The “European Week of Regions and Cities” in Brussels is like an European family get-together, just at a different scale. This event helped me substantiate my understanding of the importance of cohesion policy and showed me once again that the diversity of our regions is the heart of the European identity. The key message from these four days is for me that the regions and their people are giving life to the EU, making it special, unique and successful.
The European Week of Regions and Cities 2019 was my first event of this kind. As a participant of the Youth4Regions media program 40 young people from all over Europe and me were given the chance to participate in this inspiring and educational event. The event granted access to a large series of sessions across the premises of the EU Commission. These sessions covered a wide range of topics, such as the promotion of rural areas or the integration of migrants into the labour market.
Many of these discussions or workshops demonstrated the importance of the role of the European Committee of the Regions. The effective allocation of funds are an important facilitator for the prosperity and developments of the regions. And, this is not just a matter of politics, because people from different parts of society report on the situation in their regions and the progress they have made on their projects.
These impressions also illustrate that less prosperous regions in the EU profit most from these subsidies and that it is no coincidence that, when these subsidies fail to be provided, problems deepen and the political extreme rises.
You will never walk alone
The Youth4Regions program for aspiring journalists offers not only to access to all these events at the EU Regional Week, but, equally importantly, fosters the exchange between young journalists from all over the continent.
For my part, I have met many new and interesting people, with whom I have been able to debate views on European politics and on various other societal issues across Europe. You often notice that, regardless of origin or mentality, our young generation has a mutual understanding when it comes to the idea of how Europe should develop in the future.
In addition, the participants also have the opportunity to meet experienced journalists from various European media outlets.
I have made many new contacts during this time, which are certainly an advantage for my later career as a journalist. However, not only on a professional level, but also on a human level, I have met a number of interesting personalities, with whom I will stay connected amicably in the future.
It’s not just about politics, it’s about innovation
One of the highlights of the EU Regional Week was the REGIOSTARS Awards, which awards the most innovative and outstanding Cohesion Policy projects. This included projects in the field of digital transformation, such as the Energy Cells GR—a cross-border cooperation project between Germany, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg for sustainable energy consumption and innovative renewable energy production—and projects in the health sector. One award went to the Orsi Academy from Belgium, a training and expertise centre for advancements in robotic and minimally invasive surgery.
Honoring such projects raises a general awareness that there is not just debate about problems, which politicians are often accused of. There is being carried out concrete research and work, from which the citizens in the regions benefit. This draws a picture of an EU, close to its people, and where citizens meet at an regional and international level, collaborate to find solutions for pressing problems.
Opportunities also bring responsability
During my time in Brussels the Youth4Regions program offered me many opportunities to develop on a journalistic level. Among other things, I had the opportunity to interview Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions. We discussed what smaller regions can do when it comes to integration.
These opportunities imply a profound responsibility for us as journalists. That was especially clear to me when two of us were awarded the Megalizzi-Niedzielski Prize. This prize honors the memory of Antonio Megalizzi and Barto Pedro Orent-Niedzielski. These two were young European journalists with a strong attachment to the EU and its values, died in the terrorist attack of Strasbourg in late 2018.
We as future journalists play an important role in society. We have to work independently, critically and with integrity. In terms of our shared responsibility for Europe, we need to strive for honest reports on the EU and its benefits to the regions and citizens.