Dear friends from all over Europe – including Swedish delegates.
I’m very grateful being here, seeing you, representing your country, your school, your fellow personal and not least your students.
We have all together a very big task to continue the work of our founders. EUROPEA started in 1993 with 8 countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal and The United Kingdom, and has developed into a real important European network with 24 member countries.
It actually started 5 years earlier at a meeting in Vire France. Participants came from 8 schools and 6 countries with their teachers.
In Erstein, near Strasbourg (FR), Green VET colleges had a big event. During four days in May 1992, some 2000 students spent time together. One of them was Fons Logtenberg and he is here today.
Much more than 2000 people have met during the years in various activities in EUROPEA.
– Student exchange programs, studying and practicing for some weeks in another county.
– Student competitions in forestry, winemaking and other things.
– Projects, where teachers meet for development of pedagogic tools and learning new ways to teach from colleagues in other countries.
– And a lot more.
Sweden was a member 1998 and I remember my first meeting that year in Ettelbruck, Luxembourg. I remember the flags, the black suites, the old men, three of them sitting in the front, starting the meeting in French language. It was for many of us as in churches 200 years ago, when all was in Latin language. Sukey from UK was our saviour. She knew French and she translated. Now came some years when meetings were translated into English, French, German and Spanish. It was better, but it was expensive and not always the best simultaneous interpreters were hired.
So it was decided on a General Assembly that the official language should be English. Also that had some initial problems. The first coming years many countries sent only English teachers.
Language is a barrier and so can also different cultures be. But that is what it is all about. To overcome what keeps us apart and to give us time to know each other and to make friends.
We have lived with Covid and we have been vaccinated again and again. Let’s now continue vaccinating ourselves and our students against xenophobia. The fear of foreigners are seen all over the world and must be opposed and must be rejected. A good way is to take part in a project or an exchange program. To be a foreigner in another country is the best way to understand the needs and how you would like to be treated. The students then learn how to treat foreigners coming to their country.
So help your students to take the step into exchange programs. That is an important way for you to make this world a better place.
Remember the statement from one of all our projects, written down by a former president of EUROPEA, Elisabeth Hönigsberger Austria:
“Alone you go faster – but together we go further”!
I want you all to keep on going further and further together. You can do it participating in your national EUROPEA. Here we meet in the Swedish Association of Agriculture Colleges also called EUROPEA Sweden and we meet in EUROPEA International or just EUROPEA. The purposes are the same. Making students, staff and schools stronger by cooperation and by doing things together.
Enjoy you stay and take care, both of yourselves and also take care of these remarkable organisations.
President EUROPEA SWEDEN and coordinator 2001 -2015.