My head with a cloud full of thoughts against the window pane of a plane from Warsaw to Brussels: What interesting people will I meet tomorrow? What new experiences will I make?
Carpe diem! Me and Manon – my dear IVY colleague and the very first Interreg volunteer – together we seized the EU Open Days the way we grabbed the rope with the balloons in the picture above: shaking hands with Commissioner Oettinger, taking a picture with the President and the Deputy Director of the European Committee of the Regions, meeting as an Interreg South Baltic volunteer the Head of the macro-regional strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, listening to the founders of such great pro-European initiatives as Stand up for Europe, KOD International, Pulse of Europe … and even spotting Captain Europe in the crowd!
Spreading the word on the new ‘Interreg Volunteer Youth’ initiative (IVY), me and Manon mastered many interviews and even had the opportunity to air our opinion on the European Solidarity Corps in a live broadcast on the radio channel BXFM 104.3! One question popped up again and again in the interviews: What does solidarity mean and how is it being promoted by the IVY initiative?
Honestly, this is not an easy question to answer. Solidarity is after all not like an object you can scientifically measure and thus easily describe. It’s rather a personal value; an intangible principle… something you might practice in everyday life without being fully aware of it. Even after the EU Open Days, I continued racking my brain in search of a good answer almost in vain when, all of a sudden, I happened to come across this citable “gem” here:
“Solidarity is a term that is capable of a range of interpretations and applications. For example, it might refer to the promotion of co-operation… or to the building of a sense of community, whether at local, national or European level. Citizens can decide for themselves that they wish to cooperate rather than compete…” (Kleinman 2002: pp.5-6).
Reading this, I was immediately reminded of the European Solidarity Corps and the ‘Interreg Volunteer Youth’ initiative: I believe that volunteering for European Territorial Cooperation programmes such as the Interreg South Baltic programme offers young people the unique opportunity to contribute to the building of a foundation of trust – “a sense of community” – among a variety of partners in Europe. Involving the local, regional, national and even European level, IVY’s unique “bottom-up” approach made me personally think of solidarity in terms of an extended community that comprises multiple complementary levels of belonging.
Ending the day on a positive note, the European Solidarity Corps and 'Interreg Volunteer Youth' initiative manage to widen people's horizon and to broaden their sense of solidarity. Creating greater social, economic and territorial cohesion across regions in Europe, European Territorial Cooperation can give IVY volunteers like me – who comes originally from a small village in a rural area – HOPE.