Blog: Getting involved to make the European Union work better — where, when, and how
September 23, 2022

Blog: Getting involved to make the European Union work better — where, when, and how

Many opportunities exist for young Europeans to make the European Union (EU) work better. These initiatives enable youth to become agents of change. But how many of us are aware of them?

In this article, Nicolas Vande Kerckhove – a Young European Ambassador (YEA) from Belgium – lists some of these youth opportunities set up by the EU, which are very often also open to the Eastern Partnership countries.

Dear readers, get ready to know everything about where, when, and how to get involved for the good of every European citizen and to make our society a better place.

Unity (Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, August 2021)

Collaborating and working together to make the life of every European citizen more pleasant, isn’t that a great project?

This is of course only possible by encouraging young Europeans to get involved in one of the many available EU-funded programmes, events, conferences, and workshops, or by motivating them to apply for a scholarship. However, it soon becomes apparent that the relevant information is often buried under a ton of jargon on the website or social media pages of the many European institutions, as well as other bodies, NGOs, and government organisations that promote the European project in any way. In other words, these initiatives do exist, but it can be challenging to find them.

Whether you are interested in the environment, digitalisation, cybersecurity, culture, art, energy, exchanges between European countries, the economy, history, entrepreneurship, leadership, mental health, democracy, or inclusion, the EU often invites everyone to contribute to building the world of tomorrow. Moreover, commitment allows young people to fight social isolation (for those living in rural areas for instance), loneliness, and stagnation in these turbulent times of economic crisis and war. As the slogan of the latest EU NEIGHBOURS east campaign states: “Change the world before it changes you”.

Let’s discover some of these initiatives now:

First, I would like to start with our own, the Young European Ambassadors (YEAs):

The Young European Ambassadors (YEAs) initiative is a non-political, voluntary, vibrant communication network connecting and building bridges of friendship among young people from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and the EU Member States and the United Kingdom. The aim of the network is to raise awareness about the EU’s cooperation with its Eastern partner countries, showcase the tangible results of this cooperation, contribute to policy dialogue on various topics, help increase civic activism and work together for a better future.

However, you should know that the maximum age to participate in this initiative, set up by the European Union in 2016, is 26. By becoming a YEA, you organise and take part in meetings, quizzes, conferences, exchanges, and awareness-raising campaigns, and you also travel and meet other young people from 34 European countries.

The YEAs in Katowice, Poland (2022)

Then, I should tell you about a programme called Horizon Europe. This seven-year research and innovation programme has been set up by the EU and has a budget of €100 billion. It is mainly aimed at legal entities from the EU and associated countries, including the Eastern Partnership. Thus, the EU offers funding to support:

“European partnerships in which the EU, national authorities and/or the private sector jointly commit to support the development and implementation of a programme of research and innovation activities.”

Five clearly defined missions have been identified for this programme:

  • Adaptation to Climate Change
  • Climate-neutral and smart cities
  • Cancer
  • Soil Deal for Europe
  • Restore our Oceans and Waters

Afterward, I would like to continue with SALTO (Support, Advanced Learning, Training Opportunities for Youth). It is a network “of seven Resource Centres working on European priority areas within the youth field”.

“SALTO-YOUTH provides non-formal learning resources for youth workers and youth leaders and organises training and contact-making activities to support organisations and National Agencies (NAs) within the frame of the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Youth programme, the European Solidarity Corps, and beyond.”

And if you are in the Eastern Partnership, SALTO Eastern Europe and Caucasus supports cooperation between EU and Eastern Partnership countries within Erasmus+ Youth and the European Solidarity Corps.

During SALTO training, the following costs are covered by the EU: complementary insurance, training and language courses, accommodation, and food (varying from country to country). All in all, if you are ready to learn and develop your competencies by leading concrete projects, do not hesitate and take a look at the website called the  European Youth Portal.

Fourth, it is essential to touch upon the Erasmus+ programme. You can either apply as an individual from the EU, from outside the EU, or as an organisation. This programme – which exists for 30 years already – allows young people to get funding to “spend part of their studies at another higher education institution or with an organisation in Europe.”

However, it does not only concern academic studies per se, since this programme also offers opportunities for internships or training abroad. Did you know that a young citizen who wants to do an internship in another European country – or in a partner country of the EU – to gain work experience while studying, could apply for an Erasmus+ scholarship to reduce the costs?

The Erasmus+ programme

Do not hesitate to check the fantastic website of the European Commission for further information. It is better to take a chance and try to get a scholarship even if you are not sure it will succeed. This programme has already helped millions of people achieve their dreams. So why not you?

Fifth, let’s talk about the exciting European Solidarity Corps. If you are between 18 and 30 and ready to help people, then you can participate in a volunteering activity, a traineeship or job, or a solidarity project in the framework of this programme. The Programme is open to Eastern Partnership countries, and the maximum duration of participation is one year, with the areas of activity covering a variety of subjects: from creativity and culture to education and training, employment and entrepreneurship, environment and natural protection, health and wellbeing, physical education and sport, working with refugees and migrants, social challenges, as well as disaster prevention and recovery. You can find some of these opportunities on the map below:

EU funded volunteering opportunities – Interactive Map

Then, there is another programme called EU Aid Volunteers. This is an “initiative bringing together volunteers and organisations to provide practical support to humanitarian aid projects of disaster-affected communities”. So do not hesitate to surf their website if you want to help the neediest, if you are over 18 years old and if you are a European citizen or a long-term resident in the EU.

Also, another name must sound familiar to you. Have you ever heard of the College of Europe? Here too you can get involved in the European project but on a different scale. As stated on their website:

The founding idea was to establish an institution where university graduates from many different European countries could study and live together in preparation for careers related to European cooperation and integration.

Today, this postgraduate institute of European studies is divided into two campuses: one in Bruges and the other in Warsaw. Organising conferences on the EU and its neighbours, meeting diplomats and politicians who have the power to make things happen, writing a quality thesis that could change minds forever, and learning two new foreign languages are all part of this university programme. Eastern Partnership and EU students are warmly invited to apply.

The College of Europe also regularly offers scholarships for students from European countries, so look out for the next wave!

In addition, there are many internships that you can do at the EU that allow you to work on a specific matter. So, you can act directly inside our union alongside actors ready to show you all its workings.

If you wish to collaborate with the European Parliament (EP), two options are possible. The first one is a traineeship in the Secretariat (called Schuman traineeship, taking place either in Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Brussels, or in the Member States Liaison Offices). The second one is a traineeship with an MEP (Member of the European Parliament). While working for an MEP, the trainee will help in a variety of fields and complete specific tasks at the European Parliament in Brussels or even Strasbourg. In both situations, the trainees must be older than 18 years old and “be nationals of a Member State of the European Union or an accession/candidate country” even if “a very limited number of traineeships to nationals of other countries can also be offered”.

If you wish to collaborate with the European Commission (EC) or any other European institution somewhere on the European continent, then you should definitely apply for a Blue Book traineeship programme. You can fill out your application in one of the working languages of the EC: German, French, or English. You should know that “the traineeship is open to all EU citizens, regardless of age. [However], a limited number of places are also allocated to non-EU nationals”. The trainee’s daily work consists of:

  • Attending and organising meetings, working groups, and public hearings
  • Researching, drafting end editing documentation – including reports and consultations
  • Answering citizens’ inquiries
  • Supporting the management of projects
  • Translating, revising translations, or researching terminology
The Schuman traineeship
The Blue Book traineeship

Furthermore, 2022 is the European Year of Youth. That is why many events are being organised to celebrate it. This year, young people take the floor to give their opinion. The focus is on “a better future – greener, more inclusive and digital”. Now, let’s take a concrete example: the EU Youth Dialogue. This allows young people and decision-makers to discuss and debate. Through it, the young generation can express itself freely about its fears and expectations. It is also a way to make a difference and to point out problems that hinder the good functioning of our union. Check the interactive map on the website of the European Year of Youth to find out more about other youth mobility projects.

In conclusion

It is important to note that participating in one of these initiatives helps to generate new interest in the EU, to strengthen the democratic debate, and to bring citizens together around a common cause which can then shape their daily lives. The EU, or any other NGO or institution financed by the EU, by investing sometimes huge sums of money, invests in the long term, in the wellbeing of everyone, and brings the neighbouring countries – the EU Neighbours East and the EU Neighbours South – closer to the EU member countries and to the European citizens.

Moreover, it is also worth acknowledging the fact that this overview is far from being an exhaustive list. I could for example also name the EU Climate Pact Ambassador programme (which is open to everyone in the world – i.e. anyone ready to fight climate change), the Conference on the Future of Europe, the Foundation Bernheim, a citizens’ panel for people aged 18 to 30 called Europe? Yourope! organised by the Brussels Parliament and where citizens debate together on European democracy, as well as many other initiatives. Keep in mind that these websites help you find opportunities for Europeans eager to change the world. So, take a look and start contributing to the well-being of everyone on our continent and in its neighbourhood.

Interested in the latest news and opportunities?

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