Manifesto for Youth by Youth to Shape European Territorial Cooperation: turn your ideas into reality!

Are you interested in shaping how EU values are implemented on the ground? Are you keen to bring your input in the actions underway to bring the European project closer to its fellow citizens? “Do you want to make what the EU and Member State do for territorial cooperation more matching with your needs? If so, join the group of young people who contributed to the Manifesto for Young People by Young People to Shape the European Cooperation Policy.

Maybe you have not studied architecture, but here is a second chance to build bridges across borders, making sure Youth is included. Now that the spark of your curiosity is ignited, you should definitely read what comes next! The European Commission first shares with us background elements, then followed by concrete proposals for you to take action:

A bit of context

The EU, and especially the European Commission (one of the three top EU institutions), is very often perceived as far, remote, and unreachable. A fortress and enigmatic entity. Here is an ongoing counter-example to these preconceived ideas.

Despite nobody is perfect, the European Commission strives to make EU citizens and beyond realize that the EU is “theirs”, not a far distinct structure but that it is everywhere as it impacts their daily life! This is why it is so essential that all citizens know, understand, impact, and benefit from the policies the EU is responsible for.

One of the departments of the European Commission, precisely the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy (“DG REGIO”), deals with enhancing socio-economic wellbeing in all European regions and beyond, particularly through the Interreg cooperation program. So that we all develop as a team leaving no-one behind, in line with the EU fundamental value of solidarity and the mottos “united in diversity” & “stronger together”.

DG REGIO is also the division of the Commission that is responsible for one-third of the EU budget, managing, for instance, the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund – a lot of money co-managed by the Commission and EU countries to contribute to improving people’s lives with thousands of initiatives in a wide range of fields (health, economy, climate change and environmental protection, energy, innovation, education, social inclusion, etc…).

In 2020 DG REGIO celebrated the 30 years of Interreg, which is a program directed to territories (like regions and cities) from different Member States and also some partner countries, sharing a border to help to overcome their national differences for mutual benefit. To better clarify what Interreg actually is, here is one evocative example. Sophie is a 3-year old child born in France. But she is only a few kilometers short of living in Germany. Her parents need to go to work and would like their child to socialize with other fellow kids and start her schooling. But guess what? The nearest kindergarten is not in France, but in Germany. Well, thanks to Interreg and the so-called “France strategy” in the Saarland, Germany, Sophie’s parents can sign her up in a bilingual kindergarten across the border, but much closer to home. She will also learn a foreign language from an early age, which is proven to be very effective and helpful!

One of the themes selected for the 30-year celebrative campaign of Interreg was “youth” (YAY!). Consequently, DG REGIO decided to start a truly democratic and bottom-up process by asking young people – more or less acquainted with Interreg – what their needs and desires are and how they think Interreg should help to satisfy them. Thanks to this process, young people also voiced how they believe Interreg should be improved, i.e. beyond their specific needs. As we are also about to start a new EU programming period (2021-2027) with new money and scope for changing things, NOW is the right time to shape how EU funds can support younger generations.

The Manifesto: show you care and contribute to change things the way you want!

Young people’s ideas have been gathered in the Manifesto for Young People by Young People to Shape the European Cooperation Policy where 12 tangible recommendations are presented, primarily addressing national, regional, and local politicians and administrations to show them what they can do to best focus on young people’s requests. The Manifesto was published in October 2020 and presented to high-level decision-makers during the Interreg Annual Event. This was not the conclusion of the process. Quite the opposite, this was just the start as the Manifesto needs to be disseminated as widely as possible among decision-makers and multipliers and it is a living document ‘that will constantly be updated to continue taking in ideas from young people to improve Interreg’ (AEBR).

YOU – as a young engaged citizen – are encouraged to join the core group of young people behind this important political document and contribute to shape the Manifesto and reach out to other young people, associations and people that make decisions that impact your life – with the support of the European Commission.

Curious? Join us now!

It is time to pack your smart ideas, your fresh mind and your own way of looking at Interreg issues from a Youth perspective. Please get in touch with Alessandra Cardaci and Astrid Aulnetteto join the Manifesto’s core group of young people and get more details on how you can participate and the first results of this process.”

I took part in this initiative from its dawn, and this has been a very stimulating journey. I truly appreciate the fact that the Commission decides to involve young people and their ideas in such a project. While drafting the Manifesto, we have had the high-level opportunity to actively take part in inspiring meetings with a wide range of stakeholders, thanks to DG REGIO. Also, I took part in a Youth dialogue in the frame of the very well-handled Interreg annual event. I had the honor to ask Director-General Mr. Marc Lemaître a question tackling Youth in the Western Balkans. So in a nutshell, this is in my belief a very positive opportunity to step foot in the fascinating backstages of interregional cooperation within an inspiring team!

Contacts:

  • Alessandra.CARDACI@ec.europa.e
  • Astrid.AULNETTE1@ec.europa.eu

Jules Striffler

Sources:

  • European Commission (DG REGIO)
  • Association of European Border Regions (AEBR)

Pictures:

  • European Commission (DG REGIO)

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