Expanding cross-border cooperation across Europe and beyond

European territorial cooperation, also known as Interreg, is a fascinating field. It builds on solidarity and shows real European integration on the ground.

Opportunities for a dynamic dialogue between people across borders are part of the solution to movements fostering dissension. Populist rhetoric seeking to turn populations of neighboring countries on one another are less likely to spread if civil societies keep in mind diversity is not a threat but contrarily an invaluable asset. Striving for ever-more depth in the relations between citizens of Europe and beyond is a never-ending work-in-progress which definitely deserves to be fostered.

brett-zeck-eyfMgGvo9PA-unsplashThe “Interreg Volunteer Youth” (IVY) pilot program provides such opportunities. IVY is an action to offer the possibility to young people aged 18-30  to serve as volunteers in cross-border, transnational, or Inter-regional programs and related projects for two to six months. Being solidarity and volunteering at the heart of IVY, this initiative is part of the European Solidarity Corps. Matching together various working cultures sometimes requires thinking out of the box, but this is precisely what is stimulating in cross-border cooperation.

This is why I decided to apply and subsequently became team-member as an IVY in INTER⦁RELIGIO, an inter-university project fostering academic research tackling inter-religious dialogue. This initiative managed by the Université de Strasbourg lasted three years (2017-20) and united French, German, and Swiss universities. It was part of the Interreg V Upper-Rhine program and was funded by the European Regional Development Fund. This has been a very inspiring and stimulating experience, thanks to the enthusiastic commitment of my colleagues on the one hand, and the dedication of the talented IVY managing team on the other hand.

Volunteers support, promote, and report the concrete achievements of Interreg programs and projects, as well as generally foster cooperation and related values, across European borders and beyond. While striving for their host organizations, volunteers acquire a distinctive experience of personal growth and gain skills that they can harness in their upcoming experiences.

Interreg Volunteer Youth is structured around two main strands:

  1. Interreg Project Partners support the implementation of an Interreg project, focusing on specific aspects or difficulties to be solved in fields such as solidarity projects, people to people projects, health projects, community-based projects,projects focusing on the social dimension of Interreg cooperation. Interreg Project Partners are hence hosted by project beneficiaries involved in an Interreg project;
  2. Interreg Reporters deal with the dissemination of information on the benefits of territorial integration on the ground, through reporting on successful Interreg projects realized in a particular region. Interreg Reporters are therefore deployed either in the offices of the Interreg Managing Authorities and/or the Interreg Joint secretariats.

History of IVY_infographic finalAdditionally, IVY volunteers are now provided with the opportunity to organize local events addressing citizens to raise awareness of Cohesion Policy, so-called “Citizens Engagement Activities”. Such events aim to promote European Territorial Cooperation and to tell citizens what, thanks to Interreg, has been implemented in the region to enhance local development.

  • IVY has been initiated by the European Commission (Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy – DG REGIO).
  • IVY is managed by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR).

Since its creation, IVY extended to Pre-Accession Assistance Cross-border Co-operation Programs (IPA-CBC) as well as Neighborhood Cross-border Co-operation  Programs  (ENI-CBC). So far, one IPA CBC Program has joined IVY: IPA-CBC Program Italy – Albania – Montenegro, who hosted an Italian volunteer. Currently, there are two volunteers from IPA/CBC countries on the ground. One from Russia volunteering for region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France and one from North Macedonia volunteering for the National Park Thayatal in Austria. Any Interreg Program, National Authority, and Project beneficiary can become an IVY host organization.

call for proposals etc.Since May 2019, also Interreg Programs and Projects located in Switzerland, some countries members of the European Economic  Area  (EEA), namely Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and some countries involved in Pre-Accession  Assistance Cross-border Co-operation Programs (IPA-CBC), notably Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Turkey, are eligible to host volunteers under the initiative “Interreg Volunteer Youth”.

As from January 2020, the initiative addresses also Neighborhood Cross-border  Co-operation  Programs (ENI-CBC) and related projects, namely Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Republic of Moldova, Russia, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

IVY callWhat’s in there for me?

Candidates from the following countries can participate:

– Switzerland;

– some countries members  of the European Economic Area (EEA):  Norway,  Liechtenstein, Iceland;

– some countries involved in Pre-Accession Assistance Cross-border Co-operation Programs (IPA-CBC): Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Turkey;

– countries involved in Neighborhood Cross-border Co-operation Programs (ENI-CBC): Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Republic of Moldova, Russia, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

To wrap it up, I firmly encourage you to sign up and go intercultural! You will gain both a field insight into cross-border cooperation as well as high-value skills harnessable in your career. So will you join?

Jules Striffler

Sources:
https://aebr-balkans.eu/Interreg-volunteer-youth-IVY-extends-to-ipa-countries/ www.Interregyouth.com

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