The closing session of this year’s Interreg Annual Event saw a focus on the involvement of the younger European generation in shaping Europe’s Cooperation policy. The session saw the Director of European Territorial Cooperation and DG REGIO Sławomir Tokarski in dialogue with eleven young speakers.
A youth perspective on the Interreg Annual Event:
The session started with the young speakers giving their opinions on the various sessions that took place over the two-day event. They gave numerous insights into their experiences of the sessions, highlighting the most interesting moments and takeaways as well as the obstacles and challenges that were unearthed. Below are some of the key points that this group of young speakers took away from their involvement in the event’s sessions, giving an invaluable perspective on the priorities of this younger generation:
Opening Speech by Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms
One of the most pressing points that was raised while discussing the opening speech was Commissioner Ferreira’s emphasis on clarity of objective. The idea that there must be a clear picture of what each Interreg project is trying to achieve, and that these achievements should keep the key themes of green, digital and cohesion at their core, working to achieve meaningful impact and shaping the long-term landscape through every small choice.
Here, the progress made to minimise the debilitating bureaucracy that has hindered many Interreg programmes was celebrated, but it was also argued that secondary legislation is needed in order to really ensure that bureaucracy doesn’t prohibit progress.
This lively and interactive workshop addressed the need for communications to be tailored appropriately to the generation and demographics that they are trying to engage. It was emphasised that all citizens need to be involved in Interreg projects and that communication should be maintained throughout the lifecycle of projects and given attention that it deserves, as a fundamental part of successful projects.
Green Deal Workshop
A key issue that was raised in this session was recognising the obstacles that can arise in border regions where the EU’s regulations are not necessarily implemented at national level in the same way. These instances of conflict in border regions present situations that require further effort in order to find resolutions.
The main topic that was addressed in this workshop was the selection of projects. The key point that was taken away from this session was that there needs to be a focus on the value of projects when selecting them, not in terms of value for money, but seeing value in terms of how a project benefits citizens.
Amongst the various problems that face cross-border cooperation, such as youth unemployment, and the solutions that were suggested in this session, there was an emphasis on the importance of increasing and optimising Interreg’s branding as well as maximising the value of current EU tools, such as Interreg programmes, to address these challenges.
Keynote Speech by Marjorie Jouen
A moment from Marjorie Jouen’s speech that clearly resonated was quoted by one of the young speakers, who translated it as this: ‘The experience of youth allows them to build and realise what the older generation can’t’. This recognises the central role that young people should play in projects and the invaluable perspective they have to offer.
Manifesto for Young People by Young People!
Moving on from summarising and discussing the event’s sessions the group of young speakers were asked about the importance of the youth manifesto to them.
They shared a range of experiences about helping to shape and draft the manifesto, as well as the impact it has had since its publication, such as promoting it to youth across Europe.
Hopes for the 2021-2027 Interreg Programme
Among the various goals that the speakers hoped to see achieved through the new Interreg programmes were the hopes that it would help create a more inclusive Europe and enable meaningful, rather than superficial, youth engagement.
This closing session offered an enlightening opportunity to hear the insights that come from a younger perspective and that are rarely given center stage. The speakers demonstrated optimism and a desire to be involved and contribute to the proactive shaping the future of Europe, while nonetheless maintaining a critical eye that would not be placated by promises but is demanding real progress and inclusion.