Disinformation is one of the biggest challenges the European Union has been facing for the last few years. In 2018 the European Commission presented the Communication “Tackling online disinformation: a European approach”, which included tools directed towards tackling the spread and impact of online disinformation in Europe and ensured the protection of European values.And since people-to-people contacts is one of the most effective tools for tackling disinformation, the European Union organizes various initiatives that help bring the EU closer to citizens. Thus, they can learn more about EU’s competences, institutions, the various programs and projects, funded by EU, as well as about their rights as EU citizens and the opportunities to work, study or volunteer in another EU country.
In order to deal with the problem of disinformation and the distance that some citizens may feel towards the EU, the European Commission Representation in Bulgaria organizes annual Info Tours in different parts of the country. In addition to gaining useful information and answers to their questions, citizens are given various EU informational brochures and materials, including colorful and educational books for children.Moreover, they are also involved in various games, in which they learn more about the EU and the member states.
The Infotours, and many of the activities related to them, are promoted and carried out by Team Europe Junior, a project of the European Commission Representation in Bulgaria, which I have been part of since 2017. It consists of young people whose main goal is to raise awareness about the European Union. Some of our activities include “going back to school” to make presentations on EU topics, as well as taking part in different career forums, university lectures, and other EU-related events.I am so happy that I had the opportunity to take part in my very first Infotour not only as part of Team Europe Junior but also as a Young European Ambassador. It took place in the end of July this year and included 6 Bulgarian cities in northeastern Bulgaria – Targovishte, Razgrad, Shumen, Dobrich, Kavarna and Varna. It was really important for me to share valuable information about the EU, the Eastern Partnership Project and the Young European Ambassadors initiative in particular, not only with so many young Bulgarians but also with people from Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine. Some of them were visiting Bulgaria to take part in the “Festival of National Traditions and Art Crafts” in Razgrad, others were here on vacation in the coastal cities of Kavarna and Varna, which are among the most popular destinations with people from the Eastern Partnership countries.
They were surprised to find out how much the EU is doing for their region and were eager to gain more information about different opportunities. In addition, young people were especially interested to attend events, organized by Young European Ambassadors in their respective countries, and to become YEAs in the future, when they found out that they could get to know and work with more than 720;young people from more than 30 countries.
Events of this kind are extremely important because they help enhance people-to-people contacts, deal with disinformation, and make citizens feel more connected to the EU, as they become aware of EU’s role in their region and of different programs, projects and opportunities.