The Regional Funds Online Magazine - Issue 41

Page 1

ISSN 2704-6540

ISSN 2784-9465

Regional Funds Online Magazine

Credits: projects contributions collage

N. 41


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Contents 3

Director’s Editorial


The Commission and the EEA EFTA States have reached an agreement on the EEA Financial Mechanism 2021-2028


2023: A Light at the end of the Tunnel


Cowork4YOUTH: The communication officers’ story


Five years of impact: my journey with SEPAL project and the rich rewards of international collaboration


BeeConSel Perspectives


Our experience as a beneficiary partner in the Lost Millennials project. Lessons learned: challenges and opportunities.


What upcoming changes in our daily life in 2024 and which are the future challenges?


Building legacies: reflections on managing the project SEPAL PRO under the EEA & Norway Grants


#OurJourney with EEA & Norway Grants


Connecting Faces, Telling Stories: A Communication Officer's journey with StayOn


A few words to RFM by AEII


#Ourstories: What does it mean to be the info-comm officer of an EEA & Norway Grants’ Project?


FIVE YEARS OF IMPACT: Work with people who, as a vocation, have the commitment to help the most disadvantaged


The Top Stories from the StayOn Partners


I always wanted to be a #girlboss – learn Ola's story


“Inequalities, Youth and the Labour Market. NEETS in Southern Europe” Upcoming Book


TJENI Hackathon: Pioneering Digital Solutions for Human Rights in Justice


We did it! Celebrating Five Successful Years of RAISE Youth


Cowork4YOUTH: The final event!


‘StayOn’ the past … to build the future!


The Final Conference of the RAISE Youth project. Insights from Extremadura.


BLUE-GREENWAY Capitalisation Final Event 2023


User4GeoEnergy Project final conference


Reclaim Our Civil Space! comes to an end, but the work goes on!


Every good thing must come to an end


The Blue Generation Project is ending soon but its legacy will continue !1

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SEPAL Project in Brussels: priorities for youth NEETs in Europe


Fit for 55 policy package to boost green transition: An interesting reading on a stress-test of the impact of an emblematic, and quite needed, EU policy on employment.


The integration of vulnerable groups on the labour market: The Supported Employment – a model to follow


Anti-Corruption, Democratic Resilience and Economic Security


Contributors & Credits


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Director’s Editorial Dear Friends, So here we are: another December has arrived. Looking at and reading all of you through this fantastic roundup of final events and communication officers’ stories/perspectives is – at the same time – sad and great. It is sad, since it means your Projects are ending, that new chapters are ahead of us. And, it has been a pleasure for us, as Fund Operator, to participate at your conferences where and when we could in person and/or by remote, but for sure we were always there with you with our heart. At the same time, we are proud, happy and grateful: this community is not only a group of Projects, among their implementers! Behind each Project there are persons, which – for convenience – we call ‘communication officers’, linked to WP2 activities!. But they have been there organising communication activities, articles, collecting pictures and research papers (most of the time writing them!), and, therefore, helping our EEA/Norway Regional Programme dissemination purposes, that are so important for us. Within this sort of showreel of faces and final activities, it would be impossible not to feel the sense of belonging to a Family. Usually, we like to talk about this ‘membership’ in all the occasions we have. And we, as Fund Operator, just hope that you feel a part of it as we do. Therefore, thank you for all your efforts, activities, messages, and for your patience. We do believe that we have been sharing the same level of engagement in reaching common goals. Some pages further down, you will see a link: just click on it and enjoy your faces, your words. This video, the Annual Seminar experience, which is available as well with a longer version, wants to be a sort of present for all of you as persons part of important Projects. We believe that those sentences recorded can be shared by all of you, even if you are not directly part of the shootings. We know you were there, physically and/or with your soul. It is with these emotions that I want to say something more. Indeed, I (we) don’t want to use this editorial as a goodbye. We still have some work to do together! I remember that in this video I said something like: «we will be here till February talking with you, chatting with you and asking you to implement activities»… ! For sure everybody is trying to understand what will happen in the future. A positive news is arrived to us, that on the 1st of December an Agreement between the EEA/EFTA States and the European Commission, where the Financial Mechanism 2021-2028 is embedded, has been reached. It should, however, be highlighted that until it is not unanimously signed at the Council, this Agreement and the related funds allocation for the FMO activities cannot enter to force. Still some actions need to take place but having reached an Agreement is the first brick and step forward to possible new funding opportunities for our Family. Who knows if, later on, our Donors will also consider reproposing this transnational regional experience and path: we will be there informing you asap! !3

Regional Funds Online Magazine Finally, I think you were expecting this. In some of our last messages, exactly just after the end of our 5th Annual Seminar, we have been scouting some options to prepare our – most probably – last edition of the Regional Funds Online Magazine. And, since you know me well already, I am reposting here the sense of that message. Please, think about your special best practices, those you would like to be replicated in the future despite the end of this financing period, and let us know. Just few days ago, as you can see in this picture, we have been – I would recall, again – listed as one of the FMO’s best practices… we believe, thanks to your reached goals, that your path won’t stop here, but at the same time: We, You, deserve a great ending, don’t you agree? Well, I believe that the pages you are going to scroll, and the faces you will see, are just some of the reasons why the answer should be YES! - and please not that ‘YES!’ is not only one of the Projects…. ! you are ALL involved, because you all count, you all deserve it, simply because it’s worth it. If it was not clear enough, this is not (or not still at least!) a goodbye. We still have a lot of work to do. Therefore, during these winter holidays, we simply ask you to think about your best experiences, the one you would present as winning ones. And on this, our friend Tom wanted to pay homage to all of us with a further element of reflection: From Darkness……Into Light! As he wants to underline, not all is dark, and while lately we have been very much exposed to dark, there is also light, and allow me to add : also FUTURE. We will be here, as always, ready to help you in disseminating your best results. I hope to see you all soon! Merry Christmas Gian Luca Bombarda The Fund Director


Regional Funds Online Magazine



European Commission - Press release

The Commission and the EEA EFTA States have reached an agreement on the EEA Financial Mechanism 2021-2028 Brussels, 1 December 2023 The Commission and EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) reached agreement at negotiators' level on the EEA Financial Mechanism 2021-2028. The Financial Mechanism sets out the contribution of the EEA EFTA States to reducing the economic and social disparities in the EEA, with a view to promoting a continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relations, and as a complement to the EU's Cohesion Policy objectives. The Commission and Norway also reached an additional agreement at negotiators' level on a parallel Norwegian Financial Mechanism for the same period of time, pursuing similar objectives. The Commission has also reached agreements with both Iceland and Norway on the temporary liberalisation of access to the EU market for some fish and seafood products over the same period. These agreements take the form of ‘additional protocols' to long-standing bilateral agreements with the two countries. Next Steps All sides will now process the agreed texts in accordance with their respective procedures. The EU colegislators will need to endorse the package. Background The Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA), which entered into force on 1 January 1994, brings together the EU Member States and the three EEA EFTA States — Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — in a single market, thereby extending the benefits of the EU internal market to these three countries. Articles 115 and 116 of the EEA Agreement aim at reducing the economic and social disparities between the EEA regions in order to promote a continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relations. To this end, the EEA EFTA States contribute to a Financial Mechanism. The Financial Mechanism is negotiated every seven years and specific agreements on market access for Iceland and Norwegian fishery products are also negotiated in the same time frame. For More Information EEA Agreement IP/23/6244

Quotes: I welcome the agreement reached by the chief negotiators of the European Union and the European Economic Area States on an important package to guarantee appropriate financing and support to the beneficiary States, regions and ultimately citizens. I now look forward to its swift adoption and implementation. Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice-President for European Green deal, Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight - 01/12/2023 Press contacts: Balazs UJVARI (+32 2 295 45 78) Veronica FAVALLI (+32 2 298 72 69) General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

Regional Funds Online Magazine

2023: A Light at the end of the Tunnel December falls like a prodigal returnee in our lives, the calendar’s circle complete; another year limping to its conclusion. Another year donated to history’s haul. More oxygen drained from our mortal tank; with fewer minutes remaining on life’s clock, as the pilgrimage between birth and death shortens, this time of year once again encourages reviews and reflections. By any account, through whatever prism, 2023 has been an annus horribilis. From Darkness… Two cataclysmic wars dominated the headlines in 2023, accompanied by news reports and images of the suffering of the innocents, the deaths and displacements of tens of thousands, towns razed, childhoods ended or maimed, families broken apart… Climatic catastrophes competed for newspaper print and tv space with many Neros fiddling as the earth burns. COP28 will host the usual flexing of muscles of oil producing states and the responses of climate activists; Galloping inflation, with the cost of living in the stratosphere, added further layers to the impoverishment and marginalisation of sectors of populations, with many families having to make the choice: heat or eat; The Pandemic might have called a nervous

truce, but there are worrying signs that it is starting to spread again by stealth; We have witnessed the rise of the right wing, globally, and, close to home, worryingly in Europe. Just as we welcome Poland back to the European family the Netherlands threatens to storm out like a disaffected teenager; The spread of populism - linked to above- is fuelling anti-immigrant hatred, provoking riots and looting in our capitals and cities. Dublin, my home city, is the latest member of this ignoble club; Tens of thousands of hopeless and hopeful immigrants continue to cross deserts and oceans to a Europe that is increasingly refusing them entry, or making their stay perilous and pitiful; Coups, frozen and intractable conflicts continue to litter the map of the world; Widening societal inequalities show no signs of reversing. …Into Light Globally, the number of undernourished people is down from 20% to 10% in last ten years; Fewer women now die in childbirth;

Fewer children than ever die in childhood; Mortality rates for under-fives has been cut by 50%; Life expectancy; for men 71; for woman 76. 1000 years ago the average was 20; Poverty rates continue to decrease: in 1990, 36%; 2010, 16%; 2015, 10%; 2021, 9.2%. These are the statistics that don’t kidnap news headlines or figure in social media exchanges on Facebook or whatever is currently trending. There are few Instagram photos to illustrate the positive trends above. These are not the subjects of animated pub or café exchanges. But these are the statistics and trends that can offer beacons of light and hope through the despair that can descend when faced with some of the headlined horrors above. The canvass may appear totally grey, but there are splashes of colour. Added to the above encouraging data there is also the engagement and empathy of youth that keeps humanity’s heart beating. I don’t know how many ngo/cso workers there are in the world – conservative estimates reckon about 10 million selfless souls who contribute their time and energy to the greater cause. That offers some solace and optimism when more threatening clouds obscure the light. !7

Regional Funds Online Magazine A fellow Irishman, an activist/comedian, Colm O’Regan wrote the below: ‘The one thing that gives me hope is that there are a lot more people quietly giving a sh** and doing a bit to help. Away from the sponsored electric 4x4s and performative tree-planting, there are millions who do work for which they will never be thanked: ecologists, corncrake minders, freedom of information petitioners, experts in regulation, public transport drivers, people within insurance companies lobbying against insuring rigs, cyclists blockading private jets (being chased by police on bicycles), farmers making hedges and planting clover, people making ponds on their tiny lawns. The sheer number is growing. If we’re going down, it’s not without a fight.’ On what better note can I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year. Thomas Mc Grath Our Irish Journalist


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Cowork4YOUTH: The communication officers’ story It’s hard to believe, but we are actually nearing the end of the Cowork4YOUTH project. I hadn’t quite realised until I was asked to write this piece and started thinking back at the past couple of years - what a ride it has been!

These experiences are the ones that I consider my most valuable keepsakes from the Cowork4YOUTH project. Savvas Pavlidis

My memories of this project go back to before it started - writing the proposal, setting up the consortium, anxiously awaiting the decision. And then studying the communication rules, following the seminars, setting up the communication plan. I could get into details about communication strategies, the difficulties of disseminating scientific outputs, internal management etc. But what I’d rather mention are the invaluable experiences. Part of the Fund for Youth Employment concept is transnational collaboration. Initially, it seems a hassle to embed it in all the various aspects of a project - it’s easier to have each partner handling their own task than to have partners from different countries constantly collaborating. But at the end of the day, the experience gained from this “difficult” way of work is invaluable. Having to learn to collaborate with people from different countries, different corporate cultures, and occasionally different fields, amounts to great personal development. One must learn to coordinate, solve problems and misunderstandings and, most of all, to understand and empathise. And of course, when working with people in one’s own field, there is always great experience to be gained from the different ways of operating, various methods, and alternative points of view on matters of the trade. The visits to the open events organised by the partners are instrumental from this point of view. Apart from the networking, they also offer a fantastic opportunity to see the way that one’s colleagues operate. How they organise the event, the infrastructure available, how they approach the media, how they reach out to the community.


Regional Funds Online Magazine It’s almost two years since Cowork4YOUTH’s first article in the Magazine. Our project’s journey started with the article “Assessing the European Youth Guarantee” featured in Issue 16 - January 2022, that included news about the kick-off of the project, which took place in Athens in December 2021. And what an interesting “coincidence”: The forthcoming year 2022 had been announced as the European Year of Youth, with one of its aims being to “promote opportunities for young people to support their professional development” - a challenge for our project.

unveiled that measures for tackling unemployment needed further reinforcement, and that during the past 7 years (2014-2021) measures did have a relieving impact, but then the pandemic hit the world. But the editors of the magazine asked us to write about our, the projects’ info-comm officers, story. About us. So, my name is Zoopege (Zoe) Touvra and I have been a member of the Cowork4YOUTH communication team since its launch at the end of 2021. Issue 18 was personally a special one, because I had the opportunity to write about my first-hand experience of Cowork4YOUTH’s Open Event that was held in Potenza, Italy. It was then that I had the chance to meet esteemed members from the Fund for Youth Employment and exchange thoughts and ideas for the forthcoming issues. When I joined the Cowork4YOUTH communication team, I had no idea what was waiting for me in terms of work and collaborations. Being part of a project funded by the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment was a new experience that very few of us in communication have the opportunity to live - and these are real words, not “PR stuff”.

For the next issue, we decided to dive deep with a cover of the 25/2021 special report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA), where it was

What had kept me on the edge of my seat every time before each submissions’ deadline was the need, besides the themes given for every issue, to find a way to shed light to broader subjects that were of course relevant to our project’s core, but that would also provide a unique aspect on youth employment, tourism-dependent regions, regions that were going through decarbonisation and of course coworking spaces. Before each issue, the communication team of the Rhodes Project SCE would bring to the table thoughts and ideas that we would all discuss and decide on how to approach them. But, besides the RP team, the other Cowork4YOUTH partners would also contribute with their own submissions, which proves that the project was very well connected throughout the years of its implementation. How else could we decide and agree on common ideas, unless we all shared the same core beliefs and thoughts about the project, its implementation and its future?


Regional Funds Online Magazine So, to answer the question about what I gave and what I received from the Magazine… I gave my thoughts and time to brainstorm and write the best possible articles that would represent a whole project, and I received precious experience through collaborations. But what really gained is priceless and is described with one word: Friendships. As real as they can get. Zoe Touvra Stay connected with us through our social media: facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn: @Cowork4YOUTH, and visit our website Cowork4YOUTH Project


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Five years of impact: my journey with SEPAL project and the rich rewards of international collaboration Embarking on a professional journey as the Project Coordinator for the SEPAL Project (Supporting Employment Platform through Apprenticeship Learning) was a decision that has profoundly shaped my career over the past five years. This narrative delves into the transformative experiences, the profound impact on my role as a coordinator, and the international collaborations that unfolded during my tenure with SEPAL. The SEPAL Project, rooted in the noble cause of Supporting Employment through Apprenticeship Learning, set out to create a dynamic platform fostering skill development, employment opportunities, and sustainable growth. As the project coordinator based in Poland, I found myself at the forefront of an initiative that not only aimed to bridge the employment gap but also to cultivate a global network of collaboration.

One of the most enriching aspects of my role was the opportunity to engage in extensive international collaboration. SEPAL was not bound by geographical constraints; instead, it thrived on the diversity of ideas and expertise from stakeholders across borders. Collaborating with professionals, educators, and policymakers from different countries infused the project with a wealth of perspectives, turning it into a truly

global endeavour. Coordinating the SEPAL Project demanded navigating intricate cross-cultural dynamics. From coordinating virtual meetings across time zones to understanding diverse approaches to apprenticeship learning, the role provided a constant learning curve. These challenges, however, were not obstacles but opportunities to foster a deeper understanding of global employment needs and tailor the project accordingly. SEPAL became a crucible for personal and professional growth. As the coordinator, I assumed a multifaceted role, overseeing project implementation, facilitating collaboration, and serving as a liaison between international partners. The dynamic nature of the project allowed me to hone my organizational and leadership skills, offering a platform for continuous improvement and growth. Beyond the administrative tasks, witnessing the tangible impact of SEPAL on employment and skill development was truly gratifying. Apprenticeship programs implemented through the project became pathways for individuals to acquire valuable skills and secure meaningful employment. The success stories of those who benefited from SEPAL's initiatives served as powerful reminders of the project's overarching goal. SEPAL not only brought professional growth but also cultivated lasting connections. Collaborating with diverse professionals and organizations forged bonds that extended beyond the project's scope. The shared commitment to empowering individuals through apprenticeship learning created a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect, laying the foundation for enduring friendships. Reflecting on my five-year journey as the Project Coordinator for SEPAL, it's evident that this endeavour has been more than a job—it's been a transformative odyssey. SEPAL's impact on employment, skill development, and international collaboration has left an indelible mark on !12

Regional Funds Online Magazine my professional identity. As I continue to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of employment initiatives, I carry with me the lessons, connections, and memories forged during my time with SEPAL. The journey may have begun in Poland, but its resonance extends far beyond borders, a testament to the power of collaborative efforts in fostering positive change on a global scale. Beata Mintus KOMES Fundacja (Poland) SEPAL Project


Regional Funds Online Magazine

BeeConSel Perspectives worked on in BeeConSel. For a long me it was held that feral honey bee colonies are largely gone due to the arrival of invasive and aggressive ectoparasites. Lately, it was shown that feral colonies do exist and are successful in combating this ectoparasites. And, going forward, we want to know why this is happening and how to use this extraordinary gene potential in routine beekeeping. Publishing such stories is mandatory for scientists but motivated communication officers on the project team can take a huge burden from our shoulders. Identifying opportunities, suggesting the materials and pushing the informa on is not an easy job, certainly not of the desk type. It also requires knowledge of the subject and there must be some chemistry between the communication officer and the coordinator. We rely on our communication colleagues to inform the public of the importance of our work - and even more crucial – of the importance of our skills to be er convince the funding organisations that i) we have good ideas and ii) that we can realize them with appropriate funding. The year is running out and so is the project. Only close to the end one realizes that the great team we built has an expiration date, too. It is true, the bonds we built in those three years are there to last. We are already looking forward to the future perspective of the mechanism that allowed us this productive international collabora on. Each partner has its own collection of stories some of which are shared with other partners or the whole consortium. Should we have to point out those that we like the best, we would be in trouble as there is of course more than one such story. Pressed, we would probably tell the story about how we enhanced skills of young beekeepers and queen breeders through workshops and expanded it in the direction of gender equality in a predominantly male trade. On the other hand, one of the hot sub-topics we would like to expand on is the somewhat surprising discovery of the existence of feral colonies - a conclusion which we came to as a side result at several loca ons we

Scientists are so o en caught up into our own minds and are thus limited in our reach. As a natural scientists myself, I am mainly concerned with natural phenomenona related to life. This is a very achievable and satisfying eld. However, reading the Mag (and a ending the events), I was amazed at how many interesting goals there are in the humanities and social sciences, and how much fascinating work is done there. I also probably never thought of incorporating approaches or skills from these two fields into my work. The stories in RC Magazine gave me some ideas how to interweave these very different approaches into new worthwhile stories. What to say at the end, now that the project is coming to the end? I am convinced that our work has not been in vain and that we have changed certain perspectives on beekeeping and breeding. We hope that the new Perspective* will be as inclusive as the previous one. BeeConSel Project !14

Regional Funds Online Magazine

Our experience as a beneficiary partner in the Lost Millennials project. Lessons learned: challenges and opportunities. In 2022, the 25+ NEET rate was 15.7% in the European Union (Eurostat, 2023). Although it experienced an increase in 2020 due to the pandemic, the rate has declined significantly in the last few years. Nevertheless, the rates of 25+ NEETs vary across countries raising to 17.1% in the case of our country, Spain. The Lost Millennials project focuses on this specific group of 25+ NEETs. The project was launched in November, 2021 — when our experience as a beneficiary partner started (#ourstories) — and is planned to finish in January 2024. The more than two years of this project have led to specific results after examining the situation of 25+ NEETs in 13 countries and after mapping and analysing the national policies and initiatives of each beneficiary partner targeting this group of NEETs (see our webpage). Besides these interesting results, this project has not been without challenges, together with opportunities as well as other indirect outcomes. In our view, one of the key strengths of our project is the heterogeneous academic background of the members and partners of the project, ranging from the fields of sociology to policy, economics, and even business. Although not without challenges in the early stages, this wide range of backgrounds has enabled an interdisciplinary approach to research, and has allowed us to have a more holistic approach that considers the situation of 25+ NEETs from many different perspectives: education, market labour entry, gender, disability, health issues, or work-life reconciliation policies. The kick-off meeting was planned in Budapest in December 2021, but the pandemic did not allow us to hold this first meeting in person. Despite the first difficulties in developing strong relations – social capital – between partners, our first in-person meeting held in June 2022 in Bodo, Norway

could be considered a turning point in the evolution of our project. From this first in-person meeting, the development of stronger relationships between partners has been key to the success of the collaboration in defining the framework for common research. In these two years, the project has allowed the development of a strong network of researchers and provided indirect outcomes, such as the mobility of researchers between the institutions of partners. As an example, the Lost Millennials project has given our institution, Universidad de Burgos, the opportunity to invite one partner member from the Czech Republic (IREAS) for a research stay in which a colleague could study employment variables in Spain to further her PhD studies. Moreover, we plan a visit of another member of IREAS as an invited lecturer in the next months. The project has also allowed our institution to develop an Erasmus+ agreement for the exchange of students with another beneficiary partner (Sapientia University from Romania). In addition to the network created among the project partners, Lost Millennials has allowed us to create synergies with other projects. Specifically, we have got in touch with researchers and young entrepreneurs taking part in the training programme Explorer (Santander Bank) in Burgos (Spain) by taking part in one of their meetings and looking for potential collaborations. Our participation as partners in Lost Millennials has also allowed us to contact experts and policymakers involved in addressing the situation of 25+ NEETs. Indeed, the National Coordinator of Youth Guarantee in Spain joined us in Malta for the stakeholder peer-review forum to share the main insights on our research. From this first meeting together, we built a relationship that continues so far and will bring a common participation in a national event that will take place in Burgos in December 2023. !15

Regional Funds Online Magazine In the online part or the social networks of Lost Millennials, we administered the project’s social media channels1 for a few months in the early stages of the project. Since the main outcomes of research were still in progress, we faced the challenge of creating content for posts from scratch. However, this content creation was also an opportunity to share views and reports from other institutions analysing youth employment and experiences such as Oxfam International. When creating and exploring a common ground on research, we found that 25+ NEETs are a heterogeneous group, and this heterogeneity is related to country-specific factors. Whereas in some countries (such as Malta or Czech Republic) the NEET phenomenon is related to low qualifications and early school leaving, in other countries like Spain, the training system is biased downwards and upwards: there is a high number of NEETs with a low level of educational attainment, but there is also a high number of overqualified people. Further, while in some countries the NEETs phenomenon is related to health issues and social exclusion (such as Finland and Malta), in others like Spain, only a minority of NEETs are not interested in seeking employment and most of them are available and actively searching for employment. Overall, we are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Lost Millennials project, which has allowed us to better understand the situation and the policies and initiatives targeting 25+ NEETs, as part of the broader group of NEETs – which in Spain is defined with an age range of 16-30 years old. We expect that the results of our research will be valuable for experts and policy makers in other to reduce the 25+ NEETs rates in Spain and in the rest of the European countries. Prepared by colleagues of Universidad de Burgos Lost Millennials Project

1 On Facebook and LinkedIn !16

Regional Funds Online Magazine

What upcoming changes in our daily life in 2024 and which are the future challenges? If we think about the potential changes in our daily life next year, the first thing that comes to my mind is the impact of advancements in technology, such as the continued integration of artificial intelligence and automation in various aspects of daily life, and the evolution of augmented reality and virtual reality applications for work, education, and entertainment. The effects and consequences of these technological advancements are multifaceted, and societies will need to navigate the opportunities and challenges they present while ensuring that the benefits are shared inclusively. Ongoing dialogue, ethical considerations, and thoughtful policy development will play crucial roles in shaping the impact of technology on our daily lives. Another important aspect of our daily life is the climate change mitigation, as there is a growing emphasis on sustainable practices, renewable energy, and eco-friendly technologies. The adoption of more sustainable and circular economy practices in various industries will be for sure a key factor for future development and it is crucial for addressing the challenges posed by climate change. It requires a comprehensive and collaborative effort from governments, businesses, communities, and individuals to create a more sustainable and resilient future. In this perspective, also the expansion of smart city initiatives, and the implementation of autonomous vehicles and smart transportation systems can be seen as crucial components in shaping the future of urban environments. These technologies will contribute to various aspects of city life, enhancing efficiency, sustainability, and overall quality of life.

implementation of the YouthShare project, adapting to the ever-changing job market and addressing the need for continuous reskilling and upskilling of workers. Only if we keep in mind that the economical development must necessarily consider the ethical and sustainable approach for future growth, we will see a world where the social, digital and economical divide. Integrating ethical and sustainable practices into economic development is crucial for creating a more equitable and balanced world. When economic growth is pursued without considering ethical and sustainable principles, it can lead to negative consequences such as environmental degradation, social inequality, and digital divides. Rosa Messuti KAM Gal La Cittadella del Sapere – Italy YOUTHShare Project

The future challenges concerning all these changes in our daily lives must be considered as necessary guidelines for investment policies. To mention a few: balancing technological advancement with concerns about data privacy, surveillance, and ethical implications of AI and automation, addressing the ongoing challenges of climate change, including mitigation startegies, adaptation efforts, and sustainable resource management, addressing issues of social and economic inequality, both within and between countries, and, as we have seen through the entire !17

Regional Funds Online Magazine

Building legacies: reflections on managing the project SEPAL PRO under the EEA & Norway Grants Being a project coordinator and communication officer in the SEPAL PRO program of the EEA & Norway Grants was a milestone in my career. The opportunity to manage administratively and communicatively a program of such importance and prestige was a great challenge and an unforgettable experience.

The opportunity given to us by the EEA & Norway Grants to implement the project SEPAL, created a legacy for our organization, for our beneficiaries and for our employees. Our goal is to utilize this legacy and develop it, to implement new ideas and practices, always focusing on offering to the people.

The most important parameters arising from such responsibilities are the development and improvement of individual and professional skills as well as the connection and cooperation with remarkable professionals from various European countries. At the same time, networking and collaborations at national and local level played an important role and reshaped the identity of our cooperative, as they connected us with several institutions of the Social Economy sector. The communication part of the program ranged at a high level. The clear and comprehensive instructions given by the funders, combined with the guidance and support provided by the lead partner, gave a commendable result.

Chris Makliri Responsible for the coordination & communication of the project SEPAL PRO version on behalf of the Greek Social Cooperative of Limited Liability KoiSPE “Diadromes” SEPAL PRO Project

Local dissemination events, social media management, participation in events to disseminate the project, were important factors for its success, culminating in in the final event in Brussels. There, we had the honor to enter the EU Parliament and present our work after 5 years of implementation. An unforgettable moment that gives you motivation to continue working in this industry in order to transmit and receive knowledge. At the end of the day, what remains to be remembered are the services and support we provided to vulnerable people, the cooperation between the partners, the exchange of knowledge and experiences with professionals from different countries and backgrounds, the meetings and events we organized, the stress and perseverance to achieve the goals, the networking, the people...


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#OurJourney with EEA & Norway Grants In our NGO's endeavors, the plight of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) battling mental health issues had always been a concern. For years, our heartfelt sympathies clashed against the limitations of our resources, leaving us disheartened by our inability to provide substantial aid to these vulnerable young people. Witnessing their struggles and aspirations, yet unable to offer comprehensive support, weighed heavily on our collective conscience. It was in this climate of empathy, frustration, and determination that the emergence of the EEA & Norway Grants became a beacon of transformative change. This initiative heralded a new dawn, breathing life into our aspirations of effecting tangible change in the lives of NEETs. As an NGO, we found ourselves at a crossroads—grappling with the immense need for intervention and the lack of means to meet it. But the opportunity to align our efforts with the EEA & Norway Grants marked an inflection point in our trajectory. It was a chance to transcend our limitations and embark on a journey brimming with hope and purpose. With the support of the EEA & Norway Grants formidable initiative, our project found wings to soar into uncharted territories, where our aspirations to make a real difference for NEETs could finally take root. This is how the L.I.K.E. project – Life Investment is the Key to Employment and Hidden Likes Youth House were developed. From the very beginning of the L.I.K.E Project it was dedicated to the empowerment of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) struggling with mental health issues. Nestled within the Hidden Likes Youth House, our aim has been to provide a nurturing environment where these young people can not only seek psychological help but also gain the necessary skills to integrate into the labor market. The Youth House has served as a safe haven for NEETs, offering not just mental health support but also fostering skill development and social integration. Our approach has been holistic, addressing not just immediate needs but also equipping individuals with the tools and confidence to navigate the complexities of the labor market.

This journey has been nothing short of a testament to the profound impact that collaborative efforts can wield in addressing critical societal challenges. Through the auspices of the EEA & Norway Grants, our project has become a conduit for change—a platform to channel aspirations into action. It is not only the financial support that The EEA & Norway Grants provided us with. They also offered invaluable guidance, networking opportunities, and a platform to amplify our voices. It's been a reciprocal relationship, as we've shared our experiences and successes through articles in the Youth Employment & Regional Cooperation Magazines. The opportunity to share our endeavors, progress and inspiring stories through articles in the magazine has been invaluable. It’s more than a mere dissemination of information; it’s a channel through which our initiatives resonate with a wider audience, fostering awareness and understanding about the struggles faced by NEETs dealing with mental health issues.


Regional Funds Online Magazine Through these articles, we've highlighted our multifaceted approach—a blend of mental health support, skill-building workshops, and tailored programs aimed at bolstering confidence and fostering social integration. By showcasing success stories and the tangible impact of our interventions, we are more than confident that we've inspired others.

But It's not just about what we give; it's also about what we receive and we can say that we received a lot in our journey with the EEA & Norway Grants. Through the platform provided by the Magazine, offering a gateway to a vibrant community of like-minded initiatives and projects, we had the chance to connect with a diverse tapestry of endeavors aimed at catalyzing societal change. It's been a window into the endeavors of others—a chance to witness their triumphs, empathize with their challenges, and realize that our struggles are not solitary, but part of a collective pursuit for transformation. The understanding that we are not alone in our endeavor to effect change is most probably one of the most significant gifts we received from the Magazine and all the opportunities provided by the EEA & Norway Grants.

For us working with the EEA & Norway Grants has been invaluable. It meant being a catalyst for change—a facilitator of understanding, empathy, and action. It meant standing alongside the NEETs with unwavering support and advocating for a society where mental health challenges do not hinder one's opportunities for a brighter future. But the true significance lies in what it means for the NEETs with mental health challenges that we work with. For them, it's more than just a project—it's a lifeline. It's a beacon of hope, a sanctuary where they find support, guidance, and opportunities for growth. It's a testament to the belief that they are not forgotten or neglected, but valued members of society deserving of a chance to thrive.

L.I.K.E. Project


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Connecting Faces, Telling Stories: A Communication Officer's journey with StayOn In my role as the Communication Officer for the StayOn project, I've found myself doing more than just conveying information. It's about crafting a narrative that empowers young individuals across Europe—helping them realize their potential, fostering activism, participation, and creativity in rural communities. As the project nears its end, I take a moment to reflect on the challenges and rewards that have defined my journey. Crafting narratives At StayOn, I've been part of a rich collection of stories from our different partners. Whether it's successful training or coaching, community-driven initiatives, engaging co-innovation labs, or our knowledge transfers and events, these stories are the heartbeat of StayOn, giving life to our communication efforts. My role goes beyond narrating these stories; it's about transforming them into messages that resonate with our audience. In return, these stories have deepened my understanding of StayOn's profound impact on individuals and communities, fueling my passion for effective communication. A two-way street with the Youth Employment Magazine Our collaboration with the Youth Employment Magazine has been a mutual exchange. Through articles and features, we not only share StayOn's successes but also contribute insights to the youth employment discourse. The magazine serves as a platform to showcase tangible outcomes, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and best practices. In providing content, the StayOn partners and I have given readers a glimpse into the transformative experiences of young people, inviting them to be part of a broader narrative of youth empowerment. Simultaneously, the magazine provides a channel for StayOn's voice to resonate beyond project boundaries. Measuring impact and sharing success As part of our commitment to transparency and accountability, our German partner ECSF meticulously measured the impact of our work. This

process wasn't just about crunching numbers; it was about understanding the tangible difference StayOn was making in the lives of young individuals across Europe. Communicating these results became a crucial aspect of my role as the Communication Officer. We employed various mediums, including videos and infographics, to distill complex information into accessible formats. StayOn faces A special aspect that captured the essence of our collective efforts was the playlist “StayOn Experience” shared on YouTube. Each of our dedicated partners contributed by creating 12 insightful video interviews featuring participants, external partners, coaches, trainers, mentors, and more. These videos not only encapsulated the tangible impact of StayOn but also showcased the diverse voices and faces that shaped this transformative initiative. As you watch these interviews on the StayOn Experience, we encourage you to discover the diverse stories that make up the project's legacy and appreciate the exceptional individuals who played a key role. In conclusion, my journey as the Communication Officer of StayOn has been an exploration of storytelling, collaboration, and personal growth. As we celebrate the achievements of our implementing partners and share our stories through videos, I am confident that these narratives will inspire those who will be the “next ones” to recognize their potential and actively contribute to the development of resilient communities. StayOn is more than a project; it’s a collection of faces, stories, and experiences that illuminate the path toward vibrant, empowered futures for Europe’s youth. Marta Messineo, ATIS; @stayon_project StayOn Project !21

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A few words to RFM by AEII AEII participated in the YouthShare project funded by EEA & Norway Grants that allowed us to know new international partners and the realities of their countries in terms of youth and employability. MAG magazine was a loudspeaker that allowed the voice of many young people in situations of exclusion to be brought to many places in Europe. Each photo and each text showed stories of improvement of young people who wanted to escape exclusion through their own efforts to find a job and make a better society. On the other hand, the organizations that collaborated with MAG always sought to give visibility to real problems, often ignored by the majority of citizens. Our organization grew in Europe at the same time as the YouthShare project for more than 4 years. Now, YouthShare and MAG ends but their great work will remain among the citizens they both helped. Jose Fernandez, AEII YOUTHShare Project


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#Ourstories: What does it mean to be the info-comm officer of an EEA & Norway Grants’ Project? As key account manager in the YouthShare project since last year, my role revolves around effectively managing the flow of information within the project and ensuring clear communication with relevant stakeholders. My journey as the information and communication officer for an EEA & Norway Grants' project has been both challenging and rewarding. At the heart of my responsibilities is the task of bridging the gap between the project team, beneficiaries, and external partners. The EEA & Norway Grants' project aims to foster collaboration and contribute to positive change in beneficiary countries, and my role is pivotal in conveying this narrative. One of my key functions is crafting and disseminating compelling communication materials. This includes developing press releases, newsletters, and social media content to highlight the project's milestones, achievements, and impact. I work closely with project managers and experts to distill complex information into accessible and engaging formats that resonate with diverse audiences. Building and maintaining a strong online presence is crucial in the digital age, and I've spearheaded the development of a project facebook page. This page serves as a hub for information, featuring project updates, success stories, and multimedia content. Regularly updating and optimizing the facebook page ensures that stakeholders, including the public, donors, and project partners, stay informed and engaged. In addition to external communication, I facilitate internal information sharing within the project team. This involves organizing regular meetings, workshops, and training sessions to enhance communication skills and keep everyone aligned with the project's goals. I've implemented collaboration tools and platforms to streamline internal communication, ensuring that team members can efficiently exchange ideas and updates. I also play a vital role in crisis communication. In the event of challenges or

setbacks, I work swiftly to provide transparent and accurate information to all stakeholders. This proactive approach helps in managing expectations and maintaining trust even in challenging circumstances. Being the information and communication officer of an EEA & Norway Grants' project means navigating the delicate balance between transparency and diplomacy. It requires adaptability, as the project evolves and encounters new challenges. Through effective communication, I strive to create a narrative that not only showcases the project's impact but also fosters a sense of collaboration and shared purpose among all stakeholders. In this role, I've come to appreciate the power of communication in driving positive change. By conveying the project's story with authenticity and clarity, I contribute to building a stronger foundation for sustainable development and cooperation. The journey continues, and I look forward to the ongoing challenges and triumphs that come with being the information and communication officer of this impactful initiative. I do hope my contributions to the magazine have been useful to the purpose of the Fund Operator, on my side I’ve appreciated and disseminated the online issues on our social media page, to give the magazine a broader spreading. Rosa Messuti KAM Gal La Cittadella del Sapere – Italy YOUTHShare Project


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FIVE YEARS OF IMPACT: Work with people who, as a vocation, have the commitment to help the most disadvantaged Their mentoring relationship began when Antonio contacted the "Avança" service through other users, seeking guidance to continue his studies. He received personalized advice on educational options and pathways of specialization. The coaching process begins by identifying the specific challenges and opportunities that young people in the neighborhood face. By understanding the local culture and traditions, the coach can use examples and figures that are recognizable and meaningful to the NEETs. This helps create a stronger sense of belonging and emotional connection with the coaching process, which was: Individualized Plan: A personalized and tailored plan was designed to meet the needs and goals of the young person interested in studying the Vocational Training Course at the Middle Grade level.

I have the pleasure to introduce you some of our pairs of coaches and NEETs: Erika Adell is a social psychologist specialized in socio-labor guidance, whose commitment and dedication have been focused on improving the lives of numerous vulnerable young people Coach Erika Adell Sanchez, whose professional background includes a solid education as a Socio-labor Advisor, Intervention with Socially Excluded Groups, and Antonio Fernandez Nicolas, a 22-year-old young man that has a Vocational Training Certificate in Electromechanics.

Coordination with the Family: Constant and collaborative communication was established with the young person's family to involve them in the educational process. Details about academic progress, and any challenges or concerns that arose were shared. The active participation of the family in supporting the student proved crucial in fostering a supportive and motivating environment at home. Genís Rodríguez is a social worker in a complex neighborhood near Barcelona, Spain, called La Mina, working for Optima's company


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IMPROVEMENTS OFTHE NEET RELATED TO SKILLS, OPPORTUNITIES… With the coaching process, Antonio has been able to achieve greater selfawareness, which has allowed him to find his professional vocation, become asocial worker, and be a role model in the neighbourhood. Additionally, it has helped him develop skills to face interviews with greater ease. Matilde Caballero Ruiz is a specialized professional in the field of psychology and education. After completing her studies in this discipline, she decided to found her own self-employment company, Optima Assessorament i Formació, sll.

Through a process of self-assessment and exploration, Trini has learned to recognize her strengths and weaknesses, strengthening her confidence and self-concept. This awareness of her capabilities has allowed her to make more informed and accurate decisions regarding here educational and career trajectory. Getting to know situations outside her usual community and interacting with young people from different environments has been an enriching experience for Trini. This openness to new realities and cultures has broadened her horizons and provided her with the opportunity to integrate into diverse settings, contributing to the elimination of prejudices and stereotypes. The ability to manage her emotions has enabled her to confront challenges and resolve conflicts more constructively. This has been especially valuable in her educational process and in preparing for entry into the job market.

By Enerida Isuf – Project Coordinator SEPAL PRO Spain SEPAL PRO Project


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The Top Stories from the StayOn Partners As we are approaching the StayOn project completion, we proudly present the best stories from our implementing partners, their trainings, cooperations and community building. Their diversity, grounded in a common mission to inspire young people to recognize, develop and use their superpowers – activism, participation, and creativity – to StayOn rural communities, testifies to the added value that happens in local environments when we work in a well-connected and supportive international project community. Become a Special Person Again CRESAÇOR - Regional Cooperative of Solidarity Economy, Portugal “Community walks: a week of personal and social development, sharing, learning and, above all, making an effective contribution to the region, with lots of creativity! For a week, young people from two Azorean islands were challenged to build a better society. In this construction process, they travelled to their own interior. They identified everything that blocks them from change. Then, they looked at society with creative and inclusive ideas.”

Re-Invent Your Opportunities Rezos Brands Anonymi Emporiki Eteria Idon Diatrofis, Greece “In the StayOn project, and especially in our Co-Innovation Living Lab, we have established a strong cooperation with regional stakeholders supporting new job opportunities. With their help, young people codesigned an “opportunities box” which takes into account the NEET's needs and skills, cross-referenced with the region's priorities, and includes a comprehensive list of active or soon-to-be activated job offerings. This dynamic blog was developed by the NEETs themselves, it offers social media-based services, and is offered to the stakeholders as a useful tool to manage and promote their job offerings in a more NEET-friendly way. The opportunities box is significant in encouraging NEETs to Stay-On the Region and re-embark on new careers. In parallel, it designates to the region's key stakeholders the real needs of young people and new ways to efficiently reach this enthusiastic target group.” !26

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Together for the Better The Polish Farm Advisory and Training Centre Not-for-profit Sp. Z O.O., Poland “In the StayOn project, we have established strong cooperation with local stakeholders, including state institutions, university academy offices, NGOs, private companies and individuals. We are impressed by how many people have joined in promoting the project and helping young people in Podlasie. They believed in the motto of the project and followed us.

Community Chronicles: Celebrating Glob/Loc Heroes Meath Community Rural and Social Development Partnership Limited, Ireland “The last Wonderful Co-Innovation Lab was a vibrant and collaborative space dedicated to celebrating the stories of local heroes in county Meath, drawing inspiration from their remarkable journeys to co-create solutions. The Co-Innovation Lab cultivates a rich tapestry of ideas

We will never forget this great support. We would like to thank everyone and hope that our joint activities in StayOn project have a great impact on society and will improve the situation of young people in our community.”

to address pressing challenges and contribute to the greater good by honouring heroes' accomplishments from various, primarily vulnerable backgrounds.

Photo: Natalia Truszkowska from the Polish Farm Advisory and Training Centre with Magdalena Mrozek from Social Integration Centre at the L Foundation in Łomża.

The exceptional nature of the Co-innovation Lab lies in its commitment to inclusivity and diversity, exemplified by the active participation of a broad spectrum of individuals. It intentionally incorporates voices from traditionally marginalised groups, such as young people from the traveller's community, refugees, and those with special needs. The lab's emphasis on inclusivity makes it a beacon of inspiration, showcasing the transformative power of collaboration that transcends boundaries and !27

Regional Funds Online Magazine embraces the strength found in the collective wisdom of a truly diverse group of participants.”

attended the course. Thanks to this opportunity, he improved his language skills and gained the knowledge needed to start his own entrepreneurial venture. Obtaining the driver's license was a tangible achievement that marked a moment of great joy and a significant step forward in his life and opened up new possibilities and opportunities. Right after, the young person confided in us his next goal: aiming for a degree. This story epitomizes the strength of learning and self-determination. Thanks to the Italian for Foreigners and Entrepreneurship course, the young migrant not only acquired practical skills but also gained confidence in himself and his abilities. His desire to pursue a degree demonstrates that our support and investment in individuals can generate tangible and lasting changes in people's lives.”

You can learn more about the value of collaboration in the BB Consulting upcoming Community Shapers Playbook! In the playbook, we gathered important insights on nurturing potential, interdependence, and especially project culture and management & lessons learned in the StayOn project partnership. The topic of collaboration will also be discussed in the academic book by Giulia Parola, Ph.D. Collaborating in European projects. For more news on what we are up to check-out our website Prepared by BB Consulting team StayOn Project A Milestone Toward a Bright Future Association Atis, Italy “During the Italian for Foreigners and Entrepreneurship course, we had the privilege of witnessing an inspiring moment of determination and ambition, showcasing that the path of learning and personal growth can open doors and propel individuals to achieve even higher milestones. A determined young migrant, aspiring to build a better future, wholeheartedly !28

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I always wanted to be a #girlboss – learn Ola's story What were your main motivations and inspirations when choosing this particular path for your business? Very nice question! First of all, the motivation came from within, I love HR, coaching and conducting training. I feel like a fish out of water in all this. Human resources management (how archaic it sounds;), coaching and training give me the opportunity to be close to people, and this is extremely important to me. Have you always dreamed about it, or did the idea arise spontaneously? The idea was spontaneous, but I always wanted to be a #girlboss. What does your job look like on a daily basis? Every day I do what I love: I meet extremely interesting people, support them in their development, lead them to a previously set goal. "Every day I do what I love: I meet extremely interesting people, I support them in their development, I lead them to a previously set goal." – says Aleksandra Borowska, a graduate of the Young Entrepreneurs Succeed! program, who today runs her own coaching company. Get to know her story. Ola, you have recently started your own coaching company. Please tell us in what scope you operate. Hi! My company actually has three legs on which it stands. These are broadly understood HR services, e.g. employee recruitment, building positive candidate experiences, or planning onboarding and offboarding. The second leg is training: I am a Certified Process Communication Model Trainer, MaxieDISC consultant, Design Thinking moderator and mediator. The last leg are the coaching sessions mentioned in your question, I focus on career topics with a touch of personal life.

Please tell us what your situation was like before joining the program implemented by the Youth Business Poland Foundation. I remember that before the program, I was still in college. I knew for many years that I wanted to be my own boss, but I lacked: a) self-confidence that I can handle it, b) funds to start a company, c) an idea on how to take care of it all and move forward. What did your participation in the YES! program give you? – Young Entrepreneurs Succeed? First of all, it helped me sort out topics related to running a business in Poland. I think my anxiety has shrunk too.


Regional Funds Online Magazine What has been the greatest difficulty for you so far in developing your own business? Definitely: SALE! Why? The answer is simple. I grew up in a small town and came out with some limiting beliefs about money. It took me a while to unblock myself, so to speak. When you think about a breakthrough moment in developing your business, what comes to your mind first? When I became a lecturer at WSB Merito University - my dream came true. I felt the wind in my sails, because sharing knowledge in an academic way was my huge dream. What are your future business plans? I would like to stabilize sales and scale as much as possible. What do you think most determines your success when starting your own business? In my opinion: humility, perseverance and perseverance. Or maybe you have a “recipe for success”? What advice would you give to yourself who is just starting your own business? I would only tell myself one thing: Ola, you are enough, take action! You can find Ola's company here: Facebook Instagram YES! Project


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“Inequalities, Youth and the Labour Market. NEETS in Southern Europe” Upcoming Book Being co-authored by researchers of the YOUTHShare Project, this book examines the socio-economic and labor market paths of young NEETs, particularly migrants and women, in the disadvantaged regions of Mediterranean Southern Europe - focusing on island, coastal, and peripheral areas of Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and Spain. It combines both quantitative and qualitative research methods to provide a thorough understanding, highlighting the impact of space and spatial patterns on NEET issues, and effectively connecting precariousness and social exclusion with geography and spatial inequalities across different scales. The book is relevant to a diverse audience, including those interested in human geography, sociology, and migration studies, as well as social scientists exploring issues such as poverty, socio-spatial injustices, social exclusion, and precariousness. It's also beneficial for postgraduate students in these fields, and it is serving as a complementary resource in social science methodology and theory courses for both graduate and postgraduate students. Anna Saroukou YOUTHShare Project

Coming soon! The “Inequalities, Youth and the Labour Market. NEETS in Southern Europe” book will be released on the 21st of May 2024 by Routledge. Preorders will be available on April 30th 2024, with shipments commencing post-release. !31

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TJENI Hackathon: Pioneering Digital Solutions for Human Rights in Justice On 18-19 November, the Council of Europe TJENI project held an insightful hackathon titled “Digital Future of Justice”, focused on the development of digital solutions to streamline the indexing and categorisation of judicial texts with human rights tags.

Head of Transversal Challenges and Multilateral Projects Task Force Division of the Council of Europe, Judge of the TJENI Hackathon

The hackathon brought together a diverse group of 29 participants from six teams, made up of students and researchers from Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Romania. These teams were reinforced by six mentors-experts in technology and law. The participants’ diverse backgrounds in legal tech, software development, machine learning, data science, user experience design and legal expertise catalysed collaborative efforts and fruitful brainstorming sessions. "It is a really nice competition; we get to know each other and our different backgrounds. I am really excited given that it is my first project related to Artificial Intelligence and I can already see how much I evolve in this combined domain of legal and IT" – Adrian Onacă, participant from Romania, TJENI Hackathon Following a demonstration of the six projects developed during the Hackathon, the jury declared Norway as the winner of the competition. The winning project was evaluated on the basis of criteria such as innovation, feasibility, applicability, tool performance, scalability and compliance with data security and privacy standards. Romania and Poland came 2nd and 3rd respectively. "I am confident that the solutions to the challenge proposed during the Hackathon can lay the ground for an easier use of case law databases at the national level and for their linking to the relevant human rights standards of the European Court of Human Rights" – Tigran Karapetyan, !32

Regional Funds Online Magazine The competition not only encouraged technological ingenuity but also highlighted the pivotal role of multidisciplinary collaboration in developing solutions that uphold human rights within the justice system. The Council of Europe is committed to creating opportunities for students and researchers to use technology to enhance human rights protection and raise awareness among judges, lawyers, and other legal professionals about the European Convention on Human Rights. The project “Foster Transparency of Judicial Decisions and Enhancing the National Implementation of the ECHR” is implemented by the Council of Europe and funded by the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation. Foster Transparency of Judicial Decisions and Enhancing the National Implementation of the ECHR Project


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We did it! Celebrating Five Successful Years of RAISE Youth It all started with the analysys of the situation in rural regions of 4 target countries. Economic structure of rural regions was changing and there was a need to create more sustainable models of agro-food production in rural areas in order to stop economic decline and depopulation. Young people were especially affected by this problem as it directly affects the possibility of their independence, future planning, building their own skills and competences.

After five years of successful implementation in Bulgaria, Croatia, Spain and Romania, a final conference of the RAISE Youth project took place this December in Croatia. Overall objective of the RAISE Youth was to contribute to providing decent and productive work for youth through social innovation in rural areas of 4 EU countries and to pilot and promote an innovative RAISE model of (self)employment for NEETs based on sustainable agri-business in 4 rural regions of EU with high unemployment rates and depopulation. Finally we can say – We did it! It was never easy but with the support of donors, fund operator, local stakeholders and with dedicated work of all partners RAISE Youth surpassed all of the initial target indicators and has laid the groundwork for future initiatives.

RAISE Youth created a sustainable transnational framework to pilot and promote an innovative RAISE model with rural NEETs and established RAISE DEMO centers as training, demonstration and production centers in rural areas facing depopulation. The RAISE Youth DEMO Centers have been conceived as “collaborative spaces for open experimentation”. The particularities, challenges and strength of each territory have played a prominent role in the conceptualization of the Centers. This is the reason why they have been designed while keeping in mind a global perspective that can be adapted to a local context, which makes it replicable in different areas. Through the identification of new NEETs, involvement in various types of trainings, mentoring and learning, work and psycho-social support, more than 3600 NEETs benefited from the project. However, RAISE Youth did not only focus on the tangible results and numbers, rather, one of the main objectives was to achieve the sustainability. Through networking nationally and translationally, policy dialogues, exchanges between countries, creating tourist applications, web platforms for crowdsourcing, use of smart farming, new technologies combined with multi-generational mentoring and family and individual learning RAISE contributed to the development of a new eco-system in the rural areas. !34

Regional Funds Online Magazine During the final conference the RAISE Youth team was proud to hear support and acknowledgement from the EEA and Norway Grants Financial Mechanism Office, Fund Operators from Ecorys Poland and JCP and Norwegian Embassy in Croatia through video messages they prepared especially for this occasion. We seize this opportunity to extend our gratuities to all of them for support and above all friendly approach in dealing with everyday challenges. It was the real-life example of working together for a green, competitive and inclusive Europe! RAISE Youth Project


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Cowork4YOUTH: The final event! and practitioners in coworking spaces and similar alternative institutions working with young people. There were 47 participants in total and 23 organizations representing 7 countries. The first part of the workshop comprised the presentation of each organization’s operations and best practices. This provided a broad snapshot of the varied ideas and methods put into practice across Europe to combat youth unemployment. This exchange of best practices was then complemented by the presentation of Cowork4YOUTH researchers of their findings, providing a great mix and comparison of academic and practical points of view. A similar approach was followed on the second day, only this time the order was reversed: the day began with presentations by Cowork4YOUTH researchers. In the afternoon, the workshop participants went on an informative visit to the POP-Machina Pireaus makerspace. Continuing the exchange of best practices in this new space in Pireaus, provided a great opportunity for discussion, reflection, networking and inspiration. October 2021, the launch of the Cowork4YOUTH project. December 2021, the kick-off, in Athens, Greece. And now, two years later, the final event. Again in Athens, Greece. The circle is about to close. The agenda was filled with 3 days worth of presentations; discussions with stakeholders, academics, and policy makers; workshops of different kinds; and a study visit! The Final Event was made up of two major parts: the two-day Cowork4YOUTH workshop organised by ELARD, titled “Cowork4YOUTH: What are the good practices?”, and the CoworkYOUTH Conference, organised by the Rhodes Project, with the title “Youth Employment in Transition: Regional perspectives within successive crises”. The Cowork4YOUTH Workshop, held at the Romantso venue in the historic centre of Athens, brought together researchers from the project

The 3rd day was dedicated to the Cowork4YOUTH Conference “Youth Employment in Transition: Regional perspectives within successive crises”. It started with addresses by the deputy Governor of the Region of the South Aegean Chara Giasirani, and Antonios Rovolis, director of the Institute of Urban Environment and Human Resources, which is the lead partner of the Cowork4YOUTH project. The next session included addresses by Georgia Tzika, the Head of National Focal Point of the EEA Financial Mechanism, and Francesca Bombarda on behalf of the FO and the Regional Funds Magazine. The next session was about Meeting the projects, where Cowork4YOUTH P.I. Professor Vassilis Avdikos talked about the targets and objectives of the project. In the framework of our synergies policy, two more FYE projects were presented: Eleni Bletsa presented the YES! project and Georgia Lesiova presented YENESIS. !36

Regional Funds Online Magazine The session “Cowork4YOUTH Outputs 1: Contemporary issues in youth employment” included presentations about “Determinants of Youth Employment: Transnational report on employment potential for young people through alternative sectors” by Adele Whelan (ESRI)· the conclusions highlighted that young people “are more likely to be exposed to higher rates of employment” when there are “greater shares of tertiary educated individuals” and that “regional labour markets have higher shares of employees in ‘brown’ sectors” where young people are more likely to “be exposed to lower rates of employment”. The session continued with a presentation on “The long-lasting scar of bad jobs in the Spanish labour market” by Ainhoa Oses Arranz (ISEAK), followed by Kostas Gourzis and Vassiliki Krommyda (NTUA) who presented a paper about “Youth labour in energy in energy regions through successive crises”.

Stay connected with us through our social media: facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn: @Cowork4YOUTH, and visit our website Cowork4YOUTH Project

At the following session “Cowork4YOUTH Outputs 2: Impact of alternative sectors on youth employment”, Dimitris Psarologos (NTUA) made a presentation about “Conducting research based on comprehensise visualisation and analysis platforms: presenting the Cowork4YOUTH Employment Observatory”, Antigoni Papageorgiou (UEHR) talked about the pilot study, its targets, methodology and findings, and Dimitris Manoukas (UEHR) made a presentation on “Youth employment and engagement policies and collaborative workspaces: case studies from Spain, Denmark, Italy and Ireland”. The session “Recommendations for Youth Employment in a changing environment” included a presentation of recommendations on skills gap by Manolis Boniatis (RP) and a presentation of recommendations on alternative sectors by Sophia Kanaouti (RP). The Cowork4YOUTH Conference concluded with a round table discussion on the issues raised by the findings presented earlier during the day. The round table comprised: Dr. Aggelos Panayiotopoulos, Senior Lecturer in International Tourism Management at Liverpool John Moores University; Dr. Maria Karamessini, Professor of Labour Economics and Economics of the Welfare State at Panteion University; and Nikolaos Ntavos, Manager of Bioeconomy and Environment Cluster of Western Macedonia. !37

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‘StayOn’ the past … to build the future! The experiences of young participants into projects’ implementation was just a taste of how good projects can create innovative and, above all, concrete solutions. The visit to the beautiful Teatro Massimo, during Christmas’ period and lights, concluded the first day… Follow us to discover the results of this conference. StayOn Project

Within a beautiful Teatro Massimo, the StayOn Project organised as well its closing event. An opportunity to discuss about the past, the lessons learnt, in order to foster positive reflections for the upcoming months. The ‘World Café’ round tables, going from raising awareness about the needs of youth through new channels, integrating coaching in organizational and community development, young migrants and refugees and, last but not least, to communicating activities and engaging stakeholders in projects, the first day of the event has been a great opportunity to share experiences and discuss about what can be improved, which are the relevant practices to be included into individuals’ and institutions’ cultural baggage and new approaches. The Staff Unit of the Agricultural Development of Sicily Region was there, together with representatives of Agricultural Institutes and Universities of Sicily. !39

Regional Funds Online Magazine


Regional Funds Online Magazine

The Final Conference of the RAISE Youth project. Insights from Extremadura. This Final Conference has served as an opportunity to finally gather in the same place all the knowledge, resources, tools and results of the RAISE Youth project produced during these five years. From FUNDECYT-PCTEX, we are very proud to see that the conceptualization of the RAISE Youth methodology has reached rural agents and rural youth in places with such disparities as the countries of the Consortium and we could not be happier with the final results of the project. On relation to that, the participation in this Final Conference to the FUNDECYT team has also provide with a wide perspective about how the project and all the resources invested during the project life, has impacted not only in the local level, but also in all the Lika-Senj County. FUNDECYT team had the opportunity finally to be present at the Permaculture Center built up throughout the project life, where we could verify on-site that it is more than an agricultural project. The RAISE Youth DEMO Center in Croatia has become a reference point for students, young entrepreneurs, and a picturesque place for the neighboring farmers, that are getting attracted by the innovative permaculture approach, all the positive benefits that it brings to the improvement of soil quality, and, consequently, on the products grown in this type of agro ecological systems.

Therefore, we hope the seeds that have been planted over the RAISE Youth project, will be blossom in the mood of a systemic change, just like the permaculture principles: by meeting the needs of the present while protecting future development. In closing, if we have to remark something of the whole road traveled, we just have nothing but good words and our earnest congratulations to the Consortium for their work during this project and to the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment for giving us the opportunity to bring our ideas to life and help us to have a real and significant impact in youth all across Extremadura. Sincerely, The RAISE Youth team in Extremadura. RAISE Youth

During our participation in the Final Conference, we also perceive how social innovation principles has been integrated transversally in the inhabitants and young entrepreneurs of Lika-Senj County. The promoters behind success stories, (supported by the project), demonstrated in a reliable manner, that the value added of their business is not only based on their products, but also in the whole community impact.


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BLUE-GREENWAY Capitalisation Final Event 2023 "BLUE-GREENWAY Project Capitalisation Event - Innovative solutions for improving the environmental status of eutrophic and anoxic coastal ecosystems. " The Capitalisation Final Event took place on Tuesday, 24th October 2023, from 09:45 to 16:30 at the premises of the European Public Law Organisation (EPLO), located at 2 Polygnotou and Dioskouron St., Plaka, 10555 Athens. The BLUE-GREEN WAY Capitalisation Event, supported by EEA Grants, was a resounding success in promoting innovative solutions for sustainable environmental management and addressing the complex issues associated with eutrophic and anoxic coastal ecosystems (EACEs). This event, organized by the European Public Law Organisation (EPLO) Circular Economy and Climate Change Institute in collaboration with Interreg Volunteer Youth, served as a vital platform for knowledge-sharing, transcending boundaries to engage individuals and organizations dedicated to environmental sustainability. The event was attended by more than 60 participants, with 40 attending in person and the remainder joining remotely, from 12 countries. They comprehensively covered all critical issues about innovative solutions for improving the environmental status of eutrophic and anoxic coastal, and shared ideas and proposals related to the dissemination of the presented conclusions. Distinguished speakers addressed various facets of environmental sustainability. They explored the transformation of challenges into solutions, with a specific focus on eutrophication and its intersection with circular economy principles, particularly in the context of green procurement systems. A seminar was also conducted, shedding light on the utilization of the Blue-Greenway unified platform for e-procurements. The event emphasized the significance of clusters, living labs, and excellence hubs within the realm of the Twin Transition. Discussions revolved around the role of enterprises in the era of the circular economy,

the imperatives of Climate Neutral Cities in the age of the Green and Blue Economies, the challenges and solutions associated with Circular Economy and the Climate Crisis. Τhe event involved in the discussion the empowerment of youth, the analysis of skills required for the future, and the role of transnational projects. It delved into the critical role of Cohesion Policy in fostering innovation and highlighted the concrete achievements of successful Interreg projects. Moreover, it underscored the vital contribution of Interreg Volunteer Youth in reinforcing cohesion policies and advancing an innovative and sustainable economy. The event also explored the role of the youth in driving the green and digital transition and emphasized the importance of collaboration among interregional students. Towards the conclusion of the Capitalisation event, teams of participants from CRESCENTO project (Interreg ADRION programme) and other initiatives presented innovative ideas in the realms of "green and blue" that hold the potential to materialize into transformative projects. Indicative of the importance of the event were the attendance of Mr. George Kremlis, MoB EPLO, President of Institute of Circular Economy and Climate Change, EPLO, Mr. Gian Luca Bombarda, Fund's Director, EEA & Norway Grants and Dr. Ioannis Sitaras, General Secretary of the Greek Chemists Association, Director of the Laboratories Accreditation Division of Hellenic Accreditation System. Among others took part Mrs. Alexia Spyridonidou, Business Development Manager of Institute of Circular Economy and Climate Change, EPLO, Prof. Ierotheos Zacharias, Dpt. of Civil Engineering, University of Patras, Mr. Apostolos Karagiannakos, Head of Sustainable Development Department of the Greek Natural environment and climate change Agency (NECCA), Mr. Charis Xiarchis, Civil Engineer, Project Manager BLUEGREENWAY, University of Patras, Mrs. Panayiota Venetsanou, Environmental Consultant, Atlantis Environment and Innovation, Prof. George Zalidis, Carbonica Hub of Excellence, Lab Director of Remote Sensing, Spectroscopy and G.I.S., Dpt. of Agriculture of the School of !42

Regional Funds Online Magazine Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources, Aristotle University, Mr. Spyros Ignatiadis, Strategic Planning & Operations Manager - IDS - IDEA Group, Strategic planning advisor & EU coordinator of the Chamber of Small and Medium Industries of Thessaloniki - VETH, f. General Manager of the Greek Exporters Association - SEVE and Association of Information Technology Companies of Northern Greece-SEPVE, Prof. Simone Bastianoni, Environmental and Cultural Heritage Chemistry, University of Siena, Dr. Eleftheria Klontza, Environmental Scientist, University of the Aegean, Member of Board, Greek Natural environment and climate change Agency (NECCA), Mr. Dimitrios Panopoulos, Head of Labour market Analysis Unit, Greek Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Mr. Athanasios Kalogeras, Research Director at the Industrial Systems Institute of the Athena Research and Innovation Center, Mrs. Milena Pallotta, IVY Project Officer, Mr. Ioannis Mardikis, IVY Volunteer, Interreg Euro-MED Community4Innovation Project, Mr. Aggelos Kokkinis, f. president of the Board of European Students of Technology (BEST). Overall, the BLUE-GREENWAY Capitalisation Event proved to be a highly positive and enriching experience for all participants, and the solutions proposed through the project have the potential to make a significant difference in addressing the problem of eutrophication in coastal ecosystems. All the sessions of the BLUE-GREENWAY Capitalisation Event have been uploaded on demand on the Circle the Med platform. BLUE-GREENWAY Project


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User4GeoEnergy Project final conference The implementation of the substantive program established in the User4GeoEnergy project has been completed, and the achieved effects and results were presented at the conference held on 21 September 2023 in Krakow. The final conference ending the project was attended by guests and people who wanted to get acquainted with the results and share their comments and experience. The conference was an open meeting, open to anyone who found the project's topic useful or simply interesting. Regardless of sending individual invitations to the conference, an open invitation was also published in a national industry magazine (District Heating, Heating, Ventilation No. 8/2023). The meeting was attended by over 30 people, representing the target group of project recipients, i.e. the scientific community (researchers, Ph.D. students), the technical community (operators of heating systems, including geothermal systems), and the local government community (representatives of local governments and private). During the conference, the assumptions, methodology, and results of the project were presented in detail.

The original goal of increasing the efficiency of the use of geothermal energy and reducing the consumption of conventional fuels, without compromising comfort for users, has become even more relevant after Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Energy security, previously an important but rather theoretical problem, has become a very real problem. The use of geothermal energy resources is one of the elements of the

increasing independence of some heating systems from the consumption of imported fuels. The results achieved as part of the project confirm the possibility of significantly increasing the efficiency of geothermal systems, which is the result of changes in the requirements that the final user requires on the energy source. This mainly concerns the requirements for reducing the required supply temperature of heating installations. One of the goals was to quantitatively analyze the profitability of matching the recipient's requirements to the possibilities of a geothermal source. It was assumed that available and currently used technologies could be used for this purpose. The achieved results confirm the sense of this type of activity. However, achieving positive effects requires cooperation between the operators of the energy source, the energy system, and the final recipient.

The adopted strategy assumes covering the required investment outlays, bearing mainly by the energy recipient, through savings in the costs of energy production by the source and reducing losses on its transmission in the transmission and distribution system. It has been quantitatively demonstrated that this configuration of the energy system allows to achieve the intended effect. Rising prices for covering energy needs, especially in the case of heating networks, may motivate its operators to cooperate with consumers.


Regional Funds Online Magazine An alternative may be a decline in interest in district heating, resulting from the gradual disconnection of some consumers from it. The IT tools developed as part of the User4GeoEnergy project, which were also discussed during the meeting, enable the inclusion of the most important factors enabling the assessment of the profitability of technical activities. One of the tools, easy to use, the so-called U4GEcalc calculator is available as an online tool to help you make preliminary estimates. The U4GEfm tool, covering a wider spectrum of parameters, was tested using the database developed as part of the project. Both tools were presented and their principles of operation were discussed during the conference. The conference also shared the effects of cooperation in the exchange of knowledge and experience between project participants. This is also an intangible, but very important, effect of the implementation of the User4GeoEnergy project.

for interested entities. GDHSH will perform a consultative and advisory function. GDHSH consultation points will be opened in Kraków, Bratislava, and Szeged. The duration of their operation will depend on the interest of external entities. One of the tools used in the work of GDHSH points will be U4GEcalc. The Project “Improving the energy efficiency of geothermal energy utilisation by adjusting the user characteristics“ is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation, grant number 2018-1-0502. More about User4GeoEnergy project: (Project manager) User4GeoEnergy Project

According to the assumptions of the project, after its completion the socalled Geothermal District Heating Service Hub (GDHSH), the aim of which will be substantive assistance in the implementation of the project effects


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Reclaim Our Civil Space! comes to an end, but the work goes on! Where do we stand with the European civil society strategy? – was the title of the conference Ökotárs and its partners held on 12 October in Brussels, in the EFTA House. The event, attended by about 60 representatives of civil society organisations from Central Europe, Brussels-based European networks and EU institutions, served a double goal: • to celebrate the successful conclusion of the 3.5-years long Reclaim Our Civil Space! project supported by the Fund for Regional Cooperation of the EEA & Norway Grants • to review ongoing European policy initiatives that help defend civil space and discuss about their future perspectives with the help of civil society experts and policymakers. With such ambitious goals, the agenda was densely packed with presentations and panel discussions also involving the audience. After the opening remarks of Tori Hoven representing the host, the Financial Mechanism Office, the first session comprised of a series of pecha-kucha presentations by each project partner. For those not familiar with the term: this presentation format originates from Japan (its name meaning ‘chitchat’), and is based on a series of 20 slides each shown (automatically) for 20 seconds, and containing mostly images with little or no text. The speaker has this approximately 7 minutes to deliver his/her presentation against the slideshow’s background. In this way, information sharing is dynamic and digestible even in larger quantities – in this case the 10 presentations covering the activities and achievements in the 8 project countries could provide a broad overview of what happened and with what results (despite that not all of us being proficient in pechakucha). As the project was implemented in the framework of the EEA & Norway Grants, we continued with this topic after the first coffee break. Asmund

Eriksen of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs detailed why supporting civil society in Europe is an important matter for his country (and the other two donors, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and shared some hopeful new regarding its future continuation. Ionut Sibian of the Romanian Civil Society Development Foundation and Peter Medved of the Slovakian Ekopolis (besides being partners of the ROCS project, both organisations are intermediaries of the EEA & Norway Grants Active Citizens’ Fund, too) reflected on Mr Eriksen’s points and discussed potential improvements to the Grants’ operation. In the next session we moved to discussing EU and civil society: first Waltraud Heller of the Fundamental Right Agency presented FRA’s latest survey update on civil space in 2023 – this was the first time any audience could hear about the results, just freshly published. Her passionate recounting of the continuing difficulties and obstacles civil society organisations face in many EU Member States was followed by a thorough overview of recent and current policy developments launched by the European Commission, including the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values funding program and the recently published draft directive on European Cross-border Associations by Joachim Herrmann, member of the Cabinet of Commissioner Didier Reynders. These policy dossiers were discussed in more detail and from the civil society point of view after lunch by experts of European networks in an allfemale panel, more specifically: • Hanna Surmatz from Philanthropy Europe Association introduced the Social Economy Action Plan and showed how and why it can be useful for philanthropic organisations and broader civil society • Giada Negri of the European Civic Forum presented the follow-up of the Commission’s December 2022 report on the implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, specifically devoted to civil space !46

Regional Funds Online Magazine

Carlotta Besozzi of Civil Society Europe talked about the currently discussed Defence of Democracy package, and the potential threats it may have for civil society Linda Ravo of the European Civil Liberties Union discussed the annual Rule of Law Report and cycle, and how civil society can give input to and use the output of this instrument Francesca Fanucci from European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law gave an overview of the status of the SLAPP directive, aiming to defend civil society and journalists against the malignant impacts of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

The last session of the day looked towards the future, that is, the European elections coming up next June. First Riccardo Rossella of the Social Platform introduced the manifesto and the aims of the coordinated European civil society campaign – its main demands being the adoption of a civil society strategy and an agreement on civil dialogue. Members of the two largest political groups in the Parliament: Andrzej Halicki of the European People’s Party and prof. René Repasi from Socialists & Democrats then reflected on these asks and talked about their group’s views and attitudes towards civil society. The conference day ended informally, with a dinner to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Reclaim Our Civil Space! project. However, the work started under this umbrella will continue both on the national level helping build civil society capacity in Central Europe and on the European, advocating towards a comprehensive civil society strategy. While is hard to summarise the day’s lessons in a few sentences, one thing was clear: there is a growing understanding and concern about shrinking civil space and its consequences in the EU, and much has been done by the institutions to counter the trend both in terms of monitoring, engagement, funding and legislation. However, there is still “unfinished business”, important steps to be taken until and beyond the elections in 2024. Civil society must remain vigilant and active to see these ongoing initiatives through their actual realisation and practical impacts.

Please find attached the following presentations from the conference: EEA funds Panel FRA civic space presentation Reclaim Oct 2023 ROCS event 12-10 CS4EU campaign Reclaim Our Civil Space! Project


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Reclaim Our Civil Space! Project


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Every good thing must come to an end Every good thing must come to an end and this applies to our project as well. The project Uncorking rural heritage: indigenous production of fermented beverages for local cultural and environmental sustainability has been one of the projects that has inspired people. Even though the start was rough due to Covid 19 restrictions, we managed to bring to realisation everything that we had planned and even more. The biggest challenge during the project was how to perform all the planned activities while the whole world was shut down? Only with hard work and diligent people we managed to fulfil all the obligations. The breaking point happened as soon as we managed to meet live for the first time. Even if we are living in digital era, we still need personal contact. Our project actually bloomed after the first live Consortium meeting in October 2022. And after that, all is history. ” I took over the role of info-comm officer from my coworker in the middle of 2022 and immediately started breathing with the project. The people, the topic and the geographical areas that were addressed in the project are inspirational. We managed to visit all the involved

countries and see the progress, the similarities and the differences, and learn from each other's good practices. We are parting with a smile on our faces and with a fertile ground for future collaboration. I enjoyed working as an info-comm officer for this project and I look forward to similar tasks in the future. We managed to deliver articles for every issue of Regional Cooperation Magazine and still, even though the project is reaching its end, we have many topics to write about.” says Tanja Dimitrijević, the European project Coordinator at the Municipality of Ajdovščina. Photo 1: Visiting Norway; Photo credit: Tanja Dimitrijević, Municipality of Ajdovščina; •

Photo 2: Project partners and the UNG students in Barovo, North Macedonia


Regional Funds Online Magazine Photo 4: Project partners in Vipava Valley, Slovenia; Photo credit: Polonca Vodopivec

Photo 3: Visiting the wine cellar and vineyards of the Faculty of Tourism and Rural Development of Požega, Croatia; Photo credit: Tanja Dimitrijević Photo 5: Spring of Tourism, Vipava Valley, Slovenia; Photo credit: Tanja Dimitrijević During the project we achieved several important results. We set up methods for the determination of aromatic compounds in wines and cider by gas chromatography at the University of Nova Gorica, as well as a sensory panel in Vipava and Požega. In addition, at the University of Nova Gorica, the existing teaching capacity was upgraded by the MiTeam platform. The Norwegian partners set up a Cider R&D Support Centre in Hardanger, which represents the first technical platform for monitoring the quality of Hardanger cider. To this end, a sensory panel for cider evaluation and laboratory protocols for the determination of chemical parameters was set up. A large-scale terroir study was carried out in North Macedonia with the characterization of vineyards and, by using digital technology, disease control monitoring in the vineyards as well as grape ripening monitoring were introduced.


Regional Funds Online Magazine One of the project outcomes is the e-Tikves platform and the establishment of a soil analysis laboratory. The Faculty of Tourism and Rural Development purchased equipment for processing different clones of Graševina vine and analytical equipment, and the Municipality of Ajdovščina installed distillation equipment at the Brje Learning Centre (Photo 6).

further cooperation in several fields, especially in the field of agriculture, tourism, culture. etc. The start of this collaboration is being reflected in new project ideas, one of which is the Agrotur+ project, where the Norwegian partners have presented their good cider production practices. Author: Tanja Dimitrijević, Municipality of Ajdovščina Uncorking rural heritage Project

The dissemination of the new gained knowledge was carried out in the form of various seminars and workshops for students and producers. Both faculties provided their students at first, second and doctoral level with the opportunity to participate in practical activities outside the regular curriculum that were carried out as part of the project. A number of exchange and educational visits were carried out in all 4 countries with the aim of transferring good practices. This very partnership formed by different academic and research organisations, a cider producers' association, local and regional authorities as well as a development agency has provided not only a solid basis for successful results of the project, but also a fertile ground for possible !51

Regional Funds Online Magazine

The Blue Generation Project is ending soon but its legacy will continue The Blue Generation Project is ending soon but its legacy will continue under the Blue Generation Federation. The Federation will carry on and enhance the impact of the Blue Generation Project, utilizing the tools that have been developed and connecting Youth with employers, training institutions and various organizations in the European Blue Economy. The Blue Career Job platform, that allows young people to find job opportunities in the Blue economy all over EU and the Blue Career Guide presenting the possible Blue Career paths are available for the Blue Generation to explore and plan their career are a few of the. The Blue Career Courses we have created, such as "Intro into Shipping", "Nautical English", "Boat Cleaning" and "Boat and Ship Assistant Carpenter" provide the young people with practical skills and knowledge that enable them to enter the Blue Economy job market, even if they have limited prior experience in the field. The courses are tailored to the specific needs of the maritime industry and equip the attendees with skills that are immediately applicable in the industry. Overall, the training courses offer a practical and accessible way for young people to pursue fulfilling careers in the Blue Economy, contributing to both their personal growth and the growth of the industry. The 6 360° Virtual Reality (VR) videos we produced in all partner languages, show the actual environment and the daily activities of the Blue Economy professionals in each sector, acquainting the viewer with the duties that are performed by each role and also the tools that are being used, thus giving the feeling of the actual job. Most of the young people may not be aware of the diverse job opportunities within the Blue Economy. The VR videos showcase a wide range of professions: from an underwater robotics technician, a skipper and a marine conservationist to an aquaculture technician, a captain of a fishing touristic boat, and even

an engineer who produces shelves from algae. They give exposure to career options that young men and women might not consider otherwise. They also create a sense of purpose and passion for protecting and utilizing marine resources sustainably. While traditional internships or job shadowing experiences may have logistical and financial barriers, VR videos eliminate many of these obstacles, inspire and motivate young people to explore career options in the Blue Economy, opening up a global job market and encouraging mobility. 10 blueTALKs , real-time on-line round-table discussions, were held by all project partners in 2023, with professionals from the blue economy, from the government, the academia and the industry, to discuss the advantages, challenges and prospects of each sector in each country, the demand for specific jobs and the opportunities that exist for young people who are looking for new challenges. Attendants asked questions and the panelists responded sharing their experience and knowledge, providing information about the qualifications that someone needs to enter the sector and give advice to young people who are preparing their future in the blue economy. In addition, a series of 100+ interesting interviews with professionals who work in the blue economy have been conducted. They are called “blueFocus” because each of these interviews is focused on a particular blue profession, i.e. a diver, a drone technician, an aquaculture technician, a captain of a fishing boat operating in fishing tourism, a skipper, a mechanical engineer who produces material from algae, etc. The various professionals share their experiences, their personal journey in the sector, and gave their advice to the future Blue Generations.


Regional Funds Online Magazine

The Blue Generation Project is not just about the blue economy sectors, it is about painting a canvas of possibilities for everyone, regardless of their training background. By bringing together young people and the industry that seeks for potential and talent, we can build a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow. Together, with a team dedicated to fostering a more accessible and equitable future, we strive to make a lasting impact on education and employment. Blue Generation Project


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SEPAL Project in Brussels: priorities for youth NEETs in Europe The SEPAL Conference, marking a significant milestone in supporting youth NEETs in Europe, successfully took place at the European Parliament in Brussels on November 6, 2023, organized by the Bucovina Institute for Social Partnership Association. Under the auspices of the European Year of Skills 2023, the event brought together experts, European decision-makers, and representatives of partner organisations within the SEPAL project, hosted by MEP Dragoș Pîslaru, also President of the Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion Committee of the European Commission.

The event held at the European Parliament served as a focal point for discussions centred on supporting youth NEETs and their integration into the labour market. It not only united voices from various fields but also acted as a catalyst for concrete changes. Special attention was given to the development and validation of skills, as well as the need for workplace learning programs through paid internships and apprenticeships, reinforcing the commitment to building a society that promotes not only equal opportunities but also appropriate support for every community member. The SEPAL Conference brought together over 50 participants from 28 organizations and institutions from countries such as Romania, Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Latvia, Norway, Belgium, and Italy. Among the participants were representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission. The event saw the presence of experts in education, vocational training, social enterprises, and youth employment, creating a conducive framework for the exchange of experiences and the development of innovative strategies.


Regional Funds Online Magazine Special guests who spoke during the conference included Dragoș Pîslaru, the event host and Member of the European Parliament for the Renew Europe Group, co-chair of Reper, and President of the Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion Committee, addressing the priorities of the European Union for youth. Nora Mehsen, representing the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment, sector officer and program manager for transnational cooperation, equality, justice, and decent work at the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), introduced the Youth Employment Program, emphasizing the potential replication at the European level and the importance of workplace learning through paid internships for youth NEETs, Beatrice Biolcati Rinaldi from the European Commission (DG EMPL, Unit B3 - Vocational Education & Training Unit), presented Pact4Skills and EAfA (European Alliance for Apprenticeships), Bucovina Institute for Social Partnership Association being an active member of both initiatives. Grethe Haugoy, expert in lifelong learning, employment and inclusion, analysed the innovative SEPAL evidencebased model and the WISE concept (Work Integration Social Enterprise), while Joao Albuquerque, Member of the European Parliament and member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), emphasised the importance of paid apprenticeships, traineeships and internships for young people in Europe. Felicitas Kresimon, General Secretary of Social Firms Europe CEFEC, presented the resolution signed at the 37th Annual Social Firms Europe CEFEC Conference by delegates from 17 EU member countries, including the SEPAL consortium, addressed to the European Commission. This resolution calls for the creation of an Action Plan to facilitate the socio-professional inclusion of marginalized groups, such as youth NEETs, migrants, refugees, people with disabilities, and other disadvantaged groups in the EU labour market. The partner organisations within the SEPAL project, namely the Bucovina Institute for Social Partnership Association from Romania, Fundació Privada Pere Closa from Spain, Žmogiškųjų išteklių stebėsenos ir plėtros biuras, VšĮ from Lithuania, KoiSPE Diadromes/ΚΟΙΣΠΕ Διαδρομές from Greece, and KOMES Fundacja from Poland, presented significant results achieved in the project. In their presentations, the five partners strongly emphasized the importance of collective efforts in creating an inclusive

and supportive environment for vulnerable youth, having a sustainable impact on building a fair and inclusive society. The conference conveyed a strong message from the President of the Bucovina Institute for Social Partnership Association – Lead Partner of the SEPAL Project, Mr. Petru-Vasile Gafiuc, advocating for a solidary Europe and universal access to workplace learning opportunities for youth NEETs. In light of the alarming increase in the number of youth NEETs in Europe, the urgent need for measures to prevent a significant rise in unemployment within this category was highlighted. Concrete proposals discussed at the event included promoting workplace learning, improving communication between educational institutions and employment offices, and providing funding for youth employment support services. The importance of investing in education, developing workplace skills, and supporting green initiatives was also emphasised. In this context, a specific call was made for the establishment of a European Fund dedicated to apprenticeship programs, flexible and adaptable to local conditions. Furthermore, active involvement of social enterprises in implementing apprenticeship programs, considering their existing resources and social purpose, was recommended. The SEPAL project, spanning five years, stands as a poignant example of effective collaboration among five European organisations from Romania, Spain, Lithuania, Greece, and Poland. The obtained results include: • 2,706 youth NEETs registered on the SEPAL platform. • 870 youth NEETs receiving employment support services, with 464 accessing apprenticeships and learning on the job stages and 259 successfully securing employment. • 5 WISE experts playing a significant role in supporting and guiding youth NEETs, making significant contributions to their personal and professional development. • 30 mentors/coaches trained in three 5-day sessions in Poland, Spain, and Romania, strengthening the support network for youth NEETs. • Over 50 local, regional, and national organizations and institutions from the five partner countries forming Local Stakeholders Committees, providing extensive support in their respective communities. !55

Regional Funds Online Magazine • •

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The SEPAL platform designed to facilitate access for youth NEETs and specialists to useful services and resources. Resources such as the Evaluation Book, Apprenticeship Book, SEPAL White Book, SEPAL Coalition, Work-based Training Book, and Innovation Book developed to share best practices and support youth NEETs. Three academies for youth NEETs in collaboration with Social Firms Europe CEFEC in Romania, Lithuania, and Greece, highlighting the importance of social entrepreneurship in their development. Certification of approximately 300 NEETs in courses dedicated to improving digital and entrepreneurial skills. The use of virtual reality (VR) in providing employment support services, offering youth NEETs a realistic and practical experience in various fields. 10 youth NEETs receiving support to develop their own businesses, accessing funding opportunities from the European Social Fund (ESF).

Creation of synergies between 25 projects funded by the EEA and Norwegian Grants Youth Employment Program and the exchange of best practices, organizing 10 online events and 3 face-to-face meetings under the series "Let's NEET together!".

These results demonstrate the commitment and positive impact of the project in transforming the lives of these young people, creating new opportunities and perspectives in today's society. The SEPAL Conference highlighted the importance of European collaboration in addressing social and employment issues. It was a highly significant event, bringing to the forefront the need to strengthen support for youth NEETs throughout Europe. Alina Gafița (Adomnicăi), Communication Manager SEPAL Project


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Fit for 55 policy package to boost green transition: An interesting reading on a stress-test of the impact of an emblematic, and quite needed, EU policy on employment. An insightful research report on the Impact on EU Employment deriving from the policies required to achieve the green transition by 2030, was recently released by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound).1 It is well known that one of the core strategic objectives of the EU is to ensure that Europe becomes the first climate-neutral continent, with net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this objective, EU policymakers adopted the Fit for 55 policy package in 2021, which contained more ambitious intermediate decarbonization objectives aimed at reaching a 55% emission reduction target by 2030. In the Eurofound report, projections from a global macroeconomic model of how this complex policy package may affect the sectoral and occupational structure of employment in the EU by 2030, and the impacts across different regions and countries, are being provided. A core finding is that the employment impacts of Fit for 55 are likely to be marginally positive at EU aggregate level but will vary across countries, regions and sectors based on their reliance on carbon-intensive industries on the one hand and their readiness to take advantage of greening opportunities on the other. Carbon neutrality is an ambitious objective that requires large investments sustained over time. It will require dramatic changes in the way we source and use energy. The impacts of the policies required to achieve the green transition will vary considerably among sectors and will affect countries’

income and employment levels and the composition of employment, creating employment in some sectors and destroying it in others. In the EU’s aim to become carbon-neutral by 2050, 2030 is a critical staging post. In 2021, EU policymakers adopted more ambitious intermediate decarbonization objectives than before, and updated policies accordingly. The principal objective of the Fit for 55 policy package is to achieve a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2030 (the prior target was a 40% reduction). This is a complex package of proposals that operates on many fronts; it extends the scope of the EU Emissions Trading System, revises upward targets for renewable energy use and energy efficiency, puts in place a carbon border adjustment mechanism and tightens emissions standards for cars and vehicles. The package is also an evolving set of policy commitments. For example, in 2023 the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament have agreed provisionally to further strengthen the contribution of renewables to overall energy consumption by 2030 (to 42.5% from 40 indicated in 2021, up from 32% in 2018). Anticipating the impact of developing EU climate policy on the composition of employment in EU labour markets provides essential data to policymakers tasked with ensuring that the green transition is a just transition.

1 Eurofound (2023), Fit for 55 climate package: Impact on EU employment by 2030, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. !57

Regional Funds Online Magazine If we were to summarize some key findings of the report, these could be summed up as follows: •

Most projections of the impact of decarbonization policies on employment at an EU level show very modest net gains, rarely much more than 0.5% compared with the baseline. A net 204,000 jobs are projected to be created in the EU Member States as a result of the Fit for 55 package, in addition to the baseline employment growth of 6.7 million net new jobs between 2019 and 2030. The employment effects vary across regions and countries based on their reliance on carbon-intensive industries on the one hand and their capacity to take advantage of greening opportunities on the other. Negative employment effects are more likely in some central and eastern European countries (for example, Poland and Romania) and regions with relatively high shares of workers still working in extractive industries; while positive employment effects are projected in southern European countries (in particular, Spain and Italy) and regions with natural endowments (wind and sun), developed energy efficiency infrastructure and capacity to manufacture renewable energy equipment. With regard to jobs in both energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy capacity development, the sector likely to benefit most in terms of employment is construction. There will also be increased employment in market services as relative prices favour a shift in the structure of the economy towards ‘cleaner’ sectors, reinforcing the employment shift to the services sector. While employment overall is projected to improve towards 2030, the small boost to employment forecast for Fit for 55 tends to occur in medium-low and medium wage jobs that do not require tertiary qualifications.

Even though overall employment projections for 2030 arising from Fit for 55 are mildly positive, the absolute employment impacts of Fit for 55

policies are higher in the regions negatively affected – for example, in Polish and Romanian regions with a relatively high share of employment in mining and extractive sectors – while positive employment impacts are more dispersed across regions. This supports the rationale for regionfocused funding of supportive measures, such as the territorial just transition plans. Projected employment impacts are sensitive to the details of policy implementation. Potentially greater gains in both output and employment may arise in a context of dedicated climate-related fiscal policies where carbon revenues are recycled in order to reduce labour taxes. Such revenues may be also boosted by the retraining necessary to facilitate employment reallocation to less carbon-intensive sectors and occupations. The source of finance for the large capital investment required by the green transition is also an important determinant of whether Fit for 55 policies will be employment-positive or -negative in practice. When funds are available without the need to crowd out existing investment plans, the macroeconomic implications are positive. However, when the financing of greening investments is not loan-based, both output and employment are projected to decline, albeit marginally. Policies aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions will have differential impacts on employment by sector and by occupation, increasing the demand for some jobs and decreasing it for others. The report concludes with the policy pointer that we have to work hand in hand with education, training and employment policies in order to prepare workers with the required skills and competencies to contribute to the collective decarbonization effort. It is at this exact point that it remains to be decided what the contribution of the practitioners providing up/re-skilling services to NEETs shall be at this direction. Yiorgos Alexopoulos (AUA) and Eleni Bletsa (ANKA) YES! Project !58

Regional Funds Online Magazine

The integration of vulnerable groups on the labour market: The Supported Employment – a model to follow In 2018, when we set out on the challenging path of implementing the project “Labour market Employment for young Adults with a Disability LEAD”, co-funded by the EEA and Norway Grants - Fund for Youth Employment, we promised we are going to approach in an innovative way the relations among young adults with disabilities, their parents and tutors, employers, specialists and providers of Supported Employment services. In this respect, we have introduced in Romania, Portugal, and Lithuania a good practice model regarding Supported Employment for people with disabilities, which had proven its viability in the United Kingdom. The Supported Employment is a win-win model, based on a partnership strategy (between the employee, the employer, and the employment service provider), and which it has successfully passed the test of time. In the last five years, we have obtained remarkable results, not only in terms of assumed indicators, which are exceeded, but also especially in terms of the quality and the sustainability of the employment process of the young adults with disabilities and strong relationships built by our team with employers. Why? Because the Supported Employment differs from ordinary models of placement. According to this model, we give time and attention to identify the skills and professional objectives of the young adults, then we prepare them for a job according to their professional training and interests, we help them develop their working skills, attitudes, behaviors and functional abilities to achieve their goals regarding employment. During this process, specialists in psychology, education sciences, socio-psycho-pedagogy and other related fields have provided assistance and counseling to our young beneficiaries. Also, after their employment, we monitor and provide in work and outside work support. In addition to the individual counseling provided, our team regularly organises personal development workshops and group counseling. Moreover, the beneficiaries are constantly involved in volunteering activities.

Another important direction in our work consists in providing informational and emotional support to parents and family members of young adults with disabilities. In this respect, they have benefited by a dedicated training package, which includes: practical information designed to help parents in order to support their children in accessing employment services; practical ways to motivate their children to get and keep a job; strategies for an individual approach in addressing the needs / the desires of young adults with disabilities and developing their teamwork, decisionmaking and conflict resolution skills. In addition, we regularly organise meetings with members of the support group for families of young adults with disabilities. Moreover, our team has succeeded countless times in overcoming the reluctance of business people to hire people with disabilities. How do we do that? We organise experience exchanges in order to encourage dialogue and to facilitate interactions between the young adults looking for a job and potential employers. Most of the time, these events ended with the employment of one or more young adults. In these years, we have employed hundreds of young adults with various disabilities. Most of them have managed to keep their jobs, and even to continue their studies or to advance in their carriers. Moreover, our beneficiaries were accepted in companies whose representatives have initially rejected the idea of having colleagues on a diverse spectrum. We think that it is time to offer as many vulnerable people as possible the chance to have access to this service. In our opinion, the widespread of the Supported Employment will change mentalities, and misperceptions regarding the integration of vulnerable persons on the labour market and into society. I want to highlight that only three elements matter: the person's desire to work, the openness and availability of the employer, and the quality of the services offered by specialists. !59

Regional Funds Online Magazine After five years since the start of the LEAD project, we appreciate that the transfer of good practices is the most effective solution for a sustainable integration of vulnerable groups in the labour market. Because of the regional cooperation opportunities offered by the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment, the implementation of the Supported Employment model in our countries was made easier, faster and with better results than if each of us had implemented independently, with our own resources. In addition, we had the opportunity to learn from the experience of our colleagues, to identify possibilities for new partnerships in order to develop new projects that respond to real needs of vulnerable groups. Nicolae Dobrescu, Project Manager - LEAD Executive Director of Health Action Overseas Foundation LEAD Project


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Anti-Corruption, Democratic Resilience and Economic Security

The inability to effectively punish high-level corruption, as well as the challenging task of dismantling intricate networks of state capture, have both proven to be major setbacks for many member states and candidate countries. These issues also represent critical vulnerabilities in the face of foreign malign influence and economic coercion. To discuss efforts for sustainable reform, the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted the international policy forum “Anti-Corruption, Democratic Resilience and Economic Security” in Sofia on 9 November 2023. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of CSD, and Siri Beate Barry, Ambassador of Norway, greeted the participants at the forum and stressed the necessity for putting existing policy engagements into practice. Nikolay Denkov, Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria and Laura Kövesi, European Chief Prosecutor underlined that the lack of strong political leaders, capacity and procedures are hampering the effort to stop illicit financial flows, as well as the process of freezing and seizing assets belonging to actors sanctioned for corruption, illegal enrichment, money laundering, and organized crime. They emphasized that the solution should be sought not only in fair and effective justice but also through awareness and cultural change.

CSD presented its annual Good Governance report, Bridges to Nowhere: State Capture and Corruption Risks in Fiscal Transfers and Public Procurement at the Local Level in Southeast Europe as well as its latest policy brief with recommendations, The State of Capture: The Risks to Distributive Politics in Southeast Europe. Both documents outline how shadow networks of clientelism compromise the integrity of public finances in Southeast Europe and hinder the capacity of the region to cope with a number of converging domestic and international challenges. The panellists recommended the systematic and continuous use of corruption risk assessment tools to identify and prevent the most prevalent and damaging corruption and conflict of interest schemes at institutional, sector and local levels. It is also necessary to harmonize the definitions of all corruption offenses, increase sanctions on natural and legal persons, develop e-Governance, and provide better investigative tools. A dedicated panel at the forum looked at the urgent need for Europe to beef up its economic security capacity, noting in particular the dangerous loopholes in the current sanctions regime on Russian oil carved out through special derogations. In conclusion, the participants encouraged lawmakers and law enforcement to work jointly with the civil society, academia, business and media. More can be read here. Project Implementing shared anti-corruption and good governance solutions in Southeast Europe: innovative practices and public-private partnerships (R2G4P). Implementing shared anti-corruption and good governance solutions in Southeast Europe: innovative practices and public-private partnerships Project !61

Regional Funds Online Magazine

Policy Forum Anti-Corruption, Democratic Resilience and Economic Security

Misha Popovikj, Head, Center for Good Governance, Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis Skopje; Mihaly Fazekas, Director, Government Transparency Institute; Vanya Petrova, Senior Analyst, Center for the Study of Democracy; Alexander Gerganov, Director of Sociological Program Angelos Binis, Governance and Public Administration Unit, Directorate for Support to Member State Reforms, Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support, European Commission


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Contributors & Credits CONTRIBUTORS From the Fund Operators Mateusz Wiśniewski Francesca Bombarda Sara Barbi External Contributors Thomas Mc Grath From the Projects Savvas Pavlidis Zoe Touvra Beata Mintus Colleagues of Universidad de Burgos Rosa Messuti KAM Chris Makliri Marta Messineo Jose Fernandez BB Consulting team Anna Saroukou Tanja Dimitrijević Alina Gafița (Adomnicăi) Yiorgos Alexopoulos Eleni Bletsa Enerida Isuf

Kristina Barać Petrović Monika Peter Tzvetkova Laura Pacareu Flotats Serbanescu Maria Cristina Eszter Szonyi Anastasia Vlachou Savvas Pavlidis Ierotheos Zacharias Bálint Farkas Špela Kodre Aleksandra Kasztelewicz Marieta Ivanova Tanja Dimitrijević Nicolae Dobrescu Christos Papadopoulos

DIRECTOR Gian Luca Bombarda


Regional Funds Online Magazine

Cover image: projects contributions collage The contents of the Magazine are the sole responsibility of the authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the Donors.

Born with the intention of sharing the results and updates of the projects participating to the Funds to showcase the main achievements of implemented activities. Follow us:

Contact us: Official number: 3380/2019



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