This year’s European Week of Regions and Cities proved to be particularly exciting for some of Europe’s budding journalists! Competition winners from the Youth4Regions Media Programme were invited to be part of the media pool covering the event.
Bruna Tomsic (HR), Katarzyna Wereska (PL), Serenela Moreira (PT), Charlotte O'Neill (UK), Gabriele Niekyte (LT), Marion Bergermann (DE), Agnieszka Wozniak (PL), José Manuel Cuevas Borda (COL - ES University), Carmen Aparicio (ES), Miguel Duran Diaz Tejeiro (ES), Alice Palombarani (IT), Viktoria Voulgari (EL), Josef Cutajar (MT), Sophia Chatzinikolaou (EL)
You can find below their articles on this experience!
Four days were enough to realise the great task that is faced in the “European neighborhood”, to act and feel like a journalist, but also like a beginner, to face the pride but also the challenge that being European is, and to meet people that I’ll hardly forget.
I had no idea what I was getting involved in. To be honest, I didn’t even know much about what Cohesion Policy was. Just like many other people, I had always had this idea of the European Union as an organization that represents all of us (European citizens), that had standardised the currency, that had brought people together by knocking borders down.
An organization that, personally, had given me the opportunity of experiencing a exchange abroad for the first time when I was 12, of living and studying in Norway for 3 months when I was 14 (with a Comenius partnership) and that, now, was offering me the chance to go to Brussels to be part of the media pool. Yes, I knew all this, but not much more… but I was sure that I couldn’t miss that opportunity.
And signing onto almost 12 hours of journey all on my own was worth the hassle, as it made me realise that “Brussels” is not an abstract entity that makes decisions casually, but that “Brussels” is hundreds of people that look after the prosperity of all of us, more than 500 million people that inhabit this vast territory called Europe. And the fact that more than 20 different languages are spoken in this territory doesn’t matter, as the will to understand each other has overcome any impediment.
This journey has also taught me that behind something that may sound cold and formal, “Cohesion Policy”, there are initiatives, hopes, the will that people’s lives truly improve. And if I had to define Cohesion Policy with one word, that would be solidarity. That is, after all, what defines Europe: a fellowship of nations. Moreover, it has also enabled me to meet committed, talented, hard-working, inspiring people. The kind of people that give you hope and make you think that a change is possible.
Indeed, four days have been enough to reaffirm how important it is not to just gaze at one’s navel, but to think globally, with honesty and justice. And we, journalists, play a key role in that.
Four days have been enough to see I have a lot to learn, but they have also been enough to make me feel absolutely motivated, encouraged and inspired to do so.
Carmen Aparicio Serrano
In Brussels during this Week of Regions and Cities, it became visible how regional policy is shaped from below and not only by EU institutions. Citizens and decision-makers wanting to improve their region and therewith a part of Europe gathered to have their voice heard. And to take ideas from other places home into their region. Here, it was to see that Europe is not only Brussels – Europe is around the corner.
Mayors, experts, EU officials, journalists and others filled the events and hallways, creating a busy atmosphere. Business cards changed owners, networking drinks were sipped, the nominated projects for the RegioStars Awards presented themselves and EU departments like Eurostat informed about their work.
Many panels echoed the term of the week: ‚Cohesion Policy‘. When being in touch for the first time with this abstract term, it took time to understand the different actors working on it and what is also behind: concrete projects all over the EU to create better living standards for all Europeans. Projects to combat right-extremism in Eastern Germany and women's empowerment in the south of Spain are supported by these EU funds. Financing future regional policy to outbalance differences of the European areas was thus one of the discussed topics. „We need to rethink the way financial resources are distributed among countries and regions to better reflect the challenges we want to tackle“, said Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu.
Younger generations wanted
In front of blue walls in the Commission, in the width of the Parliament‘s hemicycle during the opening session: Corina Creţu and Karl-Heinz Lambertz stressed several times how important the younger generations would be for the future of the EU. Also other speakers pointed to the hope that is laid on the shoulders of young people to save the idea of a strong EU. Statements that made me as one of these addressed persons think: to get young people to engage more from local to European level, the other generations have to act: when the socio-economic background plays less a role for our social mobility, when the EU is less complex, young generations will better be able to actively create and participate. And the Europe they want might be more diverse, open towards everyone and greener. This would come by making efforts, together. Are the other generations ready for that change?
Marion Bergermann, Berlin
Usually a traveller returns from his trips with a suitcase heavier than his arrival, full of souvenirs. In my last trip in Brussels, the souvenirs I packed with me were the inspiration, the motivation, the renewed love for my profession and all these great memories I gained through this travel.
It all started when I won the competition for the Youth4Regions Media Programme which was organized for the selection of new journalists who would have the opportunity to attend the European Week of Regions and Cities’ events in Brussels. I was among the winners and a few days after the announcement of the results I found myself on a plane heading to Brussels.
The events were really exceptional. As soon as I came to leave my suitcase at the hotel, I attended our first project: Training on Storytelling and Mobile Journalism, where our trainers taught us all the secrets of journalism using just our mobile phones. The other days were equally intense and with great interest as we were given the opportunity to attend many events such as the Press Conference on the 7th Cohesion Report and the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017, a presentation about Interreg Volunteer Youth, a presentation about the main achievements of the Cohesion Policy and the RegioStars Awards Ceremony and EURegionsWeek Official reception.
But what made the difference in this program from any other visit to Brussels was the people who participated in it one way or another. The people who welcomed us, taught us things, followed us in every activity of the program, the people who shared their own professional and personal experiences, people and professionals in the field who treated us as equals in our brief conversations between the short breaks of events. People who have proved that the most important thing for the European Union is its own people.
I can be nothing but grateful for this experience and also happy that other young journalists will have this opportunity next year.
As a Colombian living in Spain, with the Youth4Regions Media Programme of the European Week of Regions and Cities I had an authentic European experience, living it both from the point of view of an outsider that learned several things to apply in Latin America, and from the one of a human being that thinks more in people than in borders.
When I was accepted as part of the Youth4Regions Media Programme of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017, I first thought it was just an opportunity for networking, but I got much more than that.
The first and more basic take-away, is that Europe is neither Brussels nor the European institutions. Not even the variety of representatives that come from each member state. Europe is its people. That statement is why I also learned how important is Regional Policy: it is important because the European Union must start from the problems and needs of their people, from their reality and from what they want.
That is why, as a Colombian living in Spain, the week taught me that no matter how history has been, it is possible to make a common project for a better future coming from countries with diverse cultures and languages. The environment of solidarity and cooperation, but also of arduous work shown by the specific projects that were presented, made me question myself that if in Latin America we are twenty countries with a similar culture and the same language, why can’t we do something like that?/p>
On the other hand, I wanted to experience the event not only with the curiosity of an outsider, but also as a journalist and as a human being, even considering all those identities as one. Those days in Brussels with future colleagues from all Europe and getting in touch with local but high impact projects, taught me that outside of the bubble that we live in, there are lots of people working to make their communities better and, maybe not even knowing, something bigger, like the European project in this case.
Therefore, there are many stories that are waiting to be written, found and shared, no matter where they come from or who is starring in them, because, as Gandhi once said, “human nature is the same everywhere, regardless of the ground that we step on or the sky that we contemplate”.
José Manuel Cuevas
The thirst for knowledge is a craving that one ought to retain and nourish. The chance to get to know more and to learn and teach at the same time is a golden opportunity for us fellow Europeans not to mention students. And that’s exactly what happened between the 8th and the 11th of October during ‘Youth 4 the Regions’ media programme in Brussels.
Looking back at the intriguing experience, I cannot hide the fact that I smile contentedly. The exercise on orientation with media and regional policy bringing together students from various academic disciplines is one aspect that seems to have left an indelible mark on the participants.
We saw closely which regions and cities are performing and those that are lagging behind. Most importantly we saw what the EU can do to assist those who get stuck in a rut. It’s inspiring to hear people brimming with enthusiasm who were successful in their endeavours thanks to a helping hand from the CoR.
The 7th Cohesion Report was one of the highlights of the week. We took a closer look at its findings and applied it to our respective countries. The conference on ‘Cohesion policy at work’ afforded us an overview of where the EU needs to focus and where can we achieve more positive engagement in the diverse regions.
It’s no secret that to study the results and analyse the performance of a country, numerical data are essential. The processes and applications for regions to benefit from the Committee of the Regions can be complex. I had a brief discussion with the communications department of regional policy and found out that cohesion and regional policy are a hard nut to crack because they are a complex process while it’s extremely important for citizens to understand the results. The introduction of interactivity of results on the website is one means whereby citizens can visualize the data.
Looking back with great appreciation and gratitude for having been given the chance to explore the media’s point of view of covering Regional Policy. Most importantly, the fruitful interaction with the other delegates is something I’ll treasure for years to come.
“Youngsters are destined to work together with older generations for a prosperous future”
When referring to the European Union, newspapers and TV broadcasts just focus on Brexit, National debts and economic indicators we don’t always understand. Thus, when we read the news, sometimes it can feel like the only things concerning EU are depressing and boring events. Having the opportunity to assist to the European Week of Regions and Cities made me ponder over it. The conclusion? How incorrectly I was informed about EU.
TI was attending a committee when I read at five P.M. on a Monday an e-mail from the European Commission that said “Your short article has been selected as one of the winning articles. Congratulations!” I raised my arms in surprise and started to dream about the prize (a trip to cover the EU Regions' Week). Then, a technical name began to go round and round in my head. So often appeared it in every new message I received from the competition organisers, that I could nearly predict it with the movements of my mouth: “Co-he-sion Po-li-cy¬¬”. However, little did I know about it.
I brush my teeth and put on my clothes and think what the day could be like. Suddenly I find myself lost in those empty streets of Brussels. As I am getting to the European Parliament, I can notice the hustle and bustle coming from the corridors and, once I pass through the security checkpoint, I let myself be swept along by the current.
Through the press gallery of the hemicycle, I can feel something new and modern, and ignored by the media: the Cohesion Policy spirit. This reality is about solidarity and reducing disparities, and is present in every intervention no matter the politician´s age. Women empowerment, smart cities or employment growth are just some of the topics that are considered in the Opening Session and that concern more than 500 million citizens. However, as most of the good news, Cohesion Policy does not dominate any front pages, but small columns. Thus, we have to be more attentive if we want to be informed about Cohesion Policy projects. In this regard, the picture of Dirk Harmsen, Europe in My Region photo competition’s winner, is an illustrative example.
This Brussels-based four-day experience, made me be aware of the role that Cohesion Policy plays in my life. In an era when the Post-Truth and the emergency of nationalisms overshadow the benefits of international organisations, Cohesion Policy is the tool that let us build bridges between countries and take part of a new revolution in which youngsters are destined to work together with older generations for a prosperous future. Otherwise, why were there 15 of us invited to enjoy this passionate experience?
To discuss cohesion policies and the future of Europe. That’s the goal of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC), where, for the first time in 15 editions, Communication and Journalism students had the chance to join the Journalists Committee and to get to know better what being a journalist in the European Union means.
I was the lucky one. I got to be one of the 15 aspiring journalists that travelled to Brussels last 9th October and had one of the most amazing experiences of my life, with the Youth4Regions Media Programme.
Gratefulness is the word I’d choose to describe what I feel about this week. I’m used to saying that “learning is one of my favourite things to do in life” and I believe the most effective way of learning is interacting with people that have different experiences from mine. During this week in Brussels I did exactly that. I learned so much!
I did that when I met Guillaume Kuster, who taught me that the most important thing when writing an article is to have the best story behind it; I did that when I had all the networking lunches among journalists, with whom I spoke about all the issues regarding our job; I did that when I met several volunteers of the IVY programme who work to blur the borders between European countries.
And, with all this, I have to say that my “main take-away” of the week is that now I really feel a European Union citizen. We’re so focused in our daily problems, in our lives, that we forget we belong to a bigger thing: our countries joined and helped each other, fighting for cohesion and peace. I won’t forget this quote of José, one of my colleagues that studies in Spain but was born in Colombia: “I come from a continent where ten countries speak the same language and we’re trying to do something similar to this for years but we can’t”. Well, Europe did that and I couldn’t feel prouder of being a part of it. Corina Creţu said, in the opening session of the week, that the future of Europe is young people. After this week, I totally believe that. I totally feel I want to take part of this bigger project called European Union and join the European Commission someday.
The European Union enters a new stage of restructuring and development on multiple levels, thus understanding and accepting the approaching major changes, was the core aspect of the EU Week of Regions and Cities 2017. The overwhelming volume of conversations, information and experience keeps you, a young journalist, on your toes rethinking the challenges – how can the young entrepreneurs and influencers around the Europe enter the conversation?
The release of the 7th Cohesion Report was one of the key focus points of the week, which drove numerous discussions on the future of EU, during the panels and extending beyond to networking tables. The report shows that the EU economy is bouncing back to pre-crisis level, the development gap between the regions is narrowing and we are moving closer to a connected and coherent Europe. However, the non-statistical development gap, youth unemployment, radicalisation and socialist movements are persistent reoccurring struggles in the problematic regions in each country. However, the entrepreneurs around the continent present ground breaking startups and social development ideas, as we could see from the opening panel, which can be applied regionally to solve similar problems around the Europe. As the Chair of the Committee on Regional Development Ms Iskra Mikhaylova said, “If we want to develop the future of the Europe, we have to look for help from our young people. We need new fresh ideas, and in order to innovate Europe, we must innovate ourselves”.
Turning words into actions, a kick-starter project Youth4Regions by the European Commission gathered the first group of young journalists from across Europe, providing an opportunity to experience the press room work of EU Parliament and Commission from inside, as well as network, share the regional perspective and knowledge on overcoming the challenges present in the media today. Youth4Regions connected the young journalists, who not only have an eye for monitoring the EU press releases but who care for the future and understand the nature and immense benefit of a connected continent through media.
Projects like European Solidarity Corps, Interreg Youth, uncountable possibilities of Erasmus+ and much more, are empowering the young people to ignore the borders and act for our own future in Europe. The quality journalism, advocated by the organisers and professionals in the field, is the backbone for it.
We have the ideas, we have the tools – the time to take action is now.
Gabrielė Niekytė, Lithuanian Student, Erasmus Mundus in Journalism, Media, and Globalization Aarhus University, Denmark
The European Week of Regions and Cities from the point of view of an Italian girl: the experiences gained during my stay in Brussels.
My name is Alice and I have participated in the 1st edition of the Young Media Programme of the EU Regions’ Week 2017. I along with the other European winners of the “Youth4Regions” project had the opportunity to visit Brussels and attend the meetings held during the European Week of Regions and Cities programme.
I learnt of this project thanks to the newsletter of the European Office of the Erasmus Student Network: I wrote an article about an Italian project co-funded by European Regional Development Funds, and when I received the positive notice from Brussels, I was so excited that I started jumping for joy. When I landed in Brussels, I thought that it was a dream.
We participated in several meetings for four days and we had the opportunity to visit the EU buildings made of glass which symbolizes transparency. This well-organized fieldwork strongly contributed to opening my mind because I exchanged views with the other young winners in a different language; I learnt from the others different experiences and I fully understood that we share concerns and positive perspectives on the profession of journalism: this made me feel bold and more confident.
I also developed a stronger sense of European identity; in fact I have changed my mind about EU: at the beginning I felt Europe as a body distant from the real world, but now I feel that Europe is the result of the cooperation between people like us. The soft skills required to work in the EU institutions are: to be inclined to hard work, to bear the stresses and strains of work, and to be able to recognize opportunities. For the next edition, I would like to carry out more productive tasks after each meeting in order to further improve my skills.
It was a great experience. After my return to Rome, I felt sad but I was also excited, motivated and proud. “Ciao Brussels”, I will return as soon as possible, this is only a brief goodbye. Be ready, my broadcast is about to start.
Youth4Regions winner and a trainee journalist, Bruna Tomsic, shares her impressions from the 2017 European Week of Regions and Cities.
I must admit, the 2017 European Week of Regions and Cities will certainly be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. My winning article was related to an energy-efficiency school project co-funded by the EU. I was surprised by how the primary school in Osijek, Croatia, has transformed so much into becoming so eco-friendly. Considering the fact that the EU has so many successful regional projects, no wonder that I met so many other aspiring journalists who also got the chance to visit this beautiful, multicultural city (we still chat in our FB group!).
This was my first time visiting Brussels, not only that I couldn’t wait to try the famous waffles and chocolates, but was also very grateful to have met talented people from all over Europe, got the chance to network with the EU officials and listen to some interesting future plans that the EU regional team have created.
After the mobile storytelling session, I was mind-blown by all the possibilities of digital reporting. For example different ways of holding a phone when doing a Facebook live, how to broadcast live footage from several devices just by using an app… With these reporting ideas in mind, it was far easier for me to charge my batteries before returning to the UK and continuing with my final multimedia journalism year.
Sitting in the European Parliament, visiting the EU Commission through the press launch of the 7th Cohesion report and the Cohesion Alliance made me understand the scope of work the EU does. I would like to hope that all the 2030 climate targets will be met, as well as successfully tackling youth unemployment rates in regions across the member states and what will happen financially post-2020, considering that Brexit negotiations are still on-going. I even met a young political activist, Madeleine from Sheffield in the UK, who dropped out of her landscape course at university in order to stop Brexit from happening and create campaigns.
Attending the RegioStars awards on the final night made me realise how important it is to keep creating an impact, inspiring people and challenging yourself to achieve the unimaginable. There will be loads of hard work and obstacles along the way, but it is important to push your limits and aim for the stars. I have to congratulate all the regional winners and nominees because I truly admire their work. Considering that my home country is Croatia, I was very proud when I saw EKOBIZ Split getting the award for its powerful young entrepreneurship scheme in the organic agriculture section for sustainable feeding. Hope all of this will inspire many people who would like to create a social impact and help their communities. I strongly believe that unity, creativity, and change-making should be the driving force wheel for the future of Europe, the future full of possibilities and achieved dreams.
Even if you live in a small city, even if your living conditions do not let you do whatever you want, but you are young and still have dreams , it is sure that one day your dreams will become true because your future, and your region’s prosperity is in your hands!
That is the main idea that I took with me after my experience of the 15th European Week of Regions and Cities 2017. As a student of journalism, it was the first time in my life that I had the chance to participate in such a big and prestigious event. First of all, I had the opportunity to see the procedure that journalists should use to cover this big event such as press conferences, interviews and open sessions. I was very thankful that I learnt a lot about Mobile Journalism, an important tool for journalists nowadays and with all the above I realized that my future dream to work as a journalist in EU is not so difficult to achieve.
In addition I impressed with the ceremony of RegioStars Awards because I met thoughtful and innovative people that really care about their regions. Moreover, it was a great opportunity to learn about cohesion policy. Cohesion Policy is very important for the future of Europe because it improves the quality of life and amplifies our voice especially these days where there are a lot of social and financial issues such as globalization, climate change, poverty, immigration and lack of innovation.
It was also, a great pleasure for me to visit the European Parliament, which is a very impressive building and at the same time I had the opportunity to visit Brussels that surprised me and touched me with its culture, art, architecture and of course chocolate!
Furthermore, I had the chance to meet passionate and talented professional and students journalists from all Europe and discuss our worries, hopes and future plans that made me feel more confident and optimistic about journalism. But the most important thing was that I made new friends and we have stayed in touch after the event.
Finally, I realized through the discussion with Interreg EU Reporters that the future of Europe is Youth and that is the reason that I participate at the European Solidarity corps and I am looking forward to be an EU volunteer!
Viktoria Voulgari from Greece
#TakeAction #LocalResilience #SharingKnowledge #SocialEurope #CohesionPolicy. These were the most popular hashtags during #EURegionsWeek in Brussels from 9th to 13th of October 2017. This year, and for the first time, the European Commission invited media students from across Europe to the 1st edition of the Young Media Programme of the EU Regions' Week. Future journalists from all Member States could learn about European institutions and see how they work. I was one of these students and I want to share with you my experience of those days and answer the questions: how these hashtags work in practice.
First of all, I was honoured to be a participant of that event because those days were a very significant event at the local level. It was new and rich experience for me. At the #RegioStars ceremony I saw how many amazing projects people created all over Europe. “Europe in my region” photography contest showed very creative people who want to be active in European Union life. At the Interreg Volunteer Youth event I could meet lots of European volunteers and talk about their work, responsibilities and motivation. It was very inspiring to me to see how many young, talented, skilful people work for European projects. Last, but not least, I could meet others journalism students from others countries and exchange with them experience and good practice. It was a big chance to talk and acknowledge a different point of view. I am so happy that the Young Media Programme gave me this chance.
Furthermore, it was my first experience with regional policy. I could listen to the debate about actual EU directions and think about it. What is the meaning of cooperation, action and cohesion nowadays? Is it possible to profess these values in times of crisis confidence in the European Institutions? One thing is not to be overestimated. It is the role of locals. Decisions about cooperation should came from individual units and bring it into effect. That is why the European Week of Regions and Cities is a great occasion to integrate and share your knowledge with others, and, what is very important, you can feel a part of European Union which carries weight. After those days I have one very important conclusion: you should not wait for the moment until the EU changes something – you can change it independently, you should only #TakeAction.
Agnieszka Woźniak, Poland
Bruna Tomsic's and José Manuel Cueva's articles were considered the best and were also published on the winter issue of Panorama magazine.
Congratulations to everybody, we hope that this experience has been rewarding for all and in particular for our young talents' career!