On 12-13th June 2017, young Baltic Leaders from the Warmia-Mazury Region and the ERB Youth Board took part in the conference ‘Nothing about us without us!’, organised by the three pan-Baltic organisations UBC (Union of the Baltic Cities), BSSSC (Baltic Sea States Subregional Cooperation) and ERB (Euroregion Baltic).
The conference, organised back-to-back of the 8th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR– EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, took place in the Nordic Embassies, and later in the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, and followed three steps to facilitate the dialogue and networking among the youth.
The first part was the exchange of knowledge and opinions which took place on Monday, 12th June when all the youth met in the Nordic Embassies for an informal working lunch and the first working session. Good practices in the youth fields have been presented by representatives of the three organisations; afterwards, young participants were invited to reflect and discuss upon different topics and manners to facilitate the access of youth to the political discussions of their countries, giving them voice and possibility to influence their future.
The working session consisted in round-table discussions: each table was chaired by a ‘representative’ whose role was to act as mediator among the youth, collecting ideas to be shared with the next groups. In this way, it was possible for youth to build a discourse in a complete and exhaustive way, brainstorming together, and finally, sharing what emerged at the end. The working sessions continued on the second day, with new presentations by representatives of different countries.
Following up on the examples from Norway, Estonia, Kaliningrad, and Sweden the goal for all the other countries would be to give the possibility to the youth to be represented by the local authorities first, and later to reach higher levels. A good example to follow was presented by the County of Hedmark in Norway. This regional authority established a Youth County Council, launched as an exemplary Youth policy implementation that is highly innovative in the European scenario on youth cooperation. It works at different levels: local-regional-ENCN (Eastern Norway County Network), and aims at creating a level that can reach the national government/parliament. Young people represent all youth in their municipalities, organise training on public speech, and support free discussions. This well-structured initiative gives young people voice in the development of youth strategies.
After these two first meetings, young participants met in the formal seminar ‘Nothing about us without us!’, hosted by the Federal Foreign Office, in the frame of the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The Annual Forum was opened in the afternoon of 13th June, by Sigmar Gabriel, German Federal Foreign Minister, Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Finland, and others. All the interventions underlined the importance of the youth for the creation of a favourable area in the Baltic Sea that can attract foreign investments, guaranteeing peace and security.
‘Nothing about us without us’ allowed a direct discussion among youth and adult politicians, that had the opportunity to exchange different points of views. What emerged prevalently at the end of the conferences is a lack of coordination among the countries of the Baltic Sea, but also a common desire to create a connection among youth in all the region, that can become more structured in the future. The draft summary of the seminar is available here.
The discussions on Youth participation continued also on Wednesday, during the workshop “Connecting the voice of Youth for sustainable future of BSR”, organised by CBSS and Baltic University Programme.
ERB also contributed to the programme of events by linking it with the activities the LB-EME project (Baltic Leaders – Energy of the Young Europe). The young participants of the projects Baltic Leaders, between 16 and 25 years old from the Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodship (Olsztyn, Nowe Miasto Lubawskie, Elbląg and Bartoszyce) were present in Berlin and participated actively in all the meetings and workshops.
Thanks to that they have already collected ideas to be implemented at a local level, and also through potential projects that would not only help them and their organisations to develop to the youth agenda but also to contribute to European integration and development of contacts and cooperation between societies.