Young People in Territorial Cooperation
Young People in Territorial Cooperation
by Mrs. Sophia Parastatidou, ACG Apprenticeship | Photo by: SAJV CSAJ, 2015-04-18 Assembly of delegates of the Swiss National Youth Council 2015 002, CC BY 2.0
Interreg and Youth Involvement
In 2020, European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), also known as “Interreg”, celebrated the completion of 30 years of bonding European borders with particular focus on environment, neighbors and youth. The last main field of this EU cooperative instrument aims to be benefitted from the contribution of young people in the territorial cooperation and, at the same time, to help them and their expectations to be heard.
The future of the EU will be left in the hands of young people. The EU will inherit social, political, economic, digital development and environmental situations to deal with. For this reason, the primary purpose of Interreg is to make sure that the younger generation will get in touch with all the 3 topics from now and will be prepared to deal with them responsibly in the future.
Except for the main reason why young people should be actively involved in the EU Territorial Cooperation, three more causes are worth mentioning. First, they have up-to-date knowledge and ideas relevant to the digital environment. Second, they are the most responsible and pertinent to the EU challenges as their future depends on them, and the earlier participation can predict future conflicts or problems. Third, they dream of an ideal state of society that no other generation could be more ambitious to achieve like them, which could increase the trustworthiness of several institutions.
The year 2022 is the year that this vision will come about and will focus on the contribution of youth to the people and the opportunities they will have to be heard to the world. Macro Regional Strategies, which is an integrated framework endorsed by the European Council, may be supported by the European Structural and Investment Funds, among others, to address common challenges faced by a defined geographical area related to the Member States and the third countries located in the same geographical area.
Youth Manifesto (2020)
In 2020, the Youth Manifesto was released and several young people were interviewed about topics relevant to Young Europeans’ Involvement in the Future of European Territorial Cooperation. The Youth Manifesto of 2020 has its roots in the division of EU political and economic periods from 2014-2020 to 2021-2027 to enhance and promote the idea of youth contribution to policymakers and organizations of the EU, and the managing authorities and project beneficiaries of Interreg.
First, it is crucial to mention summarily the views of young volunteers of the Interreg Volunteer Youth Programme (IVY) presented in the Manifesto of 2020. The main benefits of EU cooperation that young people mentioned are the following:
- “It builds trust and unity between people from different cultural and expertise backgrounds.”
- “It promotes socio-cultural cooperation.”
- “It takes over a variety of projects.”
- “It transfers the barriers between borders to opportunities.”
- "It supports less developed areas, including non-EU countries too.”
Regarding the aspects that should be more developed and redefined, young volunteers have mentioned that Interreg should:
- “Give a little more focus to the communication part and inform the public better about the purpose, the projects, and the main topics of the topic.”
- “Improve its digital communication tools.”
- “Reduce the environmentally harmful transportations by plane and prefer a balance between physical and online activities.”
- “Ensure that similar projects take place in different geolocations.”
- "Be given the opportunity of long-term impact and political support.”
According to the younger generation, IVY should prioritize in the future the following challenges:
- “Skills improvement and training opportunities” should be pretty given to every young person by providing free access to language classes and digital platforms for online courses. The obligatory skills for these digital activities should be recognizable and certified to enhance their motivation to participate.
- “More employment opportunities for young people” should be prioritized by creating digital networks and platforms in which companies can easily reach young people for several internships, volunteer, or job positions.
- “Simple rules and improvement of digital communication tools” are essential for the more efficient and regular involvement of young people with Interreg. This could work efficiently by using the young population’s social media platforms and collaborating with educational blogs and networks. Also, in the digital environment of millennials and generation zedders, the language and the formality of the informative content should be appropriately designed for them, which means simple, direct, and contemporary. Last but not least, there shouldn’t be short-term project distractive clutter. Instead, longer and more substantial projects should occur as the new generations are daily bombarded with a clutter of information and become very skillful to avoid irrelevant or uneasy stimuli.
- Interreg should take care of the environment’s balance by preferring longer physical meetings and fewer trips from country to country to reduce the CO2 produced by often plane trips and create better environment consciousness in general.
- "Boosting citizens’ engagement in policymaking & implementation” through regular meetings between youth and EU staff, maintaining the human faces, the humanity, the personalities, and the people interaction behind the projects of Interreg.
To conclude, the last recommendations of Millennials and Generation Zedders in the Youth Manifesto "12 ways to make Interreg European Territorial Cooperation activities more in line with the younger generation and enhance their involvement more productively and efficiently" are the following: 1) The number of virtual events should be increased and better planned. 2) Twice a year, thematic events should be planned between EU staff and young people. 3) Young people should be invited to relevant Interreg’s meetings. 4) There should be a better acknowledgment for young participants in the REGIOSTARS Awards every year. 5) Regular exchanges should be planned through Macro Regional Strategies and relevant structures to give more opportunities to young people to be part of EU business activities. 6) As mentioned above, a collaboration between Interreg and educational institutes is essential to increase the awareness of young people. 7) There should be two-sided, interactive communication between EU Commission’s staff and students. 8) Online relevant courses or open territorial cooperative projects via Interreg should be organized for youth involvement. 9) The rules must be more straightforward, the budget must be affordable, and the contact with the EU staff more accessible. 10) Young people's invitation and active participation in Interreg meetings is essential. 11) The resources for youth skills improvement and employment should be mobilized. 12) Interreg should take care of the roles and needs of the younger generation and bridge them with the EU Cooperation Policy.
Tick the Boxes: Coop with Youth!
Supposing the list of recommendations mentioned above may be challenging to be carried out by EU decision-makers, such as Public Authorities, Project Beneficiaries and Members of Macro Regional Strategies. DG REGIO has created the relevant checklist “Tick the boxes: coop with youth!” to organize the 12 recommendations into action, by providing several tips on how one can easily involve youth in European Territorial Cooperation. First, EU decision-makers should identify the target audience they will address the recommendations and also the recommendations they are willing to implement. Then, they can find the 12 recommendations mentioned above and some checkboxes with practical tips on how young people can be well informed, well consulted, and be more engaged about the topic. The variety of tasks mentioned in the link is excellent for interns, trainees, or volunteers of IVY.
To sum up, the importance of youth involvement in the EU decision-making process and actions through Interreg/ European Territorial Cooperation and Macro Regional Strategies is crucial for the harmonic future of Europe. Reading the Youth Manifesto of 2020 carefully is the first step to become part of an essential European scheme. Also, the “Tick the boxes: coop with youth!” checklist makes it easier, faster, and more convenient to transform the theory into actions and allows younger generations to decide, act and create their future. Undoubtedly, 2022 should be the year young people will be heard and start the outline to make their world better.