The event involved 37 citizens, including 17 participants from the city of Chojna, Poland; 6 participants from the city of Marsaskala, Malta; 8 participants from the city of Kőszeg, Hungary; 3 participants from the city of Bad Kötzting, Germany; 3 participants from the city of Velletri, Italy.
Location / Dates:
The event took place in Chojna, Poland from 28th June to 1st July 2018.
The aim of the fourth event was to show local examples of the advantages of the European Union membership, to demonstrate how an Eastern European country, one of the former communist countries, thinks about the importance of membership, and to encourage local communities to actively take part in European issues. Additionally, a secondary aim was to discuss working and studying across borders, the attitude of the local participants and foreign visitors towards working abroad, and the involvement of students in international apprenticeship, as a small step towards being European, and to initiate discussion about the problems and about possible solutions related to these issues.
The event was organized by Douzelage Association in Chojna, a local NGO. On behalf of Chojna Town they prepared an excellent program for the participants. The organizers did their best to find the most suitable places for the events (for example the school involved in EU projects), study visits (museum, lake, market, etc.), meals (Piastowska, Bielin horse farm, etc.), accommodation (local hotels and hostel) to make sure the event will be beneficial and memorable for all participants.
On Thursday 28th, after the delegations arrived, Cezary Salamończyk greeted the participants on behalf of Chojna Douzelage (Poland) and outlined the importance of the project. He officially introduced the delegations the host group. He stressed how important the international meetings are, where EU cooperation is realized between very different participants. He underlined the idea of this project, under the Europe for Citizens program. He also mentioned his good memories about the former EU projects carried out by partner towns in the Douzelage, from which many participants he had already met before. He also mentioned that a part of the Polish delegation is very young, and we all need their cooperation for the sake of their future.
Afterwards the groups of the partners were also introduced by their leaders with a few sentences. Ms. Ágnes Lepold, the leader of the Kőszeg group (Hungary) emphasized how important the involvement of young people is. She introduced the group, most of them just graduated from high school, and start their university studies – some of them even abroad.
Ms. Andrea Chiara Bauco, the leader of the Velletri group (Italy) joined to the previous speech, and talked about their association, TRATTI, where the average is like theirs, around 23. She also added that she is lucky to be able to spend one semester in Portugal with Erasmus+ support.
Mr. Wolfgang Pilz, vice mayor, the head of the Bad Kötzting delegation (Germany) explained that unfortunately they could not take youngsters with them for this meeting because of the school exams, but they will report about the meeting at home. Also, one of the participants is the journalist of their local newspaper, he will make sure the project meeting will be known by their citizens.
Jean Carl Cassar introduced the Marsaskala delegation (Malta). He told that many youngsters study and work abroad, so the local theme is definitely interesting for them, and all information will be very useful for them, too.
Still on the first evening, before the dinner the event in Chojna continued with a debate ‘To be or not to be – in EU?’. The debate was open so apart from project participants from host and partner countries there were some local people present. In the introduction main advantages of EU membership were mentioned such as right to live and work in any EU country, social security, freedom and liberal democracy. There were also remarks on current problems like immigration crisis, lack of solidarity among EU countries, not enough democracy in decision making proces on European level.
The most controversial issue was immigration crisis. Some people emphasized negative sides of the process, especially cultural differences and possible dangers connected with terrorist attacks. However, there was also strong voice of the need of solidarity and help towards people in need like refugees. Debate participants were in favor of distinguishing refugees and economic migrants. Financial help received by farmers and improvement of infrastructure in Eastern Europeans countries were also listed as main advantages of EU membership. The debate initiated further, informal discussion during the dinner.
On Friday 29th in the morning participants attended a workshop on Erasmus+ apprenticeships for vocational school students in the EU. The workshop was held at the local secondary school, Zespół Szkół Ponadgimnazjalnych where Ms. Adriana Salamończyk head of the school greeted the participants. She explained that she is very proud because the school has been taking part in EU projects since 2004.
Mr. Cezary Salamończyk, the coordinator of the international projects explained, that Zespół Szkół Ponadgimnazjalnych (complex of upper secondary schools) in Chojna has a Quality Charter of Vocational Mobilities. It has organized about 300 vocational mobilities for its students in Malta, the UK, Germany, Hungary and Luxembourg. The coordinator of vocational mobility projects in ZSP in Chojna showed a PowerPoint presentation about apprenticeships of IT, hotel management, catering and construction students. There was some information of commercial companies which cooperate with school and accept students to have work experience there, ECVET (European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training) implementation, Europass Mobility document and advantages of this initiative for school and individual students.
After the presentation participants of the workshop asked questions to find out how to prepare successful project application, financial rules of the project and which institutions are eligible to take part in this EU programme. As some of the participants and invited other local youngsters also took part in the above program and spent their apprenticeship abroad, they also could answer the questions of other participants. They all agreed that the month spent abroad with work was a lifelong experience and determined their future. Mr. Cezary Salamończyk ended the conversation with the promise that during and after the exhibition there will be more time to continue the discussion with the youngsters.
Then participants of the workshop worked in groups and tried to prepare some ideas for the vocational mobility project for technical schools from their municipalities. They had to consider if their schools are eligible for these kind of mobility projects, or if they could host vocational students. After that each group presented their ideas which were evaluated by the workshop leader.
After a short break the group started the moderated discussion: EU labor market for inhabitants of small municipalities.
Before the event organizers asked the partners to be prepared for this discussion. As they told, either a PPT, Prezi, poster, oral presentation will do in order to contribute to the success of the event. Representatives of Velletri, Kőszeg and Bad Kötzting showed PPT presentations – obviously with plenty of information not written in the slides. Marsaskala and Chojna had oral introductions to the topic, but Chojna underlined that there will be a practical part of this topics. (PPT-s can be found among the Materials.) Each town described the local situation regarding labor market trying to answer following questions:
- are there many foreign workers in the municipality?
- what are their main areas of employment?
- are there any conflicts between them and a local community?
- do people from the municipality try to find work abroad?
- do their leave the town permanently?
- does this work migration cause problems on the local labor market?
After each presentation there were questions and a short discussion. In the end the moderator concluded the debate repeating some points from the discussion:
- There are a lot of foreign workers in Marsaskala and Bad Kötzting, most of them work in municipal services, gastronomy and do low paid jobs, there are many Ukrainians working in Chojna, while many workers com from the Balkan to work in Kőszeg.
- Many young people from Kőszeg commute to work every day to Austria, there is a similar situation in Chojna where people go to work in Germany.
- In Velletri foreign workers do low paid jobs, whereas local young people try to find work in specialized professions in countries like Switzerland and the UK.
- It also turned out that inhabitants of small municipalities do not feel endangered by foreign workers.
- Young graduates from Velletri, Bad Kötzting, Marsaskala, Kőszeg and Chojna feel that they have the same opportunities regarding finding work abroad as inhabitants of big cities.
Mr. Cezary Salamończyk summarized the discussion and added that next day when participants will visit the market at the border will see the situation in the real life.
Mr. Salamończyk announced that Prof. Dariusz Rosati (MEP) addressed a letter to the participants of the project event in Chojna. He read this letter for the participants:
“Thank you very much for the invitation to the „Europe for Citizens“ event. Unfortunately, the planned obligations and the obligations of the service in Brussels make it impossible for me to accept your invitation.
I welcome the initiative to start discussions about the benefits of EU membership for small towns. I am convinced that the rich thematic program, the participation of eminent speakers and foreign partners and the commitment of the organizers will make the event very popular.
I say thanks for the organizers for their effort. At the same time, I wish you other equally valuable initiatives, unflagging energy for further action and implementation of your plans and intentions.
All gathered, please accept the wishes of a good atmosphere of the meeting, conversations rich in interesting observations and satisfying results of the discussion.”
After this he as the Chairman of the Douzelage Association in Chojna, the local coordinator of the event introduced the guest, Mr. Norbert Obrycki (MP). He informed the guest and the participants of the meeting, members of the project partners organizations and inhabitants of Chojna of the main ideas of the Europe for citizens project: ‘Even Us Little Ones Count a Lot’. He shortly summarized the themes and results of the previous meetings.
In his lecture Mr. Norbert Obrycki (MP, member in international affairs committee in Polish Parliament). He proposed that his lecture will not be very long in order to spend more time on questions and a discussion; participants of the meeting approved his proposal. He gave the title of his presentation: „Is EU for citizens?” In the beginning of his speech he described his professional and political career, his private life and interests as well as current political areas of involvement. He also talked about his experience in international relations, Regions Committee, Euroregion Pommern and cooperation between Polish Parliament and European institutions. Participants of the meeting asked Mr. Obrycki many questions concerning the role of European Parliament, relations between smaller and more powerful countries in EU, relations EU – USA, decision making process on national and European levels, populists parties in EU, next European election, future of EU and immigration crisis. Many of the participants were concerned about populist governments and how they reflect on EU issues, others wanted to know how local communities and NGO’s could act to improve and encourage EU citizenship locally.
After the lecture and questions the lunch and the short time to relax also gave opportunity to continue the informal debate among the participants.
The next step was the Photo exhibition: Erasmus+ apprenticeships of ZSP in Chojna students in EU countries.
Participants of EULOCAL event in Chojna visited a photo exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci and Erasmus+ vocational mobility projects for students of ZSP in Chojna. There were presented not only photographs but also short descriptions of the projects, project partners and financial support given by European Commission. This was kind of the practical part of the presentation of the Polish group. Here participants could ask further questions like reputation of such a project among the school mates, among the teachers. Students were really talkative, they underlined that the month spent abroad opened their mind, they improved both their English and vocational skills, and they really got more Europeans. Also, their self-confidence and they became more independent, more responsible.
As at all event venues, also in Chojna organizers included some free time and cultural experience. Although after the exhibition not too much time was left, it was essential to get impressions about the neighborhood. The group had the chance to visit Moryń where the local ancient fauna was displayed. After that participants had some recreational time in Bielin, on a horse farm, with cart rides, walk in the forest. The long workday was finished with a barbecue dinner.
On Friday 29th in the morning there was the study visit to the market at the Polish – German border in Osinów Dolny.
Participants of the EULOCAL project event in Chojna took part in a study visit in a market near the border crossing in Osinów Dolny. Market in Osinów Dolny is the closest place for shopping in Poland for inhabitants of Berlin. There are hundreds of small shops with food, clothes, shoes, plants, ceramics, many hairdressers, petrol stations, bars, cafes and restaurants. There Polish vendors have been selling their products to German customers (as well as locals), for whom the goods are fairly inexpensive and not only Polish zloty, but euros too are accepted as payment. The study visit was a very good opportunity to experience the unique atmosphere of the place where there are no language obstacles and just like in Harrods almost anything can be sold if there is a customer for it. Project participants were able to talk to shopkeepers, customers and shop assistants including immigrants from Ukraine and Vietnam. Kőszeg group explained that also in their town there are many tourists coming from Austria, but instead of buying goods they come because of the cheaper service, so wedding ceremonies, dentists, restaurants, photographers etc. are full of Austrian clients.
In the afternoon participants took a cultural trip to Szczecin, with sightseeing and some free time before.
The farewell dinner was wonderfully organized with a local band playing live music.
Next meeting, the last event will be held in Kőszeg, Hungary between 18th to 21st of October.