From cross-border regions to the heart of Europe: IVYs meet in Brussels as proud ambassadors of the
Europe day is celebrated every year in May. The date marks the anniversary of the 'Schuman declaration' which was first presented by French foreign minister Robert Schuman on 9th of May, 1950. During the celebration a lot of activities happen in Europe and so EU institutions welcome the public in Luxembourg, Strasbourg and Brussels.
This year celebration was the main reason which brought Interreg volunteer youth in the heart of Belgium!
EU Open Doors day: 30 years of cohesion
To celebrate Europe Day, EU institutions annually open their doors to public. EU offices gather together offering people various interactive indoor and outdoor activities to raise awareness about European Union and highlight its main policies.
5th of May marks last of such a commemoration in Berlaymont building, Brussels, known as a place where headquarters of European Commision are based. More than 150 EU civil servants, in 27 different EU policies representing stands were welcoming residents of the city and its visitors. Since the very early morning human lines were meandering around Berlaymont building. During the day you could even find yourself stuck in human “traffic jams”. It is understandable, as everything ranging from tasting European quality foods, becoming customs officer guided by real dogs to freezing moments in different photobooths and experiencing virtual realities could have been tried by everyone on the way through EU policies’ stands. All the playful activities undoubtedly carried a certain message about EU activities from budget matters to multilingualism. In addition to great fun everyone could make their voice heard by discussing their concerns and asking questions.
EU Open doors day was also a reason for 12 IVYs from all over the Europe to gather and bring people closer to EU Cohesion Policy which is implemented successfully for 30 years already. To illustrate that, 30 projects were selected as good and still ongoing examples making cohesion happen through culture, accessibility, technology, unity and sustainability. The issues, willingness to improve within those concepts oversteps borders of every country, so that working together is essential.
Practical examples throughout all the continent were introduced to people by volunteers. They could witness people getting lost in between 30 carton panels, representing different project, and trying to fill in the quiz. Not surprisingly the stand was described as moving! Volunteers were ready not only to explain cohesion by presenting the projects but also they were eager to share firsthand experiences as IVYs. It is a perfect opportunity worth spreading a message about. Volunteers Virginija Balčiūnaitė and Marine Merat-Viriot had a chance even to share those live on radio BX.FM!
Me and Charlotte both were ,,experts” of cohesion through culture during the day. This was a very responsible task as 2018 is considered to be the European year of cultural heritage and so this was the focus of EU open doors day.
Getting to know Brussels:
As part of the 30th anniversary of the EU Cohesion Policy, the European Commission funded bike tours “Europe in your region” on the 5th of May with the Pro Velo association. I had the opportunity to join the morning bike tour, which I particularly enjoyed.
We went around the Northern quarter of Brussels, commonly described as an “abandoned” neighbourhood. Our guides were very committed to protecting the environment and shared their inspiring engagement throughout the tour, by showing us sustainable and environmentally-friendly urban planning co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the city of Brussels as well as the Brussels-Capital region.
The neighbourhood we visited has an old history of industrialisation and is now in a transition period of ecological rehabilitation, through building renovations and construction of passive buildings.
I was really impressed by the variety projects that have been carried out in this area, ranging from the construction of a kindergarten, a hotel (belvue), green business incubator (Greenbizz), parks and an ecological farm to the rehabilitation of deindustrialised buildings into museums, schools and an exhibition gallery (MAD).
The least I can say is that I did not feel like I was exploring an “abandoned” area, but rather the opposite, that is an alive, multicultural, futuristic, area following an overall harmonious development. Therefore, I could truly observe the illustration of what the EU regional policy does, by in this case helping develop urban integration. It was an inspiring and enriching experience.
I am thankful for the bike tour that made me discover the heart of Brussels and for the opportunity to come to Brussels to represent the IVY programme.
About the authors:
I am an IVY volunteer at the Eurodistrict SaarMoselle (http://www.saarmoselle.org/index.php?langue=de) in Saarbrücken. My main mission is to encourage the cooperation between French and German youth organisations within the framework of the Sesam'GR project (Interreg V Grande Région / Großregion), which promotes education, training and mobility in the Greater Region - Lorraine (France), Saarland (Germany), Rheinland-Pfalz (Germany), Luxembourg, parts of Wallonia (Belgium) and the German-speaking community of Belgium. Therefore, the Eurodistrict offers technical supports to French and German youth organisations, by acting as a mediator to facilitate the communication between associations, and by advising them on funding.
I really enjoy my IVY experience so far and I would highly recommend it to anybody interested in cross-border cooperation.
I am volunteering currently in Interreg Baltic Sea region (https://www.interreg-baltic.eu/home.html), the programme which supports cooperation in making Baltic Sea region more innovative, accessible and sustainable. I am contributing to joint secretariat as interreg reporter, therefore my main task is to find out long-term effects of projects, supported by the programme, which finished a long time ago and tell stories about them (https://projects.interreg-baltic.eu/).
Even though I am volunteering for a month now, I must say I truly enjoy it. Within four weeks I feel more confident personally and improved as concerns professional skills as writing. I am especially grateful for my colleagues, letting me feel as I am an important part of the team and helping me grow.