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‘We need to be inclusive in our way of working’




The Assembly of European Regions (AER) is the largest independent regional network of Europe, it extends beyond the EU’s frontiers to wider Europe. Currently, it is one of the partners in the project ‘Y-FED: Europe is what we make of it!’. Y-FED aims to improve understanding and participation of young people in decision making in line with European youth goals. 

Back in 2008, the AER established the Youth Regional Network (YRN), a pan-European platform of regional youth councils, parliaments and organisations, showing that it has been a frontrunner in involving young people in issues and policies that are relevant to them. 

EU Reporter met with the President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) Magnus Berntsson to find out more about why the involvement of young people is so important: “This is an important time for Europe. We are addressing the Conference on the Future of Europe and it's important that we include people who perhaps aren’t included in these discussions as much as they should be. I am talking especially about young people.

“It's important to address how local and regional politics, as well as European and national policies, are affecting their future. We are here to give them tools and opportunities to take part in the discussions. We need to help them to raise important questions that they have highlighted in discussions. So that's why we're here.” 


Berntsson says that young people have been profoundly affected by the pandemic: “We have conducted a poll in seven different European countries that really specified three areas of great importance for young people coming out of the Covid situation: mental health, job opportunities and education. 

“We need to be inclusive in our way of working. Politicians from the European level, as well as local and regional politicians need to include young people in the discussions. We don’t say we know everything!”

Another finding of the representative poll, conducted within the ‘Y-FED’ project by the institute Savanta, was that local and regional politicians enjoy a relatively high confidence: “Politicians in regions and cities are, with 52 percent, the most trusted when it comes to respond effectively to issues that affect citizens' lives - compared to 49 percent for the EU Institutions and 41 percent for national governments.” 


I spotted Berntsson was wearing a Sustainable Development Goals badge, the Swedish politician explained: “This is close to my heart, I’m the Minister for the Environment on the Regional Council of Västra Götaland. The Green New Deal is the challenge par excellence.”

Asked if we were ready for the challenge, he said: “We definitely have opportunities. Electrification goes so much quicker than anyone thought five years ago. But as a regional politician working very closely with our local business side, we need to follow that closely - especially coming from Gothenburg which has a strong automotive industry. It’s a huge transition and it requires systemic change. For example, we need to make sure that young people have the right skills.”

“If we go back to the 70s and 80s Gothenburg was a major shipyard of the world, then everything changed and that was very hard for many people. Now we have more people living and working in the shipyard area than ever before. It requires innovation and this can create new opportunities: we will need this approach in the transition to a green society.”


The project “Y-FED: Europe is what we make of it” aims to bring the EU closer to its young citizens by developing a proposal for an improved institutional framework of the Union in line with the European Youth Goals. The initiative is supported by an Erasmus+ “European Youth Together” grant. The project partners comprise 18 civil society organisations as well as 2 networks of European and regional decision-makers, amongst them the Young European Federalists and the Assembly of European Regions.

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Youth football peace initiative for Georgian conflict zone



A widely praised peace initiative in Georgia has launched an appeal for vitally needed fresh investment. The international peace project on the Georgian conflict zone has been lauded for helping to reconcile all sides in a dispute dubbed Europe’s “forgotten war.” In an effort to bring long term peace to the area, an ambitious project was launched to set up football infrastructure in the conflict zone of Gori municipality.

Spearheading the initiative is Giorgi Samkharadze, originally a football referee (pictured center)  who has now made an appeal for international donors to help finance his plans.

He said, “Our project has been partly financed by several business companies but it is definitely not enough to tackle our tasks.  On the contrary the situation became worse, tension is just increasing since the beginning of a conflict.”

Georgian and South Ossetian teams

Georgian and South Ossetian teams

Some $250,000 has been raised so far from a couple of investors and this has gone on drainage and an artificial pitch but more investment from donors is urgently needed for his proposals to come to full fruition.  Backing has also come from the EU/Georgia Business Council and Samkharadze  hopes aid may come from both the public and private sectors.

Support for what is still a charity has come from the Georgian Parliament which has written an open letter, appealing for investment for what is seen as a vitally important local peace initiative.

The Parliament of Georgia has given priority to the international peace project Ergneti, a state document was drawn up to seek donor organizations, the finances needed to develop children in the conflict zone with the help of appropriate infrastructure and to promote the systematic development of peace through sport and culture.

Giorgi Samkharadze explains the peace project

Giorgi Samkharadze explains the peace project

The letter, written by the Chairman of the parliament’s Committee of European Integration, senior Georgian MP David Songulashvili, strongly recommends the project which, he says, “touches on reconciliation of the societies of Georgia and Tskhinvali Region - a very prominent issue for Georgia, as well as its international partners.”

Development of the existing project, he says, “would facilitate people-to-people contact, dialogue processes, and reconciliation of the youth from both sides of the Administrative Boundary Line.”

He writes that the Committee “firmly believes that the goals and expected outcomes of this project are truly in line with the western direction of the country’s development, as peaceful resolution of conflicts and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders are values we and our international partners are strongly committed to.”

Songulashvili reaffirms the Parliament’s support to the project and recommends Samkharadze as a “valuable potential partner.”

He concludes, “We truly hope to see this project develop and progress in line with the country’s interests.”

Cup final celebrations!

Cup final celebrations!

Samkharadze  told this site he welcomes the intervention by the Georgian parliament, adding, “Georgia is a country of parliamentary rule and, when the Parliament of Georgia and the European Integration Committee supports such an international peace project, I would hope that the European Commission will feel compelled to provide some financial backing for our project.”

He said he now hopes to see “practical help” from the EU for the initiative.

He says such efforts are all the more important now because of a worrying recent upsurge in tensions in the region.

Ergneti is one of the numerous villages located next to the administrative boundary line (ABL), the demarcation between Georgia and Tskhinvali region or South Ossetia. Following the Georgia-Russia War in August 2008, barbed wire fences were installed on the ABL hindering the freedom of movement of people and goods.

In the past, the EU has applauded the efforts of the project but the hope is that this support will translate into financial aid.

Georgian TVs have broadcast news about the  project while the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, and the leadership of the European Parliament have sent letters of support.

Samkharadze said, “This international peace project needs the practical involvement of investors"


Giorgi Samkharadze give post match TV interviews

Giorgi Samkharadze give post match TV interviews

One obvious success so far has been the construction of a temporary football stadium for use by locals, located 300 meters from the temporary demarcation line in Ergnet. Recently, there was a friendly football match composed of the locals from the conflict zone. It took place near the Ossetian border and 300 hundred meters from Tskhinvali and local families of those taking part all chipped in to pay the costs of staging the event.

The event itself was highly symbolic and, so too, was the date when it took place, in August – it was in August 2008 that the bitter, albeit short, war started. Representatives from local government and the EU monitoring mission in Georgia (EUMM) were among those present.

Samkharadze  said, “They told us many warm wards and encouraged all of us to continue our activities.”

He told EU Reporter the aim now is to coordinate with different partners “to build the necessary infrastructure in the conflict zone so as to engage young people in sports and cultural activities.”

He adds, “it is necessary to have a good infrastructure for all events and an environment conducive to teachers and children, so as not to lose the enthusiasm they now have but to develop in search of a better future.”

Ergenti was severely damaged in 2008 and a temporary dividing line runs through the village.

“That,” he adds, “ is why we need to create a good infrastructure for all. We do not want war, on the contrary, we are committed to peace.”

He adds, “We are people of different professions committed to one big goal - to develop  both young people and employment in the conflict zone.”

In the longer term he wants to see other sports and activities take place such as rugby, athletics and cultural, artistic and religious events.


Presentation of the Cup

Presentation of the Cup

“It is  necessary to have a good infrastructure for all such events, and an environment conducive to teachers of sports and cultural events and children, so as not to lose the enthusiasm they now have but to develop in search of a better future,” he states.

The exciting project – located on one just hectare of land - that he heads will, he says, also continue to facilitate the reconciliation between Ossetians and Georgians along with the development of villages close to the neighbourhood.

The area, as snow, has been a source of tension since the break-up of the Soviet Union. After a short war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, Moscow subsequently recognised South Ossetia as an independent state and began a process of closer ties that Georgia views as effective annexation.

Some 20% of Georgian territory is occupied by the Russian Federation, and the European Union does not recognize the territories occupied by Russia.

Children from both sides of the conflict line united by football

Children from both sides of the conflict line united by football

Before the war, many persons in Ergneti used to trade their agricultural products with the nearby territory now under occupation. Moreover, the market in Ergneti represented a crucial socio-economic meeting point where both Georgians and Ossetians used to meet each other to do business.

Samkharadze hopes, with his pioneering project, to bring the good times back, at least to this part of his native country. The project is, he argues, a model for other similar conflicts around the globe.

It is to be hoped now that, despite the world being gripped by a global health pandemic and the corresponding financial impact, the positive soundings coming out of this small but troubled part of Europe will have some resonance in the corridors of power in Brussels - and beyond.


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As Sir Tom Jones turns 80, "the memories are tremendous", but not just for Tom



As he celebrates his 80th birthday, Sir Tom Jones has said he will keep singing "as long as there's breath in my body". Sir Tom, who grew up in Pontypridd, enjoyed huge commercial success with hits including It's Not Unusual, What's New Pussycat? and Kiss.

He became one of the world's biggest stars, with his live Las Vegas performances earning the admiration of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

The Welsh legend, who was born on 7 June 1940, said he did not mind growing old because "the memories are tremendous" – writes Henry St George.

video courtesy of coto.pops music

Another man also with tremendous memories of Sir Tom’s career is the owner and publisher of EU Reporter, Colin Stevens

In 1979 Stevens was a senior entertainment producer with HTV Wales in Cardiff and produced all the company’s Tom Jones Specials for ITV network.

Tom Jones had been a tax exile for 10 years in the USA, living in Beverly Hills and regularly appearing at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas.

Stevens had a feeling that once the ten-year tax exile was ended Tom would want to perform again in the UK. So, he made an approach to Tom’s manager, the legendary Gordon Mills who also managed Englebert Humperdinck and Gilbert O’Sullivan.

“I was incredibly cheeky” said Stevens. “I found out that Gordon would flying in from Beverly Hills to set things up for Tom’s first UK tour for 10 years and managed to get a 5-minute meeting with him.

It was over lunch at the 5-star Connaught Hotel, opposite the offices of MAM, Gordon’s record company.

There was around 20 people around the lunch table, the top of the entertainment industry and a former Miss World, but somehow, I found myself sat next to Gordon.

When the waiter brought the menus Gordon Mills sent him away, saying that everyone was to have sausage and mash, something he could not get in LA!

We all had to wait thirty minutes whilst the hotel sent a taxi to find and buy sausages!”

The story becomes more surreal, says Stevens.  “I knew I had beaten all the major companies to get to talk to Tom’s manager first, but I also knew there was no way HTV could afford to pay the same as the major networks. In fact, I had no idea what I could offer, I was thinking on my feet!”

It was only at the end of lunch that Tom’s manager turned to Stevens and asked what he could offer.

“I just said “I cannot afford whatever fee Tom will want, but if after 10 years exile, if he decides to first perform in Wales rather than in London, then just think of the publicity!”

There was a silence, nothing more was said until the end of the lunch. Then just as Tom’s manager was leaving, he turned to Stevens and said “I am flying back to LA tomorrow on Concorde. If you can provide me with a tin of Welsh cakes to give to Tom, we have a deal.”

“I telephoned my wife in Cardiff and persuaded her to start baking.” said Stevens.

“They were couriered to me in London the next day and I managed to deliver the tin of Welsh cakes to Tom’s manager before he left on Concorde.”

“As Concorde took off, I received a message left by Tom’s manager to look at that days Daily Mail newspaper. I opened it to read the headline “Giant Killer HTV steals Tom Jones from under Network’s nose for a tin of Welsh Cakes”. At than moment Gordon Mills taught me the value of PR” says Stevens.

Colin Stevens (centre) with Tom Jones (right)

Colin Stevens (centre) with Tom Jones (right)

Stevens went on to be invited to meet Tom at his home in Beverly Hills, travel in Tom’s private plane to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe,  produce two documentaries and two ITV Christmas Specials with Tom Jones before moving into news production and becoming editor of news related programmes, run his own PR company, and eventually set up a European news network which owns London Globe, EU Reporter and a host of other titles.

Throughout his career, Tom Jones has constantly reinvented himself, moving from pop, rock and country to gospel, soul, and blues and then on to electronic and dance music.

In parallel, Stevens has also reinvented himself, moving from TV producer, PR executive to owner and publisher of Globe News and EU Reporter.

It must be something in the Brains beer that they both like to drink in Wales!


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Arts – the ingenious #video challenge site



A new adventure is waiting for the video-lovers ‘community on the website, that offers an advanced platform of video contests. Challenjam brings together people with the same interest for friendly video competitions or challenges. Speed drawing, drone racing, travel vlog, free-running, snowboarding, song cover challenjams are running there, with participants getting and giving jamits (likes) each other to appraise featured videos.

The site gives place for a lively, thrilling, engaging online community who love discovering talents in a rewarding environment. Why is it rewarding? Because there are two ways to appreciate talents: one is to mark them favourite, and the other one is to give them jamits. Performance is judged by a welcoming audience without negative comments or feedbacks. attracts the most adventurous video creators, and the most fascinated audience with the same passion. It is a new social media hub, where anyone can start or join challenjams for free ‘Just for Fun’ or ‘Just for Fame’. However, it’s open for professionals also, they can set entry-fee challenjams, where the winning Post gets $ prize.

The site is very simple to use. Visitors can register with either their Facebook account or their email address. They are provided with a Profile page to follow their activity. To join a challenge needs only a video Post (currently a youtube video’s URL link). Winning is easy: collecting the most jamits.

YouTube has 118 million challenge videos and this number is getting higher in every moment, however the individual channel setup of YouTube does not support these kinds of video contests. That was the reason behind launching last year. The international users’ community of the site seem to be supporting the idea, because it is growing steadily. The site has visitors from 142 countries all over the world.

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