January 16, 2015
Many have asked me if the title of “European Youth Capital 2015” is important to Cluj (Romania). Concrete benefits can still be seen from the period in which Sibiu (also in Romania) carried the title of “Cultural Capital” in 2007, but what matters is the great European symbolism for Cluj.
Although I live in the administrative capital of Europe for already 18 years, I have not forgotten Cluj, with my childhood neighbourhood – Grigorescu, my high school “Emil Racovi??” or the university I attended – the “Babes-Bolyai” University; they all are a part of my life away from the country.
Cluj’s association with youth and Europe perhaps reaches its pinnacle of the past 25 years of activity. I remember the “European vibrations” of the ’90s when, as the president of the Cluj branch of the European Students’ Forum (AEGEE), we organized truly European events, where MEPs discovered a city full of students and young people. This was not the only organization that made steps towards Brussels. Certainly colleagues at BEST, AIESEC and ELSA had the similar initiatives.
In 1997 we started to take European responsibilities more seriously, personally being the first Romanian in the European Executive Board (in Brussels) of AEGEE-Europe, the organization mentioned above. It was just the start, because for the following 7 years in a row amongst the 9 students “coordinating Europe” there was always one from Cluj, even following elections every 6 months.
When I launched in 1996 “House of Europe” in Cluj, I was attacked about daring to propose that a European city as Cluj should have street signs not only in Romanian, but also in international languages. I’m glad to see that this has been realised and that one can find these now in the European youth capital in 2015.
Cluj is open to Europe and it is not by incident that the volume of debates about Europe exceeds even the average of other big cities in Central and Eastern Europe.
Cluj was also part of the young team that managed, under the guidance of Professor Vasile Puscas, to lead Romania to its membership of the European Union. Even now, after more than 8 years of membership, we still remember that 2001-2004 was not the easiest period. And there were young people who have contributed greatly to this project at that time.
I look very much forward to participating in this year’s European Youth Capital events. “Clujean, you are born, not raised”. That is my opinion, but also the more than 100 “clujeni” from EUBrussels.