On 18 March 2019, Dana Spinant (Director at the European Commission DG REGIO) participated, together with Rui Bettencourt (Assistant Secretary of the Presidency for External relations), in a cross-islands Citizens' Dialogue which brought together citizens from three islands of the Azores archipelago: São Miguel, Terceira and Faial through a live video link.
This debate gathered over 200 people - students, teachers, businesspeople and representatives of civil society - providing a rare opportunity for a debate with the European Commission and the regional government across islands.
The dialogue focused on two themes: opportunities for young people to study in another EU country and what the European Union is doing to support Azores, in particular through the EU strategy for the outermost regions.
Dana Spinant highlighted that EU is investing significant resources to provide opportunities for young people to study in another EU country with the Erasmus+ programme.
In 2017 alone, with Erasmus, the EU invested 37 million euro in Portugal to enable the mobility of 21 000 people. The EU is also improving young people’s chances to get a job through a range of initiatives under the European Social Fund. “Our aim is to support young people in getting the right skills to find a job” said Dana.
On the Sli.do question “What is the most important thing that the EU should do for young people?” the participants’ voted for JOBS OPPORTUNITIES and EDUCATION.
Reacting to this vote, the Dana insisted that investing in education and in young people is a key priority for the EU. “We proposed to double the EU Budget for the next Erasmus programme to enable even more people to benefit from the experience of learning or teaching abroad.”
The discussion then switched to the special support that the Azores get from the EU to boost their development and generate growth and jobs. Dana explained that the EU provides much more than “financial’ support”; it also provides tailor made legislative provisions and ad-hoc measures that aim at ensuring that people in Azores benefit from the same opportunities as people from anywhere else in the EU.
Dana further explained that POSEI will continue to support substantially the agriculture in the Azores and that “The Commission is keen to support Açores in every way”. Furthermore, “In its proposals for future EU programmes the Commission opens many new opportunities for Açores and the other outermost regions, with special conditions”, Dana replied.
“EU support is not only ‘aid’ to ‘compensate’, it is first of all a contribution to unlock your regional potential and build on your assets, stated Dana, prizing the regions on the efforts already made in areas such as space, ITC and R§D.