People-to-people exchanges are the real cement of cross border cooperation projects: they create direct links between institutions and organisations, authorities and citizens, with the purpose to promote understanding and to develop new solutions to common problems.
“Together with our partners, across the Mediterranean we all face the same issues regarding refugees, or about the unemployment rate of low skilled, poorly educated people. We all have common problems and we are in search of common best practices, to be adapted to our conditions.”
Imad Ibrik, Project Coordinator, An-Najah National University (Palestine)
“The paradox is that tourists come to see the Danube Delta, but do not see the local culture. We want to create a cultural hub and keep tourists longer. The infrastructure we are creating will continue to be used for fairs, festivals and workshops in our region.”
Leonid Artamon, Consilier, Serviciul de Accesare Fonduri Externe Consiliul Judetean Tulcea (Romania)
A holistic approach and an early intervention can change a child’s future. Children with psychomotor disorders, psychiatric or behavioural issues often show a complex of symptoms that need to be addressed as soon as possible and from different points of view. However, it is not easy. Parents are afraid of the diagnosis; they do not recognise some of the symptoms as relevant or they get lost in the vast amount of information. As a result, these children are often left out of the system and then it may be too late. That’s what the BREAK project is changing in the Lithuania-Russia cross-border region: breaking the barriers in children rehabilitation, creating a safe place where they can be orienteered and treated from different perspectives, where they benefit from early diagnosis and intervention. In a word, trying to offer them a better future.
In recent years, the transition from education to work has become more prolonged and unpredictable. In fact, due to different and successive crises, many young people find themselves neither in employment nor in education and training (NEET). And youth with little or no education is highly marginalised, and increasingly far from jobs. At the same time, there is still an unexploited potential in green economy: environment protection can provide the base for new work opportunities. Combining these two fields – the social and the environmental – is the purpose of the RESMYLE project, which aims at the socio-professional integration of young people into the job market.
They come mostly from rural areas, and they are vulnerable children: they have slight intellectual disabilities, motion or neurological disorders, behavioural and emotional problems. They come from social-risk, or refugee families. And now, after experiencing exclusion and isolation, they can go back to an active social life, thanks to painting, sculpture, music. Because art therapy makes miracles. It happens across the borders between Lithuania and Belarus.
“Culture is probably the best way to integrate migrants and people with disabilities in our cities. There is no need to speak. People usually dance and sing about the same things. Culture is the best way to reach someone’s heart and build trust”. Migrants and people with disabilities are two quite different types of groups. They have different needs and concerns. However, they often face the same challenges: the feeling of isolation, feeling unheard or not integrated in society. Culture Open is a project, financed under ENI CBC Karelia programme, that aims at engaging socially vulnerable groups in the cities of Petrozavodsk (RU) and Joensuu (FI) by making them feel the protagonists in the cultural life of the cities.
Vessels, buildings, statues, artefacts, sites, even human remains: this is all “underwater cultural heritage”, defined by UNESCO as human traces with cultural, historical or archaeological character, that have been under water for at least 100 years. Definitely, a heritage worth preserving and object of interest for the most curious minds. The ENI CBC TREASURE project has put the underwater remains of the Black Sea Basin at the centre of its efforts. The initiative – financed under the ENI CBC Black Sea Basin programme – focuses on fascinating sub-aquatic archaeological rests, and offers a unique experience as an alternative to traditional tourism.
In the Mediterranean, elderly people have been particularly hit by COVID-19. The media attention has been much riveted to them but mostly as a risk group on a medical level. Isolated and lonely more than ever due to social distancing and confinement, in this unprecedented period they eminently need adequate care, both social and psychological. Emotional support, social involvement, scientific research: tackling the pandemic, an EU-funded project TEC-MED develops solutions to find some relief for older people.
A safe-haven for women victims of violence: an emergency shelter where they (and their children) can immediately be hosted, even during the pandemic, to get away from homes where it is too dangerous for them to remain. It is happening in Tunisia, in the framework of the MedTOWN project financed by the EU within the ENI CBC MED programme. It is an example of a concrete response to the crisis unleashed across all borders by the COVID19 on the particularly fragile segment of abused women, and how a project was able to readjust its intervention to meet a new need arisen in the context of the pandemic.
A small team of five experts has found the recipe to support vulnerable families in coping with life challenges: learn something, develop a project, put it in practice within the family, share with the community. In a word, create your own way to heal your own wounds, from beginning to end. This is empowerment.
Viruses know no borders, and so does the health struggle: thanks to an EU supported project, emergency medical services are already functioning in the cross-border areas linking Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. Ambulances and respirators are available in the hospitals to help doctors fight against the COVID-19 pandemic: the equipment delivered through the RESCUE project is serving its purpose to help border communities to face emergencies across the European frontier.
“There is a need to show European citizens how many benefits the European projects have to offer and that they truly change lives” (Natalia Popielska, a young Interreg volunteer from Poland). Hundreds of young people like Natalia are leaving on this mission around Europe thanks to Interreg Volunteer Youth (IVY) initiative. IVY initiative offers young people a unique opportunity to participate as volunteers in EU funded cross-border, transnational or interregional programmes and projects, and to promote their concrete achievements through personal experience.
They come from all over Europe: Poland, Germany, Cyprus and the Netherlands. They are 19, 22, 23, and 26 years old and grew up with Schengen. Olga writes, Sellina sticks her eye to the camera, Panos presents, Wijnand makes films. In September, these four “Euro trippers” found themselves around a great adventure. On board of a van, they travelled for a month through 17 EU countries and dozens of regions, meeting the locals and living like them. They went out to see what different regions have to offer: from dancing in an electric festival in Ireland to biking through Leipzig to getting lost in a rock labyrinth in Poland. In Romania, the four youngsters went to Maramures, near the Ukrainian border, to visit two ENPI CBC projects. We met the team during the EURegions Week in Brussels. What did they learn from this experience? How did they feel living together and jumping from one country to the other?
Human trafficking is the third biggest international crime industry of the planet. It involves mostly girls from poor, vulnerable environments, young people without any perspective, kidnapped and shuffled on the market. The EU external border regions are particularly challenged by this phenomenon, and the ENPI CBC “Nor for sale” project – implemented across Romania and the Republic of Moldova – has been tackling the issue.
Youth were a cross-cutting issue on the agenda of the European Week of Regions and Cities which took place in Brussels on 8-11 October. “Young people have to play a role in the regions” underlined Pavel Telicka, Vice-President of the European Parliament, during the closing session. And this statement truly reflected the spirit of the workshop “Bringing together youth along the external borders of the European Union” organised by DG NEAR in cooperation with TESIM on 11 October. The invited young speakers showcased how cross-border cooperation helped them become actors of positive change in their regions.