Annual conference of the Eastern Partnership: “A stronger economy for stronger societies – Investing in people for sustainable growth” – Our experience.
Hello, lovely readers! My name is Maria Pia, and I am a happy and proud YEA from Italy!
In December 2018, I was lucky enough to attend the conference “A stronger economy for stronger societies – Investing in people for sustainable growth” in Vienna, Austria, with other 12 Young European Ambassadors from the EU Eastern Partnership countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and member states Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Luxembourg and Italy.
The conference was just one day long, but – I can assure – very intense! The topic, as you can imagine from the title, was related to the growth of entrepreneurship in the Eastern Partner countries, focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises, the creation of job opportunities in neighbouring countries, and the relationship between education and work, the need of skills to enter the labour market. The discussion was mostly focused on the effectiveness of policies implemented in the last years in the EaP countries. Many good practices were explained, many hands raised for questions. Truth is, time was not enough to satisfy the need for information that people at the conference had, curiosity and attention spreading in the room.
As a citizen of an EU country, with a theoretical knowledge of the EaP countries, but a lack of practical experience, it was surprising for me to listen to how much these policies changed peoples’ lives, offering opportunities to develop, both economically and personally.
Especially for the policies regarding young people, that was enthusiast to present the encouraging results, often intervening in panels and discussions. Most of the people at the conference, in the room, actively listening, were young. And this, of course, tells a lot about the future development of the Partnership and the future possibilities of the current connections between the EU and the six neighbouring countries.
A lot was discussed about non-paid internships, that youngsters in whole Europe are often forced to work in. A general negative concern was expressed regarding the situation, and, from the panel, there was an encouragement to build personal experience with volunteering and showing the importance of this kind of activity in applications or job interviews.
Another interesting point was the role of education in finding a job. Generally, many new projects in schools are helping with technology, creating a stronger connection between education and the current labour market. But these are still small-scale projects, not organized on a country-level, not implemented systemically. So, more than being taken as an example, there is a need to create a structured initiative, a big action to strengthen the role of education, giving to students the necessary skills to start working without proceeding further and for a long time in secondary education. An important example was given by Moldova, where the ICT education is becoming better and giving a significant number of job opportunities. Another good practice was recounted by Germany, where there is a strong attention to vocational education.
Generally, the Conference was more than I expected. Even if the time was short, us as YEAs had time to discuss activities we would like to create, our personal involvement, the situation of our countries, our hope for the future. We really felt “stronger together”, starting to build the bonds of the future Europe. This should not be “annual”, but the kind of contact we found, and that we are going to continue to build in the future, should be an everyday connection.
All the YEAs were excited about the event. A YEA from Belarus, Olga Shman, one of the active young people attending the event, pretty active in questioning and expressing concerns, stated: “YEAs’ participation in the Annual Conference of Eastern Partnership was definitely a success. It was incredible to see how active we were engaging in discussions, since we had a lot to say about solutions for better education, training, and equal opportunities for employment. I am also proud to have contributed to better recognition of young people as an important partner in the dialogue. Once again, we have proved that youth participation matters, and our voice cannot longer be ignored. The highlight of the conference was for sure finally meeting my fellow YEAs from all over Europe and discussing together the matters of foremost importance to the EU-EaP relations, significant results already achieved, and our expectations in the light of EaP’s 10 years anniversary. I am sure we all got extra motivation to continue our work and now look forward to implementing our ideas.”
Another person who represented the YEA network during the Panel III: “Investing in our future: how to foster youth employment and employability?” and took a floor as one of the speakers was three years’ YEA Harutyun Tsatryan from Armenia. He spoke about the YEA initiative and presented the mission of the network. Harry, as we got used to call him, stated that young people should always be involved in actions and bring positive changes in their societies, “Youth participation starts with a real action – and Young European Ambassadors do their best not only locally, but also on all European level. We do need to encourage young people to participate in activities and be aware about chances which are given them by the EU and European institutions”.
In synthesis, after this short but beautiful time together, I can’t wait for the next activities to come.
Trust YEAs, they’ll change the world!
You can find more photos of the event here:
Written by Maria Pia, a Young European Ambassador from Italy, based in Naples
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