Wednesday, 15 September 2021 11:17

Youth involvement in the EU macro-regional strategies

Written by  Aline Mayr, Regional Identity Project Coordinator, CBSS

Youth involvement in policy-making processes is top on the agenda for many organisations, and has been so for many years. The European Union is an active advocate for young voices and has developed various tools and ideas in the framework of the EU Youth Strategy, and the EU macro-regional strategies are following this path.

 

More and more decisionmakers realise that young people should not only be educated to take part in decision-making processes in the future but should be actively and meaningfully involved in current processes. Young people bring forward brave ideas and the motivation that drives them comes from their fundamental beliefs. These ideas are needed and valued by decisionmakers.

Nonetheless, involving young people is a challenge for many organisations and political fora. Often the resources allocated to youth involvement are not enough to ensure a continuous and strategic involvement of young people. Furthermore, it needs to be understood that young people are a very heterogenous group with various interests and fast changing environments. Representation of “the youth” is basically impossible, but involving some interested young people is doable even with a smaller budget – it only needs to be adjusted to the circumstances.

 

Examples of formats for youth participation in EU macro-regional strategies

Within the four EU macro-regional strategies (EU MRS): EUSAIR (Adriatic-Ionian), EUSALP (Alpine) EUSBSR (Baltic Sea) and EUSDR (Danube) the involvement of young people has been discussed in different formats. All four EU MRS have developed formats for youth participation in a way that fits them best.

The EUSAIR Facility Point is developing youth entry points in collaboration with the decisionmakers and youth.

The EUSALP chose a top-down approach where young people shall be integrated in decision-making bodies. Within the “youth.shaping.EUSALP” process four main activities are being implemented: organising an EUSALP Youth Camp, launching an EUSALP online platform, implementing the “Pitch Your Project” contest and integrating an EUSALP Youth Council into the structure.

The EUSDR youth involvement is coordinated by the Danube Youth Network – a project developed by civil society organisations in the Danube Region. Through the engagement of various organisations a variety of topics are covered by the network.

 

 

More coordination is needed in the EUSBSR

The EUSBSR youth involvement is mainly coordinated through the Erasmus+ project: Baltic Sea Youth Platform, established in 2020 by pan-Baltic organisations such as the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Union of the Baltic Cities, BSSSC and Euroregion Baltic. The project was developed through the active involvement of young people who advocated for this project and organised the first Baltic Sea Youth Camp back-to-back with the EUSBSR Annual Forum 2019 in Gdansk.

The BSYP published the latest EUSBSR youth declaration for the EUSBSR Annual Forum in 2020, developed through the second and third Baltic Sea Youth Camps.  The aim is to institutionalise the BSYP and coordinate the youth involvement in the EUSBSR policy areas, the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference. The coordination shall remain within the Secretariat of the CBSS. This would give young people and decision-makers the chance to coordinate their activities much better and amplify the voices of youth throughout the multi-level governance of the region.  

The Baltic Sea Youth Platform is also closely collaborating with an online platform called ACTER. The platform should work as a virtual platform to connect the youth organisations in the region (from local to macro-regional) and to share knowledge with the youth organisations in the other MRS. It can also be used as a tool to connect young people and decisionmakers and provide an overview of ongoing projects in the region.

 

Collaboration between the regions is the key

Even though all macro-regional strategies chose a different path to integrate young people in their work, there was no doubt that collaboration between the youth formats is needed and adds value to all formats. Therefore, the youth experts of the region coordinated a continuous information exchange among themselves.

Furthermore, in 2020 the EU Commission, DG Regio, also started a process to develop the “Manifesto for Young People by Young People to Shape the European Cooperation Policy Young Europeans’ involvement in the future of European Territorial Cooperation” which all four macro-regional strategies contributed to.  The manifesto is a living document and there are monthly core group meetings to discuss the implementation of the manifesto coordinated by DG Regio.

During the Macro-Regional Strategies Week in March 2021 a special youth dialogue session was held where all four MRS presented their youth-involvement flagship projects and engaged in discussions between decisionmakers and the youth.

 

 

Joint youth project between all four macro-regions 

In the future the youth branches of the MRS hope to organise an annual youth camp for all four MRS, where the young people can learn about the other regions and exchange best-practice advice. There are already ongoing discussions between some youth formats to collaborate on a common project application for such a format.

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