How I became a JEFfer
Growing-up in a nice province in West Germany in the 80ies I always got a feeling there must be something outside, which is international, open, transparent, not spoiled by cold war, 1968 ideology and party fights on nothing. The only international organisations I saw being present in my home city were the British Rhine Army, the Catholic Church and a Europe Day committee. So why not starting with a JEF section? But beyond the local level JEF gave me the impression of not being European paralysed by left/right-wing fights. Those days JEF-D was mainly consisting of male “youth” over 30… As German JEFfers still were fighting the wall came down. Liberty! But no joy in JEF. In December 1989 delegates of the JEF-D Congress were shocked by a possible German reunification. I wanted to escape.
In 1991 I got a job at JEF’s Bonn office which gave me extra possibilities to get into contact with international JEFfers. I was part of the last Soviet-German youth exchange founding JEF Estonia. In 1991 and we organised German participation at JEF “manifestations”. But what made me really international was the Council of Europe Youth Centre where I could represent JEF. International advocacy for young politics in a multicultural environment gave me endless training and skills. In those days Giannis Papageorgiou and Irmely Karhio asked me to run for the position of the Secretary General of JEF Europe. With 21 years I became the youngest ever, working at a run-downed “PlaceLux” in Brussels. I think I got this early chance due to my early office and computer experience in Bonn. Not only had the wall came down also a technical revolution has taken place during those days. In 1994 in Brussels office I got the first E-Mail ever in my life, which became the very first mail to JEF Europe! Robert Beck from JEF UK could only send this mail by a gate way to a fax printer. The message looked so ugly that I didn’t keep it… what a pity. A very first Internet page got also established somewhere in Finland. Politically we started with the Single Market and the Maastricht Treaty with only 12 member countries. But all was overshadowed by the transformation and enlargement process of the East.
With many highly skilled international JEFfers, now also in the wild East, we could establish a real pan European JEF Europe. “JEF yellow pages” gave us the overview of more and more sections. Financially we had no clue what the situation was – book keeping did not exist, surprisingly with no harm. Naive spending policy became over-careful. In the end there was a surplus.
Over the years my international JEF contacts became my treasure. My intercultural, political and organisational skills are mainly based on “the JEF experience”. Special thanks to “my presidents” Stephen Woodard (how could he survive my English?) and Tor Eigil Hodne (how could he survive my decision against apple). Without doubt it was a mile stone for my life. And even for my son. I met his mother in JEF – on Ventotene.