The European Union from A to Z

Program: Erasmus+, KA3
Project leader: Reflections on Europe
Place of action: Starachowice
Duration: October 2019 – September 2021

Project summary:

From October 2019 to September 2021, we had the pleasure of implementing our next project under the Erasmus+ Program – “European Union from A to Z”, which aimed to increase the knowledge of young people from Starachowice about the European Union – its history, activities, ideas and institutions.

The initiative group were young people from Starachowice who were involved in the “Youth Reflections on Europe” project – a previous initiative of the association.

Project goals:

-Stimulating activity among young people

-Discussion on important topics related to the functioning of the European Union

-Discussion on the future European Union

-Introducing young people to the benefits of being an EU citizen
-Increasing candidates’ awareness of issues related to the Union and democratic information

-Conversations on an important topic and its impact on everyday life as well as the effects and side effects of the European Union.

Main activities:

Activities were divided in several parts:

1.European talks (November 2019 – September 2020) – 10 small meetings of experts with young people. At each such meeting, a different European topic was discussed, and together we created a compendium of knowledge about the European Union for young people. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we suspended stationary activities, and from April to August we conducted additional webinars about the European Union once a month.

2. European talk shows (September 2020 – June 2021) – young people interviewed politicians/experts/decision-makers in front of the audience. Everything was recorded and then posted on social media.

3.Knowledge test about the European Union (June 2021) – where young people took part in a competition – there were attractive prizes to be won, including a trip to Brussels!

4.Study visits to Brussels and Strasbourg (September 2021) – for the most active people in the project to see the EU institutions with their own eyes and see in practice how the European Union works.

European talks

1. Meeting at the Representation of the European Commission in Poland with Ambassador – Marek Prawda.

By meeting with the Director of the European Commission Representation in Poland, Marek Prawda, and Team Europe expert Piotr Kaczyński, we started a series of European talks as part of the European Union from A to Z project. We discussed what the European Union is and how and who makes decisions. Thank you for your hospitality, European Commission in Poland. The meeting was also an opportunity to present the Manifesto of Young People to the European Union, which is the main result of our second project – Youth Essays on Europe.

2.3. History of European integration – a series of two meetings

The meeting took place in building 1 of the Secondary School in Starachowice. We talked, among others: how and why the European Union was created and which countries founded it. Treaties, the fathers of European integration and the history of European Union enlargements were also discussed. The meetings were led by Aneta Nasternak – Deputy Mayor of Starachowice, political scientist and Europeanist. 26 young people took part in the first meeting and 24 in the second one.

4. Meeting “Future of EU”

The meeting was hosted by Karolina Plutka from Europe DIrect in Kielce. It took place in the building of Primary School 13 in Starachowice. Young people had the opportunity to learn about the EU development plan created by Ursula von der Leyen. 21 young people took part

5. A talk with Dr. Tomasz Gajewski about EU foreign policy

The meeting took place in Primary School No. 10 in Starachowice and was attended by 15 young people. The expert talked about the functioning of various European Union countries and compared them with Poland.

6.Discussion meeting with Piotr Kaczyński from Team Europe on Brexit

Sixteen youth representatives met with expert Piotr Kaczyński to talk about the hot topic at that time, Brexit. The young people learned what this phenomenon was and what its effects could be. The meeting took place at Secondary School No. 2 in Starachowice.

7.What does the decision-making process look like in the EU, part 2

The youth met again in LO2 to talk about the decision-making process in the European Union, and therefore the functioning of the European Parliament, the EU Council and the Court of Justice. The meeting was led by Piotr Wolski from the Representation of the European Parliament in Poland. 29 young people took part.

8.EU member states, foreign policy part 2 and coronavirus

The meeting took place at LO3 in Starachowice. Expert Tomasz Gajewski talked about foreign policy and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on EU member states. 20 young people took part.

8. Meeting about youth policy

The meeting was led by experts with extensive experience in working with young people:

-Izabela Wrona – Guardian of the Youth City Council in Starachowice

-Kama Kępczyńska Kaleta – youth policy expert

-Kamil Stanos – President of the Dissertations on Europe Association and coordinator of youth projects

The meeting took place in Primary School 11 and was attended by 15 youth representatives. Youth policy at the local and European level was discussed. The activities and opportunities of young people from different European countries were compared and participants were involved in activities for the local community.

10.EU budget and EURO, summary of meetings with Dr. Tomasz Gajewski

The young people met at the City Hall in Starachowice to talk about the European Union budget and the functioning of the EURO currency – what impact does the introduction of the EURO have on the politics and economies of EU member states?

In addition, the youth summarized the meetings so far. The participants shared their conclusions and acquired knowledge. 19 young people took part.

European Talk-shows

The meetings were conducted by academic lecturers, practitioners, people dealing with youth policy, people with experience in EU issues and at the same time able to convey knowledge about the EU in a friendly way. Each talk resulted in an infographic presenting a given issue in an accessible way.

1.Meeting with Adam Jarubas – Member of the European Parliament.

The meeting took place in the Culture Park and the topic was the future of Europe. The MP shared his experience and told the young people about his predictions about the next years of functioning of the European Union and its development. Twenty-six young people took part.

2.Meeting with Filip Szarecki from the Foundation Schuman, about disinformation

The meeting took place in the City Park in Starachowice. Expert Filip Szarecki told young people about techniques for avoiding fake news on the Internet and about their harmful impact on society and politics. There were real examples of disinformation that were harmful to Internet users.

Then, the young people also talked about their needs regarding changes in the city. Everyone could express their opinion and propose their own ideas about new local initiatives.

3.Meeting with Dr. Agnieszka Kasińska-Metryka – Director of the Institute of International Relations and Public Policies of the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce, about new nationalisms in Europe

It was the last in a series of talk shows during which young people had the opportunity to talk to an expert about nationalism. They learned what the meaning of this concept is and what impact nationalism has on our lives. Additionally, completely new examples of nationalism were discussed. There were twenty-five participants in the meeting.

Conference summarizing the project

Finally, it was time for a grand conference at the Starachowice City Hall, during which we summarized the “European Union from A to Z” project. It was a touching moment when we took a closer look at the activities organized as part of the project.

Due to Covid restrictions, some of the experts were present online: Róża Thun – MEP, Bartłomiej Balcerzyk – Representation of the European Commission in Poland, Piotr Cichocki – Representative of EU NEAR in the European Commission, Dimitris Georgiadis – Institute of Research and Training on European Affairs from Athens and Member of the Executive Committee in European Youth Capitals, Stanislava Ivanova – Academy for Active Youth from Bulgaria
The Mayor of Starachowice, Marek Materek, and representatives of Eurodesk Kielce and the Europe Direct office from Kielce and others were present live. The conference was an opportunity to summarize not only the project, but also the meetings and activities of their participants, on the basis of which we selected those most involved.

There was also a knowledge competition about the European Union. More than 70 people fought for the main prize, which was a trip to Brussels together with the most active UEAZ participants, including politicians and invited guests. It was won unbeatably by Julia Łaszewicz from Primary School 13 in Starachowice!

Study visit to Brussels

The young people spent the first day of the study visit visiting the meeting room of the European Parliament and the Europa Station. The second day of the study visit to Brussels was a visit to the Parliamentarium and the House of European History. These are amazing, inspiring places that give a lot to think about the future of Europe. On the last day of the study visit to Brussels, we were in front of the building of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union – unfortunately, due to Covid reasons, the institutions are closed to visitors. However, seeing live where the most important decisions in Europe are made was a valuable experience. Finally, we went to the Atomium, a monumental model of an iron crystal, enlarged 165 billion times.

Study visit to Strasbourg

On the first day we saw the Alsace Moselle Memorial, a museum where we learned about the history of the region, from life on the Maginot Line and destruction during World War II to Franco-German reconciliation and the reconstruction of Europe. Next stop – European Quartet. The second day in Strasbourg was a visit of Starachowice youth to the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights + meeting with representatives of the European Youth Center.

Project results that we are proud of

Thanks to the project, together with young people, we created a platform for exchanging information and knowledge about the EU. In addition to the planned topics (e.g. history of integration, member states or Brexit), thanks to many current topics that also dominate news websites (covid, conference on the future of Europe, negotiations on the new financial perspective, US presidential elections and their impact on relations from the EU) we were able to share project results from many areas.

Thanks to the project of a project involving young creators, we have created a platform for exchanging information and knowledge about the EU. In addition to the planned results (e.g. the history of the founding, the arrangements or Brexit), from the main topic which is also available on news websites (covid, conference on the future of Europe, discussed on the new reference point, financial choices in the US and their impact on the arrangements) from the EU) the edition is made of projects from many fields.

They also prepared meeting scenarios, developed questions for the knowledge test and edited the texts. Joint meetings, discussions and tasks were an opportunity to practice expressing one’s own opinion and building self-awareness by getting to know one’s strengths and weaknesses and broadening one’s horizon of interests. During the evaluation meeting and in conversations after each exercise, young people provided feedback that such meetings taught them things that are rarely learned at school and that will be useful in everyday life and in occasional work.

During the project, new friendships, acquaintances and partnerships were established, which will pay off in the future, also in the context of new projects and initiatives (which are already being implemented). This is even more important because the project was implemented in the times of Covid, when normal life was brutally interrupted. In retrospect, we can say that the project strengthened our youth, although also during this break (despite online contacts), some people left and some joined. Young people from various backgrounds took part in the project – the Youth City Council in Starachowice, school councils, primary and middle schools, and students who had already finished their studies in Starachowice and returned to us for meetings from Łódź or Krakow, which is also our success and added value , because the main problem of Starachowice is the outflow of young people, and this type of projects can be an incentive to return to their small homelands.

The greatest impact of the project on young people is that they develop a European attitude, feel that they are part of the European Union and call themselves Europeans. They are open, curious about the world and willing to learn. The most important conclusion after the study visits was the idea that arose among the young people, that at least once during school it is worth going to Brussels, to the Parliamentarium or to the Memorial in Schirmeck near Strasbourg, to see with our own eyes where we were and where we are, because young people do not may have experienced the times of socialism, political transformation or closed borders, and we must learn to appreciate what we have now. Each action was attended by experts, decision-makers, local authorities and people responsible for creating youth policy. After each meeting, the experts were impressed with our young people – their knowledge, maturity and skills. It was an excellent opportunity to meet young people and listen to the needs of the young generation based on a partnership conversation. They shared their experience and good advice, but also listened to what young people had to say in order to pass these conclusions on. It should be emphasized that this was a two-way study. After each main project activity, different results were created, and after the European talks, 10 infographics were created presenting in an accessible way the given topic discussed at the meetings – these are summaries useful for young people at school or university, and the boards were made available on FB and the ROE website. and Youth City Council. After the European talk shows, video recordings also appeared on the YT website. The knowledge test was made available on the Internet, and after the project was completed, a small FAQ publication about the European Union was created, in which we included the most frequently asked questions about the European Union by young people during meetings. We sent it to all schools in Starachowice and posted it on the Internet. The target group is mainly young people, both active and those who have not yet engaged in the project. There was ongoing photographic documentation and a report on the Facebook profile. Thanks to the association’s contacts, we have reached many decision-makers and youth experts, from the local to the European level.

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