From the 22nd to the 24th of October I undertook a preparatory visit to the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
I discussed the following topics with my hosts Olga Terenetska and Dr. Vasiliki Mitropoulou:
- The use of digital media at universities
- A possible cooperation between our institutions
- The financial crisis and the current refugee crisis and their effects on daily life in Greece
Only recently private organisations in Thessaloniki put up soup kitchens and organised donations in order to provide people who had lost their jobs and homes with the most essential needs.
Today the situation has somewhat improved. What remains is a resentment against Germany but at the same time a sense of relief because now, that the financial blockade is over, further steps can be taken.
There also seems to be widespread support for Prime Minister Tspiras, however there are protest songs about former finance minister Varoufakis.
In parallel with the preparatory meeting at this highly renowned university (the sixth oldest in the world!), Thessaloniki also hosted the NECE Conference on the theme ,Us’ and ,Them’/,Global Citizenship Education’.
Given the current situation, one could hardly find a more appropriate topic or a more suitable place.
Global Citizenship Education – a hotly debated topic, not least due to Thessaloniki’s geographical and historical location on the Macedonian border and the current refugee crisis.
I was particularly impressed by Ulrike Guèrot`s keynote on the topic “Europe, where are you headed?”
Ulrike Guèrot is a co-founder of the “European Democracy Lab, European School of Governance” (Germany).
Another outstanding project was presented by Dr.Helga Embacher from the University of Salzburg: Antisemitism in the Context of Islamophobia: Jews and Muslims as „the others“.
I’d like to end my report with a recount of the remarkable start of my visit. Against the original plans, our plane couldn’t land in Thessaloniki. Due to bad weather the plane had to land in Sofia. Some of the passengers – I amongst them – didn’t want to fly back to Vienna. Instead we organised a minivan and went on a “road trip” through the hilly landscape of Bulgaria to Thessaloniki. Our chauffeur instructed our motley group about the forthcoming elections, the overall lifestyle and the widespread corruption in Bulgaria – and how to survive despite all adversities.
His report was supplemented by some entertaining stories told by a former CNN news presenter who had been working world-wide in areas of crisis and now hosts a political talk show in Belgium.
In conclusion, all the substantial aspects, the future orientation, the formal and informal talks and cooperations, the city itself and its specific location and all the imaginary and realistic possibilities we discussed, made my visit really special and sensational. Thank you very much for this opportunity!