Ilja Skrylnikow 

(Chairman and Co-founder GFYL)
 
Opening Speech German French Young Leaders Conference 2017
Berlin – Haus der Commerzbank, 11 May 2017

Monsieur le Président,

Votre Excellence,

Verehrte Ehrengäste,

Dear Participants of the German-French Young Leaders Conference,

 

Dreams are made to be lived. We, our generation, are living a dream right now. Our present reality has been the dream of our grandmothers, grandfathers and of generations before them: The dream of peace, of freedom and prosperity. The dream of unity! And to be honest: a lot of generations did not even dare to dream of the life we are living now.  

 

I believe it is our commitment that this life does not become a dream again. However, we are facing a reality with new challenges. Like our ancestors, it is up to us now to develop our own dream, our visions for the future of Europe.

 

We created the German-French Young Leaders Conference because we wanted to have a forward-looking platform for smart brains from France and Germany. Here, we do not want to discuss the past, but our common future. Our conference should be a platform where we share new ideas and discover new inspirations.

This is a grassroot initiative. Our team of volunteers has worked during their free time, during nights and weekends, because we believe in the French-German relations as the core of the European idea. Like every relationship, you need to take care of it – or otherwise it will not last. That is why we are especially keen on winning new faces that have not been part of the Franco-German dialogue before – and one of the reasons why we took the somewhat extraordinary step to hold this whole conference in a third language: in English. 

 

Such a pragmatic idea also lies at the core of the European project: The thought that together, we are stronger than our single parts. It was very important for us that the German-French Young Leaders Conference takes place only a few days after the day remembering the Schuman Declaration.

"Our present reality has been the dream of our grandmothers, grandfathers and of generations before them: The dream of peace, of freedom and prosperity. The dream of unity!"

We are honored to have one of the most prominent advocates of the European idea amongst us today: Monsieur le Président, we are humbled that you accepted to be the patron of this year’s GFYL conference, together with the former German president Christan Wulff. We are especially grateful that you made it all the way from Paris to Berlin in order be with us and to share your thoughts. Monsieur le Président, when you had the first official call with Helmut Schmidt after your election as President of France, you said to him, "It is our chance to move on with the European project." You did and you do, until today. Your lifelong commitment to the European Integration is the greatest inspiration for us.

 

You have before you a special audience: Some of the brightest minds from our two countries, but also young people from Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Danemark or the US that live in France or Germany today. It is important for us not to be self-centered und to have different points of view and diverse discussions.

"Progress needs energy, audacity, curiosity, open-mindedness and creativity."

Progress needs energy, audacity, curiosity, open-mindedness and creativity. These characteristics are of our participants: they come from the most different backgrounds: they are entrepreneurs, academics, journalists, work in NGOs or government. Our participants have organized anti-xenophobic theater pieces, they travel through Europe in order to interview young people about their idea of Europe, they develop new mobility concepts, create new e-heath solutions and produce movies and art. 

We come together for mutual inspiration and motivation. During workshops and debates we want to exchange and to develop new ideas, to catch the positive energy. We want to motivate the motivators.

The digital age is our common topic. The digital development gives us new opportunities to make the world better. And we want that theses opportunities are used and not misused. We want that they are used for humanity and human progress.

 

There is one person I have not mentioned yet. Do you guess who? Emmanuel Macron, who supported us as a patron last year, said in his address to us: „The digital revolution creates great and very promising opportunities for the future. There is one single condition for grasping them: mobilizing our youth! The German-French Young Leaders Programme is an example that must be further developed and be made fruitful. Your responsibility is to go on working together and innovating!“. It is in that spirit, that we continue our program today.

"The digital age is our common topic. The digital development gives us new opportunities to make the world better. And we want that theses opportunities are used and not misused. We want that they are used for humanity and human progress."

All of this would not have been possible without the support of our friends and partners. I therefore would like to give special thanks to

  • the German-French Youth Office for the partnership,

  • our host of today, the Haus der Commerzbank,

  • our host for the coming Working Sessions, SAP, who provided speakers, participants and an exciting space in the heart of Berlin,

  • of course all members of the GFYL team who spent their time to make this conference possible!

 

Et merci Monsieur le Président de nous faire parvenir cet honneur et de venir à notre conférence pour partager vos idées sur l’Europe.

 

Let us dream our dreams, let’s realize our dreams, let this year’s German-French Young Leaders Conference begin!