“The stories of young people show us what Europe actually means“

Tomáš Sacher is the new executive director of the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe as of January 1, 2023. Among other positions, he previously was president of the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) network in Berlin. In this interview, Tomáš briefly introduces himself, talks about youth participation and gives first insights into his plans for the foundation.

© Czech Centres

Welcome to the foundation, dear Tomáš! What are your first impressions and thoughts?

Tomáš: I see many committed people here who are implementing great projects! And I am really happy about the international spirit in the foundation. The team works in the heart of Berlin and is as diverse as the German capital – and as Europe.

You have previously worked for several European projects and networks. What were your most formative experiences? And how do they relate to your new position at the foundation?

Tomáš: When I was running the international cultural programme of the EU Council Presidency or the Berlin network of European cultural institutes, I worked together with teams from many countries. Sometimes it was challenging, because not everyone understands Europe in the same way. I have dealt a lot with European identity, European values and international engagement. As an author and moderator, I have also tried to strengthen these issues in the public sphere, so I hope I can use those experiences for the Foundation. What has recently had a great impact on me is the war in Ukraine. Already 13 years ago, as a journalist from Kiev and Donetsk, I reported on the threat from Russia and back then already admired the determination of Ukrainians. I met very young people who were prepared to lay down their lives for their future in Europe – this made a big impression on me.

Can you outline your plans, maybe even a vision for the foundation?

Tomáš: The Schwarzkopf Foundation has a clear ambition: to strengthen the diverse voices of young Europeans. I see our work as a kind of platform that gives space and skills to tell stories of young Europeans from different social contexts. We are doing so with our awards, in the framework of educational programmes, and in our youth networks. The stories of young people show us what Europe actually means: social engagement, solidarity and democracy, the fight against hate and extremism, anti-Semitism and racism – and a functioning culture of public debate and discussion.

Why is youth participation so important – in Europe, but also beyond?

Tomáš: Young people have always moved and changed the present. I myself come from a country that found democracy 34 years ago through the student revolution. Even today, many issues such as the climate crisis are driving the young generation to get actively involved in their communities and countries. The world seems to have become more complicated and gloomy in recent years. And the big question of how we should react and what the European project should look like in the future cannot be decided without the young generation.

What does Europe mean to you, both professionally and personally?

Tomáš: Already as a high school graduate I was strongly influenced by the intellectual and then Czech President Vaclav Havel. He always considered himself as a European and defined a political goal for the former Eastern Bloc after the end of communism: back to Europe. One of his most important texts was called “Europe as task” and that’s how I always understood it: Europe as something we define ourselves and for which also we are responsible. That is how I still see it today and I am now very lucky to be able to continue living this mission at the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe.

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