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"Luckily, instead of war, and also thanks to Erasmus, Europeans are making love today"

Having lived, worked and studied in countries based in Europe, the Middle East, North America, Niniane is what you would call a "global citizen". Her current base being Zurich where she works for a cross-sector association that aims to establish Switzerland as a leading international hub for digital innovation, she has been able to gain exclusive insights into several global institutions such as the UN and the International Chamber of Commerce. The Swiss-German and first-time GFYL participant likes being on the road, will always be seen with a good book and her laptop at hand, and has a passion for stories and of course, French wine and food - even including French cheese. Trying to understand complex issues and the "big picture" is what drives her curiosity and what made her engage in think tanks and international networks all aiming to improve intercultural understanding and international exchange.

Niniane, what makes you European?

As a Swiss, living in the middle of Europe, yet not in the European Union, the answer to this question is not always a straightforward one. However, Europe is home, also roots to my values and identity. Speaking three European languages, nurturing friendships in almost every European country and taking for granted the free movement within Europe, I highly appreciate the diversity and openness that makes Europe so unique. Embracing that diversity and our common values and history is what binds us in an increasingly globalized world. Especially when being outside of Europe in different environments and cultures, the sense of belonging manifests itself and I understand, why Europe is so important.

Is digitalisation a European topic?

Clearly, digitalisation is not only a European topic, but a global one affecting every single one of us. Europe has to work out how as a community it wants to tackle challenges linked to digitalisation and take advantage of its opportunities. I believe that the strategy of waiting for other actors to make a first move or copying existing leading technology hubs cannot be the solution. Europe should take its fate into own hands and find its own way, a European way of dealing with the challenges and open questions stemming from digitalisation. Data ownership is such an example: Who controls data ownership and what happens to our data? This is a crucial question, which needs to be answered as part of a broader European digital strategy.

Why did you join GFYL?

I fell in love with Paris and France, when I lived there and until today feel strongly connected: I still have close ties and return regularly to Paris. Because of this connection, my strong interests in international relations, politics and as a convinced pro-European, I decided to join GFYL. Furthermore, I highly appreciate to get to know various perspectives and the international exchange with inspiring young people, who have the power, motivation and optimism and want to change something in our society. I am convinced that today more than ever, we need this kind of exchange and dialogue.

Why is it important that initiatives such as GFYL exist?

We are living at a time of uncertainty and change: institutions, multilateralism and the post 1945 international system are all being challenged. Technology, globalization and climate change are moving ahead at a mind-blowing pace transforming local and regional politics, geopolitics and the community. In my view, we have arrived at a turning point and it is time to rethink the society and continent we want to live in. It does not suffice to have great values on a macro level: if the individuals are struggling in their everyday life, these values seem far away. Thus, initiatives such as GFYL are a great opportunity for young people to share their vision — not the vision of some kind of elite we cannot grasp but the vision of citizens — and shape their own version of a unified Europe.

What represents Europe to you?  

For me, the Erasmus student mobility programme is a very symbol for European connectivity and interrelatedness. It created a new self-perception and generation of Europeans. To them, as to me, the freedom and privilege of traveling, living or working in any European country of choice, has become normal. Not so long ago, this would have been unimaginable. Luckily, instead of war, Europeans are making love today: A study has shown that an estimated one million babies are likely to have been born to Erasmus couples. I cannot think of any other initiative that brings Europe closer together and fosters a truly borderless exchange than Erasmus.

Last but not least, a reading tip for us?

Matching to what I just said, a story published by Le Monde on Erasmus babies

We are looking forward to seeing you in Paris, Ninane!


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