Visiting Bratislava on the Union Energy Tour made me compare my own childhood with the new generation of Slovaks. Teenagers are still teenagers, but the reality around them is entirely different. Instead of seeing walls against their windows, they see opportunities.
On my last visit to Bratislava just over a week ago, I awarded the winners of the Young Europeans Competition in knowledge of the EU for high-school students. I couldn't help but compare their lives to mine when I was their age, growing up in the same city. Vienna is less than 70 km away from Bratislava but I didn't think I would ever live to see it, being on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The young women and men that I met were multilingual, ambitious, and knowledgeable. They are eager to be part of the new Europe that has opened up to them; travelling, studying, consuming, and taking their talent anywhere they want, as if Europe were their playground. Of course they are Slovak, but they are also very much European. They are 'Slovopeans'!
For this new generation, whose dimensions are much broader, there is nothing strange about energy flowing freely across Europe's national borders. The only strange thing about it is that it hasn't happened earlier! And there is nothing bizarre about energy generation being decentralised and produced by millions of citizens. On the contrary, they expect to be part of the change, to use the smart technology in their pockets in order to produce and consume clean renewable energy.
That was also the message I brought with me when presenting the Commission's analysis of the Slovak energy market to Miroslav Obert, State Secretary of the Ministry of Economics, and to Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Peter Kažimír. I commended Slovakia's successful integration into the regional energy market and its progress on energy efficiency. I also told them about the benefits Slovakia can expect from the Energy Union; namely greater security of supply, boosting the use of renewable sources, greater efficiency of the transport sector, and further decarbonisation of one of Europe's most industrialised economies.
During the visit to Slovakia, I also attended a conference of the American Chamber of Commerce and the European Commission on the EU's global challenges. This event was the perfect opportunity to take a new exciting technology for a test-drive. Periscope allows me to livestream to citizens from my mobile phone, adding another stream of communication which is so important between decision-makers and citizens. I therefore intend to make further use of it in the near future and encourage you to join the discussions!
My blog has been slightly left behind, due to the intensity of the past few weeks but on my next post I will describe a very interesting visit to Luxembourg, the next presidency of the Council.