From the North to the South of Italy: an exotic experience in Palermo

Unfortunately, my IVY experience came to an end. Now, it is time to share my story!

My name is Katia and I come from Pordenone, a small town in the North-East of Italy.

It was early November 2017 when I arrived in Palermo, at the Managing Authority of Interreg V-A Italia-Malta Programme, and I was immediately thrown in the middle of the Executive Committee for projects’ selection. Everything was new to me, but I was very excited to start this new experience and carry out my Interreg Reporter mission. I was introduced to the staff of the Managing Authority, the Maltese National Coordination Authority and the small but extremely powerful team of the Joint Secretariat.

During the first month, I assisted the work of the JS and I familiarized with the objectives of the European Territorial Cooperation. Meanwhile, I conducted a research on the previous programming period (2007-2013) and learned the achievements of the successful projects implemented and co-financed within the framework of the OP Italia-Malta 2007-2013. For instance, CALYPSO project, concerning the safety of the land and sea, created a stable system for the monitoring of surface currents and waves in the channel between Sicily and Malta through a network of four High Frequency radar antennas to support the prevention of deliberate actions of oil spills at sea, tracking of damaged boats and in search and rescue operations.

I also interviewed the Lead Partner of Euro South HUB, one of the most outstanding projects funded by the OP Italia-Malta 2007-2013, who explained me the ingredients that made their project of social innovation sustainable after its conclusion. Indeed, they created a research, aggregation, services center and an incubator for projects and social enterprises active in Malta, Syracuse (Ortigia) and Lampedusa and created a virtual platform for linking up with the Mediterranean change makers, in other words, a physical and virtual co-working space to respond to the need of accompany the cultural, social and entrepreneurial promotion and redevelopment of the human heritage present in that small, central and significant portion of Mediterranean. At the moment, the Hub manages in Sicily three sources of funding, to support SMEs with a social mission, among which Jeremie (ESF).

But it’s not over! In December, I could participate in the Monitoring Committee, held in Catania, where I had the great pleasure to meet Gianluca Comuniello from the DG REGIO of the European Commission and present the main achievements of 2007-2013 programming period. It was nice to focus on the benefits of Interreg Programme and highlight the cooperation work conducted by the successful Project Partners.

Afterwards, the preparatory phase for the launch of the new projects started, and I could also get to know the beneficiaries and learn about their projects. Here, my role of IVY ambassador was very important. I was very happy to directly inform the Lead Partners about the opportunity of hosting young Interreg volunteers during project implementation. The initiative caught their attention and I am confident that they will contribute to foster IVY’s values.

Why exotic if I am Italian, then?

Well, because even if Sicily is part of Italy, it is quite different from the Northern side: from the accent to the way of driving, from the food to the climate, from the friendliness to the noisiness of people. Palermo is a fascinating and mysterious city where reality often outperforms one’s imagination and stereotypes. It is a cultural melting pot with inhabitants of apparently conflicting characteristics. It is a place where, while walking in the streets of the old town center, you can smell the scent of orange blossoms or be surprised to see some parts that have remained untouched since they were bombed during the war. It has a huge cultural heritage originated by the fusion of the vast range of architectural styles that were brought by more than 10 waves of invaders that dominated the city.

But it has also several limits that impede its growth. Similar issues are common across all the Sicilian region and Malta. That’s why Interreg financial instrument is so important, because it will contribute to smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth by developing the potentiality of these areas and carrying out the EU cohesion policies. The role of Interreg Volunteers is very important too: spreading solidarity and cooperation values, especially among young people, both locally and internationally is the basis for a cohesive Europe!

I am extremely grateful to have had this experience in the wonderful land of Sicily and have met so many extraordinary people. I am proud to have been part of Interreg Volunteer Youth initiative and I encourage all young Europeans who are interested in cooperation to apply for it!

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