Several months ago OneEurope introduced our new partner organisation – Mladiinfo International.
Now I am glad to report that we managed to bring our cooperation to a new level: in June 2014 I was invited to represent OneEurope at the Partnership Building Activity – Y.O.U.R. Network, which was hosted by Mladiinfo International in Skopje, Macedonia.
"Y.O.U.R." stays for "Youth Unemployment Reduction", and as you may have guessed, the seminar was devoted to this issue. For a week Mladiinfo gathered 40 youth leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and Slovakia with the goal of creating an informal youth network, which is able to find solutions and create strategies which will reduce youth unemployment in Europe.
Sharing is Caring
During our first days in Skopje Mladiinfo International introduced us to their vision of youth work, as well as to their activities and achievements. In the Balkans Mladiinfo is more than a youth organization - it is a brand. Practically every determined young person in the region knows Mladiinfo as a unique source of information for educational and career purposes. From a local youth NGO, Mladiinfo has grown into a powerful organisation with branches in six countries, a vast network of partners all around the world and their own EVS centre. So far Mladiinfo International is the biggest and most active youth-powered organisation in Central Europe and the Balkan region.
Under their motto “Sharing is Caring” activists of Mladiinfo International conducted numerous presentations and workshops, through which we could improve our skills in project management, visibility, development of strategies, media work and many other fields. We all had a chance to present our organisations and to discuss the situation concerning youth unemployment in our countries. The participants were so enthusiastic that we held debates and discussions even in our free from activities time.
Apart from the workshops our agenda included a visit to the Macedonian National Agency for European Educational Programmes and Mobility, where we received detailed information about the Erasmus+ programme. On the next day we were warmly welcomed by two student organisations: AIESEC and AEGEE, at the University of Skopje. Their informative and thorough presentations evoked great interest from the group.
Project 668 – A Target Case
The initiative Project 668 was established in 2012 as a network for former and current trainees of the European Institutions. The mission of Project 668 is to support graduates with EU Institutions experience by linking them with potential employers. I believe many readers now are wondering “Do EU trainees need assistance in finding a job?!”. This question is indeed very reasonable: those who manage to get an internship at a European Institution already stand out among their peers with their skills and knowledge, and afterwards such an experience seems to be a universal key for a brilliant career. Still in reality EU internships do not guarantee employment. People with this background have a specific profile, which includes several academic degrees, ability to communicate in up to five languages (and sometimes even more), and an impressive set of skills collected within their years of work experience. Actually, for many employers they are overqualified. Project 668 became a unique solution of this problem: the team holds career matchmaking as well as networking events, keeps their audience updated with vacancies in their fields of expertise, and provides informational support by sharing news from the career world. Project 668 is also a valuable source for recruiters, which gives them direct access to high-skilled candidates.
During one of our sessions we took a closer look at Project 668 and discussed its prospective development strategies. The successful collaborative work resulted in numerous ideas which could contribute to the growth of the project. We hope to see the outcome in the near future and you can find out more about Project 668 by following them in Facebook and Twitter .
The Balkan Youth Calls for Action!
Exacerbated by a complicated social and political situation, flourishing corruption, and regular ethnic conflicts, unemployment is a critical problem in the Balkan region. The youth, being one of the most vulnerable social groups, is affected particularly severely by this issue. Nevertheless, instead of falling into despair, many young people have a strong desire not only to raise their voices, but also to stand up for changes in their countries. Many of those determined activists were invited by Mladiinfo International to the P.B.A., to share their experiences in the fields of youth work. The significance of their contribution should not be underestimated – when their countries are still coping with post-war syndromes and the politicians are being regularly exposed for plagiarized PhD’s, these youngsters take responsibility for a change of the situation.
A good example of social engagement and productivity is an Albanian initiative called "UNIque" – this is actually the first junior enterprise in the country. UNIque's mission is “to become a bridge between university and the labour market, as well as a bridge between Albania, Europe and the World”. Within 5 years of commencing its activities this non-profit organisation held several big events aimed at increasing students’ interest in entrepreneurship and linking them with potential employers. Eltjana Plaku, an activist of UNIque, mentions Startup Live Tirana as the most successful project so far. The event was held already twice and resulted in a number of innovative projects which have a potential to be brought into reality.
UNIque managed not only to bring the startup culture to Albania but also to persuade young people in the possibility of finding unconventional ways of building their career and fighting the crisis.
The Youth Office of the Municipality of Prijepolje in Serbia works under the motto “Building ourselves. Building community”. The goal of its activists is to improve the quality of life of young people in the town of Prijepolje in the form of policy making and informational support. The youth of Prijepolje focus sufficiently on work through social media with their audience and find unconventional and creative ways to motivate them for action. The town of Prijepole faces the same problems as numerous places in Eastern Europe: young people often don’t know where to even start if they are eager for changes, therefore the activities of the Youth office play a very important role there – by empowering youth they are shaping the brighter perspective for the whole community.
One more example of a strong engagement in the field of youth work is the Youth Press Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through workshops and training projects they introduce young people to the world of media and give them experience in reporting, publishing, radio and photojournalism, and provide them with necessary skills for the further involvement in the sphere ofmedia. In Skopje they presented their long-term project – youth magazine Karike (“Links” – Bosnian), which is being published since 2008. The idea behind Karike was to give Bosnian youth a platform for their opinions and at the same time to provide them with the first free youth magazine, which would cover important for them issues. This simple formula made Karike popular all around the country and competitive to many commercial magazines. The magazine is being produced by a team of young journalists from all around Bosnia and Herzegovina, many of whom had their first encounter with media in workshops of Youth Press Association.
You’ll Never Stay Hungry in Skopje
For the majority of the participants it was their first visit to Macedonia, therefore exploring the city of Skopje was on the agenda as well. The unique atmosphere in the city is the result of Western, Oriental and traditional Balkan cultures melting together. Although Skopje is probably not the most popular travel destination in Europe, it definitely has a lot to offer to a curious traveler. The city is surrounded by several mountains, and no matter in which direction you look – you see them on the background. This is absolutely fascinating, especially for flatlands citizens such as myself. Some say the city lacks a concept and is architecturally uneven, with its elements not corresponding to each other, but I find exactly in this, its specific charm. The heavy earthquake of 1963 destroyed 80% of the city, which was later rebuilt thanks to the joint efforts of the international community. Many buildings were donated by other states and this also explains the variety of the city’s urban landscape. Because of this Skopje is also known as a “City of International Solidarity”, therefore it was also a sort of symbolic to hold our event in this place.
Old Bazaar – city’s Old Town is deserved the pearl of Macedonian capital. This part of town with its traditional stores, old-school barbershops, mosques, street vendors has a very defined Oriental flair and makes you feel like time-travelling to the past. Only modern clothing of passerby interferes into this illusion of pure authenticity. Old Bazaar is famous for its countless cosy little restaurants and cafés serving traditional Macedonian food and drinks for more than affordable prices. Although Balkan cuisine is rich for meat dishes in general, here you also will face a wide of vegetables and delicious salads. And the hospitality of the restaurants staff makes you feel practically like home.
Therefore the probability that you will stay hungry in Skopje is close to zero. And this concerns not only food – Skopje has a great potential to satisfy your hunger for impressions and adventures.
As a result of the Partnership Building Activity Y.O.U.R Network the perspectives of joint projects were discussed and will be soon brought to life. OneEurope will keep you updated with the progress.
I would like to thank the team of Mladiinfo International and especially Antoaneta Ivanova, Ana Alibegova, Stefan Alijevikj and Shemsedin Iljaz for the impeccably organized event, hospitality, support and care during the training week in Skopje.
Photo credits: group photo - Mladiinfo International; workshop - Stefan Alijevikj; city panorama - Hanna Starchyk
Edited by: Ivan Botoucharov