detail and gave evidence for them.

The aim of the second part was to check how well participants know some terms, like nationalism, soft/hard Euroscepticism, Euro-rejects, Euro-enthusiasts etc. The groups were given the terms and their definitions on different papers and they had to pair them. It was not a difficult task, but it was important to make sure they know these terms. (The task can be found among the Materials.)

The last part was more interactive: participants had to stand up and move to the right side or left side of the room or even stay in the middle depending upon their agreement or disagreement with some statements they could read in the screen. As they moved, they could / should discuss their decision with the others. The statements were related to their feelings about the EU membership. Just a few examples:

Taking into account, my country benefits from EU membership

I personally feel like a European citizen as well as a citizen of my country.

Immigration weakens nations as they have to focus on new citizens’ needs.

It was interesting to observe the answers of the delegations. It was important that all participants thought that their countries benefit from the EU membership. However, some participants rather felt themselves as citizens of their country, and being European citizenship came only after. We all agreed, there is nothing wrong with this feeling, if they also respect European values. The attitude towards immigrants has divided the participants a bit more. After a short summary the moderators closed the workshop.

After a short break, participants walked to the Castle Cultural Center to listen to a folk music concert, then the day finished with a dinner in the castle.

On Saturday morning the foreign participants were accompanied by the local ones for a guided tour where they had the chance to see the historical town center and its renovation. They could see how many buildings are renewed with the aid of European funds or government help. After this we visited the mountains. This study visit was partially a support of the benefits of being European Union member: as we drove and walked everybody could see the memories of the former iron curtain. As a European citizen, our path led sometimes in Hungary, sometimes in Austria. Very few people can imagine, that earlier we had to stop a few kilometers from these places.

On the other hand, this was the practical part of our water project. During the trip we could see several springs which all were clean, many decades ago. Later, the pollution (both in Hungary and Austria) destroyed the good quality of these springs. However, the common effort was successful, we could proudly show them, we can drink from the famous Seven Spring.

After the lunch participants had a short free time: they had the chance to visit the market in the main square. The day and the whole official event were finished with a farewell party, where we also announced the winners of the photo and drawing competition.

On Sunday morning some delegations still could stay for the so-called Ursula Market. This time associations, groups, schools etc. offer their food they prepared. We asked our partners to bring some local food, and besides the cakes, etc. prepared by the members of the association we also took those dishes to the market. We also prepared leaflets about the project and distributed to the visitors who enjoyed the international table. This way not only the local citizens, but other visitors – even from many other countries – had the opportunity to learn about out project.