AEBR stresses its interest in “EU citizenship” matters by joining the ECIT Summer University 2017:


The second edition of the ECIT Summer University on “EU Citizenship: countering threats to European citizenship across borders, reconfiguring its future” and organised by the European Citizens’ rights, Involvement and trust Foundation (ECIT) took place in Brussels on 30 August – 1 September 2017.

About 75 participants joined the event from civil society representatives, academics, students, public authorities and ordinary citizens. The two “hot” topics of the Summer University were clearly Brexit and its impact on UK citizens in the EU as well as EU citizens in the UK and the role of education and EU institutions to empower citizens of all ages and increase their “active citizenship”.

AEBR organised a “Partner’s Meeting” and provided a rather new and original contribution to the “EU citizenship” topic. Indeed, the aim of AEBR’s session was to show the tangible role of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC, also known as “Interreg”) in boosting EU citizenship with a particular focus on youth. In particular, speakers, among other relevant inputs, presented some concrete examples of projects (e.g. “people-to-people” projects and the ongoing “Interreg Volunteer Youth” initiative) that significantly contribute to make Europeans aware of the many benefits linked to their EU citizenship status.

In particular, Mr. Martin Guillermo Ramirez (Secretary General, AEBR) explained how ETC and cross-border cooperation (CBC) are the very first and probably most concrete example of a true European integration process, which is the basis for an authentic EU citizenship.

Ms. Ana Nikolov (Coordinator for Balkans, AEBR & Director of Planning, CESCI Balkans) continued by providing an interesting perspective on the Balkan area, focusing on the concept of European citizenship, beyond the EU and explaining that the Balkan population living in border areas tend to be more inclined to EU values and membership rather than the one not directly experiencing CBC.

Mr. Doede Sijtsma (Senior Adviser, Province of Gelderland, Netherlands) contributed by explaining the valuable role of small projects in CBC and especially focused on the so-called “people-to-people” (P2P) projects which are very much citizens-oriented. Mr. Sijtsma pointed out that the importance of this kind of projects has been fiercely defended within the European Committee of Regions (CoR), which is the EU body where regions and municipalities from all Member States are represented to advise the Union. In particular, Mr. Sijtsma revealed that Mr. Pavel Branda (Member of the CoR) presented a report within the CoR in order to stress the important role of P2P projects and the challenges and risks these projects face: they are not anchored in the regulations, and bigger projects are often preferred by Managing Authorities as being more cost-effective and having a measurable impact. It is also difficult to link the soft effects of such projects to indicators related to the EU2020 strategy focusing on jobs and growth (which shows the lack of methodology and suitable evaluation indicators for P2P projects).

The session continued with Mr. Gianluca Comuniello’s (Policy Officer, European Commission, Directorate-General for Regional & Urban Policy - DG REGIO) presentation of the “Interreg Volunteer Youth” (IVY) initiative which is co-financed by the European Commission’s DG REGIO and part of the broader European Solidarity Corps Initiative launched by the European Commission in December 2016. During his intervention, Mr. Comuniello explained that this initiative is a clear example of a way to involve young Europeans in experiences that make them feel true and active EU citizens.

Last but not least, AEBR’s session concluded with Ms. Birgit Sandu Gociu’s (former IVY volunteer) testimonial on her experience as volunteer at the EURAC Reasearch Center in Bolzano where she was involved in the GaYa project (funded by the Interreg Alpine Space Programme). Birgit not only shared her enthusiasm in participating to IVY but also for the project itself as GaYa aims to increase the quality of democratic processes in the Alpine space by enhancing the involvement of young people in regional governance and by developing new approaches for decision makers – which is again in line with the topic of the Summer University – i.e. boosting EU citizenship!

As it appears from all speakers’ interventions, the aim of AEBR’s participation to this event was to make CBC/ETC/Interreg issues more visible in the EU arena and broader public as well as stress its crucial and tangible role in very relevant and current topics, such as “EU citizenship”.  

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