From Tunisia to Greece, borderless youth for cooperation

Khouloud Belhadj wanted to make an experience in international relations while using her good communication skills, so she decided to volunteer with the Interreg V-A “Greece – Bulgaria” Programme, an authority managing funds to enhance cooperation across neighbouring regions in the European Union.

At the Interreg Programme, she helped regional actors create synergies between Greek and Bulgarian stakeholders and advocated for cooperation among regions. Khouloud explains how the projects managed by the programme are very diverse: they tackle environmental issues, social inclusion, movement in the cross-border area, health. “The common aspect I witnessed was progress, and many creative ideas being implemented”, she explains. Khouloud adds “Territorial cooperation contributes to building a sense of solidarity and harmony in difference. It’s about cooperation, and it helps to blur out borders and therefore bring people together. In short, it’s about creating a better quality of live for everyone, in all regions”.

At the Interreg V-A “Greece – Bulgaria” Programme Khouloud created content to inform citizens about projects in the cross-border region. “It was an educational, guiding, inspirational and empowering experience”, she says about her volunteering experience. She also implemented her own project to promote solidarity across borders, having co-organized an event to show the results of cooperation’s project in three Balkan-Mediterranean countries.

Khouloud volunteered with Interreg Volunteer Youth, an initiative funded by the European Commission and managed by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) to promote cooperation among regions by involving young people in collaborative projects. The programme celebrates now its fifth anniversary, and the over 780 young people like Khouloud who volunteered through it in the last five year, also in Tunisia. With the Interreg Volunteer Youth programme, young people are empowered to become actors of cooperation, which is key to invest in a future of peace and sustainable development, and fostering collaboration with neighbouring countries.

It was from Tunisia also the first young IVY volunteer who joined a project within the MED programme, an initiative part of another EU funded territorial cooperation scheme – the ENI CBC – linking European and neighbouring countries across the external European borders for the benefit of all populations” tells us Daniela Cavini from TESIM, the technical support project  for the implementation and management of the ENI CBC programmes cooperating with countries neighbouring the EU.  MED as well as Italy-Tunisia – a second ENI CBC programme involving Tunisia – support innovative start-up and business in the Mediterranean region, they encourage education and research, technological development, and innovation; they protect the environment. Daniela is very glad to see young Tunisians participate in such a programme. “We have experienced how young volunteers do feel empowered by this life-changing experience, like Khouloud” she adds.

Giving youth that sense of involvement strengthens their sense of responsibility and in return makes them more eager to contribute to the future. You also get to witness the dialogue and actions that are necessary to cooperate” – explains Daniela. And these words are particularly inspiring and important in 2022, the European Year of Youth.

Khouloud has given her time and skills to promote a dialogue between different regions in Europe, and has learned to contribute to society in a meaningful way. “We all have common challenges – climate change, environmental issues, youth unemployment, the pandemic and now the impact of a war. Acting together plays an important role on both shores on the Mediterranean, bringing different resources to tackle these challenges”, says Khouloud. She is very happy to have taken part to such a programme, and looks forward to the next steps in her life.