Martin Keeney is a Youth Worker from Donegal in Ireland with over 10 years supporting and working with young people between the ages of 12-25. He has a diverse educational background, having previously completed a BA in English in Information Studies, an MA in Journalism and a BA in Community Development. He was the coordinator of the group of 12 young people from Donegal Youth Council who have participated in the “Democracy Builders “project founded by the European Commission through the Youth in Action Program, Key Action 1.3 – Youth Democracy Projects and developed by the Romanian Youth Movement for Democracy in collaboration with <Un Zambet Association>from Bacau, Romania.
Martin Keeney offered an interview for caleaeuropeana.ro.
– You are the representative of the Donegal Youth Council, which is the partner in the “Democracy Builders” project. Can you give us some details about the mission and vision of the Donegal Youth Council, about its structure and how it works? Also, please tell us how it is perceived by the local authorities?
The Donegal Youth Council is a group of 36 young people aged 12-18 years, who identify issues and promote projects to improve the lives of young people in Donegal. Like the adult County Councillors they are selected from five electoral areas and represent the young people in their schools, education centres and local areas. The Donegal Youth Council project aims to represent the views and opinions of the youth of Donegal, by building and strengthening links with people and organisations that impact on young people’s lives. The Youth Council regularly meet with the adult politicians of the region in a bid to influence and advise them as to what they see as real concerns and issues for young people in the region. The Youth Council are given a budget to develop projects and initiatives of their own also.
– In Romania the “Youth worker” occupation has been included in Romania’s National Code of Professions only in 2013, so it’s a quite new occupation. What does actually a youth worker means in Ireland? What qualification, skills do you need to become a youth worker?
Over the last 30 years youth work has professionalized a great deal in Ireland and it was given formal statutory recognition in the Youth Work Act 2001, which defines youth work as:
A planned programme of education designed for the purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and social development of young people through their voluntary involvement, and which is complementary to their formal, academic or vocational education and training and provided primarily by voluntary youth work organisations.
Youth work is above all an educational and developmental process, based on young people’s active and voluntary participation and commitment. It is often defined as ‘non-formal education’. Youth work is for all young people, with particular focus on those aged 10 to 25 from all aspects of Irish life, urban, rural, all nationalities and social classes. Youth work is provided primarily by voluntary organisations, with statutory support from the Department of Education and Science and the Vocational Education Committees.
– The Democracy Builders seminar had recently ended. How will you describe this experience for you, as a youth worker? What about for your group? Do you think the activities in this seminar had an impact on the participants?
The experience was really fascinating. As a youth worker I really enjoyed visiting projects and viewing the work and finding out more about the methodology and nature of the work they engage in and also the large number of those volunteering time to help support and develop young people in the region. From a participant point of view our young people were challenged to think “outside the box” and also were challenged in their own beliefs and attitudes. Through the workshops they got a great feel for the different ways activism can happen and one young person from the group has already expressed a strong interest in developing a youth work career, citing her experience as something which has really been a huge factor in encouraging her to do so.
– Can you tell us the history of the “Democracy Builders” project and why a project for the youth in the field of participatory democracy?
The Democracy Builders project happened through a partnership that was developed between the Co-ordinator of Donegal Youth Council and director of RYMD at a partner finding seminar in Dublin, Ireland in May 2013. Both organizations realized they shared a similar vision in their work and wanted to explore doing a project together, which would involve young people from both countries exploring ways of increasing the participation of young people in both voting and participatory democracy. This led to the groups exploring the possibility of doing a Youth Democracy Project together through the then Youth in Action programme and thankfully an application to the Romanian National Agency proved successful.
– How will you describe the relationship between the promoters of the “Democracy Builders” project?
The relationship has been really positive, with a real sense of shared experience and responsibility. I have been lucky to meet some wonderful people who could not do enough to make our trip to Romania one that would last in the memory for a very long time.
– What do you think that was the Irish youth opinion about Romania before this project? What about your opinion? Do you believe that a series of stereotypes were countered?
There is no doubt in Ireland there are negative stereotypes about Romania and Romanian people and this is something that we discussed at length before departing on the trip. I think a lot of these stereotypes were debunked greatly through the trip, as young people were able to talk about and develop a better understanding of Romanian culture and also get a feel for the large scale unemployment in the country, and how this has left so many with no choice but to migrate. They were also able to gain a better understanding of Roma culture, as people don’t always realize that the Roma make up such a small percentage of the overall Romanian population. We found the Romanian people to be welcoming and warm with us and wanted to show us and educate us about the positive aspects of their country.
Green Village Resort, the Danube Delta impressive location, opened for tourists under maximum safety measures
Green Village is naturally isolated with access to immense beaches stretched for kilometres, canals where tourists can make a different trip every day, they can fish, walk in nature, watch birds, without meeting any crowds.
„Even in a normal period, tourists felt safe and enjoyed a quiet vacation. Romania is a growing destination for foreign tourists. Although slower than we want, Romania attracts foreigners, who come here with moderate expectations, but return home beyond enchanted by the landscapes, people, and security that our country offers”, said Dragoș Anastasiu, owner of Green Village Resort.
Last year, more than 40% of our tourists were foreigners. They enjoyed mostly excursions on the canals, fishing, birdwatching, going to the beach and short trips to nearby cities such as Sulina and Tulcea.
Romania Remains Attractive As Software Outsourcing Destination in COVID-19 times
Romania is 1ST IN EUROPE and 6TH IN THE WORLD, in terms of number of certified IT specialists. With an estimated 150,000 in 2020, Romania is moving up the diversity spectrum in terms of outsourcing capabilities. The local talent pool has been a main decision factor for evolving from a cost driven approach to a value driven one, Romanian specialists proving to be very resourceful in operating many complex project assignments.
Romania doesn’t offer lowest prices in the outsourcing business, but it is highly competitive when you take into account the level of technical proficiency and soft skills in the country, “superior to what is typically found in other outsourcing locations,” according to IDC.
Romania also benefits from two political factors—its membership in the European Union, and strong institutional support from the government. This includes several tax incentives and breaks, alongside wages that remain highly competitive within the EU (the average minimum wage is the second lowest in the political union). More importantly, membership in the EU comes with more than just financial and security advantages, one example is access to the Horizon 2020 program for Research and Innovation.
As a member state, Romania’s regulations and compliance laws must fall in line with the broader union, meaning that companies have significantly less startup barriers when setting up BPO or ITO offices. Apart from easier setup, this gives companies a much safer framework and infrastructure for financial transactions, as well as access to many of the same financial services and banks available across the West.
We asked one of the local companies what are their thoughts on the Romanian IT sector future and how is the COVID-19 disrupting their business model:
“This highly competitive industry sometimes forces us to ignore the long-term strategy and focus on the quick opportunities. The biggest risk is that we won’t see a lot of Romanian products competitive at global scale any time soon, but definitely in almost every successful project launched today around the World there is at least one Romanian engineer in the team. We give a lot of attention to our Research and Innovation department and we try to keep the right balance between outsourcing and internal products development (chasing our dreams). Regarding the COVID-19 disrupting our business, we just practiced what we preach, we used our entire digital offering on ourselves and we were able to completely switch into remote work during lunch break” says Anamaria POPA, General Manager of Soft Galaxy.
It is not enough for the professionals out there (in institutes, universities, private companies, innovators and entrepreneurs) to press ahead with their work, they need to stand together and promote the Romanian excellence in research and education.
Vasile Blaga, MEP: I am convinced that the firm measures adopted by the EP against Covid-19 will not stop here. The EPP Group is already working on a strategy for the rapid recovery of the post-crisis economy
Vasile Blaga, MEP (PNL, PPE) told caleaeuropeana.ro that the EPP group in the European Parliament is already working on a “very clear strategy” for managing the current crisis generated by the new coronavirus, but also for the rapid recovery of the post-crisis European economy,
The unanimous vote of the European Parliament last week on proposals from the European Commission for the management of the European health crisis shows that the hesitant response at the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic was an accident, explains MEP Vasile Blaga, adding that “the answer came to correct the rather timid initial reaction of the European executive in the beginning of this challenging crisis for Europe and all the other states around the world ”.
The 37 billion euros (part of the Corona Initiative) allocated to the Member States through the vote in the European Parliament will be directed towards health systems, local communities, small and medium-sized enterprises and economy sectors seriously affected by this crisis.
“The European Union means, first and foremost, solidarity – for better and for worse, and those who support the opposite are either not aware of what is being done at EU level, or have an interest in destabilising the Union,” says Blaga.
The vote in the European Parliament was also aimed at reallocating 800 million euros from the Cohesion Fund in 2020 to cover emergencies in the medical systems of the EU member state
“I am convinced that the measures will not stop here. The EPP group is already working on a very clear strategy for managing the current crisis, but also for the rapid recovery of the economy once the public health crisis is over. There are countless proposals and projects in progress that will help us all overcome this unprecedented crisis in recent history,” adds Vasile Blaga.
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