A Vision for Europe

A competition for students in cooperation with Saarland University

Source: Koyos, Europe, labelled as public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion of the Europe competition

Congratulations to the winners!

The winners of the “A Vision for Europe” competition, organised by the Friedrich Foundation in cooperation with Saarland University, have been announced:

The jury awarded first prize to 20-year-old Leni Hirschmann, a student of European Studies at Saarland University.

Second prize went to 21-year-old Fabio Montalto, who is also studying European Studies in Saarbrücken.

Third prize was awarded to 24-year-old Petra Arih, a Humanities student at the Univerza na Primorskem in Slovenia.

Leni Hirschmann’s contribution is a poetry slam, which the author submitted not only as a text version but also as a voice recording.

“Believing in Europe” begins with the description of a young European student’s view of the world: depressed by the many crises and terrible occurrences but also aware of the privileges of her own lifestyle.

“Many of us feel a kind of paralysis, we feel sad and helpless,” says Leni Hirschmann in an interview. “Yet we want to remain hopeful. We, the young generation, are the future after all.” In her poetry slam, Leni Hirschmann directs her hopes towards Europe and its values of freedom, equality, and solidarity, which are alive in the European Union. She does not ignore the dark sides – for example in dealing with refugees – but she is nevertheless committed to Europe.

Leni Hirschmann worked intensively on the text for a month; she describes how she was only satisfied with it after several attempts. Winning first prize was a great surprise and a pleasure. “A very convincing, spoken personal text that is strikingly well-informed and at the same time full of poetry,” said one member of the jury, explaining his decision. “The text is quite critical but at the same time very optimistic and encouraging, it works with quotes from the European anthem and with the symbol of the European flag – beautiful, linguistically sophisticated and very authentic.”

In total, the Friedrich Foundation received over 80 entries by 31 March 2024, which were then submitted to the jury in anonymised form. In addition to the British historian Professor Timothy Garton Ash, the jury included futurologist Dr Florence Gaub, MEP Reinhard Bütikofer, Professor of Law Tiziana Chiusi, Chair of the Cluster for European Research at Saarland University, as well as the members of the Friedrich Stiftung’s Board of Trustees: former Minister of State for Culture Professor Christina Weiss, the former President of Humboldt University Berlin and current President of the International Psychoanalytic University Berlin, Professor Jan-Hendrik Olbertz, and the Vice President of the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media, Professor Oliver Wille.

The jurors awarded second prize to Fabio Montalto for his essay “Ode to Joy”, an homage to Friedrich Schiller’s poem and the anthem of the European Union. Fabio Montalto’s approach to the subject is analytical: He describes the history of Europe as marked by the coercive rule of the strong over the weak, both internally and in relation to the colonies Europe exploited. European integration was a break with this tradition.

Today, given the rise of autocracies across the world, Europe must be “the grown-up alternative for a world that once again faces the danger of disintegrating into empires and vassal states”. In an interview with the Friedrich Foundation, Fabio Montalto summarises: “Europe must not be a fortress, but a meeting place for all those who want to advance freedom.”

Photo by Azzedine Rouichi on Unsplash

Third prize went to Petra Arih (24) from Slovenia for a blistering essay that begins with the statement: My Europe is not your Europe. Petra Arih describes how different life is in her town in Slovenia, especially in comparison to the much richer Austria, just a few kilometres away. Some things have become even worse as a result of joining the EU: For example, there is now a shortage of doctors in Slovenia who have gone to Western Europe because they earn more there.

The Friedrich Stiftung is very pleased about the wide variety of entries received – it would like to thank all the students who took the competition “A Vision for Europe” as an opportunity to think about the future of Europe and record their thoughts.

The Friedrich Foundation would also like to thank its cooperation partner, Saarland University, which not only made the competition known to its own students but also promoted it intensively to its European partner universities.

Finally, special thanks go to the members of the jury – outstanding European personalities – for their great commitment and time.