A meeting at European Commission and the European Parliament – A vital step for youth inclusion and engagement in Europe.

What would you say to a high-level diplomat or a decision-maker on a high level if you meet them in person? Have you ever thought of being in such a situation?

The last week of September was exceptional for us at Crossing Borders. After very hard work put in by Linda Ligori, a project coordinator at CB, and with our partners in Italy CPLT, we organized a trip to Brussels to pay a visit to the European Commission and the European Parliament. The purpose of this visit was to meet with Mr. Kamil Maj, Member of the President’s Cabinet at the European Parliament, Mr. Nicolai Hartvig, Danish Directorate General for Communication, and Amanda Husum, Assistant to the Danish MEP, Kira Marie Peter-Hansen from The Green Group/European Free Alliance, Caterina Chinnici, an Italian MEP, and Ms. Iris Abraham, and Mr. Mattia De’ Grassi, members of the Cabinet of the Vice President of the EU Commission. 
This comes as a very important step in our EU project CO4YOU.

From Denmark, 19 years old Sima Kamal, a Hazara Afghani refugee in Denmark and a participant in the project was able to join, and this was a big thing for her.

“I was the only Afghan girl and I was proud of myself and proud of being an Afghan girl for coming this long way from Denmark as a refugee and talking with high-level decision-makers at the European Union and European Commission,” Says Sima Kamal.

Sima came to Denmark in 2021 in the wake of the Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan following the US troops’ withdrawal from the country.
The discrimination and violence against girls and women in Afghanistan from the Taliban pushed Sima and her family to leave the country searching for a safer life.

“When last year the Taliban took over Afghanistan my family took the hardest decision of leaving everything behind in search of a safer future. Now I live in Denmark with my family and Denmark is our second home” Says Sima.

The CO4YOU project spoke to Sima’s heart, and she found herself in this project empowered and confident again.

“I lost myself among my pains and my problems, and this project and this trip helped me to get away from problems. It made me feel fresh and strong” Says Sima.

The CO4YOU project is an EU-funded project implemented by Crossing Borders and three other European partners, Centro Pio La Torre from Italy SFERA from North Macedonia, and FICAT from Barcelona. This project aims to facilitate open spaces for dialogue toward civic engagement and inclusion of young people within European national contexts and build their knowledge of European values, youth rights, and policies.

The purpose of those meetings with the European Commission and the European Parliament was to, first give a better understanding to youth from the 4 partner countries about EU institutions, values, and the decision-making processes. Secondly, and a very essential goal, was to build a bridge with decision makers at this high level of EU institutions to eventually share the findings of our project as a policy recommendation that was promised it will be taken into consideration.

“I can’t explain that feeling when I was approaching the gates, I remember it was rainy and I was counting the moments before entering the EU Parliament and with every step, I got closer to the gate I wished I had other Afghan girls with myself there so that we could walk together but unfortunately I was alone, I was the only Afghan girl but I was very proud of myself” Sima

One of the matters raised by the youth during the meetings was how could the distance between young citizens and EU institutions be shortened and how to reach directly to the heart of the institutions without an intermediary. In this case, Mr. De Grassi pointed toward the EU Youth Portal while addressing them regarding the new instrument currently being discussed and soon passed by the EU Commission.

“It was a great trip for me, and I learned so many new things. I saw the EU Commission and EU parliament from such a close distance, that was mindblowing” says Sima.

It is worth mentioning that Sima and other participants from Denmark and the partner countries took part in three intensive days of training back in June. The training aimed at raising awareness about the abovementioned notions while simultaneously carrying forth the notion of active EU citizenship among young people with a migrant background.
The project provided the participants with a vital knowledge toolkit enabling them to take a more proactive action within their respective socio-economic and democratic political spaces.

Finally, this trip was a huge step for the participants, the project, and for Crossing Borders. We want to express our deep gratitude to Vice President Suica’s head of Cabinet, Mr. Scicluna who through Mrs. Helena Kolaj arranged the meeting with his cabinet members, Ms. Iris Abraham, and Mr. Mattia De’ Grassi for the CO4YOU cohort. Additionally, heart-warming gratitude goes to the President of the EU Parliament for her kind consideration and to Mr. Kamil Maj for kindly delivering a wonderful afternoon meeting even exceeding the one-hour agreed-upon time. Our gratitude goes also to Mr. Nicolai Hartvig, Danish Directorate General for Communication, and Amanda Husum, Assistant to the Danish MEP, Kira Marie Peter-Hansen, and to the Italian MEP, Ms. Chinnici’s office, for giving us a chance to know about the hard work behind the scenes of the individual European MEPs.

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