The events in Kriva Palanka on 18 February and Strumica two days later were marked by displays of young people’s talents, enthusiasm and high expectations.
The opening of Europe Houses in the two towns could not wish for a better beginning.
An exhibition on the river quay of Kriva Palanka, consisting of photo stories involving ten young locals, and a wall with ideas in front of the Municipality building summed up the needs and aspirations of the young population from the town, and their expectations from Europe House. Cultural events (including film screenings and setting up of a book club) and debates/workshops (ranging from protecting stray animals, organic food, mental health to photography, design and starting business) were high on the wish lists.
In Strumica, similar messages were sent through performances and presentations by young people in the park opposite Europe House: let’s dance, let’s create, let’s debate, let’s be active and let’s have fun. In the spirit of the latter, there were jazz, rock and classical music gigs. The 7-day opening programme also includes light art installations, on-the-spot-painting and webinars on digital skills, debating and photography.
Kriva Palanka and Strumica are the first places outside the capital that host Europe Houses as “places for the new generation”. This is thanks to the municipalities, which offered proper facilities. The plan of the EU Delegation is to continue to spread the Europe House brand across the country.
The first Europe House was established by the Delegation in Skopje in November 2019, in response to the demands that high-school students from 25 different towns presented during a series of debates with the Delegation. Europe House Skopje replaced the EU’s Info Centre with a space where young people can meet, discuss, study, organise events, participate in cultural activities and - have fun.
“When European Parliament President David Sassoli inaugurated the Europe House in Skopje, his message to young people was, ‘This is a place for you to get together, exchange ideas and connect with others, so that you create fresh opportunities for yourselves and for your country’. I am sending the same message to you on this occasion. And I am inviting you to come up with own ideas on how to use Europe House best - by expanding your understanding of the EU while advancing your priorities”, said Ambassador Geer at the openings in both towns. In addition to hosting mayors Borjancho Micevski (Kriva Palanka) and Kosta Janevski (Strumica), the events were attended by the President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski (in Kriva Palanka) and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (in Strumica).
Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, welcomed the opening of the Europe Houses via a video message, expressing her confidence that North Macedonia’s greatest resource is young people. “I am proud of all you have done in this area. From people to people contacts in culture and education, to your participation in Erasmus+, a programme that has become synonymous with Europe. From your expression of solidarity through the European Solidarity Corps, to your contribution to a more innovative Europe, through our Horizon 2020 programme. Both Europe House centres will serve as a meeting place to spur debate, inspire collaboration and networking among young innovators, entrepreneurs, creatives, while promoting EU values”, said Commissioner Gabriel.
In Kriva Palanka, Ambassador Geer handed over the keys of Europe House to the young people. In Strumica, known for its centuries-long carnival tradition (the mayor gives the keys of Strumica to carnivalists as a symbolic gesture that they rule the town during the festival), the Mayor did it. With Ambassador Geer noting that, “While the town belongs to carnivalists for only one week, Europe House belongs to young people all year around. I invite you to make the most of it”.