On 22 January, over 450 civil servants from the European Commission went on the road across Germany to visit the schools they attended as children. During their visit they flew the flag for the EU cause in discussions with pupils.
The overall verdict on the day was positive: "the children were really keen to hear about the EU and had almost no preconceptions about it", said Beate Gminder, who has been working for the EU in public relations since 1993. Another EU visitor impressed with the positive response was Nikola John, who went to school in the former East Germany. "In a region with 17% unemployment, where people are forced to leave to find work, I expected to spend all day countering myths about the EU", she said.
As far as knowledge of EU issues goes, it quickly became clear that more space had to be given to EU affairs in German school timetables. "Many of the 450 people from the EU institutions who took part today found that young people know too little about European issues", said Nikola John. She thinks children need to be taught the idea of Europe in concrete terms from a young age. "Children's first experience of Europe should engage all their senses – tasting food from different countries, singing their songs and even trying their hand at games like boules or cricket. Most importantly, of course, they should start learning other European languages as early as possible."
She also suggested teachers be given more training so they can make coming generations more familiar with how the EU works.
The school visits were organised by the German government, holder of the EU's six‑monthly rotating presidency until June 2007. In Bavaria, the visits will take place on 26 March.
More on the visits .