Sunday, May 10, 2009


No matter how much I tried to prepare myself for this moment, the truth is that I stand here, in front of you, feeling as if caught by surprise... There's so much I would like to say to you, and yet, even though already written, the words don't come easy... so, please hang on with me... and I promise trying to be as short as I can... In two days it will be four years that I started working as SG of the YFJ. There are many ways to count four years... 48 months, 208 weeks, 1.461 days, 35.064 hours... 9 COMEM/GA, 25 Bureau Meetings, 13 CBMA Meetings, 8 FCC Meetings, too many events, 42 countries visited... 29 different Bureau Members, 52 different Secretariat colleagues, and more than 800 friends on Facebook... Let me start by apologizing. Apologizing for not having been able to work harder, for not having been able to deliver more results, for not having been able to be faster, more transparent or more successful. I gave my best, but I realize that sometimes it was not enough. Please forgive me for being strict, and for being tough and for the times I have been unfair. And please accept my apologies for the times I disappointed you; I swear it hurt me more than it did you. Let me also thank you, for these have been the happiest years of my life. For someone who believes in youth work and has a passion for international relations and the unity of Europe, working as SG of the YFJ is as good as it can get. I am grateful to all of you for the opportunity you have offered to me, and I tried to honor the trust you put on me. Because of endless hours of hard work and wonderful moments of huge fun, I will always remember the people who make this organization the best civil society platform in Europe. All of you have contributed, in a way or another, to my happiness, but allow me to refer to some people in particular. And I apologize in advance for the many of you that I won't be able to name, once again being unfair. Let me start with Renaldas. Back then, four years ago, many people, including some good friends, advised me against him and what his attitude towards me would be... Renaldas is today one of my dearest friends, and a person I admire for his intellectual abilities, for his hard-working capacities and, especially, for his amazingly big heart. And for his beautiful family, of course. He was my first President, and he will keep the number one forever. Bettina succeeded Renaldas as President, but she is a different case. She was one of the first enthusiasts of my application for the position of SG, which was surprisingly enough as she had never heard from or seen me before. Now that I think about it, that might actually explain it :) I don't know... What I know is that Bettina was a case of love at first sight and I hope she knows that I would go with or for her to the end of the World. Bettina is also the most brilliant politician I have ever met, and I wonder how long it will take for Austria to acknowledge how much it needs her. I have learned immensely from her and I love and respect her as I only love and respect a very small number of people alive. Serving under Renaldas and Bettina was a honor and a privilege, and the YFJ should always be proud of having had them as Presidents. Among all the other Bureau Members I have worked with, there is another one I need to refer to, and this is Jaakko. Jaakko is the funniest serious person I have worked with and, at the same time, the most serious funny one. The ability to combine the two is a rare one, and therefore must be protected. The fact that Jaakko never got the chance to run for President of the YFJ is one of those unfair outcomes of a very well-intentioned rule, but this gave him the possibility to teach us all a lesson of humbleness and dedication, and this is something for which this organization will always have to be grateful. We have disagreed many times, but I hope that Jaakko respects me half as much as I respect him; that much will be enough to make me very happy. Let me go on with another bunch of people who have made my times in the YFJ much better than I dared to expect: the Secretariat. Much has been said about the way I managed the Secretariat... mostly by people who are not and were never part of it. I hope I have been able, at least from time to time, to offer you a glimpse of how much I appreciate, respect and care about you. I did all I could to improve your working conditions, to preserve your dignity and to promote your expertise. I am sure I fell short on making you justice, but whatever you may think about me, you can be sure of at least one thing: I will always keep you in my heart. Among all of you, I can't help naming a few to whom, for one reason or another, I owe more than I will ever be able to pay. I can't help thinking that it is a bit ironic that, without any imposed plans or statistics, the four people I will refer to happen to be a gender-balanced group :) I will start with Pedro. I have known Pedro for more than 10 years and, over this period, we have done pretty much everything two guys can do while keeping their clothes on... He is like a brother to me, and I owe him a big chunk of the success I believe I had in managing this organization for the last four years. Pedro, let me thank you, on behalf of the European Youth Forum, for the great work you've done for its finances, and let me add, on my own behalf, how much privileged I feel for being able to call you my friend. Luiza... If I said I love Bettina, what can I say about Luiza? If my life in the YFJ would be compared to a day, Luiza would be best described as the morning glory. She not only is the most competent person I have ever had the opportunity to work with, but also my greatest defender and supporter: she never refused to stand up for me, even when she knew I was wrong; she never hid information from me, even when she knew it could be used against her; and she always injected me with extra motivation, even when I stopped believing in myself. On the top of everything, Luiza opened the doors of her house and family to me, and that's something only a parent can value enough. Luiza, you will always be my Little Princess and I hope you know you can count on me for whatever you wish. After Luiza came Klavdija. Very different style, but definitely the same quality. Klavdija is probably less of a strong character, but both as coordinator of the relations with the COE and as Head of Department, Klavdija has shown competence, dedication and expertise that keep amazing me and make me wonder if I deserve. If you don't pay attention, you might not realise it, but Klavdija is the soul and the brain behind most of the good work the YFJ produces; a treasure that needs to be cherished and that I will try to steal if I ever get the chance to. And, last but not the least, Mark. Mark is to be praised by most of the good things I have done, and I would have done even more of them if only I had listened more to him. Mark is one of the best persons I have ever met, one of the most professional and, at the same time, friendly and humble people I was offered to know, and this makes Antonia one of the luckiest persons in this room. I miss him terribly... Not so much the Assistant of the Secretary General – that one was well replaced by Jessica -, but especially the friend, the man and the role model. I would like him to be here today, but I know I will see him soon and that I will keep seeing him every time our lives will allow it, and that makes me very happy. Still in the Secretariat, there is a group of people who have one thing in common: they have endured me for the whole four years, and that makes them quite unique, not only in this context, but also in my life in general. Luc, Anne, Nicole, Agata, Ewoud. Thank you for everything! I wish you could stay for many more years in the YFJ! And Ewoud, let me tell you in particular: I know you will have to leave soon, and I am happy I won't have to deal with your replacement! Patricia, Pablo, Elizabeth, Alix, Maxime, Marta, Ante, Giuseppe, Vera, Julie and Letizia... Some of you have already gone, others will go soon, some will hopefully stay longer... You're all super good professionals, but, most of all, you're people I like much more than I will be able to express with words. I hope that now that I will be gone from the office we will meet even more often outside of it, for drinks, good laughs and pleasant moments. Marie-Aimée, Maarten, Marco, Inês, Dagmar, Sara, Antoine, Lena, Jessica, Estefanía, David, Daniel, Simon: thank you for everything you gave, and especially for everything you will still give to the YFJ and the new SG. Parting with the Secretariat will probably be the most difficult thing for me to do at the moment of leaving the YFJ. You have been my family for the last four years, and I will miss you as much as I miss my real family. I am proud of you and, if there's something positive I leave to my successor, this is it: a great team! And, finally, allow me to give you some advices :) as an old man leaving, I should probably have some words of wisdom to share with you... Dear Tine, you have a difficult mission ahead of you... I don't know if you will succeed, but one thing I know: you'll keep trying. Your term as a President needs to be taken as a marathon, and you're much better at it than any of us... with maybe the exception of Laura Cottey :) it's always tempting to make comparisons between you and the Bureau and your predecessors, but an old man like me knows that those comparisons are never fair. I have tried my best, over these last four months, to help you and guide you and show you the way, and I hope you know that I did it out of friendship and good will. I won't hide that I think that some things could be better if you have listened to me more :) but I also acknowledge that I am not an easy old man to deal with, and I know that you have to make your own way, sometimes crawling, sometimes stumbling and sometimes even falling. We all did that before becoming old men... But let me offer you one last advice: there are people around you, especially in the Secretariat, that can and are wiling to help you; use their help! Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. I learned it myself the hardest way. The European Youth Forum has a tremendous potential, but it has a tremendous responsibility too. Not many organisations, and surely not many youth organisations, have the luxury of having 23 full-time staff members, reimbursements available for all the participants of so many activities, per diems and so many other things that we are so used to that we no longer even value enough. We are supposed to work for the interests and on behalf of people who very often don't have a job, can't travel at all and struggle with very little incomes. It won't be me making the demagogical calling for giving up on the luxuries, but we need to make sure that we never get distracted from the reasons why we are here, we do what we do and we say what we say. One day our times in the YFJ will come to an end and, when that day comes, we better be able to look back and feel proud of what we've achieved. Otherwise, all this will have been in vain and we will have deceived the millions of young people who give their best to make this world a little bit more livable. And that's something none of us should be ready or willing to forgive or even tolerate! After 19 years in the youth work field, it is time for me to say goodbye. As many of you already know, I will remain linked to the European civil society sector, as I will most probably be nominated SG of the European Movement International in about 6 weeks. I am very happy and looking forward for this new challenge, because it will allow me to keep working in a way I feel I can make a difference, and in a field I am passionate about. But I know I wouldn't have been given this opportunity if it wasn't for everything I learned throughout these 19 years of youth work and, in particular, over these last four years as SG of the YFJ. I therefore hope you can also share my happiness and that this appointment can somehow be seen as a small recognition of the skills provided by youth organisations through non formal education activities :) And, to conclude, and because I am not sure I was able to say anything clever today, let me borrow someone else's words and use them to wish each and everyone of you, from the bottom of my heart, all the best for your personal, political and professional future. I count on you to keep making the voices of young people heard, especially the ones of those who have less opportunities and suffer the most in this world we have inherited from our elders and have the responsibility to make better! Thank you for your patience, and may all your sweet dreams come true!


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