In late August, the EuroSchool in Azerbaijan, which has become an annual tradition, brought together 15 young participants and several trainers from Azerbaijan and the EU.
This year’s summer school, the fourth edition, was held in the picturesque Guba region in the north of the country. The event was supported by the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan, as well as the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ an EU-funded regional communication project.
For three days, the participants took part in interactive sessions that helped them better understand the European Union, its history, fundamental principles and values, as well as the significance and prospects of Azerbaijan’s interaction with the EU in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy and programmes supported within the Eastern Partnership.
Separate sessions were devoted to educational opportunities for youth, as well as subjects of global importance, such as energy efficiency and the development of laws governing this area. The programme also included a trip to the ancient mountain village of Khinalig.
"Over the four years of its existence, the EuroSchool has become a kind of a brand," said Kestutis Jankauskas, the EU Ambassador to Azerbaijan, following the event. "It provides the youth of Azerbaijan with the opportunity to spend time with their peers from the EU, discuss current issues related to Europe and learn more about the possibility of studying at European universities."
"I believe that graduates of this short but very intensive course will subsequently act as informal ambassadors of Europe in the name of rapprochement between Azerbaijan and the EU," added the Ambassador.
According to Fidan Veliyeva, a EuroSchool participant, the development of relations and contacts between Azerbaijan and the EU meets the interests of both parties. That is why she is determined to ensure that as many young people as possible in her native country join in the spirit of partnership.
"Attracting young people will give a powerful positive impetus to relations between Azerbaijan and the EU. This is a good chance for our country to take the path of development," says 20-year-old Fidan, who does not see the rapprochement with Europe as a threat to make Azerbaijan lose its own traditions and customs.
Ali Iskenderov, another participant, also supports the active rapprochement of Azerbaijani youth with the experience and values of the EU, which he considers to be advanced and aimed at development and success.
"The future of Azerbaijan will be built by today's youth. Therefore, it is important that the young people of our country take advantage of the experience and skills of political and economic development that the EU is ready to share with us," says 22-year-old Ali.
The session on energy efficiency and the efforts of Azerbaijan to develop a sustainable energy policy, including the adoption of a new law on energy efficiency, attracted great interest among the participants. According to trainer Vitaliy Gerlosski, who represented the International Energy Charter, most of the young people had interesting and deep questions that went beyond the presentation.
One EuroSchool participant, Mehradzh Aliyev is a 22-year-old Young European Ambassador from Azerbaijan. Mehradzh is interested in the subject of energy and believes that Azerbaijan, a country with significant energy resources, is now faced with the task of managing its resources as efficiently as possible in order to preserve them for future generations.
"Today we have easy access to energy resources, but this does not mean that it will be so in ten years. Therefore, we must learn how to use them effectively now, without wasting any time," says Mehradzh.
Launched in 2016, the 'Young European Neighbours' online platform brings together young people from 28 EU countries and 6 Eastern Neighbourhood countries. It operates within the framework of the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project and allows young people to collaborate by exchanging knowledge and experience.
Young European Ambassadors (YEAs) are volunteer activists who implement initiatives under the motto "Stronger together!" The summer EuroSchool is just one of these initiatives.
According to the coordinators of the YEAs initiative, there is a huge number of opportunities offered by the EU to young people from the Eastern Neighbourhood countries. The project is committed to opening up these opportunities to more and more young people.
EU-funded educational projects come together under the umbrella of Erasmus+ and include the possibility of implementing joint projects between Azerbaijani and European universities, exchanges with European universities, as well as full study courses in EU universities.
Training sessions of the EuroSchool are held in an informal atmosphere. This is the basic principle of interaction, chosen by the organisers as the most effective. The participants are encouraged to offer their own critical perception of information, as well as reasoned expressions of their own opinions.
The trainers of the summer school say that the participants are very knowledgeable: they may not know all the details of various projects funded by the EU, but they are well versed in the system of European institutions as a whole, they know the history of the European Union, and they understand the current political processes.
The participants were active during all the sessions. They asked a lot of questions and shared their opinions, even if they did not always align with the position of the trainers.
The opportunity to get acquainted with the European past was presented to the participants during a session with the trainer Mukhtar Hadzhizade, an assistant professor at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Carleton University of Canada. A simulation game allowed participants to temporarily become heads of state and government of Europe's leading countries and return to the 1940s.
They discussed the events of that period and agreed on how it is important for the EU and its neighbours to strengthen their economies.
Participation in the annual summer EuroSchool is open to all young people in Azerbaijan up to 25 years of age who speak English and can demonstrate a basic knowledge of the European Union. Most importantly, participants must be interested in expanding their horizons and building relations between different cultures.
Author: Elena Ostapenko