A special young ambassadors programme will be running throughout EUROCITIES 2018 Edinburgh, giving young people an active voice in discussions and the chance to share their perspectives. Here we get to know Carlos Alberto Videira from Braga, Caitlin O'Regan from Bristol and George Tsoumas from Athens, finding out what they want to learn from the experience, how they want to see democracy in Europe strengthened and what they love best about their cities.
Tell us about yourself
Carlos: I am 27 years old and I have a degree in International Relations and a Master's Degree in Human Rights from the UMinho. I was president of the UMinho Students Union and member of the Education National Council. Currently, I work as an advisor to the Administrator of the UMinho Social Services.
Caitlin: I’m a year 13 International Baccalaureate student and I study Politics, French and English literature at Higher level. I like to read and currently I am reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Hardy. I’m the member of the Bristol City Youth Council and their member of UK Youth Parliament.
Georges: I’m an Athens-based urban and regional planner. My scientific interests are urban regeneration and development, urban policies and metropolitan governance. Currently, I work as a Special Advisor to the Mayor of Athens, specialised in urban redevelopment projects and planning strategies.
Why did you want to be a young ambassador for your city?
CR: It will be a great honor to represent Braga in EUROCITIES 2018. Braga is one of the youngest European cities and was the European Youth Capital in 2012. I had the opportunity to participate in many events of Braga EYC as member of the University of Minho Students Union. It will be a good opportunity to learn more about EUROCITIES network and their activity for the wellbeing of the European citizens and for the economic, political and social development.
CT: As a youth councillor, being the young ambassador for my city is representing the voice of all young people in Bristol. This means considering the issues that they face: for example, securing work experience, getting on public transport and discrimination. These three issues are central to the Bristol City Youth Council’s manifesto and have shaped our campaigns over the last two years. I expected to learn from my colleagues, ways that their cities have improved these problems and to discuss best practice.
G: Athens lies beyond good and evil, beyond beauty and ugliness. I don’t think that cities are supposed to be beautiful anyway. I think they’re supposed to be interesting and alive. Athens is definitely alive. Athens is a city that is changing all the time. Thus, being a young ambassador of Athens and having the opportunity to discuss and exchange opinions with other active young people about the future of our European Cities is a great challenge for me.
What message would you send to the president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, Daniel Termont?
CR: I studied International Relations and one of the most important slogans that I heard many times was 'think global, act local'. Europe is more important than ever in our lives, but some people don’t understand the decision-making process. I believe that these kinds of events and EUROCITIES network can bring Europe closer to citizens and help to implement European citizenship. So, in Edinburgh, I hope to learn and understand how can we do it.
CT: Thank you for promoting diverse conversations between cities! I look forward to attending the Eurocities young ambassador programme in Edinburgh and learning more about structured dialogue in the process.
G: I strongly believe that cities belong to their people. People rally around things they care about, as long as you make them feel that they own the solutions and their opinion is respected and heard. In my personal view, the only way to make cities more creative and competitive is including the citizens in the decision-making process and actually turning their ideas and their enthusiasm into concrete public policy.
What one thing do you really like about your city?
CR: Saint John's Eve: it's a festival that happens every year during midsummer, on the night, 23 June. Thousands of people come to the city centre to pay a tribute to Saint John the Baptist, in a party that mixes sacred and profane traditions and involves a huge street party and feast which lasts all night until dawn. During the days leading up to the feast, there are a multitude of tents and marquees serving traditional and contemporary food and drink.
CT: Views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge are spectacular! Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it is a masterpiece of structural engineering – however, that is not the reason why I like it. You can spot the Bristol hot air balloons flying in the distance above the bridge from everywhere in the city, but my favorite spot is from Brandon hill. Best time of year to look out for them is August, when we have the annual balloon fiesta.
G: I love a lot of different things in Athens but the one thing I admire is the character and the mentality of the city. Athens is a city that everyone can put down roots and return to, a place that changes you. It’s a city that has endured refugee and economic crises, chaos and social collapse and yet rises as one of the most innovative, cultural, resilient and competitive capitals of the world.
What three items would you take to a desert island?
CR: Flashlight; Fishing rod; Satellite Phone.
CT: ‘I’m travelling alone’ by Samuel Bjork, my Maths textbook and a chocolate fountain.
G: Α good red wine, a great book and my guitar – the perfect company.
What three things would you do if you were mayor of your city for a day?
CR: If I were mayor of my city for a day, I would put in place policies that contribute to increase birth rates; create an environmental sustainability, promoting green procurement; create a programme to empower young people and prepare them for the labour market.
CT: Make sure all young people in Bristol are provided with the opportunity to experience a language and cultural exchange with one of our twin cities in Europe. End period poverty: I would make sure that all schools in Bristol were equipped with menstrual products and implement a dispensary system. Introduce a campaign to up the age limit for a child ticket to 18.
G: Transfer individual thinking to collective knowledge and promote cooperation and openness in order to strengthen our democracy. Promote and enhance Athens resilient strategy through activist actions in order to inform people about climate change. Promote and enhance the key role of cities in facing every kind of problem that the world must solve (poverty, social discrimination, housing etc.)
How would you complete this sentence: ‘My Europe in 2030 will…'?
CR: …be a young continent, promoting mobility between european and non-european citizens, respecting human rights. Europe will be a continent that promotes science and research with high regulation in ethical questions. Europe will be a more sustainable continent, tackling climate change. Europe will be a more democratic space, promoting citizen participation in the decision-making process.
CT: …be respectful of others and our environment. For us all to benefit in our combined societies, there is a need for more than tolerance - respect. So, my Europe in 2030 will be the most inclusive yet - for we must always strive to do better than those before us.
G: ...be a more open, more creative, more productive Europe. A Europe with stronger and more representative institutions, a Europe that will think and act on the basis of the next generation, peace, environmental protection and not on the basis of the next elections.