My volunteering experience at the Technical Secretariat Structure for EUSALP

What is my structure’s main goal? 

The Technical Secretariat Structure (i.e. TSS) corresponds to the coordinating body of the EU Strategy for the Alps (i.e. EUSALP). The TSS project was decided upon during the 2021 French Presidency and ultimately launched at the beginning of 2023; its creation aimed at coordinating activities and events organised by the nine EUSALP Action Groups, providing them and the annually rotating Presidency with technical and administrative support. For this purpose, the TSS is composed of its manager, three policy officers, one governance officer, and one communication officer; the whole team is split across the administrative districts of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur Region (France), the Lombardy Region (Italy), and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region (France). Originally, the TSS project committed to enhance institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders to implement macro-regional territorial strategies. 

TSS launch (kick-off meeting): On February 6th and 7th, the kick-off meeting marked the launch of the Support EUSALP project and the TSS taking office in Nice. The event was attended by DGRegio’s representatives, the 16 Project Partners’ representatives, the TSS staff, and the Action Groups leaders. ©Frédéric de Favernay

How do I help my structure to reach its goal? 

As an IVY reporter, I help the TSS team with communication-related tasks and support youth-related missions as well. As of today, the TSS’s main objectives are to coordinate EUSALP governance bodies (Work Package 1), to support Action Groups’ activities and to foster embedding (Work Package 2), and to involve the Alpine youth and EUSALP stakeholders in the process (Work Package 3). 

As during the year 2023, which was dedicated to the EUSALP Swiss Presidency, various events took place, including three Presidency thematic conferences, three meetings of the EUSALP Executive Board, two meetings of the Executive Board and the Board of Action Group Leaders, four Steering Group meetings, one Annual Forum, and further Action Groups’ thematic conferences revolving around their fields of expertise. As an IVY reporter, I have been required to attend remotely some of them as early as August to take notes to write ensuing meeting-minutes and one-pagers to be published on the EUSALP official website afterwards and forwarded to the members of the Executive Board, the nine Action Groups, and the Swiss Presidency. Prior to the events, I also designed announcements such as saves-the-date, calls for participants and registration, event plannings, etc… which were later published on the EUSALP official website and other EUSALP social media (i.e. notably Instagram and LinkedIn). 

In the meantime, I have been given responsibility over specific tasks related to the EUSALP contact database to update it and gather the information, to upload it on the press relations and public affairs software Augure, to create emailing lists and send mailings to the entire database. As the communication officer is currently particularly involved in the great process of refining the EUSALP official website in coordination with private contractors, I was required from time to time to proofread some articles; this task has been mainly led in English so far, but I still had the opportunity to use the other languages I know for secondary missions (i.e. writing and proofreading articles in French for the PACA Région and the French National Agency for Territorial Cohesion, proofreading a call for application in German and handling the funding request for a documentary book about the Alps written in German). The organisation of the EUSALP annual photo competition project was also handed over to me and for this purpose I worked on the bylaw, edited the legal forms, and got in touch with EUSALP partners that already have had experience in this field (i.e. the Alpine Convention). 

Besides, my help has also been required for more down-to-earth tasks and missions, such as printing and preparing folders for the TSS team prior to major meetings, editing price estimates for call for tenders and business trips. For upcoming November, I am requested to welcome guests and finalists for the 2023 edition of the Pitch-your-Project competition in Strasbourg. 

During the 2023 EUSALP Annual Forum, Mr Fasel (left), Switzerland’s State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, jointly with Mr Dieth (right), President of the Conference of Cantonal Governments, handed over the EUSALP wheel to Mr Štucin (center), Slovenia's State Secretary for European Affairs, representing the incoming 2024 Slovenian Presidency. ©David Schweizer.
2023 Annual Forum (EUSALP wheel handing over): During the 2023 EUSALP Annual Forum, Mr Fasel (left), Switzerland’s State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, jointly with Mr Dieth (right), President of the Conference of Cantonal Governments, handed over the EUSALP wheel to Mr Štucin (center), Slovenia's State Secretary for European Affairs, representing the incoming 2024 Slovenian Presidency. ©David Schweizer.

Who benefits from my engagement in this structure? 

Overall, my engagement in the TSS benefits its staff, EUSALP main partners and Action Groups as my missions consist of promoting their events prior and after the date, coordinating internal communication while updating the contact database and embedding mailing lists. My engagement also helps to foster youth participation and opportunities in the EUSALP governance process thanks to my logistical dedication to the PYP projects, besides processing secondary posts on social media. 

More generally, the TSS outputs benefit local, regional, and national public authorities, sectoral agencies, interest groups (including NGOs), higher education and research organisations, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), European groupings of territorial cooperation (EGTCs), and civil society in general. 

How do project partners cooperate? 

The EUSALP project partners are 16 in total, and their cooperation relies on their participation in the different EUSALP bodies and their capacity to provide the TSS with material and financial support (contributions from project partners amounting 358.125 euros to 90.000 for a total of more than 1 million euros, besides more than 3 million euros allocated by the ERDF for the period 2023-2025). Among the 16 main partners, 13 are coordinating and (co-)leading Action Groups; one partner is specifically responsible for youth involvement.

Those 16 partners constitute the EUSALP Steering Group which gathers three times a year; each of them is represented by one deputy and one substitute. From time to time, Project Partner Meetings are organised and for this occasion up to 3 more representatives per project partner are invited (i.e. finance representative, legal representative, communication representative). For the year 2023, four Steering Group meetings were organised in February (extraordinary Project Partner Meeting as part of the TSS Kick-Off meeting in Nice), in March (online), in June (online), and in September (Project Partner Meeting during the Macro-Regional Strategies Week in Izola).

The Executive Board is another governance body of EUSALP where representatives of the seven Alpine States gather three times a year: up to 3 representatives per Alpine State are invited as well as observers from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy (aka. DGRegio), the Interreg Alpine Space Programme, the Alpine Convention, the Grand-Est Region, the Technical Secretariat Structure of EUSALP, and the Youth Council. For the year 2023, the Executive Board met in March, June, and September.  

Once a year, the Executive Board and the Steering Group join for the so-called Executive Board-Board of Action Groups’ Leaders meeting (aka. EB-BAGL), which most recently took place in May and August (as part of the Swiss Presidency’s conference on Mobility and Transports in Lugano).

The Youth Council is another EUSALP consultative body, which half of its seats are annually drawn to renew. The Youth Council organises its own meetings remotely once every two weeks. The Youth Council’s role is to reflect upon the themes issued by the annual Presidency, i.e. Circular Economy, Water, and Mobility and Transports for the year 2023. Ensuing their internal work, Youth Counsellors are requested to give insights from the Alpine youth’s side during EB meetings and are often invited to EUSALP conferences to share their perspectives as well as their projects.

2022 PYP final (finalists): On November 24th 2022, the final of the fifth edition of the Pitch-your-Project competition was organised in Trento where the five finalists had the opportunity to introduce the EUSALP audience to their initiatives implemented across the Alps. ©EUSALP.

– Marine, IVY Reporter at the Technical Secretariat Structure for EUSALP

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