The Europe Café is a great example how to get inspiration from old successful AEGEE projects and to transform them in something new. A group of AEGEE members organise under this title monthly events in Naples in which they discuss a variety of current issues and discover opportunities offered by the EU. But that’s not enough – they are thinking of expanding this project to other cities. The GT spoke to Danilo Liguori from AEGEE-Napoli, who is project coordinator of the Europe Cafè, and with Tullio Pacelli, who co-created the project and takes care of social media and administration matters.

Golden Times: What is the Europe Café?
Danilo Liguori: Through “Europe Cafe – Europe from the ground up” young people have the chance to meet, discover the training, work and traineeship opportunities offered by the EU and to design future youth activities in our local community. The project is held in Naples from June 2022 to May 2023 and is co-funded by the European Solidarity Corps in the Erasmus Plus programme.

GT: Can you explain it in detail?
Tullio Pacelli: The purpose is to encourage young people aged 18-30 to:

  • discover the opportunities offered by the EU
  • better understand the Erasmus+ framework and European Solidarity Corps, EU Aid, Erasmus for young entrepreneur and other opportunities
  • learn skills through youth mobility and exchanges
  • increase job opportunities through youth awareness and acculturation especially in peripheral areas
  • form a movement of active young volunteers who organize cultural activities and European mobility exchanges and projects that are sustainable in the long term
  • foster the sense of youth belonging to the European project and build a bridge between the EU and young people to regain trust and increase participation.

The city of Naples, its suburbs and many other areas in Europe suffer from problems of depopulation and reduced employment that affect the future of local youth. There is an urgent need to intervene with sustainable and cyclical activities. We do that, primarily involving young people through the AEGEE network.

GT: Who are the participants?
Tullio: The principal target audience is local youth aged 18-30 in Napoli. But we are open to anyone interested, who wishes to learn more about European opportunities, AEGEE activities, people management, European social situation, geopolitics, contemporary topics, event management skills and in general to meet people of their age coming from different background  in a non-formal environment. Most of them are students, but there is also a substantial part of young workers in the field of project management, who are part of important national and international networks such as Europiamo or Global Shapers. They are adding strong value to the whole project.

GT: Can you give us examples of your activities?
Danilo: Here are some of our recent activities:

  • On 22nd of October 2022 the Europe Café team hosted young people from Italy and Hungary to explore topics such as instability of European borders, conflict management, and reflection and discussion on the eastern and central politics of our continent. It took place in the Common Gallery Youth Center, located in Galleria Principe.
  • On 19th of November 2022 the youth center was filled with curious looks and ears discovering the topic proposed at the last meeting: what are the opportunities offered by community funds and the basics of Europlanning.
  • “Meet, Inform and Invent” was the motto of a rounds of meetings, engaging local Neapolitan youth between 7th and 9th of December 2022. 26 participants immersed themselves in discovering the Apply & Go application, conceived by entrepreneur Matteo Russo, after which Dario Di Stasio, former secretary of the GFE association, addressed the European treaties. Finally, we moved on to the design of a KA1 individual mobility and ESC solidarity projects, following the guidelines of the European Youth Goals.

GT: How many activities do you organise per month?
Tullio: For the time being, we are arranging one appointment per month, but it might increase soon. The workshops take mostly place on the third Saturday afternoon of the month.

GT: How did you get the idea for “Europe Cafe – Europe from the ground up”?
Danilo: Six very experienced AEGEE members proposed the project: Tullio Pacelli, Andrea Lombardi, Giorgio Rotoli, Mariano Autore, Ylenia Majo an me. Four of us are ex-presidents of our local. However, there have been Europe Cafés before.

GT: In what way?
Danilo: The original Europe Café was a type of local event – organized by several antennae to debate European political and social subjects in a relaxed setting, such as a bar or coffee shop. The Europe Café was created separately in different places and at different times. The one we hosted in Naples launched several Europe Café formats, but still the strands are unrelated. However, the original idea stems fundamentally from the culture of Neapolitan coffee.

GT: How so?
Danilo: Coffee represents the local soul. I give you a quote: “Neapolitans are found not only of the drink, but also of the ritual, the glass of water to sip first, the chat with the barista, the lever machine, the suspended coffee to share the pleasure with another person. Espresso in Naples is an excuse to be together, and it is always drunk in company: ‘Let’s have a coffee’ is like saying: ‘Let’s see each other.’” The “let’s go for coffee” moment becomes an opportunity for discovery, discussion and insight.

GT: What’s the relationship between AEGEE and the Europe Café?
Tullio Pacelli: Before starting the current project we did some research about the history of the Europe Cafè. Originally, it was a cultural initiative organized by the Institute of the Regions of Europe on the occasion of Europe Day 2006. Trying to find a timeline behind the creation of this format in AEGEE, the president of AEGEE-Torino told us: “The format is different today from 2006 and in the beginning it was an activity in a cafeteria with free coffee and contemporary events discussions.”

GT: And when did it come to Naples?
Tullio: It launched in Napoli in 2017. This format became a cyclical event and many thematic aperitifs were organized around the European Parliament elections. Thanks to that series of seminars our local also won a small call for proposals called “relay for Europe.” The café format was adopted by the Politics Interest Group in 2018, but we preferred to remain at the local level continuing to organize thematic meetings on a variety of themes: geopolitics, economics and social arriving – right until the lockdown period of 2020 when we organized them online. Years later we decided to make this format in a more structured way and decided to submit the project proposal to the European Solidarity Corps. After the pandemic, in 2022, AEGEE-Napoli believed it was critical to restore a cyclical gathering among local individuals and organizations. We got the notion to request a little financial contribution from the European Solidarity Corps through Erasmus plus funding, and discovered a means to turn the Europe Café into a bottom-up funded project by the EU.

GT: How did this structured approach look like?
Tullio: We identified our Youth Center as a suitable location for implementing workshop cycles based on the slogan “Europe from the Ground Up”, as well as creative activities based on non-formal education. The project started in June 2022 and it will finish in May 2023, so at the moment we have already organized seven meetings involving about 20 people every time, a telegram channel counting 700 subscribers, a social media page with all our pictures and a website.

GT: Are you still part of AEGEE-Napoli or did you become independent?
Tullio: The current project is an extension of AEGEE-Napoli to which we acknowledge the utmost paternity, but one of the objectives of the project is to be sustainable and become independent of the association. In addition, we seek to spread this format at national and international levels through different Erasmus Plus programmes in which we invite everyone to join us. In fact, the vision we have is to build a real network of Europe Cafés.

GT: So when did the new project start?
Danilo: The Europe Cafè project officially began on 30th of June with a welcome opening with all the local organisations, such as Agenzia per la Promozione dei Giovani, BEST, Global Shapers, ESA, ESN Napoli, Euroavia and so on, such as an NGO Fair. Then, we designed a social media page and a website. It has a section for the opportunities for young people, a link to our Telegram channel and a European Blog with all the workshops we organized.

GT: What are your next activities?
Danilo: The project is supposed to end in May. Currently we have planned four future meetings between February and May in which we will discuss active citizenship, youth participation and create future activities in order to make the Europe Cafè a more sustainable and replicable project and spread its this format in more regions around Italy.

GT: Where would you expand to?
Danilo: We are considering Campania, Piemonte, Sardinia, Lazio, Sicily and Lombardy. There are already some locals taking care of arranging activities, so we want to involve many organisations, AEGEE locals and other institutions to create a space for young people to meet, discuss, create a network and dialogue. We are following the Erasmus Plus programme priorities: “Erasmus+ supports youth-driven local, national, transnational and international participation projects run by informal groups of young people and/or youth organisations, encouraging youth participation in Europe’s democratic life and following one or more of the following objectives: provide young people with opportunities to engage and learn to participate in civic society, by offering pathways of engagement for young people in their daily lives but also in democratic life, aiming for a meaningful civic, economic, social, cultural and political participation of young people from all backgrounds, with special focus on those with fewer opportunities.”

GT: How can interested people find out more?
Tullio: In general, people can find us on social media, our website and through a telegram chat where we share everyday jobs, traineeship, volunteerings, youth exchanges opportunities.
Danilo: In particular: