Kicking off new ways to cooperate for the future of cross-border regions

Youth was high on the agenda of last week’s annual events of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR). With the title “New solutions for the future of cross-border regions”, the annual conference was the occasion for many actors involved in cooperation to showcase their strategies to deal with the many challenges of policy-making in border regions – and the involvement of young people in cross-border cooperation was one of them. We decided to give youth an important role this year, and invited four young people to inform the audience about their experiences and views. 

Among our four young speakers, we had IVY volunteers Nicole Meneghetti, Maria Griva and Roxana Balan. We also invited Sofía Areal from the municipality of Tomiño, a city on the Spanish-Portuguese border which set up a youth council with members from both Spain and Portugal.

Nicole, Aranka Binder, Bektha and Sofía at AEBR’s annual conference 2022 in Novi Sad, Serbia

At the panel “The Youth Manifesto: how to make CBC-policies more open to young people’s participation”, our IVY Team-member Bektha asked four people to share their experiences in making youth participation in cooperation policies a reality. The point of view of regional actors was illustrated by Aranka Binder, representing the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, in Serbia, and Veronica Capenti, representing the Alcotra Interreg programme, which has recently set up a youth council as an advisory board to impact local society within the programme area to make sure that young people’s needs and wishes are heard across the territory.

Nicole, IVY volunteer at the Interreg Programme Italy-Slovenia, explained how she supports the communication of European Territorial Cooperation in the region she lives in, helping people to grow aware of the benefits of collaboration across borders. “We help shape cooperation in our regions, so let’s put some confidence in young people and follow them and help them create a better future” – said Nicole, encouraging programmes to enhance participation of young people.

Sofía Areal told about her experience as a member of Tomiño’s youth council, which involves young people in the design of local campaigns, competitions and local activities, but also in their implementations. She encouraged institutions to educate to the values of participatory democracy, “because the starting point is to make the tools available: youth participation is tangible when we have spaces for participation and dialogue [..]: the confidence to grow depends on how aware the new generation is with these feelings”.

Following up on the European Year of Youth’s focus has proven extremely inspiring for AEBR’s members and for the audience. “The Year of Youth helped acknowledge that youth is important, and is also a first step to give opportunities to take action and create awareness”, stated Bektha summarising the importance of this special year dedicated to young people.

At the workshop “Youth Engagement in Cross Border Cooperation”, participants exchanged on the strategies they have enacted in order to make policies that take into consideration the voice of young people. Maria Griva, IVY volunteer at Regional Development Fund of Central Macedonia, presented the Interreg project she volunteers for, Europ@st & future, from her perspective, and IVY volunteer Roxana Balan brought her experience as a participant of the process to update AEBR’s CBC Youth Charter, and why it matters. The context and development of the CBC Youth Charter launched by AEBR in 2018 was illustrated by Natasa Gligorijevic, who took part in it from its beginning. Goran Ostojić, General Secretary of Novi Sad’s Youth Forum, and Dobrila Marković, from the Youth association OPENS, also informed about local activities addressing young people from the region.

In conclusion of a well-participated discussion on the importance of involving young people in local policy-making and cooperation, members left with a to-do lists resulted from this enriching dialogue.

Young people must be given the space, must be listened to and be involved in the realisation of the policies they have designed – and we are very proud that this year’s annual conference of AEBR was a first step in this direction.

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