After meeting Rozita Talevska Hristovska (Key expert at Europe House Skopje) at an event of Erasmus+, and listening to her story about Europe House, I knew immediately: “I need to learn more about this, and so do more people” So, I met up with Rozita again for an interview, Europe House, what’s in a name?
Europe House, “The place of the new generation” as she said herself.
An accessible place where youth can have their voices heard regarding their concerns and needs. Right now, they have three locations across Macedonia, being Skopje, Kriva Palanka and Strumica, and more are on their way.
“Finding ways to animate, involve and activate young people are our main focal points. Not only in Skopje Europe House, but we also managed to spread our wings into other parts of the country as well. This was made possible by the fact that our previous activities that we have presented, or we involved youth in, were very successful and very youth friendly.”
With Europe House formerly being EU info centre, this more youth directed approach is a breath of fresh air, for both the youth and the European institutions. Many things were changed and tweaked to make this a more direct ear to young people who have something to say.
At one point, the shift in thought from Brussels’ side moved towards youth and involving more youth in the activities. And as such, the idea of transforming the info center into a Europe House, where focus will be youth. So, this concept is almost three years old now, and from the very beginning, mostly the target was youth and trying to get youth engaged, involved, and connected through youth.”
As mentioned earlier, the Europe House network is growing, with several more locations coming soon in different parts and regions of the country. This gives a clear sign of their work being appreciated but also seen as needed and helpful to the community in the brief 3 years Europe House has been operative.
“I think the growing trend of demand to places like Europe House can be linked to the fact we didn’t hear the voice of youth that much earlier, but now they are involved in what we’re doing. And we do not try to impose our thoughts on what we think is best for them, but it’s the other way around, where we listen to what they have to say and involve them not only in the activities at Europe House here, but also in the activities of the European delegation here in the country. With the expanding of locations, we would have a network of Europe Houses throughout the country. Why am I saying this? The reason being is that we saw that through the activities offered through Europe House, youth became more inspired, more engaged, and more connected. And connected is important for the regional aspect of the country, in each of the segments that they cover, because it’s not only the city that they represent, but also the region within that city falls under. There are different cities and youth from the different parts of that region.”
By bringing youth together, engaging and empowering them as one group, they get brought closer to each other, and so they can see they are not that different after all. Not only within Macedonia, but also as the youth of the western-Balkans.
“We started off with doing cross border debates, which was the first initiative, like, I think it was two years ago, but cross border debates with high schools. So high school students from our country, with high school students, let’s say, from Albania. And we did this online, unfortunately, because of the covid. But regardless of that, it was a very successful exercise where we again connected youth from two sides of the borders and again, all with the goal to see that they have more similarities than they have differences, think the same, have similar issues but also the same desires and needs.”
By doing such cross-border events, Europe House managed to make a stronger connection between youth from all over the Balkans. By thoroughly listening to what is important to WB6 youth nowadays (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia) in regional youth conferences, topics like mental health, regional cooperation and climate change, but also bringing EU Youth Strategy through the 11 European Youth Goals closer to youth all throughout these regions.
The shift that happened from the Europe Info Point has been a great thing. By now there are also Europe Houses in Prishtina, Tirana and recently Podgorica which means there is already a literal interconnection between 4 countries already, which is making regional cooperation more accessible.
“The message I have for youth reading this, please keep on dreaming, because dreams do come true, but you must truly believe in it. We used to dream of this too, and see now, we made it happen the way we wanted it to be and more. And come to Europe house, we’ll gladly help you forward and help you chase those dreams!
Interviewee: Rozita Talevska Hristovska
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