Many are the initiatives undertaken in 2020 to enhance the role of young people within policies of territorial cooperation – where the Interreg Volunteer Youth (IVY) initiative has a paramount role.
With Youth being one of the main themes of the campaign celebrating the 30th anniversary of Interreg, the European Commission has involved young people in the preparation of the Manifesto for Young People by Young People to Shape the European Cooperation Policy. This Manifesto presents young people’s ideas on Interreg and especially on how to make it more in line with their expectations.
Many IVYs participated in the process of preparing the Manifesto and, as the survey shows, they believe that Interreg is a tool to build mutual trust and unite people from different cultural and expertise backgrounds but with the same objectives and interests. They also believe that Interreg is not just an administrative or economic scheme but also an instrument to promote socio-cultural cooperation, and it is essential to change the border from an obstacle into an opportunity. However, in their opinion, main challenges of European cooperation are that Interreg is too technical and bureaucratic, with too little importance given to communication matters. And it is not an easy subject to explain to the general public, leading to a general lack of awareness about European Territorial Cooperation.
They also contributed to the identification of the five fields of action where Interreg could act better to support young people: (1) Improving young people’s skills & increase access to training opportunities; (2) Boosting employment for young people in Europe; (3) Simplification of rules and better communication via digital tools; (4) Addressing climate change issues for a better future; and (5) Boosting citizens’ engagement in policymaking & implementation.
After discussions with young people and the analysis of the results, 12 recommendations by young people were elaborated to boost their involvement in European Territorial Cooperation/Interreg and make it more in line with their needs. They give a clear picture of how to (1) boost exchanges amongst EU officials and young people, (2) improve the communication towards young people via educational programmes, and (3) enable young people to take action within Interreg programmes and projects. It is mainly addressed to policymakers at EU, national, regional and local level as well as to Interreg Managing Authorities and project beneficiaries, organisations interested in EU cohesion policy making, youth, citizens’ engagement and democratic participation. An overview of the recommendations can be found in Table 1 below.
Another important process related to youth had its final phase in 2020: the development of the Danube Guidance Paper for Youth Participation. The Guidance Paper aims to better integrate the youth perspectives into the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR). The 6th Danube Participation Day (DPD) in Bucharest in 2019 marked the starting point to discuss the rejuvenation of the EU Danube Strategy. The results of the 6th DPD provided the basis for the draft of the Guidance Paper. Also, representatives from youth networks, civil society organisations, public authorities, research, and the EUSDR Governance contributed through a multistage consultation process. The current state of play of the Guidance Paper was presented and discussed at the 7th DPD, 2020, and the results will be integrated into the following finalisation. In this process AEBR was very much involved starting with 6th DPD were moderating the workshop on Youth and CBC, than contributing to online consultation workshops during the year and moderating the second workshop on Youth and CBC at the 7th DPD. The Guidance Paper is designed to serve two purposes: (1) to guide youth initiatives and young people to pro-actively shape development in the Danube Region; and (2) to start a discussion in the EUSDR Governance and beyond on a long-term, sustainable perspective for the EUSDR. The Guidance Paper offers a framework to capitalise on existing good practices, prioritise tasks and develop innovative approaches to youth participation. Overview of the draft recommendation can be found in Tabe 1 below.
These two processes and documents bring us back to the AEBR Youth Charter for CBC to measure the progress and evaluate the implementation of its recommendations. The Youth Charter was created by young people from all over Europe at the AEBR TFEB youth events during 2016 and 2017. The Charter aims to formulate a framework for the creation of solutions for improving youth action. It also aims to increase youth possibilities: to get involved, to initiate and to implement regional and cross-border activities and to consequently project such actions into society.
With this Charter, AEBR Young Leaders for CBC created the framework for achieving a common vision that youth should take full involvement in regional and cross-border society development through participation and information exchange. Young people should motivate other youngsters in their environments to act and participate in all aspects of society, including environment protection, economic and social development. And as far are culture, media and reconciliation concerned, promotion and positive information exchanges are crucial for better tomorrow.
In their opinion, it is the mission AEBR Young Leaders to look for, and gather all relevant problems to find solutions to improve youth action and increase youth possibilities to get involved and to initiate and implement the regional and cross-border projects. The recommendations consist of three stances: (1) What can Youth do for Society?; (2) What can Society do for Youth?; and (3) What can Youth do for Youth?
You can find a parallel overview of the recommendations of the three documents: Interreg Youth Manifesto, Danube Guidance Paper for Youth Participation, and AEBR Youth Charter for CBC in Table 1 below.
IVY initiative has meant a watershed for AEBR from many points of view, but particularly in AEBR relationship with the younger generations, adding an enormous value to the work already developed by the Summer Youth Forums organized by AEBR Taks Force External Borders since 2009 and AEBR Balkans through various projects and other initiatives with local organizations, leading to the elaboration of AEBR Youth Charter for CBC. And there are cross-effects, as IVY project has a huge impact on the implementation rate of the Charter, representing the most systematic approach to youth involvement in CBC ever. IVY started on 1st March 2017, managed by AEBR on behalf of the Directorate-General for Urban and Regional Policy (DG Regio) of the European Commission, as an action to offer the possibility to young people aged 18-30 to serve as volunteers in cross-border, transnational or interregional programmes and related projects.
Being solidarity and volunteering at the heart of IVY, this initiative is part of the European Solidarity Corps. Any Interreg Programme, National Authority and Project beneficiary can become an IVY host organisation. From May 2019, also Interreg programmes and projects located in the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), i.e. Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Switzerland, as well as those countries involved in Pre-Accession Assistance Cross-border Co-operation Programmes (IPA-CBC), Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Turkey, are eligible to host volunteers. As from January 2020, the initiative addresses also Neighbourhood Cross-border Co-operation Programmes (ENI-CBC) and related projects in partner countries, namely Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Republic of Moldova, Russia, Tunisia and Ukraine. Young nationals of these countries can also take part in IVY.
So far over 540 young people were deployed in 41 Interreg Programs and 181 Projects. IVY volunteers also have chance to get involved in communicating about Cohesion Policy by receiving support from the European Commission to organise local events addressing citizens to inform about the achievements of the European Regional Policy. Volunteers under IVY have can design, define and implement events, so-called “Citizens’ Engagement Activities”. Such events aimed to promote European Territorial Cooperation and to inform citizens about what, thanks to Interreg, has been implemented in the region to enhance local development. So far IVY volunteers have implemented 26 Citizens’ Engagement Activities contributing to the visibility of the Interreg and sharing the knowledge on European Territorial Cooperation.
What next? AEBR commitment to empowering the young people to involve in CBC will guide its activities related to the youth. Besides continuing the ongoing activities and projects, 2021 will start with the process of updating the Youth Charter to harmonise it with the new environment for youth involvement in CBC. As it can be seen in Graph 1 below, 59% of Charter recommendations are in their ongoing phase, implemented via ongoing AEBR activities, Interreg Volunteer Youth project, Youth Forums, workshops, Erasmus exchange projects, Secoo2 eLearning platform, internships at AEBR Berlin, Belgrade, Brussels and Gronau offices, development of the online CBC Learning HUB and eLearning course on CBC. 18% of the recommendations are in the preparatory phase, to start with their implementation during 2021, and by the end of the year, 73% of the Youth Charter recommendations will be in their implementation phase.
This is a clear sign that we need to get back together with young people and set a more ambitious list of recommendations to be implemented and see from their perspective how we can improve the implementation of the recommendations that are in an ongoing phase. IVYs had a great impact on the implementation of the Youth Charter so far, and they are seen as a great power to boost CBC all over Europe in the future!
Table 1. Overview of the recommendations included in the Interreg Youth Manifesto, Danube Guidance Paper for Youth Participation and AEBR Youth Charter for CBC
|INTERREG Youth Manifesto||Danube Guidance Paper for Youth Participation||AEBR Youth Charter for CBC|
|What CB Community should do for Youth?||Increasing the number of online events and meetings via digital platforms, with a clear timeline and pre-established agenda to facilitate civil society organisations’ and young people’s involvement.||Identifying and actively addressing youth initiatives and networks (with a cross-border/ transnational dimension).||Conducting joint advocacy campaigns in order to address key youth CB problems;|
|Planning regular thematic meetings (for example two per year) on Interreg matters with young people and European Commission’s staff specialised in territorial cooperation.||Identifying possibly interfaces for youth involvement and activities within its working structure||Lobbying for financial support for youth CB initiatives and making youth CBC one of priorities in the Erasmus + and other EU programs;|
|Involving young people in meetings of relevant EUwide groups and networks, such as the Interreg Annual Meetings, the Interreg Communication Officers Network, and INFORM.||Assisting youth initiatives and networks to use the macro-regional dimension, methodology and Strategy for its works.||Conducting a study on mapping good models for further inclusion of the youth in CBC and enabling the possibility of youth actors being included CB and international policy making process;|
|Enabling young people to encourage their region to apply for the REGIOSTARS Award competition and consider keeping a category dedicated to youth every year.||Involving young people through a structural dialogue with political decision-makers.||Educating the youth on CBC whilst bringing experts and the youth together via an online platform, in face to face meetings, trainings and other events;|
|Further promoting the regular exchanges within existing governance structures like the Macro Regional Strategies, at regional level (e.g. boosting more regular dialogue with young people during the Annual Fora allowing them to participate in the B2B meetings…) and make sure that NGOs are also part of those exchanges.||Supporting young leaders, initiatives and projects in the Danube countries.||Providing internships in the regional and local institutions involved in CB and international cooperation.|
|Increasing the knowledge of Interreg in schools and universities: Interreg programmes (Managing Authorities) should create partnerships with local schools and universities to talk about Interreg and to make young people more aware.||Empowering young people and providing them with a “training ground” to access the EUSDR structures.|
|Encouraging European Commission’s staff to boost their participation to the “Back to School/University” initiative and students to pro-actively contact and invite EU staff to go visit their school and university.||Cooperating with other MRS|
|Creating and disseminating dedicated “edutainment” programme on territorial cooperation via Interreg projects or with massive open online courses (MOOC) that may interest students and teachers.||Investing in the development of more youth exchanges and cross-border cooperations in the Danube Region.|
|Encouraging each Interreg programme to plan more calls more easily accessible by young people with simpler rules and a dedicated budget.||Establishing a micro-financing approach for small-scale granting of bottom-up youth initiatives.|
|Inviting young people in meetings and enable them to actively participate to the monitoring committees.||Connecting Youth with existing formats like the D-LAP and the Urban Platform etc., via online conferencing.|
|Mobilising resources for the Interreg priority objective related to boosting skills and tackling youth unemployment.|
|Boosting more EU inter-institutional and multigovernance relations, dialogues and actions on young people’s role and needs linked to Interreg.|
|What Youth can do for CBC?||Seeking actively cooperation with existing transnational platforms for youth cooperation in the region.||Creating a strategic framework for efficient communication with society as a whole;|
|Formulating a macro-regional youth perspective in view of the EU Danube Strategy and the Guidance Paper on Youth Participation to promote within the EUSDR Governance||Conducting joint advocacy campaign in order to address key CB problems to the relevant actors, emphasizing implications on socio-economic development and environmental protection;|
|Engaging in the development and formulation of positions on youth ( through active participation in the political decision-making through youth networks such as the Danube Youth Network, Young Bled Strategic Forum etc.)||Lobbying for the involvement of youth in the decision making process in order to change existing youth policies;|
|Revitalizing the Danube Parliamentarian Network.||Conducting a study on the needs of society for CBC and advocating for a change in specific policies concerning CB regions;|
|Contacting national EUSDR representatives & platforms||Volunteering in border regions and launching youth initiatives for a better CB society;|
|Cooperating with other MRS||Connecting the Young Leaders with society via CBC HUBs|
|Actively participating and co-organizing national and Danube Participation Days in the EUSDR countries.|
|Making use of the European Solidarity Corps and ERASMUS+ programmes to become part of the European family and to promote European values.|
|What Youth can do for CB Youth?||Planning and strategizing an action plan for the CB future;|
|Advocating for the creation of a legal framework for better youth involvement in regional and CB participation;|
|Creating an online knowledge-sharing platform for the creation of a network of young leaders for CBC;|
|Raising awareness on CBC, opening minds of individuals, and spreading information through social media and other means;|
|Organization of educational trainings and creative workshops in communities;|
|Organization of CBC camps and CBC bus tours gathering the youth to take joint actions in the fields of creating a CB framework.|
Graph 1. The implementation rate of the AEBR Youth Charter for CBC
Table 2. Phases in the implementation of the recommendations included in AEBR Youth Charter for CBC
|AEBR Youth Charter for CBC||Phase of Implementation|
|What CB Community should do for Youth?||Conducting joint advocacy campaigns to address key youth CB problems;||Ongoing via AEBR activities|
|Lobbying for financial support for youth CB initiatives and making youth CBC one of the priorities in the Erasmus + and other EU programs;||Ongoing via AEBR activities|
|Conducting a study on mapping good models for further inclusion of the youth in CBC and enabling the possibility of youth actors being included in CB and international policy making process;|
|Educating the youth on CBC whilst bringing experts and the youth together via an online platform, in the face to face meetings, trainings and other events;||Ongoing via AEBR Youth Forums, workshops, Erasmus exchange projects, Secoo2 eLearning platform, CBC Learning HUB|
|Providing internships in the regional and local institutions involved in CB and international cooperation.||Ongoing via Internships at AEBR Berlin, Brussels and Balkan office|
|What Youth can do for CBC?||Creating a strategic framework for efficient communication with society as a whole;|
|Conducting joint advocacy campaign to address key CB problems to the relevant actors, emphasizing implications on socio-economic development and environmental protection;|
|Lobbying for the involvement of youth in the decision-making process to change existing youth policies;||Ongoing via AEBR activities|
|Conducting a study on the needs of society for CBC and advocating for a change in specific policies concerning CB regions;|
|Volunteering in border regions and launching youth initiatives for a better CB society;||Ongoing via INTERREG Volunteer Youth project|
|Connecting the Young Leaders with society via CBC HUBs||Ongoing development of the online CBC Learning HUB|
|What Youth can do for CB Youth?||Planning and strategizing an action plan for the CB future;||In preparation|
|Advocating for the creation of a legal framework for better youth involvement in regional and CB participation;||Ongoing involvement of the INTERREG Volunteer Youth and via AEBR activities|
|Creating an online knowledge-sharing platform for the creation of a network of young leaders for CBC;||Ongoing development of eLearning course on CBC at CBC Learning HUB|
|Raising awareness on CBC, opening minds of individuals, and spreading information through social media and other means;||Ongoing via INTERREG Volunteer Youth project|
|Organization of educational trainings and creative workshops in communities;||In preparation|
|Organization of CBC camps and CBC bus tours gathering the youth to take joint actions in the fields of creating a CB framework.||Exploring the possibilities of funding this kind of activates|
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