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Connect Europe project seminar on Europe Day

In the light of Corona Crisis we have in few months gone through a global society crisis. The crisis has awakened a global collective anxiety and has resulted in many questions about society that are now more relevant than ever. How does the crisis influence globalization? Is it working against or with globalization? What happens with Europe? What is not happening with Europe? Is the crisis in favor of the nation state or the European community?

On Europe day the 9th of May, Nyt Europa invites citizens to a debate about the corona crisis and its influence on European identity. Which repercussions should we expect or fear will be due to the closing of European borders? Will the nation states cut themselves off from each other in the future or conversely be more aware and positive about European common solutions? What should we interpret after the criticism of the EU and its handling of the situation, the internal European conflicts like Hungary who neglects European values, or the economic disunity on euro-obligations? To put it differently, will the crisis confirm a missing European teamwork or speed the process towards more visible European common values?

To discuss these questions, we have invited two Europeans and experts:

Rosa Balfour is the director of Carnegie Europe. Her fields of expertise include European politics, institutions, and foreign and security policy. Her current research focuses on the relationship between domestic politics and Europe’s global role.

Miguel Otero-Iglesias is Senior Analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute and Professor at IE School of Global and Public Affairs. Otero-Iglesias originates from both Spain and Switzerland and has if any felt the division; for what do you do when you feel like a Southern European, but think like a Northern European?

Caroline Tranberg, editor and journalist at Altinget and Spektrum.



This year, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which brings together personal, civic, political, economic and social rights, turns 20 years old. In a single text, these rights are enjoyed by every citizen in the EU. Citizens’ rights receives its own chapter as the fifth in a set of seven chapters.

As part of the Connect Europe project with 7 civil society organisations, we aim to connect citizens to the EU Charter and celebrate its accomplishments across 20 years. Let’s look at the Charter’s successes, as well as practically examine where the Charter could be modernised to fit a 21st century Europe that is battling populism and anti-EU rhetoric, and more timely, a Charter that protects citizens’ rights in times of international crisis.
*Disclaimer: this online event will be recorded.
Please register to receive the invitation link: www.democracy.community/forms/registration-online-connect-europe

Programme includes Member of European Parliament Daniel Freund, Marie Jünemann from Mehr Demokratie, and a Virtual European Public Sphere discussion!

View the full programme here: www.democracy.community/event/online-connect-europe-strengthening-and-raising-awareness-citizens-rights

Register here: www.democracy.community/forms/registration-online-connect-europe

Today we were supposed to meet in Gdansk with over 100 young people including our ERB Youth Board for the final event of our SIA4Y project. Unfortunately due to the COVID19 situation, we will not have a chance to meet, talk, share best practice and spend quality time together. It was always a pleasure for me to meet you and I have excellent memories of our joint events!

Even though the situation stopped us from disseminating the project results and sharing the best practices in person, we have made sure to be ready with our final publication for the final event date. Please see attached the pdf file which has three parts:

  1. Part aiming youth „Youth for Healthy democracy in the European Union” with methods of healing the EU democracy by increasing transparency, openness and access to information in the European Union.
  2. Priority Transparency Needs from a Youth Perspective
  3. Code of Good practice (that we already know) – Youth Access to Public Information.Towards Better Understanding of Democracy.

Please see the pdf file here:

This is the result of 10 international meetings with almost 400 young people from more than 9 countries! Thank you for your contribution and congratulations on your great work!

Let’s share and learn from it!



It is now time to mark this date in your calendars and contact us for possible travel support to join the SIA4Y project team for our final conference! We will meet for a full-day event in Gdansk, Poland on 28th April 2020. Our conference venue is the European Solidarity Centre. 

We are currently looking for youth participants to take part in the youth conference on Freedom of Information and transparency needs in the EU. Our Europe for Citizens co-funded project called „Strengthening civil society rights by Information Access for European Youth (http://civicyouth.eu) – SIA4Y will have its final event on 28th April in Gdańsk, Poland.  The project organized a series of mirroring events “Access to public information from the youth perspective” in each partner country (Poland, Estonia, Finnland and Belgium), and we’re now organizing the final conference to summarize our efforts and activities.

Our event will count ca.100 participants from different European countries (i.e. already confirmed youth from Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Poland, Finland, Estonia and Belgium). Our target group will be mainly young people ageing between 18 and 28 years old. The main objective of the event will be to inform and train the participants in the use of the right of access to public information, including practical training on socially responsible relationships and participatory budgeting knowledge for youth. We have now confirmed speakers from AccessInfo www.accessinfo.org who run the AskTheEU platform, as well as from Team Europe- official European Commission advisors.

Please see the draft fo the agenda here: SIA4Y Final conference agenda 28_04.2020 (draft Feb2020)

Registration is now open: https://forms.gle/ftb8sUXXtRAvmWXU7

If you want us to cover your travel and/or accommodation cost you need to contact the Project Coordinator, Magda until 20th Match 2020 the latest at magda.rzucidlo@euroregionabltic.eu

On 2nd and 3rd December 2019, our Europe for Citizens project partners travelled to Gdansk, Poland, to visit us and engage in a conversation centring around the theme of Solidarity.

What is the Connect Europe project about? This project aims to connect citizens and civil society representatives with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European values are threatened with increased populism and nationalism around Europe. We want to raise awareness about the EU charter and discuss our fundamental rights as citizens of the EU. It is essential for all the partners in this project to counter these right-wing movements and instead promote a visionary and factual based discussion. In this project, we aim to take a different approach when it comes to communicating EU issues. Our strategic point of departure is starting a conversation about the common, cross-border challenges that will create a fora where common solutions can be discussed in a constructive manner. The topic of a common future is the starting point for citizens-to-citizens dialogue. This will move the discussion from a pro- or against the EU towards a more visionary, value- and fact-based discussion.

In a tour of the city we learned of the hardships, battles and historical events that had taken place in this war-tormemded city – historically a place for outside forces to claim with little disregard for the existing population. But also, a city that should come to play a profound role in the healing of Europe and fall of the communist regime.

The key to this story we found at the old shipyard. Today a peaceful sight and build in its place, the European Solidarity Center, a museum, but in earlier days a centre of deadly worker struggles, a fight for justice and – in the end – the birthplace of free trade unions in Poland. Sparks may have flown here but as it turned out, the same sparks that sprung from the suffering of suppressed workers lighted the fire of democracy and foresaw the end of communism.  

Solidarity

The European charter for fundamental rights has a chapter especially suited to converse about in this historical place, Chapter IV, Solidarity and especially Article 28:

Article 28

Right of collective bargaining and action
Workers and employers, or their respective organisations, have, in accordance with Community law and national laws and practices, the right to negotiate and conclude collective agreements at the appropriate levels and, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action.

Solidarity was also the name of the first free trade union in Polen, Solidarność, who’s leader, Lech Wałęsa, was later elected for president and awarded the Nobel Peace Price. But in the beginning, it was a social movement that trough civil resistance worked to ensure social change and workers rights.

A place for solidarity

European solidarity centre today houses the story of the struggles of Solidarność and the Polish struggle for democracy. This special day it also housed us, a school class of youngster who was to learn about the story as well as debating amongst themself what the idea of solidarity meant for them.

When asked to reflect upon the meaning of solidarity the students came up with many responses – it’s about teamwork, coming together, acceptance. But also, it is about power and action. The power of the many was not lost on the youth who was inspired by the stories of the past.

As Jacek Koltan, deputy director of European Solidarity Center puts it, one of the most important demands today is the need for physical spaces where we can create a sense of community and debates the struggles of today. The issues we face, such as climate changes and social division, is those of great complexity that we need to come together around if we are to find sustainable solutions.

Perhaps that is also what we need today. New spaces to reflect on our shared interest. Together we stand, divided we fall.​

See more in the video from Gdansk here:

Read about our project SIA4Y  “Strengthening civil society rights by information access for European youth” both financed in terms of EU programme “Europe for citizens” (2014 – 2020) meeting on 6 and 7th Nov 2019 in Brussels.  This convention about Freedom of Information (FoI) was organised by one of the partners –  WeCitizens, in partnership with EESC and the University of Louvain, in the framework of the SIA4Y project, 14 speakers of 11 different nationalities intervened during these two half-days.

International trends

According to Ms Adlin Hulin, the promotion of freedom of expression is high on the agenda of UNESCO, which has competencies in the field of culture and education.

Transparency International actively fights against corruption. Matilde Manzi, from TI-Europe, explains the slow process of increasing protection for whistleblowers. EU Member states need to transpose a recent EU Directive and should extend its scope. They also need to decide whether anonymous denunciations of crimes are accepted.

Mrs Assya Kavrakova, from ECAS, shows that we have in 2018 an unprecedented increase in civic engagement. Taking into account that young people act differently, we should be quick enough to grasp the opportunity to enhance democracy.

Mr Alvaro Gonzalez Perez presented two initiatives of his European students federation, AEGEE: http://yvote.eu and Generation Climate Europe (http://gceurope.org). The latter fosters youth climate dialogue, in order to reach joint statements and require stronger climate change policies.

Mr Jean-Paul Pinon, CEO of WeCitizens (Belgium), insists on measures that make politicians more accountable. He also advises a general measure to increase the interest of the average citizen for politics: removing the withholding tax (the tax paid directly by the employer to the State, on account of the employee).

Mrs Rachel Hanna, from Assess Info Europe (Madrid), reminds that we must find the right balance between access to data and protection of privacy. Concerning lobby, everything should be transparent.

Mr Jean-Marie Sohier, from Sealord (Belgium), suggests that citizens set commonly accepted policy standards and investigate how politicians comply.

Country experiences

Mrs Eila Heikkilä presents the Ohjaamo system in Finland: a network of One-Stop Guidance Centers that offer support to persons under the age of 30 for various issues (career planning, life management, participation, etc.).

Ms Wilma Haan, CEO of Open State Foundation, reminds also the economic benefits of transparency by public bodies. Her Foundation publishes big databases: Open Spending (financial data of all the local governments in the Netherlands), Open ‘Poen’, Open municipality, Open multilateral, PoliFLW NL/EU.

Mr JP Pinon shows some Belgian initiatives. WeCitizens started publishing a transparency index of political parties, and a database of politicians (PoliticiansOnline.be). Among many other initiatives, the portal Transparencia.be is more directly helping citizens to access documents from public bodies.

Mrs Magda Leszczyna-Rzucidło, explains how they intend to make young people familiar with their right to know, through Youth Advisory bodies like Youth Councils, Youth Boards in various organisations including Euroregion Baltic Youth Board, also represented at this meeting by the YB Chairwoman – Ms Julia Orluk.

Mr Alexander Fanta, an investigative journalist from Netzpolitik (Berlin), gives some examples of how citizens can make an interesting investigation using access to public information. He tells that schools for journalists in his country (Austria) to not really teach the rights of such access.

Mrs Carina Paju mainly commented to initiatives of Transparency International Estonia: Transparency in capital cities (about response time) and Political party financing data.

Mr Johannes Filter, from FragdenStaat.de (Germany), says that involving people will not happen, in the first place, with a heavy investigation about corruption, but with very local questions. To get a youngster more involved in FoI, give him opportunities to find easily information he is personally interested in. FragdenStaat has a webpage allowing students to easily send requests concerning past examination questions for the General University Entrance Qualification.

Guide of good practice

Prof. S. Mrozowska and B. Kijewska, from the University of Gdansk, presented the outcome of their work about FoI, structured in three parts: (I) legal grounds, (II) youth policy and (III) examples of initiatives in the five partner countries.

Euroregion Baltic together with European Solidarity Centre in the framework of “Connect Europe”, Europe for Citizens project organizes a full-day workshop with the debate on the solidarity and EU rights. Read more about our project here: www.eurights.org
This project aims to connect citizens and civil society representatives with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European values are threatened with increased populism and nationalism around Europe. We want to raise awareness about the EU charter and discuss our fundamental rights as citizens of the EU.

When: 3rd December 2019, 9.30-15.30
Venue: European Solidarity Centre, pI. Solidarności 1, 80-863 Gdańsk
The event will be held in English

Current agenda is attached below:

You can now register to the event using this link:
https://bit.ly/33zYgmJ 

We have only a limited number of participants, due to the fact that we will visit the European Solidarity Centre exhibition together to learn about the solidarity to discuss its meaning in the European Union and beyond. So register ASAP and come meet youth and NGO representatives from 6 countries.

The first ever meeting signaling the start of the “ Connect Europe “ project took place in Copenhagen from 21-22 February 2019!
The “Connect Europe” project aims to engage citizens from 7 different European countries in a constructive dialogue about the future of Europe and to support the various EU agendas and values. The project is co-funded by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union and designed to increase transnational cooperation within the EU. This will be accomplished with local talks, national conferences, pan-European campaigns and a final event. Its duration will be 15 months starting on January 1st 2019 and closing on 30th June 2020. It is led by Nyt Europa from Denmark with the joint efforts of Aktiivinen Eurooppalainen Kansalainen Suomi Ry – AEKS (Finland), Democracy International e.V (Germany), Stichting Netwerk Democratie (Netherlands), Stowarzyszenie Gmin RP Euroregion Baltyk (Poland), Plataforma Portuguesa para os direitos das Mulheres (Portugal) and the European Civic Forum.
In its kickoff meeting the participants met to agree on the details and to compile shared topics and materials for local discussions and national conferences. Nyt Europe was represented by Ms Julie Rosenkilde, Mr Jacob Bjelskov Jorgensen and Mr Troels Knudsen, AEKS was represented by Ms Marita Modenius, Democracy International by Ms Daniela Vancic and Ms Anne Hardt, Netwerk Democratie by Ms Anne de Zeeuw, Euroregion Baltic by Ms Agata Ludwiczak, Plataforma Muheres by Ms Ana Sofia Fernandes and the European Civic Forum by Mr Vladimir Sestovic.
On 20th February 2019, the participants met and visited MP Mogens Lykketoft at the Danish Parliament. Mr Mogens Lukketoft is an MP from the Social Democratic Party, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance and former President of the UN General Assembly. Mr Lukketoft spoke about subjects like the decreasing popularity of the EU especially in Southern Europe, the EU referendums and the Brexit crisis, the results of austerity as a policy, sustainable development and EU’s potential. Later, several European Parliament activities for citizens were organized consisting of local talks and campaigns.
On 21st February, the partners discussed about the conference themes and project management. Each organization committed to organize an event on one of the 7 Chapters of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights- dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizens’ rights, justice and general provisions. ERB is covering the topic of solidarity by boosting democratic discussion and bringing as example our cooperation for the achievement of Cohesion Policy thanks to the Interreg projects we have worked on. The participants also discussed about the European Solidarity Corps and closed with the budget, partner agreement and reporting.

This November Euroregion Baltic will organize a conference on solidarity in Poland! Details will be published on our site!

Theodora Chatzipanteli
IVY Euroregion Baltic

The content of this website is the sole responsibility of the author and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union, the Managing Authority or the Joint Secretariat of the South Baltic Cross-border Cooperation Programme 2014-2020. The project UMBRELLA is partly financed from the Interreg South Baltic Programme 2014-2020 through the European Regional Development Fund.