Cooperation with Greece
Greece and its cultural heritage are considered the birthplace of democracy in Europe. German-Greek relations have a long and diverse history.
The economic and social challenges Greece currently faces are symptomatic of many of Europe’s most pressing concerns, among them social cohesion in and the future of Europe. Accordingly, civil society stakeholders involved in youth and expert exchanges are working to find responses to these issues, which include sustainability and social entrepreneurship, career orientation, and democratic education. It is evident that Germany and Greece stand to benefit from tackling many issues together, such as strengthening the young population in rural regions, the rediscovery of traditional crafts such as shipbuilding, and personal migration stories.
The crisis has revived the debate surrounding claims for reparation for the victims and damage incurred by Germany’s occupation of Greece, laying bare the stereotypes at work in the Greek and German media. It is clear that much remains to be done in terms of repairing German-Greek relations if European integration is to be improved. The development and expansion of the German-Greek youth exchange programme is IJAB’s contribution to these efforts; one that it began to make in 2014 on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) in preparation for establishing a German-Greek Youth Office.
The governments of Germany and Greece are currently working to establish a German-Greek Youth Office, which will serve to promote German-Greek exchanges between young people and experts and will have a permanent budget and long-term structures. The Federal Ministry has set aside a special budget for German-Greek youth exchanges to ensure their continuation until the Youth Office is established. In preparation for this, in 2014 IJAB was tasked by the Federal Ministry to strengthen and expand the German-Greek youth and expert exchange programme.
The 2013 coalition agreement
The 2013 agreement between Germany’s governing coalition parties already contained a reference to the future establishment of a German-Greek youth office. In chapter 6, entitled “Strong Europe”, specifically the section headed “Democratic Europe”, the agreement argues in favour of establishing such a youth office: “Forming a European civil society represents an essential precondition for a vital European democracy. It is especially important for youth policy to be developed further for this purpose. European schools, youth foundations and increasing young people's mobility can contribute to this. In this context, for example, we advocate the establishment of a German-Greek youth foundation. Efforts for reform in Greece will continue to be supported in a spirit of partnership; in particular, the German-Greek Assembly will be continued and developed further.“
Joint Memorandum of Understanding
On 12 September 2014 the then Federal Family Minister Manuela Schwesig and Greece’s Minister of Education Andreas Loverdos – represented by the Greek Ambassador and in the presence of Federal President Joachim Gauck and the President of the Hellenic Republic, H. E. Karolos Papoulias – met in Berlin’s Bellevue Palace to sign a joint Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of a German-Greek Youth Office.
First German-Greek Youth Forum
That same year, from 3 to 6 November 2014, the first German-Greek Youth Forum took place. 120 organisations from Germany and Greece travelled to Bad Honnef near Bonn, Germany, to get to know each other, exchange information and devise joint projects. This event was the starting point of the German-Greek youth exchange programme. Previously, the Ministry had recorded five youth exchanges per year, which received funding under the Federal Government’s Child and Youth Plan. The first German-Greek Youth Forum resulted in 25 new projects that were implemented in subsequent years. Today, the number of projects funded under the special budget stands at 250.
Bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of youth
One prominent milestone in the history of youth policy cooperation with Greece is the signature of an agreement on cooperation in the field of youth and on the establishment of a German-Greek Youth Office dated 26 July 2017 that had been announced at the second German-Greek Youth Forum in March 2017. Signed by Germany’s Youth Ministry and the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, the agreement details future youth policy cooperation between Greece and Germany and lays out the next steps in the process towards establishing a German-Greek Youth Office. It stipulates the establishment of a bilateral committee composed of representatives of the competent ministries who will negotiate a treaty and staff and financial regulations for the new Youth Office; the establishment of a bilateral body to implement and expand cooperation in the field of youth, staffed with representatives of the governments, the child and youth services community, youth policy and youth organisations (known as the German-Greek expert committee, or Fachausschuss); the organisation of an annual youth forum that alternates between Greece and Germany; and the youth policy priority areas to be worked on. The agreement was submitted to the Greek parliament for ratification in June 2018. On 4 September 2018, Greece’s parliamentary subcommittee on cultural affairs and education voted by an overwhelming majority to adopt the draft bill to ratify the agreement.
German-Greek expert committee
The German-Greek expert committee tasked with implementing and expanding cooperation in the field of youth under the agreement held its inaugural meeting in December 2017. The members of the committee update each other about current youth policy developments in their respective countries, discuss the state of play of bilateral youth policy cooperation, and describe their own activities in the field. The expert committee also discusses the priorities and activities to be tackled under future bilateral cooperation.
Agreement on the establishment of a German-Greek Youth Office
On 11 October 2018, at an event drawing much media attention, Federal Family Minister Dr Franziska Giffey and Pafsanias Papageorgiou, the Secretary-General for Youth in Greece’s Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, met in Athens to sign an agreement establishing a German-Greek Youth Office, with the German city of Leipzig designated as the future seat of the Office. The agreement was initialled less than two weeks before the start of the third German-Greek Youth Forum in Cologne, delivering fresh input for the discussions of the 120 representatives of various organisations and civil society groups from Germany and Greece. The final version of the agreement was signed on 4 July 2019 by state secretaries Juliane Seifert (BMFSFJ) and Antje Leendertse (Federal Foreign Office) and Pafsanias Papageorgiou at a meeting in the Federal Family Ministry in Berlin.
The German-Greek Youth Office is scheduled to begin operating in 2020.
In connection with expanding the German-Greek youth exchange programme, IJAB provides a wide range of advisory services and information for experts and stakeholders.
Organisations are welcome to contact the teams in question for information and advice on finding partners in Greece, designing projects and writing applications, working at a professional level with partners in Greece, and finding Language Animation experts and interpreters for German-Greek youth exchanges.
Information events: IJAB cooperates with regional organisations and BMFSFJ to organise regional information events at regular intervals. At least 20 interested regional organisations are required to register before such an event can be held. Organisations wishing to hold an information event are invited to contact the relevant contact persons at any time by e-mail or phone.