The year 1987 was a great year. In that year the European Union launched the famous Erasmus student exchange program. To date, more than 1,7 m Europeans from all over the place have participated. Erasmus is unique because it creates a pan-European network of people without any political, religious or other intentions. It is all about respect for other cultures, getting to know people from other cultures, inter-cultural exchange of opinions, ideas, life-styles. A great invention! The only disadvantage Erasmus might have is that it focuses on university students only.
On November 5 2006, the idea for the first people to people celebration for all Europeans was born in Barcelona. The Festival positions itself as an “Erasmus experience” for everyone. For us, the people of Europe. The Festival is that one mega platform where people from all over Europe can meet their fellow Europeans, their team-mates of team Europe. The Festival is for those people who love to say: “I am European!” And, of course, you will meet each other in a great atmosphere of fun and entertainment.
The question was: would anybody be interested in the project? If no Greek, no Italian, no Hungarian, no Lithuanian was going to get on an Easyjet plane and visit The Festival, the whole event was not going to make any sense.
The German Ambassador in Spain, his Excellency Mr. Born, served as the first interest check from a diplomatic point of view. Plain success! He said this was exactly what Europe needed, a bottom-up initiative coming from the people. A very uplifting meeting.
We needed a host town. And since the five co-initiators of The Festival were based in Berlin and had their local network there, the natural answer to the question where to start was Berlin. Of course a fabulous place to begin with. Spacey, fashionable, metropolitan, historic, central, loved, unique…
On February 1 and March 28 2007 we presented the project to the City Council who considered The Festival an excellent initiative helping increase the European team spirit.
Yet, Rome wasn’t built on one day either. After four years of promoting the idea and the project among people, institutions and brands in Germany, we decided to change our strategy. Today, we follow a bottom-up approach - first fans, then brands.
After a TEDx talk in Barcelona, a TV appearance on Catalan TV, and a first offline event “The Festival. One Day, One Europe” in Barcelona, we switched our focus from Berlin to Barcelone.
Plato said, “The most important part of work is the beginning.” We have begun and with the foundation of I am European e.V. (NGO) based in Berlin in 2011 the legal and organizational framework is set to push the first people to people movement for all Europeans ahead in 2012.