As part of the project called European Citizenship from a Local Perspective, the South Plains Regional Social Science Research Association (DARTKE) organised an international meeting in cooperation with the municipality of Szeged. The programmes organised between 18 October 2013 and 7 September 2014 were attended by, among others, Hungarian, German, Romanian and Serbian experts, who held conferences to discuss such EU issues as the free movement of persons and services, employment security, or what it means to be a European citizen. We asked Gábor Dániel Nagy, Chairman of DARTKE, about the project which involved five countries and cost € 145,000.
A STRONG COMMITMENT TO EUROPE IN 6 ACTS
Applicant organisation: Dél-Alföldi Regionális Társadalomtudományi Kutatási Egyesület (DARTKE) / South Plains Regional Social Science Research Association
Project title: Az európai polgárság helyi perspektívában / European Citizenship from a Local Perspective
Action: Network of twinned towns
Year of application: 2013
Which countries joined the project and where did the participants come from?
It was an extensive partnership; we organised six events at five locations, and besides Hungary, the participants came from Serbia, Romania, Poland, Finland, France and Germany. Szeged has over twenty twin towns, out of which we have an active relationship with over ten. We invited the towns with which we keep daily or weekly contact, namely Darmstadt and Łódź, as well as Subotica and Timisoara.
Which generations were represented at the programmes?
Each generation was represented; we sought to address everybody from young to elderly people, and we also had some disadvantaged participants; young and elderly people proved to be the most active ones. The project involved altogether 620 participants, which meant 460 individuals.
The programmes were organised at five locations over a period of almost one year, but there were long breaks between each meeting. What was the reason for this discontinuity?
The varied weather conditions. First we travelled to Łódź in autumn 2013, as we wanted to avoid going there in winter. The next station was Subotica, in December 2013 – it’s close enough to Szeged, so we decided it was safe to take the bus. Then this spring we hit the road again, travelled in the summer and paid another two visits in September. We considered it important to ensure comfortable conditions, as these events involved about 100 participants each, so we needed to transport a lot of people.
What events and activities were implemented during the meetings?
On both occasions, we held two conference days when we tackled various EU policies such as employment security, the free movement of persons and services or EU citizenship. Besides, we also discussed such dimensions of citizenship as the documents used for crossing borders or driving, as well as taking employment in other member states, citizens’ political involvement and EU elections in the given country – we discussed about 10-12 topics. We did all that in a way that was best adapted to the particular town, and we also invited experts who could share the most relevant pieces of information about the topic with those who were interested, and of course, we also brought along experts who could contribute to certain issues.
What would you highlight as the most important achievement of the project?
First of all, the fact that it provided an opportunity to widely exchange experiences and good practices. It also allowed a demonstration of how citizens can be encouraged to participate in elections, and at the same time, to assume a political role at their own initiative, in their own issues. And as far as the programmes related to the European elections are concerned, they clearly had an impact on the participants and their environment: they could see that votes mattered and important issues were at stake. Another important thing is that the majority of the foreign guests were Romanians, not Hungarians living in Romania, and 50-60% of those coming from Serbia were Serbs, too, let alone our German and Polish partners – which clearly shows a strong European commitment. And the fact that the Mayors of Nice and Parma accepted our invitation to our conferences was a great achievement.
With what amount did the European Union contribute to the project expenses?
Altogether, we received €145.000 within the programme. Of that amount, we spent €122.000 on the organisation of the six meetings, which was a project lasting over one year – we could spend about €10-12 thousand on coordination and communication.
What positive feedback have you received from the participants?
They emphasised that it should be continued and even more people should be involved in future projects. Everybody had a great time; we found that European citizens were interested to get to know each other. It was a very positive experience that the leaders of local governments were also open to the programmes.
Can we really expect the project to continue?
We have established some relationships which are certain to continue. Our Association, DARTKE seeks to keep contact with a number of organisations in several countries, and we have a continuous supply of volunteers involved in the organisation of major projects. We established a very good relationship with the participants; in the field of elderly affairs, for example, we inspired an exchange programme – the members of the pensioners’ self-government of Timisoara and the Senior Center pensioners’ club of Szeged met and have remained in touch ever since. When we visited Timisoara, the Chairman of Senior Center, Gyula Boros Sr. was even recognised by the pensioners’ self-government of Timisoara for his work done in the field of elderly affairs. It’s something we are especially proud of.
Last modified: 10-04-2018