I like the idea of competition, and rewarding the winners. Many times I managed to motivate young people to participate in projects via competitions.
In the fall of 2004, "House of Europe" Cluj-Napoca decided to deepen the study published in 2003 on "The impact of EU enlargement on Cluj" with a comprehensive analysis, aimed to present situation of the Cluj from a European perspective. In addition to traditional research methods, we launched an essay contest addressed to the citizens of Cluj, carefully designed to gather innovative ideas to help the city become more visible from a European perspective. The project received a total of 22 essays, and the jury was composed of personalities from Brussels, Bucharest and Cluj, the European Parliament, Committee of the Regions, Mission of Romania to the EU (Brussels), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Research, Regional Council Cluj, Cluj-Napoca City Hall, the private sector, academia, NGOs and the media.
The submitted essays were the mainly about the "State of the Union: Cluj-Brussels", giving voice to civil society. Third place was won by Emil Pop, Project Secretary at the University "Babes-Bolyai" Cluj-Napoca; the second place was occupied by Adina Ungur, a student at the Faculty of Humanities of the University "Babes-Bolyai" Cluj -Napoca, and editor of the magazine "Atheneum", published for the Romanian Community in Canada. The first prize was awarded to George Cârstocea, 17 years old at the time, a high school student at "George Şincai" in Cluj-Napoca.
And to show where ambition and involvement can take you, I recently discovered that George is currently studying in California. When contacted, he told us what the competition meant to him: "I wrote about Cluj explicitly as a product sold to tourists. In high school, I still thought I might have a career in PR or advertising, and the essay I wrote from the same point of view was rather naïve, but enthusiastic. The essay gave me the chance to play a bit with the idea of writing for a specific audience, and it seems that my intuition at that time was right".
For about five years I teach courses on European Union policy mechanisms, focusing on the private sector and the "connection" to the Community institutions. Besides addressing general topics, such as: public sphere and the EU; European identity and values; EU communication policy; business interest groups in Europe; "Global structures" in Europe; and EU media landscape, it was a pleasant surprise to interact with students at "Babes-Bolyai" University in Cluj-Napoca (especially with those from the Faculty of European Studies) during the presentation I gave on the theme "How to find a job in Brussels?".
On this occasion we launched an essay contest, challenging participants to jointly identify development opportunities for EU-Romania relations. The prize money reached a total of 300 euros for the winning essays; however does it really interest the student whether the reward is big or small? I say that this is not necessarily the case, because in addition to receiving this monetary reward, they acquire work experience, which will be a valuable asset on any young resume. The winning essay, sent by Ana Vlad, was published on the blog "House of Europe", as part of a series on the same subject from several specialists in Brussels.
But what does such a competition for mean for young participants? Ana Vlad wrote: "The reason I decided to participate in the contest was the opportunity to express my opinion without having to cite sources, and without the stress linked to the search for synonyms to express an idea as academic. Persons with extensive experience with how things work in Brussels were interested to know my opinion about the evolution of EU-Romania relations. The competition was an excellent opportunity to practice my ability in stringing ideas together on this subject".
Dan LUCA / Brussels