Education, culture, youth and sport
#TheFutureIsYours Education, culture, youth and sport in Europe
Citizens’ dialogue with Vice-President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica. The event is organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, Embassy of Croatia in Bulgaria, European Commission Representation in Bulgaria and PanEuropa Bulgaria within the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The Citizens’ Dialogue will be streamed live on the Facebook channel of the EC Representation in Bulgaria: https://www.facebook.com/ECinBulgaria/ . Code for streaming will be shared on the website of the EC Representation in Bulgaria (https://ec.europa.eu/bulgaria/), the pages of the both ministries as well as on the FB of the Croatian Embassy so that any interested media could use it.
The Citizens’ Dialogue will be held in English, with translation provided in Bulgarian and Croatian during the livestream:
124 Georgi S. Rakovski Str, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Event reportOn 12 October 2021, in the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe, a civil dialogue on Demography and Democracy took place at the building of the Representation of the European Commission in Sofia. The event was organised in a hybrid format by the Ministries of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Croatia, the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria and PanEuropa. It drew the attention of a wide variety of participants. The discussion was opened by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria Svetlan Stoev and the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia Gordan Grlić-Radman. The Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica presented the Atlas of Demography. The event was moderated by the journalist Dobrina Cheshmedzhieva. Demographic experts from Bulgaria - Assoc. Dr. Georgi Bardarov and from Croatia – State Secretary for Demography and Youth Zeljko Josic, as well as representatives of the non-governmental sector, civil society and the student community also took part. Minister Stoev underlined the role of the Conference on the Future of Europe as a tool that enables European citizens from all social groups and from all regions of the EU to share their views on important EU issues, thus, helping shape the common European future and work for the prosperity of the EU. He put special emphasis on the challenges in front of the European model today – migration, security issues, disinformation, pandemic, depopulation, and aging population. While quoting the Bulgarian motto "United We Stand Strong", which also applies to Europe, Minister Stoev stressed the importance of solidarity and contacts between Member States. He pointed out the role of young people, whom he described as "the backbone of our future". In conclusion, he noted the importance that the European Commission attaches to demographic issues, as evidenced by the fact that for the first time the Commission has as a Vice President, namely the Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, who is also co-chair of the Conference of the Future of Europe. Minister Grlić-Radman also highlighted the unique role of the Conference in determining the future of Europe by listening to the ideas and recommendations of the European citizens. He briefly informed on the activities of Croatia in the framework of the Conference, while paying special attention to brain drain, aging population and negative growth – issues of concern to both the EU and Croatia. He noted that the future of Europe should in fact be seen as the future of its citizens. We should not talk so much about the future in terms of wealth, trade, security and defence, but rather focus on how to improve the quality of life of citizens, on family, healthcare, social care. This is what would reverse the negative demographic trends. Commissioner Šuica presented the Atlas of Demography – a new, interactive and multidimensional tool developed by the Joint Research Centre of the Commission to visualise, monitor and anticipate demographic change. Together with the green and digital transitions, demographic change is shaping the future of Europe. The Atlas provides quick and easy access to a comprehensive set of demographic data and knowledge collected at European, national, regional and local levels. There is a trend of aging European population, which has its impact on the economy and society. It was noted that aging should not be considered a negative phenomenon as it encourages the search for ways to improve the quality of life of the adult population. It requires strengthening of solidarity between the different generations and balanced policies so that no one is left behind. Attention was also devoted to the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, adopted in 2021, which main goal is to make rural areas an attractive place to live. There has also been a positive trend of reverse migration, as a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit. It is not clear how lasting this trend will be, but it is also important for the economy. Traditionally, Eastern Europe is associated with the processes of outflow of young people in the direction of Western and Northern Europe (the so called issue of brain drain). This is one of the main reasons for change in the age structure of the population. Directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic is teleworking – a positive consequence that has the potential to create new jobs and requires investment in knowledge. A key feature of Croatia's demographic policy is the creation of a supportive environment aimed at slowing down the negative trends of an aging population and the loss of working-age population, which has a serious impact on the economy. To this end, demographic policy is at the heart of all other policies. As regards the experience of Bulgaria, several main factors have an impact on the demographic picture in the country – low birth rate, aging population and the movement of people on a global level. To achieve a positive turnaround, a 7-level program was established, focusing on: education (as in the case of Finland, focusing on preparedness for real life situations, not school exams), healthcare, infrastructure (regional policies), social security and justice, proactive immigration policy (return of Bulgarians from abroad), etc. It was noted that in the 21st century, demography is even more important than democracy and it is crucial for security and economic growth. Among the topics raised by the audience were also the choice of place to live, the issue of brain drain, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, access to education, the initiative to hold a Conference on the future of Europe and democracy. A short survey was conducted on the criteria by which people choose a place to live, and as expected, the determining criterion turned out to be job opportunities. In this context, the importance of the Internet was emphasised, especially now in times of a global pandemic – as a way to stay connected, as an opportunity for new jobs, e-health, education and more. Regarding the issue of brain drain, Commissioner Šuica pointed out that freedom of movement allows young people to choose where to live and work. With regard to the link between demography and democracy, the Commissioner noted that when the population feels neglected (as in the case of the rural areas), it undermines confidence in democratic procedures. European citizens, and especially young people, want and should have more say in the EU decision-making so that their needs and aspirations are better met. The event has been viewed by 675 unique users on the Facebook page of the REP in Sofia and was watched live by more than 170 viewers on all Youtube streams. It had a total reach of 36613 on Facebook and Twitter of the REP in Bulgaria and a total engagement of 412 reactions. A number of media outlets published news about it, including the Bulgarian News Agency and Bulgarian National Radio.
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