Getting to Know EUSTORY Alumni: Jonas From Germany
Thuringia today, London tomorrow
At EUSTORY‘s youth encounters participants can find friends with whom they can exchange ideas about important questions of politics and identity. In an interview, EUSTORY Alumnus Jonas from Germany explains why this is important to him.
Do strong regional ties and a European sense of belonging exclude one another? Not for Jonas, who sees the challenges and the opportunities connected to his native region. One thing is for sure: His heart beats for both, Thuringia and Europe.
Name: Jonas, born in 2001
Lives in: Harth-Pöllnitz, Germany
First EUSTORY activity: EUSTORY Summit 2019
Jonas, at last year’s EUSTORY Summit in Berlin, you participated in the workshop »Euphoria and Disillusionment«. When was the last time that you felt euphoric and disillusioned?
I think it was the EU membership referendum of the United Kingdom. Until June 2016 I had been absolutely convinced of the EU as a project that can only move forward but not backwards. I was sure that European solutions would increasingly replace nationalist ones, but this assumption turned out to be wrong when a majority of the British voted for leaving the EU.
Did it change your perspective on the European project?
No, I am still very optimistic about Europe. And it was exactly this attitude which united the participants of the EUSTORY Summit in Berlin: Coming from different countries with various backgrounds and sometimes even contradictory perceptions of the past, we were all convinced that by exchanging perspectives in the here and now we can smooth out prejudices and build a fundament for our common future. For me personally, spending four days with peers from 20 different nationalities was inspiring and energising, an exceptional change from my daily routine.
You were born in Thuringia, a federal state in the Eastern part of Germany, whose people experienced drastic changes since 1989/1990…
Thuringia was part of the German Democratic Republic until it was re-unified with the Federal Republic of Germany. But even 30 years after, the living conditions in eastern Germany are not equal to those in the west. This applies to lower salaries and pensions, but also affects the under-representation of eastern Germans in leading political and economic positions. This is unfair.
To what extent do you still experience prejudices?
When I talk to peers from the west of Germany I see that the reunification 30 years ago is not an issue they deal with a lot. It did not have a deep impact on their families while in mine, some lost their jobs as a consequence of the transition, for example my mum. Prejudices can still be felt, but mostly among the elder generation – a friend of mine was warned by her mother of the narrow-minded and stubborn eastern Germans.
How do you deal with that?
I think talking with each other is the recipe. A friend I got to know at the EUSTORY Summit lives in another part of the country. With her, I regularly talk about political issues, which is quite interesting because we often discover that our perspectives are influenced by our regional origin, but that we have much in common, too.
How would you describe the relationship to your home region?
I feel strongly connected to the region, not least because my family lives there. Due to my apprenticeship as a hotel manager, I work in a small city, a one hour's drive from my hometown Harth-Pöllnitz. As soon as I finish my training this summer, I will probably move back to Thuringia for some time. But afterwards I could imagine to work and live abroad, maybe in London – the city fascinates me.
The interview was conducted by Melina Heinze.