When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was far from thinking that such an incredible day was ahead of me!
At 9:15 we had the pleasure to enter the Berlaymont -main building of the European Commission, just before the Open Day official opening. We discovered the stands of the DG Regio and the European Solidarity Corps. The DG Regio’ stand was conceived in such a way as to discover the 4 EU macroregional strategies, namely the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (since 2009), for the Danube Region (since 2010), for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (since 2014) and for the Alpine Region (since 2015).
Macroregional strategies seek to address common challenges faced by some countries, which can thereby benefit from strengthened cooperation to achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion. For example, the EU strategy for the Danube Region covers an area that stretches from the Black Forest (Germany) to the Black Sea (Romania-Ukraine-Moldova) and aims at addressing challenges in fields such as research and innovation, mobility and sustainable energy.
We also had the chance to meet Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Budget & Human Resources. Being present for the 25th edition of the EU open day seemed important to him, as many people all over Europe don’t know much about what the EU is doing, what the daily life looks like “there” -where people work, what they do, their current projects and foreseen achievements…
It is true sometimes, the EU seems far away from its citizens. EU jargon sounds too formal and institutional, thus citizens perceive it as too far from their concerns, wishes and needs. Such events are, in this way, the occasion for people to gain further insight on European Union.
In the same vein, the European Solidarity Corps also tries to get the EU closer to its citizens, offering the possibility to young Europeans, like myself, to get involve in European Territorial Cooperation programmes.
There is no doubt the European project is facing challenges. We are in a time of crisis, but we also are in a time where we can be proud to declare that we have lived in peace for more than 60 years, since the second World War and the signature of the Treaty of Rome. Therefore, initiatives like Interreg Volunteer Youth, are nothing but essential, to give more visibility and transparency to the great results achieved by European cross-border, interregional and transnational programmes, such as the Danube Transnational Programme.
In the early afternoon, we had the opportunity to participate in a lively debate, in the European Committee for the Regions (CoR). There, we could see that pro-European citizens' initiatives are gaining more and more importance in the European landscape. The debate, introduced by Markku Markkula, President of the CoR, aimed at discussing the experiences and prospects of initiatives such as Why Europe?, Pulse of Europe, Stand up for Europe and KOD International. Their founders delivered deep and emotional speeches, which gave us food for thought!
Throughout the day, and thanks to highly valuable and enriching experiences which pushed Jasmin and I beyond our comfort zone (e.g. several radio and newspaper interviews!), I learned many new things, met a lot of interesting people and I could go back to Budapest with -12 European- stars sparkling in my eyes.