Tomasz Kubiak from Wrocław and Marie Kepler from Hamburg are the winners of the European edition of “Central Europe, the EU and myself” contest. The goal of this essay competition was to describe from a personal perspective the political transition of 1989 and the 2004 EU enlargement in the context of a wider European identity. Students from four European countries (Poland, Germany, Hungary and Czech Republic) took part in the challenge.
The essay contest is a part of the “EUritage” project, implemented by the Warsaw-based think tank WiseEuropa, in cooperation with the city of Gdańsk, Institut für Europäische Politik, Metropolitan University Prague, The Jan Nowak-Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe (the publisher of the bimonthly “New Eastern Europe”) and the Hungarian Europe Society. The main goal of the project is to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1989 democratic transition, as well as the 15th anniversary of the 2004 European Union enlargement.
Marie Kepler is a 21-year-old history and business student at Durham University in the UK. She grew up in Hamburg, Germany, and she’s passionate about the idea of a Europe united by strong common values based on a shared past. In her essay, she gives advice to fellow young Europeans: „Today, the European continent is as close to peace and unity as never before. However, the reduction of the division of power, freedom of press and the rule of law threaten our foundations, the basis of our commonalities and the pan-European vision. (…) We, as a young generation, need to be more aware of our similar histories to strengthen our commonalities, which are needed to overcome challenges in the future and to build a more resilient Europe”.
Tomasz Kubiak’s essay is titled “Transformation of the years 1989 and 2004 – how freedom gave us back Wrocław” and it focuses on the city’s inherently Central European identity, located in the heart of Europe. He was also the laureate of the national edition of this competition. “Treating Poland as a Central European country I am often told it’s a way of escaping the label of being Eastern. However, anyone walking through Bratislava, Wroclaw or Brno, or anyone who has read Kundera understands, that Central European culture is too complex to be labeled simply ‘eastern’ or ‘western’. Calling ourselves central is actually a kind of escape: an escape from a long explanation of the region’s uniqueness. It’s easier just to say ‘central’.” – Tomasz Kubiak writes in his paper.
The participants could use only two pages, or 3500 characters, to present their ideas in form of essays. Best national participants will present their work during national EUritage meetings in 2021, while the main European winners of the contest will take part in the final conference in Brussels. Both of the works will be published by the prestigious bimonthly New Eastern Europe Journal.
– The collective memory of the 1989-2004 years should not be lost, and the lessons we learned back then are becoming more and more relevant now. The threat caused by the COVID-19 crisis clearly shows that the European project needs more solidarity as never before – says Piotr Micuła, WiseEuropa’s expert on foreign policy.
– The achievements of the events of 1989 and 2004 became a common good of all EU citizens. Today, however, they are especially important for Central Europe, which is facing a rise in authoritarian tendencies, nationalism and Eurosceptic views. – added Adam Balcer, project coordinator, explaining the choice of the finalists.
The project EUritage is financed by the European Union, as part of the Europe For Citizens programme.