Social Capital as a Youth Civic Participation Tool

Have You ever heard about social capital as the civic participation form? The social capital is one of the first steps of trust building activities, those leading to the wider EU related civic engagement activities. How many of us are thinking about our future, future of EU and our role in its development, how we as a part of country where we come from can co-exist in a community where each country has it’s values, traditions, etc.? Project “Social capital development as a tool of youth civic participation in eastern Europe countries (SOCAP)” whose closure event took place on May 14 in Tallin, Estonia reflected general objective of the project: “to foster European citizenship and to improve conditions for civic and democratic participation at Union level”. Project overall objective was to contribute to the development of civic participation at EU countries with transition economies by promotion of the social capital and European citizen’s initiative within youth sector. The main target group were young people because of their interest in decision making, who participated in trainings about European citizen’s initiative and new forms of civic engagement, round table discussions on topics such as youth engagement, civic participation/organizations, volunteering on local level, volunteering abroad, youth entrepreneurship, networking, European citizenship (values, rights, opportunities), youth information and possibilities, youth involvement in policy making, diversity.

At the round table discussion as a part of this project activities participants had to discuss topics related about youth, its engagement in many areas. One of topics proposed was about European citizenship (values, rights, opportunities) considering questions:
  • What is European Union citizenship?
  • What rights do you have as an EU citizen?
  • Which are core values of Europe?
  • Which opportunities one has due to belonging to Europe/ EU?
  • Do You feel European? Why?

Key words considered answers to these questions were: respect, solidarity, culture, equality, etc. People from Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland talked about their personal experience being EU citizen, its priorities and problems concerned their countries, culture, language. At the end of discussion everyone participated in poster making, where symbolic combination of their personal experience merged. EU was a beehive where bees symbolized its citizens, nectar in the flower was the future extract, the vision of what we grow we will get, flower symbolized all 28 EU countries and a star in each petal symbolized every EU country, its individuality, its values, culture, diversity, history, etc. Land is the base of everything, our Planet, our security. Air is what we breathe, wind brings changes, so we all must be prepared for any challenge coming, but knowing we are all together each standing as a personality, as a voice. Each country member made a key word symbolizing their country main issue with possibilities to develop as a European citizenship. For Romania it was culture, its diversity, integration, for Estonia tolerance was the main aspect concerning its citizens. Poland was described with problems concerning democracy in freedom of self-being, ways of government ruling, etc. Latvia mentioned respect, meaning that is the basis of everything: personality, personal relationships, international. That means respect for diversity, for country and its citizens as a faithfulness without any manipulations as corruption, lobby, etc. It means every individual roots, country history, culture, traditions, it means we all need to be tolerant, have empathy, collaborate. This project highlighted that social capital is one of the major tools to foster EU values, rights and opportunities for citizens. So which are the core values for You being a citizen of Planet Earth or as an EU citizen? What challenges will the future bring us as a citizens of European Union? Keep in mind, that (..) “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” / J.K. Rowling

Konstance Sperlina, Latvia

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