What do you think when you see those two cakes?
Not that big of a difference? I don’t like raisins? Or maybe why did someone apparently loose a proper baking pan? Fair enough. What come to my mind is the last couple of days in Milano with a great bunch of „Young Leaders“ from both Germany and Italy and what I learned from it. Namely that differences are always just as big as you want to perceive them 🙂 Most of them are amazingly sweet and heart-warming!
So first of all getting back to the cakes – there is a big culturally debate in Italy about which cake is the better sweet stuff for Christmas. So a brief summary if you are into baking or just interested to get this info out of the way: The Pandoro is star-shaped. The panettone, on the other hand, is more like a dome, so it is rounder. The dough: In both recipes the dough is based on egg, sugar, flour and butter. For the panettone, however, sourdough is used, to which raisins and/or candied fruit are added. Alright?
Enough about that, let’s get to my extremely sophisticated metaphor now :):
Most recently, I was selected by the German Foreign Office and the DGAP in Berlin as a „Young Leader“ from the business community for the German-Italian exchange program „Spinelli Forum“. The “Spinelli Forum” (from one of the spiritual founding fathers of Europe Altiero Spinelli) wants to establish a permanent network for young leaders (please excuse the phrase, does not cross my lips without an ironic „Gänsefüßchen“) from the fields of politics, business, science, civil society, media, and culture in both countries. Participants of this years‘ 2nd edition had the opportunity to exchange ideas with experts and political decision-makers in order to develop solutions to current European challenges and provide new impetus for a close partnership between Germany and Italy.
So we went to Milano and had the best time. Our task was basically to work on a policy recommendation for an EU-related matter. There were several topics (i.e. Foreign security, Stabilty and Growth Pact, Green Deal), I was working on the 4th topic Technology & Digitalization matters. Within several working sessions we sat down and discussed how to match EU funds with SME’s in EU countries, how to work out an Open Data strategy for public-private partnerships or how we could increase the Digital Literacy for EU citizens.
But that was not the heart of the event – and now we are getting back to the cakes. Apart from our discussion on those topics of relevance, I learned first and foremost and once again something way more essential:
We are European citizens, some would say first Germans or Italians (absolutely fair), but overall there were 70 people, openly discussing those topics with one agreement: that we should stick together as Europeans and work out ways to overcome our seemingly differences. They are not that huge. They are not that hard to overcome. And it is great that we have our differences – which is why some people prefer the raisins, and some not – so all the cake gets eaten, nothing left and everybody’s happy!
The European spirit really lived in those beautiful rooms of the Palazzo Clerici, and although of course this was some sort of bubble in itself, the diversity and joy of the people in whatever environment everybody went back to today will multiply, because we had a great time and realized once again: no matter what cake you relate to, the Panettone or Pandora, German or Italian, let’s be the most kind and open-minded versions of ourselves. Then we have a bright European future ahead of us.