On December 3rd, 2013, Igor Mitschka (Yale College’ 15), Melina Sánchez (Yale College’ 15), Olga Karnas (Yale College’ 15), and Paul Linden-Retek (Yale Law School’ 14) met in Saybrook College to discuss how they could boost interest in European affairs in the United States. Only some months earlier, these students had taken part in a campus-wide event that involved the former Vice-President of the European Commission, Ms. Viviane Reding. It was the scarce interest of Europeans and Americans alike that ignited a spark of motivation in them to change the course of the transatlantic dialogue.
After long hours of discussion during that winter afternoon, they came up with what would be the beginning of an ambitious project: the European Student Conference was born out of the idea of fostering a wider and deeper discourse on Europe among students, scholars, professors, and young professional in the United States.
The next steps were straightforward. They needed the support of the institution to which they would be making reference at the conference: the European Commission. After receiving the generous Jean Monnet Project grant from the Erasmus + Programme in August 2014, they started recruiting the first conference team; a team that was not only as passionate as them about the European Union, but also a team that believed in its own capabilities to make this project a success.
The first several months were the most difficult. They needed to convince top-notch professors and high-ranking policy-makers and advisors to be part of the first edition of an idealistic student project that would change Europe. Some of them included former WTO Secretary-General Pascal Lamy and the European Chief negotiator of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Mr. Ignacio García Bercero. Overall, it was well received by all professional spheres: foundations sponsored it, media companies covered it, and people shared lots of enthusiasm and motivation.
But the crucial moment came when they had to recruit their biggest asset: the students that would be participating at ESC 2015 and that would be setting up the first chapters around the U.S. The result exceeded their expectations: 350 students from all over the country (and from Europe) applied for 80 seats. This ensured that they had the very best talent brainstorming ideas for the future of the European Union.
A student-led POLICY INCUBATOR
It was at this point that European Horizons started taking shape. From the start, the objective was not to establish a one-time dialogue event, but to leverage this first conference to create a sustainable long-term project through a student-led think tank. At the conference, the commitment to establishing chapters was overwhelming, and the support of the academic world was essential for the first issue of the Review of European and Transatlantic Affairs.
European Horizons was, thus, born.