200 young people discuss the future of Europe with Bundesbankers

For the euro’s 20th birthday, the Bundesbank invited 200 young people to discuss the future of Europe and the single currency under the slogan “Dein Europa – mach was draus!” (“Your Europe – make something of it!”). Europe, digitalisation, economic challenges and sustainable business practices were some of the topics discussed and debated in a number of workshops and sessions.

In discussion with Jens Weidmann

Jens Weidmann in conversation with the participants ©Nils Thies
The event’s highlight was the town hall meeting with Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann and journalist and podcaster Tilo Jung. Many of the participants took the opportunity to ask President Weidmann not only questions about monetary policy but also personal questions. One participant, for example, asked why the euro area has a single monetary policy but does not have a joint fiscal policy. Mr Weidmann responded that “ultimately, the system has to work in a way that pursues sound policies, and that will only happen if those who make decisions also have to bear the consequences of these decisions. The current system can also be implemented with decentralised budgetary policies. That said, liability and control do belong together.” This, Mr Weidmann stressed, is the key issue in the further development of the euro area.

Europe, a polyvocal novel

Participants at the event for the euro’s 20th birthday ©Tim Wegner
All of the Members of the Bundesbank’s Executive Board took the opportunity to talk to the young people present. Burkard Balz spoke about the future of currency union and Vice-President Claudia Buch addressed how financial crises come about and what this might have to do with tulips and tequila. External speakers such as the philosopher and journalist Wolfram Eilenberger or interrail activists Vincent Herr and Martin Speer approached the topic of Europe from different viewpoints. Mr Eilenberger compared Europe to a novel with multiple narrators, in which each one has their own unique role. Mr Herr and Mr Speer presented ideas about what could be done in an era of Brexit and populism to ensure that democracy and personal freedoms are maintained in Europe’s future.

A contest of ideas

Participants at the event for the euro’s 20th birthday ©Tim Wegner

On the second day of the event, participants were given the chance to introduce themselves and their own topics. Whether it was the future of Europe, a more sustainable business philosophy or the political participation of the younger generation – all three workshops had highly charged debates and lively exchanges of views. In the concluding Thinkathon, a contest of ideas, everyone was able to gather up and present their own ideas and experiences from the workshops over the two days. The team looking at the future of Europe won over the jury and the audience with their appeal for everyone to recognise their own responsibility in shaping the future of Europe. The twelve winners received an interrail ticket they can use to enjoy a trip across Europe.

Michael Best, the Bundesbank’s press spokesman, offered a positive summary of the event: “With this new format, we wanted to invite young people to discuss the future of Europe with us and to bring the topics the Bundesbank deals with closer to them. We are delighted by how involved the participants were and we are planning further events with a similar format.”