The 7th Strategy Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) was held on 8-9 November 2016 at the Brewery Conference Centre in Stockholm. Hosted by Sweden, the forum focused on the future for the Baltic Sea Region and a desired vision for 2030.
FNUF was coordinating volunteers at the event, and had youth delegates represented as participants as well. FNUF also met up with some of the many youth councils that played a significant role in representing youth perspectives. Youth councils from Poland, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania shared their thoughts about the importance of youth inclusion, the Nordic citizenship and what is interesting and challenging in the Baltic Sea region.
The youth councils were brought together by LSU, The National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations, who also shared their thoughts and ideas.
Maja Stojanovska, Project Coordinator EU / LSU – Landsrådet för Sveriges Ungdomsorganisationer
“The term Baltic Sea Region makes me think about the similarities, strategic cooperation, coordination, innovation and progress in that area. From this starting point LSUs agenda for the Forum was to build a youth perspective for the regional cooperation and to raise awareness for the need for young peoples participation in this political process in the region.”
“The National Youth Councils (NYC) are the only bodies on national level that have legitimate representation of the organized young people in the countries. All the national youth councils who were present here are representing the young people in the political processes on national level, on EU and on UN level. The only political level missing is the regional level. The NYC that were present are continually partners to LSU in all platforms where we do represent young people. Within the European framework, we already have an informal cooperation with the partners on regional level and have continuous cooperation and coordination of activities in the region, however, without formal participation in the political processes on this level. Moreover, I do not need to explain the importance to involve young people in participation in political processes.”
Jakub Radzewicz / Polish Council of Youth Organisations (Polska Rada Organizacji Młodzieżowych)
Jakub: “The concept of gaming was so interesting – how to take ideas from games, like board games, to plan cities and areas. It’s something that I personally would like to take to my work because I’m working with social dialogue and I’m trying to bring people closer to the decisionmakers on the local level.
I also really enjoyed the discussion about youth participation! It was interesting to hear a totally different view on youth participation from Nordic decisionmakers because they are very open and they have no doubts that they have to have dialogue between people. Even though sometimes the structure is not good, they have this approach of openness which is not so obvious in Poland. For me it was like a deep breath to see that it’s possible to have decisionmakers who are open towards young people. So I’ve got some inspiration from this discussion yesterday.”
“Recently we took part in the Baltic Business Forum in Świnoujście in Poland. This topic, Baltic Sea region, is growing. I think it’s connected to the innovative business a lot. I would like to see the Baltic region as an area for young entrepreneurs from different countries, as an area of good mobility. We still don’t know enough about the countries, the culture and the possibilities of our neighbour countries. For our council this forum is a good place to see and to meet other countries because it’s still not so obvious to us what we can do as a council and how we can cooperate. Somehow it has been more important for Poland to cooperate with Germany. But I hope we all will open up more in the Baltic region as well.”
Silja Markkula & Joel Linnainmäki / Finnish Youth Cooperation (Suomen Nuorisoyhteistyö – Allianssi)
Joel: “Now that Donald Trump has been elected, my impression of the Baltic Sea region has changed quite a lot… (laughs) Stefan Löfven, the Swedish prime minister said it very well yesterday: the concept of common security is very important – not just military security but sustaining the culture of peace in the Baltic region and how we can cooperate economically as well. There are different layers of sustaining peace.”
Silja: “Our main purpose and message here at the forum was simply to remind that we exist, and to remind the decisionmakers that young people should also have a say. Especially when it comes to the strategy, young people should also be involved in the policy-making from the very beginning.”
Joel: “I’ve been surprised by the number and diversity of different kinds of actors that are already involved in the Baltic Sea strategy and its implementations. It’s not just the municipalities, not just companies, it’s not just NGOs but it’s all of these actors together, doing very different kinds of things. But they are also trying to find where they could do more together.”
Silja: “When it comes to the Nordic citizenship, I personally think there’s a need for more collaboration – especially during times like these. And initiatives at least open the discussion about where we want to take that cooperation in the future. As a national youth council, I’m not sure if we have a stands on the citizenship.”
Joel: “I actually think many young people don’t really think about the borders between the Nordic and Baltic countries that much. They think about the opportunities that they have regarding employment and being able to study in a different country. And those opportunities are already quite wide so it might be a logical next step for many to have a Nordic citizenship. But how near in the future this is – that is the question.“
Kristen Aigro / Estonian National Youth Council (Eesti Noorteühenduste Liit)
Kristen: “I come from Estonia, where all sorts of digital innovations are very important. Finland for example has taken over our medical systems for doctors that allow them to have medical records online and all that. So, we do create initiatives. Countries in the Baltic Sea region are similar to each other and more able to adapt to the innovative tools so it’s good to share these experiences and to get them from all sides. Many people in the youth sector like to work with sustainable development goals and discuss how we best ensure our inclusion. We can put it all together and not waste the expertise that we already have.”
“Instead of the Nordic citizenship I personally would like to see a bigger belonging to the European Union. Norway for example is not in that so there are problems with this but I’d like to see even larger scale of cooperation networks. So maybe from that perspective I’d be a bit skeptical that it’s so good to have these 10 million identities that we very strongly push for.”
“Here at this forum we had the session ‘Nothing about us without us’. It was very good to see a lot of people who maybe aren’t young themselves really seeing the importance of youth and inclusion of youth. I think there are people here who recognize that and that really allows us to work further. It’s really good to have like a glimpse of hope for future as well.
“People who have been in youth organisations themselves can now also see the value and ask for the inclusion of the younger perspective. It’s helpful to have people with that background. On European level many policy directions are asking now to include more youth perspective and the more we do that the more we actually are brought here and our opinions are being heard. Sometimes it feels like ‘oh well, we add that little line in the strategy, saying that we should include the youth’ but nothing actually happens. So you can’t always see that the youth is truly included.”
Rita Jonušaitė / Lithuanian Youth Council (Lietuvos jaunimo organizacijų taryba)
Rita: “The Nordic-Baltic countries are very close to each other and share the same problems – and the same solutions. Our cultures are very similar and to me the region symbolises the fact that we can work together to change things and the increase prosperity. We are so small in comparison to some other regions, which also gives a certain leverage, so that we can cooperate better than many other regions.”
“At this forum I was actually positively surprised by the attitude towards youth participation from the speakers and moderators. The moment you raise your hand, they do notice you, and they are trying to include you, not to leave you out of this, giving you a chance. I was talking on mental health issues of young people that’s increasing for example in Lithuania, it’s a troubling thing for all of us. Sometimes when we talk about youth participation and inclusion, we can see that it’s only coming out in words and not in action. Even these few words outlining that there are young people made this a slightly different event and we value that.”
“It’s the most important to be heard, meaning that action will follow your words. Even the slightest change following our presence here is of crucial importance – that is the main reason why our council is here. National youth councils are collectively uniting so many people. The Finnish youth council has more than 120 member organisations and in Lithuania we have 70. For a small country that’s a huge number.”
“As we are cooperating in the Nordic-Baltic region, I don’t think we should distinguish the Nordic and the Baltic countries even more. If you want closer cooperation, the Nordic citizenship would definitely increase the gap there is. Now the gap is economic, and the mindset is more or less similar. And if you push towards a stronger Nordic identity, leaving the Baltics behind, I don’t think that the Nordic-Baltic cooperation will reach its goal because of the disparity. Nordic countries can of course do what they think is the best, but we still belong to the Nordic-Baltic region. If you don’t have the same mindset for taking care of things, the Nordics can suffer as well. It might prevent the fruitful cooperation of these regions.”
EVS Volunteer and communications coordinator