#IChooseEurope bus tour diary, Stage 1: Frankfurt, Krakow, Vienna, Budapest

, by Gavin Schranz

#IChooseEurope bus tour diary, Stage 1: Frankfurt, Krakow, Vienna, Budapest
All photos on this article were originally published on the Facebook page of the Young European Federalists (JEF-Europe).

In April, the #IChooseEurope bus tour, run by the Young European Federalists (JEF-Europe) as a part of a wider European election campaign bearing the same name, visits twelve countries in a space of three weeks. Young volunteers travel with the bus to help organise events together with local groups and to discuss European elections with locals as the bus stops. Gavin Schranz from JEF-Malta shares his experience from joining the first stage of the bus tour, from Frankfurt am Main on 10 April to Budapest on 15 April.

Day 6: Budapest, Hungary

The final day of Part I kicked off with an appearance on a local radio station called Civil Rádió FM 98, where our President Chris Glück, Vice-President Jacopo Barbati and I Choose Europe campaign coordinator Michal Rybacki talked about our campaign, the importance of choosing Europe in the upcoming May elections, why they believe in European integration, and why they think that federalism is still incomplete.

Later on in the day, we met up with members of the JEF Secretariat and UEF Hungary at the Heroes Square. We worked together to set up our stand, and a stage setup too! The location was fantastic, and people of all nationalities were passing by throughout the day. We engaged in some interesting conversations with the tourists on site, especially about the migration situation in the EU.

The upbeat music coming from our own DJ set attracted people to our stand, and for the first time on the tour, more people were approaching us, rather than us approaching them. Apart from the music, we listened to a few speeches given by Eszter Nagy from UEF Hungary, Chris Glück and Michal Rybacki from JEF Europe, Claire Hunyadi who is a French citizen living in Hungary, Valentin John from the tour participants, and a few others. Each of them spoke about why they choose Europe, and more specifically, that if we don’t choose Europe, somebody else will choose otherwise in our stead.

Finally, to end the day and the week, we said our goodbyes over some top notch pizza! On behalf of all the Part I participants, I’d like to thank Michal Rybacki, Sonia Afanasjeva and Emilie Vandam from JEF for the great organisation, and the partners and JEF sections for hosting us along the way. Good luck to the new set of participants!

Fun factor: 5/5

Difficulty level: 2/5

Success rating: 4.5/5

The weather in Budapest was sunny, and people of multiple nationalities were attracted to the stage by the music and the speeches.

Day 4–5: Brno, Czech Republic & Vienna, Austria

On the way to Vienna, we had a stopover in Brno, and an interesting stop to stay the least. We lodged in a former nuclear fallout shelter from the Cold War era, that was constructed to protect the city’s politicians, and located right under the Spilberk Castle. Although relatively uncomfortable, it was definitely an experience to remember. The next morning, we were back on the bus to Vienna for campaigning activities.

Joined by JEF Europe President Chris Glück, we first visited the Europe House, home to JEF Austria for the organisation of seminars, trainings and more. After hosting us for lunch and a look-around, we were given a presentation by the Secretary General of JEF Austria Daniel Gerer and Nicolas Rivero about their recently launched comic book, illustrated by Nicolas himself. The city awaited us, so we jumped back onto the bus and off the went to the centre.

Together with our friends from Europa Cafe, we set up our stand in front of the Museumsquartier. Opposite to the scene on our last public appearance in Krakow, there was a positive buzz in the area. Aside from the very ideal time and location, people were pretty much approachable and glad to have a chat with us, especially if it was rewarded with a free coffee. Regardless, we did meet a fair share of citizens who are anti-EU.

A memorable moment is when Djordje Manov and I managed to convince a street busker to come along to our stand and play the ‘’Ode to Joy’’ for us, and he did so flawlessly.

Big thanks to JEF Austria for the hospitality! Our spirits are up, and we’re gaining a confidence boost with each new day.

Fun factor: 4/5

Difficulty level: 2/5

Success rating: 4/5

Gavin Schranz with fellow JEF-Malta member David Micaleff.

Day 2–3: Krakow, Poland

Our second day was essentially spent entirely on the road from Frankfurt all the way east to Krakow. Originally, the plan was to stop in Dresden mid-way, but there was a change of plans since we didn’t have enough time. After a pretty exhausting and tedious trip across a distance equalling the width of the Czech Republic, we checked into our hostel in the Main Square of Krakow at around midnight, and went straight to bed to rest before our morning activity.

The next morning brought some unpleasantly cold conditions to set up outdoors, and we were challenged with some light rain too. Thankfully, the campaign organisers were prepared for such situations, and the sheltered canopy came to good use. We were backed up by a local NGO called Europe4Youth, who brought along a boost of positive energy and initiative, apart from their well-needed translation skills.

Unlike back in Frankfurt, it’s safe to say that the selected location for our public stand in Krakow wasn’t as bustling and busy as we expected it to be. Since we set up near the river bank near a bus station, the citizens in our range were mostly groups of people who had either just arrived to the city, or were about to leave the city. Other than that, we did have a few people walking or cycling by the river on their way to work. To sum up, we had a few ‘scratch the surface’ type of conversations, and handed out quite a number of flyers aimed at diverting voters to the www.howtovote.eu website. In my opinion, this morning didn’t quite go to plan, and if there’s a lesson learnt, it is “location, location, location”.

Fun factor: 3/5

Difficulty level: 4.5/5

Success rating: 2/5

The JEFers braved cold and rain in Krakow.

Day 1: Frankfurt, Germany

The bus tour kicked off on a pleasant sunny afternoon in the city of Frankfurt. We set up our stand in front of the old Opera House, and immediately began to attract the public’s interest. Before beginning to approach people, we discussed the method in which we plan to catch their attention, and most importantly, retain it. It was important that we were prepared with talking points, ice-breaking topics and incentives in order for people to stop their commute to engage with us.

At first, as an English-speaking participant, I started to doubt whether I would manage to overcome the language barriers and have meaningful conversations. After a few interactions, though, it got easier and easier with each attempt. It seems that an open body stance, a firm handshake and a smile can go a long way. Besides thinking about what to ask the public, it also comes in handy to know your audience. Half an hour into the activity, I established the 3 most common ‘profiles’ of the people passing by; these were (1) Young adults on the go, AirPods in, speed-walking in their rush-hour commute from work, (2) Tourists of older age groups having a little photoshoot with the photogenic Opera house, and (3) Mothers and fathers taking their young children out on an afternoon stroll after school.

Each of these profiles required a different approach, and it was important to take this aspect into consideration. One strategy, for example, was to approach a mother and child as a pair – one entertaining the child with an ‘’I Choose Europe’’ themed balloon, whilst the other chats with the mother about what we’re campaigning for. This strategy in particular worked extremely well, and within a time frame of around 20 minutes, the word spread that there were some young people giving out free balloons near the Opera house, and mothers and fathers with children started popping up all over the place.

Overall, I’d say that the German public seemed happy to engage with us and our initiative. I myself didn’t really encounter any Eurosceptics, in fact. Some notable mentions are:

  • A young Bosnian guy who, despite not being able to vote himself, really appreciated and commended our work.
  • A middle-aged German man who explained that it was too much of a normal duty for him to get informed and vote- and that it should go without saying for everyone, without the need of a campaign.
  • A retired German man who has pretty much lost hope in the Brexit situation, and despite not speaking much English, managed to express his disappointment with the phrase ‘it’s big problem for you [young people]’.

Next up was a debate organised by JEF Hessen. The format of the debate was a fishbowl discussion, which meant that the main debaters sat in the inner circle, whilst the audience and other participants sat in the outer circles. Two places in the inner circle remained free, and any member of the audience would occupy the seat to contribute to the debate. Now, although my surname says otherwise, I am Maltese, and I understand exactly no words in German.

Along with my Maltese compatriot David, we established that since the debate was being held entirely in German, we would be contributing absolutely nothing to the discussion, so we decided to grab a complimentary beer and a handful of Haribos, and took a seat in the outermost circle, giving us the opportunity to observe the speakers and judge them based entirely on their body language, projection and tone of their voice and their engagement with the audience. In this way, we could learn more about how to better our own public speaking skills for future panel discussions or speeches of any sort.

After the debate, we asked a fellow German participant for a summary of what exactly what discussed, and we got to know that the three main themes were climate change, mobility and the future of the EU. We finished the day off with a traditional German ‘Schnitzel’ for dinner, and hit the pillows to charge up for a long day of travel ahead.

Fun factor: 4/5

Difficulty level: 3/5

Success rating: 3.5/5

This page will be updated with blogs from other cities as the bus tour progresses.

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