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AER Summer Academy Wins 2023 European Citizens’ Prize

The 2022 AER Summer Academy is one of two Irish projects selected as winners of the prestigious ‘European Citizens’ Prize’ for 2023.

Awarded every year by the European Parliament, the European Citizens’ Prize goes to projects, “organised by people or organisations that encourage mutual understanding and closer integration between people in the EU, cross-border cooperation that builds a stronger European spirit, and EU values and fundamental rights.” 

The 2022 Summer Academy was selected alongside ‘The Shona Project’, social enterprise for womens’ empowerment, as winners of the award for Ireland.

As part of the European Year of Youth, the theme of 2022 Summer Academy was ‘A Europe for the Next Generation/Eoraip don Chéad Ghlúin Eile’. Organised by the Assembly of European Regions (AER), the 2022 Summer Academy was hosted in Ireland for the first time by AER members, Donegal County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta, the regional state agency for the Irish-speaking regions of Ireland. 150 delegates from 19 regions across Europe were welcomed to the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Letterkenny, and the gteic@Gaoth Dobhair enterprise hub.

Over a week of debate, discussion and study visits, delegates worked together to shape solutions to the major challenges for the next generation; empowering young people in decision-making by connecting them with regional leaders, ministers, members of the Irish and European parliaments, the Council of Europe and European Committee of the Regions.

The programme included debates on youth participation in regional politics, and a range of workshops on rural entrepreneurship, the bioeconomy, the Ukrainian refugee crisis, youth mobility, the future of skills, tourism and remote working. It also included study visits to Derry/Londonderry City to learn about cross-community initiatives to support the Peace Process, Glenveagh National Park and Údarás na Gaeltachta’s ‘gteic’ Gaeltacht remote working hub in Gweedore. The Summer Academy was supported in part through a grant from the Irish Government’s ‘Communicating Europe’ Initiative.

Welcoming the news, Mícheál Ó hEanaigh, AER Vice President for Youth first thanked the members of the 2022 Summer Academy Organising Committee, and said, ‘’the Assembly of European Regions is honoured to have been selected as a winner of the European Citizens’ Prize alongside the Shona Project. The 2022 AER Summer Academy showed beyond doubt that initiatives led by young people are transforming Europe from the bottom-up and for the better. Whether it is in supporting refugees, addressing climate change or strengthening civic participation, their resilience, creativity and community spirit demand a greater say in decision-making at all levels. The AER will continue working with young people to ensure they have a real say in shaping the Europe they will inherit.”

From the hosts, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Martin Harley stated that, “on behalf of Donegal County Council, I would like to congratulate the Assembly of European Regions, Summer Academy Organising Committee, our co-hosts Udarás na Gaeltachta and my colleagues in Donegal County Council on this prestigious European Citizens’ Prize award that recognises the diligent work and commitment of all concerned to creating a positive future for young people across Europe. We were delighted to host the Summer Academy in 2022 in County Donegal, which attracted over 150 participants from 19 different regions and 18 different countries, which along with this award demonstrates the wide reaching and diverse nature of the AER Summer Academy event.”

Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of Údarás na Gaeltachta said, “it is wonderful that this prestigious prize has been awarded to the AER Summer Academy – a Europe for the Next Generation, which Údarás na Gaeltachta co-hosted in Donegal last year, in partnership with Donegal County Council. We were delighted to see so many young people from all over Europe gathered together in Donegal and we were honoured to welcome them to our flagship digital hub, gteic @Gaoth Dobhair in the heart of the Gaeltacht during the event. The Summer Academy in Donegal was an exceptional opportunity to prepare young people to face the common challenges facing all regions in Europe. These are the leaders of the future and the AER Summer Academy offers a chance for these young people to be heard and to engage with some of the most important issues facing us all. Creating the space for informed debate is hugely important in today’s society with the often polarised views facilitated by social media.”

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