Small Regions. Great Ideas.
Taking place from the 2nd to the 8th of August 2013, the International Forum in Thessaly gathered over 100 participants from all over Europe and provided them with the great opportunity of participating in an exceptional session. And it was not only the fact that the session itself took place at the hottest time of the year, in probably the hottest country of Europe in both terms of temperature and current issues, such as the recovery from the worst financial crises that the country has ever dealt with. What is more is the people that characterised the session, both the officials and the delegates and especially those behind the curtains that were incredibly dedicated and enabled all the others to attend an exceptional event.
But let’s start over and get through the session chronologically. The first four days were spent at an altitude of 900 m, surrounded by fine forests and a breathtaking mountainous landscape that perfectly reflected the beauty of the nature of Thessaly. The accommodation, Camp Pefki, was located just outside the village and provided the perfect venue for both Teambuilding and socialising, going hand in hand with still facilitating a pleasant stay.
Day one included arrival, check-in and socialising in terms of the welcome party and meeting room mates as well as fellow delegates. It was directly followed by the day of Teambuilding, which was concluded by a great evening of Eurovillage. This was not only an event that brought all of us closer together, it was also the first time we comprehended the international spirit and of course tasted all the delicacies. Christina and me – the Austrian delegation – provided Mannerschnitten, Mozartkugeln, caramelised and salty pumpkin seeds and last but not least homemade Kürbiskernöl, strongly recommended to be combined with German Bretzel or Spanish meat. ‘Unity in diversity’ could be considered a concise summarisation of the evening.
After being transferred to the beautiful city of Trikala, we enjoyed the Opening Ceremony that included inspiring speeches by even more inspiring people. Subsequently, Committee Work started and with an unseen academic level, the committees discussed highly controversial topics that currently affect all of us, especially when the overall session topic, which dealt with regional development, was concerned. Completing the day of hard work and refreshing coffee breaks to become clear-headed again, Committee Dinner brought us even closer together and showed once again the great EYP spirit that every single participant was carrying.
There was of course another day of Committee Work, probably the most challenging one. All of us were highly focused on including every single detail from the fruitful discussions into a bulletproof resolution that respectfully represents the different opinions of the various individual personalities. As all of us dedicated a lot of effort, we were more than ever looking forward to the evening and especially to an indelible party and succeeding night.
The next day included departure from the camp and was continued by a memorable visit to the great sight of Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage and one of the most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece. Enjoying that much culture was followed by great times to relax on the beach, exactly meeting our needs in order to cope with a long and demanding preparation night. Before the resolutions were handed out, we were able to enjoy a great Euroconcert, which again represented Europe’s cultural wealth.
General Assembly took place at the Regional Council Hall of Thessaly, in the city of Larissa. As it was the highlight of the week, all of us were equally looking forward to participating and nervous to defend our hard work in front of such a huge audience. After several heated debates with both dedicated and highly controversial discussions, every single resolution managed to pass the voting procedure, which displays the high appreciation of the work that was done during the previous days.
Finally, the session was concluded by an emotional Closing Ceremony, where we again and – this time fully – realised how much effort was committed to making the idea of this session a reality. Additionally, this was also the first time that we, as the participants were able to gain an insight into the people that were responsible for enabling this session to become unique. The uniqueness of this session was celebrated at the Farewell Party, which made an excellent end to an excellent EYP event.
And I think that this is the right time to say thank you, especially to the head organising team, its fellow organisers and in general, the officials team. Bearing in mind that Greece is currently in a severe financial situation and in the difficult state of recovery, what has been done is an unbelievable achievement and especially in terms of fundraising, inconceivable effort seems to been dedicated to organising the session. Moreover, we owe special thanks to both EYP Greece and EYP Austria, for giving us the opportunity to participate. Last but not least, I have to leave a simple ‘thank you’ to all the participants, especially to all the Greek ones, who showed me with their commitment, dedication and hospitality, how important it is to stand together, particularly in times of crisis and that they believe in the importance of the European Union, just as I do and just as all of us should do. Thank you.
by Markus Kirchschlager