Complaint and letter to EU Commissioners: Discrimination of Social economy legal forms

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Our official complaint and our letter to the President and the Commissioners about discrimination of Social economy legal forms, State aids Covid 19. Services directive

Honorary President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula Von Der Leyen

Honorable Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Frans Timmermans

Commissioner of Internal Marketing, Mr. Thierry Breton

Commissioner for Jobs and Labor, Mr. Nicolas Schmit

Commissioner for Competition Ms. Margrethe Vestager

Director-General of Legal Service, Mr. Mr Luis Romero Requena

C/C co-chairs of Social Economy Intergroup in EP Mr Sven Giegold & Ms Patrizia Toia

president of Social Economy Europe, Mr Juan Antonio Pedreno

director of Social Economy Europe, Mr Victor Meseguer

Athens 2.6.2020

Subject: Discrimination of Social economy legal forms. State aids Covid 19. Services directive

Dear Ladies, Dear Sirs

I am Nikos Chrysogelos president of the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal in Athens running the innovative WELCOMMON HOSTEL, a hostel with social and green impact which is nowadays locked down. In this hostel we used to host groups of young tourists and a number of refugees offering them language courses, training for social insertion and social services for their children. It is also a center for social and green innovation and economy.

I am writing to you to complaint for a discrimination suffered in Greece by the entities of social economy, taking advantage of the letter addressed by Commissioner Mr. Nicolas Schmit to the national Governments on April 23, 2020, where he is calling on Member States to ensure strong support for the social economy at this time of serious crisis due to the COVID19.

In Greece, however, the social economy entities not only suffer from the lack of supportive policy from the national and regional authorities but in addition they are excluded from any aid, subsidies and other financial support related to the COVID19 crisis, as explained in the annex.

In practice, the terms and conditions imposed by Government decisions and by financial institutions, for lending to companies suffering from the crisis, prevent social enterprises from claiming financial support because they do not have the appropriate legal form. This is contrary to the statement found in the relevant Commission’s decisions, according to which all types of enterprises can profit from the State aid measures. This causes to us an inadmissible competitive disadvantage and it is a discrimination in violation of the Services Directive.

Given that the new COVID19 financial instruments should be addressed to all types of enterprises, you are kindly asked to take action in order to remedy to this inadmissible situation, by taking into account the particularities of the companies in the field of Social Economy.

Best regards

Nikos Chrysogelos

email: nikos.chrysogelos@gmail.com

mobile: 00306936672882

www.anemosananeosis.gr

www.welcommonhostel.gr

www.facebook.com/welcommonhostel

www.facebook.com/daysofwelcommon

www.facebook.com/WindofRenewal.SocialCooperatives/

www.instagram.com/welcommonhostel

Annex to the letter to EU Commission

SUBJECT: DISCRIMINATIONS AND EXCLUSION OF SOCIAL ECONOMY FROM RECOVERY MEASURES COVID-19

Introduction

  1. The European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Mr. Nicolas Schmit, in a letter dated 23 April 2020 to the Ministers of Labor of the EU, calls on Member States to take all necessary measures to ensure strong support for the social economy entreprises.

State aide measures

  1. In the meantime, the Commission has adopted a Communication on Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak1 on the basis of which it approved a Greek guarantee scheme on this issue and an amendment to that scheme 2.

  2. These latter texts concerning State aids make it clear that Member States are authorized to grant various support measures to undertakings of all kinds in all sectors, as it is literally stated.

Discrimination of social cooperatives; Services Directive

  1. However, we consider that the cases described below, in the context of the application of the support measures, create a negative discrimination of social cooperatives on the grounds of their legal form, when compared with other types of businesses, using different legal form.

  2. We regard this situation as contrary to the provisions of the Services Directive Article 15(2)(b).

  3. Social and Solidarity Economy Enterprises in Greece are created in the form of Social cooperatives with limited liability (Koinsep in GR) and are governed by the Law 4430/2016. As such they are considered as companies by the Treaty Article 54 TFEU and therefore they are entitled to enjoy all rights recognized by EU law to enterprises.

  4. However, they are excluded from the “special purpose allowance” COVID-19 granted to other enterprises (800€) like limited and unlimited partnerships, liberal professions, private single person capital companies (Ministerial Decision 39162 ΕX 2020, Nat Gazette B 1457 – 16.04.2020).

  5. This aid measure excludes all kinds of social economy enterprises, even those locked down by Government Decision, like our Welcommon Hostel. This policy creates an unequal treatment regime since for the same code of commercial activity (in Greek KAD) other companies receive the aid of 800€ and others do not, depending on their form. The answer sent to our application reads as follows: “We would like to inform you that you are not entitled to the special purpose allowance, because the conditions of articles 2 and 3 of Decision 39162 EX 2020 are not met. Specifically: You are not a liberal professional or a self-employed person, owner of a sole proprietorship or a personal company or a private one-man capital company”.

  6. Exclusion from subsidies to the interest of professional loans. (Ministerial circular 32790/ par 13§1 3). All social economy enterprises are excluded from receiving subsidies on the interest they pay for their existing professional loans, for the simple reason that they are not capital based companies. In fact, applications are dismissed because credit institutions are bound to examine only demands of capital companies with limited liability. In reality the circular foresees that only the undertakings mentioned in Annex I of Company Law Directive 2013/34/EU, on the annual financial statements, consolidated financial statements and related reports of certain types of undertakings, are covered; and according to the Greek relevant declaration these are only public and private companies limited by shares (and the unlimited partnerships with shares) but not social cooperatives 4.

  7. Aid in the form of repayable advances: Facing a severe lack of liquidity, as all other tourist establishments, we tried to get informed about loans COVID19 from banks that act as intermediaries between European (or national) funds and the enterprises. We realized that the same problem appears also in this case, in the sense that a company applying for a repayable advance should not be an undertaking in difficulty according to the definition of Commission Regulation 651/2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market. However, only the companies mentioned in article 2 point 18 of this Regulation, are entitled to apply and these are again the types of companies that are mentioned to the Annex I of the directive 2013/34/EU, on the annual financial statements, as explained above.

Questioning the high rate for loans based on EU funds

  1. In addition we would like the Commission to renegotiate with the Greek authorities a number of points concerning aid conditions like interest rate of 8% or 10% levied by the banks that are intermediaries for repayable advances of Community funds, which is not reasonable neither and proportionate.

  2. Furthermore, if an amount is pledged as collateral by some members of social economy enterprises in order to help their undertaking – since for the legal entities it is impossible to access even European-funded loans – this sum which is deposited and blocked in the bank is granted an interest rate of 0.15% while the loan granted to the coop, like a repayable advance or open loan or otherwise, is charged with an interest rate of over 8%, which is exorbitant.

  3. It is almost impossible for social economy companies to benefit from a European-backed program such as Greek TEPIX I and II in support for small undertakings, given that banking criteria both before and during the crisis exclude them. There are examples of such exclusions, even for innovative business plans which, if they were presented by other legal forms of business would be sure to be included in the financing program.

Absence of favorable environment

  1. At present, any application for a COVID 19 State aid should be signed by an accountant declaring that “the loss the company suffered in 2019 is less than 50% of registered capital”. However, it is very likely that the majority of Greek social economy enterprises have suffered losses in previous years, either due to a crisis or due to investments made as start-ups and are therefore nowadays excluded from loans for cash flow, although not in bankruptcy or similar procedure.

  2. For example, a social economy business in tourism, as is the case of our Welcommon Hostel, that started in 2018 without subsidies or loans but only with funds from members and friends, needs at least 3-4 years to reach a degree of economic viability. Therefore, it is perfectly normal to have losses in previous years. And for this reason, it is now being prosecuted and risks bankruptcy, as it does not have access to the necessary cashflow and restart liquidity.

  3. Hygiene and safety measures, especially for the tourism and catering industry, are costly (cleaners, disinfectants, uniforms, physician, insurance, staff training, equipment required, etc.), while the environment in which these businesses are back after the crisis is uncertain. In addition, obligations (rent, electricity etc) have not been written off and many costs had to be paid within the lockdown period. In Greece banks are asking for a mortgage or other real surety or even a deposit at least equal to the requested cash flow, as a prerequisite for considering such a demand.

  4. However, it should be noted that according to the information published by the Ministry of Labor (2017) concerning social economy there are €161 million from European Community funds in order to finance the Greek “Action Plan for the development of the social economy 2017-2023 ” out of which less than 1% (+-1.3 m) is committed.

Measures to support employment

  1. If employment and training in green and socially good jobs are not supported today, we will see soon an increase of the number of jobless people, especially in countries with already high unemployment rates, such as Greece. The measures to support employment through “community service”, within local authorities, or in public or semipublic organizations etc., implemented for several years, do not give to social economy enterprises a chance to actively participate and draw an advantage; and this despite the fact that the funding of the program comes from the European Social Fund and that the role of the social economy in social and professional integration is well known as this was pointed out in the letter of Commissioner N.Schmit to the Member States.

  2. While many European countries have already implemented national and regional employment support programs through the social economy, there has been no similar planning in Greece. However, at European level, before and after the crisis, social economy businesses were considered to be a key tool for reducing unemployment and for training unemployed and socially vulnerable young people to subjects and professions that are important for social and ecological sustainability, green – circular economy and digital modernization.

  3. Unfortunately, in Greece the European Social Fund resources continue to be treated as unemployment benefits to reduce its extreme dimensions but by no means as tools for the promotion of a social economy enterprise nor as means for the insertion to the work of the most vulnerable people. In fact, jobless people are not offered experience in important, sustainable and promising areas of activity, like health and safety areas, social and green innovation, or digital modernization; in other words these national programs do not create the conditions for finding a long-term job after the end of support programs.

  4. The actual policy of Greek authorities concerning investment and training programs should be revisited since the resumption of business activities cannot anymore be based on the operating conditions of the past. In this context social economy enterprises can play an important role as training vehicles.

  5. We urge you to ask the Member State to remove all obstacles and discrimination against social economy in Greece especially when European financial resources are used for this objective. The actual suffocating environment does not help to attain the recovery of the economy and employment through social, digital, and green transition.

3 https://www.taxheaven.gr/circulars/32790. See also Min Decision 37674, of 10/4/2020 point 4§4, Law 4683/2020 ratifying Act of Legislative Content, article 6; National Gazette Α’ 68/20-03-2020

Reinforcing the European Youth Employment Policy through the European Green Deal

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How we can reinforce the European Youth Employment Policy through the European Green Deal after the COVID-19 crisis?  A proposal submitted to the European Commission by World Future Council, the partners of the EUKI_YESclima project (between them WindofRenewal/AnemosAnaneosis and the BMBF funded project GRÆDUCATION (between others F.I.A.P.)

Memorandum submitted to the European Commission by World Future Council1, the project YESclima in the European Climate Initiative “EUKI”2 and the BMBF funded project GRÆDUCATION3

The following proposal refers to the outstanding tasks of the member states to elaborate programmes on how to apply the European Youth Guarantee and the finances provided for this in their countries. It aims to relate the programme to green recovery policies and the challenges of climate protection in Europe in the next years.

  1. Introductory remarks

The signatories strongly welcome the European Commission’s initiative to “reinforce the Youth Guarantee” as part of the Commission Work Programme for 2020, and to reshape this instrument to support young people in gaining work experience and developing skills which are specifically relevant both for a green and digital transition, as well as to boost employability in the green economy. There is no doubt that the unforeseen COVID-19 crisis, which has had a firm grip on the world since the beginning of 2020, will plunge it into a deep recession. It is feared that unemployment will rise massively in all affected regions of Europe. Given the already high unemployment rate among young women and men in Europe and as a consequence of the economic depression by and after the COVID-19 crisis, the exclusion of (not only!) the European youth from economic activities will increase.

The youth labour market is highly sensitive to economic cycles and in times of economic crises, youth employment is hit more strongly by economic shocks than adult employment. Young workers are often “first out”. According to the OECD, “almost 1 in 10 jobs held by workers under 30 were destroyed during the [2008] crisis. In Spain, Greece and Ireland, the number of employed youth halved between 2007 and 2014”.4 A decade later, youth employment has still not recovered to pre-2008 crisis levels.5 Southern and Eastern European countries are most impacted by youth unemployment,6 and the COVID-19 crisis is likely to critically exacerbate this situation in these regions. We would also like to highlight that in economic crises, young women in particular are more often excluded from the labour market and from economic activities.

The present situation offers a unique chance for all EU countries to reshape the economic recovery after the COVID-19 crisis into a green recovery, by implementing the goals set out in the European Green Deal  (EGD) and the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), according to the EU Regulation 1999/2018. The EU has set an ambitious goal for 2050: to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, we are still far from achieving this objective, which makes it more necessary than ever to redouble the efforts of member states to work in this direction. Society will have to significantly reduce current levels of energy consumption without giving up living standards. At the same time, that energy must be produced mainly by renewable sources. Europe, being a continent with a large coastline, will have to start exploiting clean marine energy to a greater extent.  This will create new business and service opportunities for which today’s youth will need to be prepared. To realise these aims, a well-equipped, creative young workforce is desperately needed.

In our opinion, youth employment policies generally, and the European Youth Guarantee in particular, should be geared towards increasingly preparing young people specifically for tasks and professions that are important, indeed indispensable, for the sustainable and environmentally compatible future of business and society. Therefore, support should not only be provided to accommodate young people in existing work contexts. Instead, the focus should be on employment in innovative, emerging professions that are important for a sustainable Europe and in creating jobs with a focus on “Green Skills”. Activities that aid decarbonisation and quickly achieve climate neutrality are central to this. Yet in most European countries, the existing training and other measures do not cover the demand of “Green Skills” and the needs of modern labour markets. Jobs and services related to renewable energies, circular economy and sustainable development have to be created and existing professional profiles have to be redefined.

  1. Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee

As civil society organisations working in the field of youth employment, sustainability, and good policies, we would like to structure our ideas in 5 blocks relating to issues raised by the European Commission to discuss a redesign of the European Youth Guarantee with civil society.

  1. What are the most significant challenges for young people in their first transitions to the labour market and in which areas could the Youth Guarantee be reinforced?

Generally, we concur with the analysis by the European Commission, but we stress the importance of linking the problem of youth unemployment to the current devastating situation caused by the pandemic, as a consequence of which youth unemployment will skyrocket. Given the upcoming recession, we call on the European Commission and EU-countries to urge the implementation of national Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans and to adapt them to the current situation.

  1. How could the Youth Guarantee better support employability of young people in vulnerable situations, including those living in rural / remote areas?

Besides improving the educational path to afford every young person access to decent and green jobs, no matter his or her background, we also strongly believe that vocational training provides for better employability. To improve vocational education the following conditions are required:

  1. Vocational preparation should already be closely linked to professional practise to raise awareness for the needs and opportunities of labour markets.

  2. A large majority of young people with fewer qualifications are less equipped in mathematics, digital technologies and in their capacity to deal with texts. Thus, basic skills in these areas should be imparted into the educational background, to empower young people in the use of innovative, green technologies.

  3. Enhancing soft skills should already be a crucial part during vocational preparation in order to create the foundation needed for vocational training. Skills that can be summarised under the term entrepreneurial skills should also be considered.7

  4. Vocational preparation is an excellent method to raise awareness and build motivation towards gaining the necessary green skills the green labour market needs.

  5. The vocational preparation phase should be limited to a clear time frame.

Given these conditions and considering the European Green Deal (EGD), we believe that the following fields of activities will be increasingly in demand in the coming years. Targeted professional preparation within the framework of the European Youth Guarantee or other programmes such as the “NEW Skills Agenda” support this development.

  1. EGD 2.1.2: focuses, among other things, on combating energy poverty. To specifically address households suffering from energy poverty, we suggest that young people from the same social milieu should be qualified and engaged as communal energy consultants. Their work would focus on energy and cost savings in everyday life and provide contacts to public offers (such as microcredit and grants for devices for energy generation and use). This calls for funding from public budgets. In this field there will be an increasing need of new services in the coming years. Young people should be trained to develop new service ideas related to energy saving and the support of users in sustainability-oriented performance.

  2. EGD 2.1.4: Energy and resource-efficient construction and renovation also create employment opportunities in the building trade in areas for which low-threshold professional preparation is required. This could be attractive to young people from rural areas, especially if they were already frequently engaged in practical construction work, for example in family and neighbourly contexts. In addition, there is an increasing importance of construction activities that rely on regionally available, resource-saving, climate-adapting and health-promoting materials and construction methods. Examples of this are construction with straw, wood, and clay, which, particularly in rural areas, can build upon cultural traditions that have largely been lost. Appropriate vocational preparation with a close practical relevance seems promising to us. Companies should be closely involved in the programmes, particularly regarding sustainable construction. This has a motivational effect on young people and gives companies the opportunity to access and retain skilled workers.

  3. EGD 2.1.5: Climate-friendly, sustainable mobility will become more and more important. Bicycles and electric micro mobility solutions should be considered as regular means of transportation, especially in urban areas. This will also significantly increase the demand for bicycle workshops and experts for electric scooters and micro mobility devices. The repair and maintenance of mobility solutions requires highly practical training due to the use made of complex but comparatively transparent technology.

  4. EGD 2.1.6: (“Farm to Fork”) provides for a restructuring of agriculture that supports biodiversity and prevents soil degradation due to erosion and disturbance in the water balance. This requires a wide range of activities that go far beyond conventional agriculture as done today. Targeted vocational preparation can especially motivate young people in rural areas to be engaged in different fields, e.g. in the restoration of biodiversity-rich zones (cf. EGD, p. 16), in the creation of shelters in agricultural work (field edges, hedges etc.), the creation of wildflower meadows as habitats for insects and birds or in agroforestry (EGD, p. 16). These tasks could be financed by the EU agricultural programmes, the corresponding restructuring of which is imperative for “Farm to Fork”.

  5. The climate adaptation sector, which will become increasingly important in the future, particularly in densely populated urban areas, has not been considered in the EGD so far. This calls for a wide field of professional preparation and later fields of activity, such as urban greening and maintenance, greening of buildings, rainwater management and natural techniques to cool buildings in general.

  6. EGD 2.1.7 (preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity): In addition to our proposals on “Farm to Fork” (point 4, above), this opens up work and career prospects in the restoration of valuable natural areas in general, but also in comprehensive and large-scale reforestation programmes in large parts of the European Union, in the protection and improvement of forest ecosystems, in preventive measures against the growing danger of forest fires, and in the renaturation of water bodies, river courses and wetlands.

  7. The aforementioned situation during and after COVID-19 will encourage teleworking. Here, we have an opportunity to create new jobs in rural or remote areas. New technologies (e.g. Virtual Reality applications) provide the opportunity to experiment with innovative technologies even if the infrastructure is missing in local contexts.

  1. How could the quality of Youth Guarantee interventions be improved further – both directly and indirectly?

Leaving no one behind and reaching out to young people in vulnerable situations require, beside interventions like the European Youth Guarantee, an enhanced educational system with progressive pedagogies, and technical and vocational training providing 21st century skills. Quality education and education for sustainable development are key components of innovation to help learners develop fundamental skills, knowledge, and competencies such as critical thinking, STEM,8 scenario planning and collaborative decision making, and problem solving. Therefore, improving the quality of Youth Guarantee interventions also calls for transforming educational systems. There are inspiring policies across the EU, such as Scotland’s youth employment strategy “Developing the Young Workforce”.9 This strategy brings together the education system based on learning for sustainability, employers, civil society, youth organizations and local authorities, in order to reduce youth unemployment and to promote pathways for young people to participate in current and future work opportunities.

With regard to the topic of entrepreneurship, the Welsh Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy (YES Strategy) is another inspiring policy that boosts youth entrepreneurship.10 Developed through broad consultations with stakeholders, the YES Strategy is based on the vision to develop and nurture self-sufficient, entrepreneurial young people in all communities across Wales. It is addressed to young people until the age of 25, is funded by the Welsh Government and involves a wide range of local stakeholders, from youth organisations to businesses and schools or Higher Education Institutions. In terms of impact, the YES Strategy achieved a considerable change in young people’s attitudes and their early-stage entrepreneurial activity.

Investigating the actual impact of previous Youth Guarantee interventions is crucial to discovering which measures were successful. Future interventions should focus primarily on such proven interventions and in any case should be monitored in detail.

One approach to improve the quality of interventions could be to train providers of trainings in self-evaluation and optimisation. They should develop awareness for the function of self-evaluation and should be equipped with evaluation instruments. Basic skills for self-evaluation can significantly improve the quality of measures.

  1. In which ways will the civil society contribute to and support effective implementation of the reinforced Youth Guarantee?

It is important that civil society as well as tertiary education institutions recognise the value of the Youth Guarantee programme. In particular, it is desirable that young people can play a valuable role by creating a sustainable economy and society while at the same time developing their competences, gaining independence, and finding employment. Our proposal is intended to help prepare young people for jobs related to the European Green Deal, including specifically the promotion of energy saving (in industry, transport, and construction) and consequently the reduction of CO2 emissions.

The focus on climate protection and sustainability in a redesign of the European Youth Guarantee contributes to improving awareness of the importance of reducing environmental impact by changing energy consumption and transportation habits. This awareness will lead to a new sustainable and social mindset in civil society and tertiary education institutions which contributes to the successful implementation of the programme.

The sustainable redesign of the European Youth Guarantee requires new green training offers for young people and the development of innovative job profiles. The success of this measure will depend on the demand by civil society for these new offers. One of many examples are the energy rehabilitation works of buildings which have to be encouraged and which need new forms of services. These interventions should be promoted by public administrations, in order to ensure:

the adequate training of young people who would carry out energy audits

– the detailed study of energy audits, which must include measures to reduce energy consumption and the use of renewable energy;

– the correct implementation of the recommended measures.

For all of the above, it will be necessary to create new jobs that public administrations should promote. The Youth Guarantee is an adequate programme to achieve this task.

  1. What are or would be the most useful ways for the Commission to support the implementation of the reinforced Youth Guarantee?

From our point of view, the best investment that the EU can make through its Youth Guarantee programme is the adequate training of young people to create new jobs that are in line with the European Green Deal. Regarding technical competences, there is a lack of efforts to integrate green skills and digital skills in existing qualifications (greening of trainings). Unfortunately, traditional vocational qualifications do not necessarily require developing competences to support one’s own employability, to act independently and creatively, to solve challenging situations and to deal with people in professional activities. In countries with high youth unemployment, proposals should be made for improving pre-vocational and vocational qualifications and for designing corresponding measures. These should form part of the educational system already. In addition, in many southern European and especially in Eastern European countries, the fight against youth unemployment has to be redesigned to meet and adapt to future challenges. For example, current measures tackling youth unemployment are often related to occupational fields that will no longer be relevant in a few years. Thus, it is necessary to raise awareness of the economic potential of a green recovery. Co-creative ideas and strategies should be developed and tested in interdisciplinary, international pilot projects. Together with local political and institutional partners these activities and measures should be implemented. They should be subject to participatory monitoring and evaluation and optimised continuously.

World Future Council

https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org

Samia Kassid, Senior Programme Manager, Rights of Children and Youth

samia.kassid@worldfuturecouncil.org

YESclima

https://www.euki.de/euki-projects/yesclima/

Francisco José Sánchez de la Flor, Profesor Titular de Universidad de Cádiz

francisco.flor@uca.es

(responsible for YESclima on behalf of University of Cádiz)

Pablo Quero García, Agencia Provincial de la Energía de Cádiz

pablo.quero.garcia@dipucadiz.es

Wind of Renewal, Greece

https://anemosananeosis.gr

Nikos Chrysogelos

nikos.chrysogelos@gmail.com

Sekretariat für Zukunftsforschung Berlin

https://www.hartwig-berger.de/cms/

Hartwig Berger

hartwig.berger@t-online.de

Forschungsinstitut für innovative Arbeitsgestaltung und Prävention e.V. im Wissenschaftspark Gelsenkirchen

https://fiap-ev.org/

Silke Steinberg, Head of Institute
s.steinberg@fiap-ev.org

1 The World Future Council works on solutions to some of the most pressing challenges by finding and spreading exemplary laws and policies that have a proven record of producing positive impacts both for current and future generations, working with parliamentarians, policy makers and relevant stakeholders as well UN bodies at an international level. www.worldfuturecouncil.org.

2 In the project YESclima (“Young Energy Experts working for climate-friendly Schools”, 2018-2020), 22 young women and men from Greece and the Spanish province Cádiz, are elaborating energy-audits and proposals to make school building more energy efficient, mainly with “smart” natural techniques and using solar energy. The project is managed by the University of Cádiz (leader), the Greek “Wind of Renewal” (Athens), the “Sekretariat für Zukunftsforschung” (Berlin) and the Energy Agency of the province of Cádiz (all implementers). The project is integrated in the “European Climate Initiative” (EUKI), founded and financed by the German Ministry for Environment, Natural Protection and Nuclear Safety.

3 The BMBF funded project GRÆDUCATION provides important solutions to this problem in Greece. Together with the Greek Employment Agency O.A.E.D. and the Greek Ministry of Education, FIAP e.V. and the German-Greek Chamber of Industry and Commerce are initiating collaborations between German and Greek vocational educators to “green” technical training and qualifications. In addition, the focus is also on interdisciplinary, transformative aspects, which aim at the “green” empowerment of young people.

4 http://www.oecd.org/youth.htm (last accessed 29 May 2020).

5 http://www.oecd.org/youth.htm (last accessed 29 May 2020).

6 For example, in Andalusia, a southern Spanish region, 44.7 percent of the total population aged 16 to 25 years were unemployed in the first trimester of 2020. https://datosmacro.expansion.com/paro-epa/espana-comunidades-autonomas/andalucia (last accessed 29 May 2020).

7 This includes: responsibility, independent learning, ability to work in a team, problem solving skills, flexibility, creativity, communication skills. These skills enable young people to develop their biography independently and self-determined.

8 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

ILO: ooperatives and other social and solidarity economy organizations will be instrumental into the medium to long term recovery

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Greetings from the Cooperatives Unit of the International Labour Organization  in Geneva.

This a moment of great disruption. Full or partial lockdown measures have affected more than 5 billion people around the world. Recent ILO estimates indicate that more than 436 million enterprises are at risk. Millions of workers around the world are without a job and unable to sustain themselves and their families. To die from hunger or from the virus” is an all-too-real dilemma faced by 1.6 billion informal economy workers, half the world’s total workforce of 3.3 billion. Values of solidarity and cooperation are more needed today than ever.

Historically, such values experience a surge in popularity during such times of crises, including financial crises, natural disasters and conflicts. This was the around the financial crisis  in Argentina, the global financial crisis  and the debt crisis  in Greece. Similarly, cooperatives and wider SSE organizations have been key community actors in responding to public health epidemics such as AIDS (Swaziland, Vietnam) , the relief and reconstruction efforts after natural disasters (Japan, Australia) and in post conflict settings  (Sri Lanka, Rwanda).

In the face of the pandemic and its aftermath business activities for many cooperatives and wider SSE organizations have suffered across sectors. While some sectors, such as food retail, may have seen a surge in business most others have seen a total stoppage or dwindling of their activities. In order to serve their members and communities, many of the cooperatives in the rural and informal economies are having to adapt and innovate in responding to needs pandemic and its aftermath. Others struggle to figure out how to access government relief measures in countries where such measures exist.

Cooperatives and wider social and solidarity economy organizations are also mobilizing to provide relief for their workers, members, and communities in different aspects of the crises in the immediate to short term. Their support ranges from ensuring workplace safety and working conditions and stabilizing supply chains to shifting production toward much needed supplies, broadening access to relevant information on COVID-19 and advocating with governments to influence their policies to support their members and communities.

Credit unions and financial cooperatives are providing liquidity support to affected micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in countries such as Kenya, France, Ethiopia, Italy, Uganda and Canada. They are setting up solidarity funds and crowdfunding initiatives to support local businesses and vulnerable people.

Some cooperatives have transformed their products and services to meet urgent local needs for protective equipment, food supplies and care support. They shifted production toward much needed supplies like hand sanitizers and face masks and distributed them for high risk populations and frontline workers. Health cooperatives, including pharmacy cooperatives, are establishing support funds and distributing protective gear for their members, workers in essential enterprises and health care workers who are on the frontline of the public health care crisis.

Producer and consumer cooperatives are among key players keeping supply chains of essential foods and goods moving while also relocalizing production especially when produce coming from elsewhere is blocked. Agricultural cooperatives and consumer cooperatives have created direct supply chains in Japan. Coop Denmark’s Savannah project advances direct trade with Kenyan coffee producer cooperatives by shortening the value chain, enhancing product quality and building export capacities for producer cooperatives in the process.

Cooperatives and SSE organizations with strong presence in their communities are fulfilling a series of community support functions. Cooperatives in Italy are helping vulnerable people who cannot go shopping by themselves including in partnership with municipalities. Those in Japan and Korea are providing lunch boxes for disadvantaged elementary school children during school closures. In France they are producing service vouchers for disadvantaged populations, such as homeless people, for use in affiliated establishment offering hygiene and food services.

It is the nature of crises to expose new faults in a system or widen existing ones. Some thinkers predict a new global order. They point toward a rediscovery of the value of social state, especially as it pertains to health, education, social assistance. This is also a time when many people are realizing the need for transformative business practices that do not only care for the economic bottom line only, but also about social and environmental ones.

The value of cooperatives is recognized in the immediate crisis response. In some countries, like Italy and South Korea they are included in both consultation and implementation processes of government support measures. Their existing infrastructure and networks help in understanding emerging needs and implement support measures in an effective way.

What is important is that even after the crisis their role in the recovery and transformation of societies and economies beyond the immediate, but in the medium and long term is recognized. Toward that end it will be important for cooperative organizations to disseminate the knowledge on how cooperatives can help with enterprise transformation for instance in the case of bankruptcies, supporting worker-buy-outs of businesses through worker cooperatives can help preserve jobs.

Cooperative advocates can also share examples of how platform cooperatives work. Domestic workers and home-care workers in the US have been establishing their cooperatives using online applications. They are essential workers for ageing societies, but also face a deficit of affordable, accessible care services.

During these challenging times, at the ILO Cooperatives Unit we would like to reaffirm our solidarity with the cooperative and wider social and solidarity economy movements. We are convinced that cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy organizations will be instrumental beyond the emergency phase and well into the medium to long term recovery in the affected countries, as we have seen in many other crises contexts across history. We have all the confidence that th

“Next Generation” EU instrument of 750 billion EUR for the European Recovery Plan

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Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission presented yesterday, in the European Parliament, the European Commission’s proposal for an ambitious Recovery Plan for Europe.

The Plan is based on two main pillars:

  • the “Next Generation EU” instrument of 750 billion euro
  • an increased EU budget of 1 100 billion EUR in-between 2021-2027.

The communication by the European Commission declares the social economy as one of the sectors touched most by the current crisis, together with the cultural and tourism sector.

At the same time, the social economy is considered an important instrument helping in particular the most vulnerable persons to find their way out of the crisis and into employment.

Also, the Commission underlines solidarity between people, generations, regions and countries as a main element and principle for recovery.

The Commission communication sets out proposals with a list of concrete measures to support recovery in Europe.

  • Recovery and Resilience Facility ( 560 billion euro) to be implemented in the framework of the European semester and based on national recovery plans – will provide support for investments and reforms in the different Member States based on grants and loans.
  • Through the new programme REACT-EU (‘Recovery assistance for cohesion and the territories of Europe’) (55 Bilion euro), for example, the Commission proposes to feed, until 2022, additional 55 billion EUR into ongoing cohesion policy programmes. Main criterium for the allocation of this funding is socio-economic impact of the crisis in the different territories, including elements such as youth unemployment. Also the relative prosperity of Member States will be taken into account.The revised proposal for Cohesion Policy provides for greater flexibility for transfers between funds in order to better support local and regional authorities.
  • According to the proposal of the European Commission, initiatives such as a new Solvency Support Instrument and a strengthened InvestEU initiative should help companies to overcome the crisis through a mobilization of additional private investments.
  • Green Transition should be fostered for example through the reinforcement of the Just Transition Fund and a strengthened European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
  • The Commission proposal also foresees a new Health Programme (EU4Health) reinforcing health security within the EU and preparing for possible future health crises.
  • Following the Commission proposal, also other programmes, such as Horizon Europe, the Humanitarian Aid Instrument or Digital Europe, should be strengthened.

The adjusted work programme 2020 of the European Commission foresees the continuation and expansion of different initiatives taken recently to support companies and employment. Examples are the SURE (Support Mitigating Unemployment Risks in Emergency) programme, reinforced measures against youth unemployment, the promotion of fair minimum wages or initiatives to strengthen equal opportunities (including pay transparency measures). Emphasis will also be put on the circular economysafe and sustainable food or biodiversity.

New resources, increased EU budget

To finance the measures proposed, the European Commission suggests

  • lifting the own resources ceiling to 2% of EU Gross National Income.
  • The increased EU budget will then enable the Commission to take up 750 billion EUR of credit on financial markets. These funds would then be paid back gradually, in-between 2028 and 2058 through the EU budget, including possibly new own resources (which could be based, for example, to a digital taxoperations of large companies or the Emissions Trading Scheme). The European Commission also plans to support Member States in fighting tax evasion.

Multi-Annual Financial Framework (EU Budget 2021-2027)

The Multi-Annual Financial Framework (EU Budget) 2021-2027, with 1,1 trillion euro, a specific Own Resources Decision and a Revised Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 will now be negotiated with and in the European Parliament and the European Council. The objective is to have the revised MFF 2014-2020 adopted in early autumn 2020, the MFF 2021-2027 and the Own Resources Decision in December 2020.

This health and economic crisis we face is unprecedented in the history of the EU. The solution for the Commission to borrow money from the market is a remarkable one, a European solution for a European problem. The crisis is a game changer.

Energy efficiency and tourism: our model case WELCOMMON HOSTEL

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Energy efficiency of the building of WELCOMMON HOSTEL and use it as center to demonstrate applied technologies of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

Wind of Renewal is renting since August 2016 the building with about 3.200 square meter, which was until the end of the year 2013 a public clinic. We fully renovated the building already twice. Once at autumn 2016 to be for 1,5 years a model center for accommodation and integration of the most vulnerable refugees and then again to become an innovative, functional and esthetic Hostel with a social impact, the WELCOMMON HOSTEL.

The whole renovation was based on the idea and the awareness of re-use and up-cycling, not only to reduce renovation expenses but also for ecological  reasons.

Beside the fact that we did relevant changes for the lightning, changing the old lamps with new LED lights, there are double windows and some insulation, we regulated the boiler, the temperature of the waste gases and other mechanical systems, to reduce energy waste. However, the building is old and remains energetically wasteful and ineffective. The result is negative both as for the climate and for the expenses of the heating, cooling and electricity. The next step was the installation of 20 solar panels, in order to produce hot water for the clients of the hostel and reduce the use of oil for heating of water and the energy audit of the WElCOMMON HOSTEL, in order to evaluate the performance of energy efficiency measures (like changing to led lighting) and the solar systems installed recently.

There are measures of the temperatures on the solar panels and of the water in circulation and in boilers every one hour starting since some months ago as well financial data (payments of electricity and oil) for the last 3,5 years. All the data will be evaluated for a better understanding how we can implement solar systems on the roof of big buildings, like schools, hotels, companies and block of flats and how is their energy and financial performance in Athens.

For environmental and economic reasons we are immediately looking to modify the building to a zero emission building and to operate as a center of education and training in green trades and activities and also as a place to demonstrate energy efficient technology and present renewable energy sources in the city of Athens.

We are searching for company or cooperative or research center which is willing to provide to WELCOMMON HOSTEL the technology of energy reduction and renewable energy sources on buildings to transform it into a zero emission buildings. In return, we demonstrate the technology to our guests and cooperation partners from all over the world, who visit us to see our work. Thousands of people and organizations, schools, students, businesses will have the opportunity to be introduced to these technologies and practices in an open center for demonstration or from remote. 

Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal: support our WELCOMMON HOSTEL. a hostel with social and green impact

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Milestones towards the future: Pathbreaking examples of cooperation, mutualisation and solidarity in urban and rural areas, promoted jointly by cities/regions and the social economy

Support our WELCOMMON HOSTEL, a hostel with social and green impact

Anemos Ananeosis/Wind of Renewal has a strong commitment to building a better world through social and green innovation, green and social economy and the cooperative business model. We want to influence the direction of our society to become more sustainable and ecologically and socially fair.  The social enterprise Wind of Renewal / Anemos Ananeosis (WoR) was constituted in Greece in 2014 for the promotion of social cooperative and responsible economy, social entrepreneurship, green-circular economy, eco-social innovation, intercultural dialogue and the protection of environment.

Our flagship activity is the WELCOMMON HOSTEL a new Hostel in Athens

WELCOMMON HOSTEL is an innovative hostel with social impact as well as a center of social and green innovation, intercultural dialogue and socializing. We operate ‘for good and not-for-profit’ which means your stay should be cheaper while contributing to something amazing like social empowerment, social inclusion, green transition, comic and language lessons, arttherapy projects. Any surplus of funds will be reinvested in affordable hostelling and social / green projects, not shareholders.

Booking now your stay in  WELCOMMON HOSTEL ensures we can continue to offer our services and social – green activities.

Until the 31st of May our Welcommon Hostel remains closed #COVID19. We will re-open on 1st of June. As we are hard influenced by the COVID-19 and the lockdown, we need your support. You can save our hostel from the devastating financial effects of the COVID-19 crisis and support our social, cultural and environmental activities.

Special offer for you. Create memorable moments with WELCOMMON HOSTEL whenever you are able to come and transform your ordinary trip into an extraordinary one! Discover the real experience staying in our innovative and with social impact WELCOMMON HOSTEL and participate in a number of social and cultural activities without cost for you. At the moment digital, we hope soon face2face.

The visitors can discover the creative side of Athens. We “promote” our WELCOMMON HOSTEL to Universities, social groups, social enterprises and cooperatives which plan to visit Athens or provide support through campaigning our project. Our guests can participate in workshops, art exhibitions, activities, networking, youth meetings, youth exchanges like Erasmus projects. 

With a lot of effort and hard work, we succeeded in creating an innovative Hostel in the center of Athens, which aims to have sustainable models of tourism and at the same time provide the space for non-formal education and social inclusion for about 50 refugees daily. It is also a place for art and culture as well as a social and green entrepreneurship.

www.anemosananeosis.gr

www.welcommonhostel.gr

www.facebook.com/welcommonhostel

www.facebook.com/daysofwelcommon

www.facebook.com/socialcooperatives

#Sustainability #Athens #cooperatives #SocEnt #innovation #social
#inclusion #withrefugees #WelcommonHostel @Social Cooperatives

#sustainabletourism #education #youth #Erasmusplus #volunteers #art

Contact us: info@welcommonhostel.gr or windofrenewal@gmail.com

EUKI YESclima project: climate action, energy efficiency and COVID-19

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Activities and results of the EUKI project YESclima and COVID-19

 by Nikos Chrysogelos

project manager of the YESclima project, implemented by Wind of Renewal

A total of 22 young people, selected on a gender-balanced basis are carrying out energy audits in schools in small towns in the province of Cadiz and in towns near Athens, since autumn 2018. They are elaborating proposals on how these schools can be made more climate-friendly by activities and refurbishment, with no cost (behaviour change) but also low and middle cost energy investments and use of natural systems for heating and cooling. The students gain experience on energy audits in buildings and are thus prepared for the labour market in regions with high youth unemployment. At the same time, they help municipalities to reduce energy costs in schools, and reduce the use of fossil fuel based heating and cooling systems. This saves costs and protects the climate. The 22 students participate in the EUKIYESclima project, a partnership of the University of Cádiz / Universidad de Cádiz (UCA), Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal (GR), Energía y Sostenibilidad Provincia de Cádiz / Energy Agency of Cadiz (APEC), Sekretariat für Zukunftsstudien Berlin an der Freien Universität Berlin / Secretariat for future studies Berlin at the Free University Berlin (SFZ).

The Cadiz teams have already finished energy-audits for 8 schools by the moment and they are working on the last 3 ones, elaborating detailed reports which are discussed with the schools, town halls and politicians on provincial level. Among more or less “conventional” proposals, the teams have developed a completely innovative proposal to install evaporative cooling via the roof, avoiding an energy-wasting and unhealthy air-conditioning. The system is in particular interesting for a more climate-friendly cooling of aged buildings in South European regions in general. It should be combined with solar panels and, if statics allows it, a greening of the roof.

The Greek teams got in contact with different municipalities and schools in the region of Attica. They are collaborating with the local communities of Ag. Dimitrios, Vrilissia and Kaisariani as well as with the school community for making energy audits for 11 schools in total, too. The two previous Greek teams have already realized energy audits in 8 schools together with pupils and discussed the results with teachers and pupils. All the teams organise training seminars in schools and participate in meetings with mayors, technical department of the municipalities and local actors to discuss the implementation of the project in schools. The teams have also presented the studies, recommendations, proposals and results during two 2 workshops (in Ag. Dimitrios and Vrilissia, with the participation of the mayors or/and vice-mayors, teachers, parents and students) and in one conference in Athens (September 2019, during the partners meeting).

Each of the first two teams were visiting the schools regularly. They realized that the educators and the students were very enthusiastic with the educational part of the project and the methodologies of doing the audits all together. They even implemented non formal education tools to come closer with the students and to work together, based on the outcomes of the EUKI Climate Schools Be.Ath project (Wind of Renewal was partner in this project and responsible for the development and the implementation of methodologies and materials on climate protection in schools with the participation of the whole school community). Using similar tools, the young experts raised awareness for the climate crisis and highlighted the importance of the program YESclima, during their visits to schools. They prepared questionnaires for the teachers and students to fill up in order to learn about their needs and their opinions, too.

What is very promising, is that they organised energy inspections together with the students to find out energy problems related to the construction of the school building, the infrastructure, the energy consumption from the appliances and the energy behaviour of the students and teachers. Not a surprise, the students noticed exactly the same issues like the young experts: the lighting, the frame of the windows, the ventilation, the orientation, shadowing but also what must be changed for improving the energy performance of their school.

The reports focus more on energy reduction, behaviour change and low-cost investments that could improve the energy performance of the schools as well as on higher-cost investments for solarizing the heating of the schools and on use of plants for shadowing during the summer period.

The 3d Greek team started in February 2020 the training. But unfortunately, both teams of students from Spain and Greece, already in Berlin for a study visit in March, had to shorten by one week their very interesting trip and to return to Spain and Greece because of the COVID-19. The partners had also to cancel their participation in the EUKI networking conference and the workshop on “energy efficiency and schools” in March 2020, in Berlin. The students from the project in Greece are more affected because they started later and when they returned to Greece all the schools closed and were not able to visit schools for their audits. We had to adjust their project goals and the schedule.

It will be difficult for them to visit the schools again in June, but maybe they can do it in September. But in any case, they will have all the information they need to continue working on the project. We have also discussed to add the energy audit of the WElCOMMON HOSTEL, an innovative hostel with social and green impact run by Wind of Renewal, in order to evaluate the performance of energy efficiency measures (like changing to led lighting) and solar systems installed recently for hot water production. There are measures of the temperatures on the solar panels and of the water in circulation and in boilers every one hour starting since some months ago as well financial data (payments of electricity and oil) for the last 3,5 years. All the data will be evaluated for a better understanding how we can implement solar systems on the roof of big buildings, like schools, hotels, companies and block of flats and how is their energy and financial performance in Athens.

Digitalisation of the project

Due to coronavirus lockdown measures, the project work is now taking place online only. During the #StayingAtHome, the partners organized a number of e-learning training courses (using zoom and skype), with the support of F.I.A.P, on the topic of energy efficiency, entrepreneurship, creating teams and working together beyond the borders on climate and energy transition projects, like a dream – “ECO-EARTH” project as well as for European and local ones. It will certainly be difficult for the students in the future. Therefore, it is important for them to learn about ways in which they can create jobs by themselves or establish partnerships and enterprises, especially collaborative schemes of entrepreneurship.

Wind of Renewal is planning for the next weeks a number of digital open events with the participation of experts on energy efficiency and energy transition and students in the post lockdown and COVID – 19 era. More persons can now participate in digital events or see the discussion later on. The project work continues in remote learning with the same enthusiasm as before and the students learn all the more in the online training. We don’t know if we are able to present our excellent results to the local and academic community, in Berlin, in Brussels or in Cadiz as we have planned before coronavirus but we will disseminate the results as much as possible.

The COVID-19 is a challenge. There is a huge danger from its effects on economy and employment, many sectors will be hardly affected, the unemployment rate will rise sharply. But there are also opportunities for the project and climate action in the current development. Although many climate projects being implemented are currently restricted in their work, we – as many others – believe that we have to see the opportunities, not only the difficulties.

More people are aware of ecological crisis and climate emergency. The COVID-19 crisis is a message of emergency to learn how to do things in a sustainable way. If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, ecosystems and climate, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about. Also, we know that pollution is in general a possible contributor to fatality. Air pollution kills in Europe more than 250-400.000 persons per year. But nowadays, new researches show that long-term exposure to air pollution may be “one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus” around the world. Many people living in polluted cities are now at greater risk of dying from COVID-19. As a recent research shows, Italy’s worst-affected region has been Lombardy (home of Milan), which has recorded almost half of Italy’s total number of fatalities. Along with Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, the Lombardy region sits in the Po Valley, which is ringed by mountains – hence the downward air pressure. In Spain, the worst-affected area has been the Madrid administrative region.

At the same time, lockdowns have improved air quality around the world, and there are estimations that less people will die as a result of a – short term at the moment – improvement of the quality of the air in many cities.

Climate action and reduction of energy consumption will be in the center of the economy and the recovery plan, will be one of the most important issue in Europe. It is not only because of health and ecological reasons and awareness, of course both are very important. But the reduction of energy consumption, increase of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy – what consists the energy transition – will be a crucial tool for the recovery of the economy. Many sectors, for example, tourism, transportation, housing, maintenance of (school) buildings will be able to survive only if they are able to reduce their operational costs and increase their performance, between other increase their energy efficiency and reduce their expenses. Many municipalities are planning new bicycle lanes and extended energy efficiency projects. Many new jobs will be created in such sectors in all the countries. Therefore, our students / young experts will gain, we hope, experience, skills and knowledge, will be in networks and in a good starting position on the job market for such activities.

EUR-Lex - 52016DC0646 - GA - EUR-LexOn European level we would like to see programs which qualify young Europeans on a large scale, refugees included, for the upcoming tasks of a climate-friendly energy transition and a green economy. This is in particular urgent and necessary in regions, suffering already in the past by high rates of youth unemployment. So we plea for amplifying the European Youth Guarantee and other employment schemes, like SURE, in order to include professional preparation in jobs and activities and employment opportunities in energy transition.

             SUREAn important step forward is given by the European Green Deal which provides measures of pro-active skilling and upskilling of young Europeans for the tasks of ecological and energy transition, and an updating of the Youth Guarantee to enhance employability in the green economy.

Furthermore, the Green Deal announces to provide 3 billion € in the next years to enhance the sustainability of schools (chapter 2.2.4 of the EGD). But the main tool could be the Recovery Plan and the Recovery and Transformation Fund, the tool for tackling the deep and long -lasting impact on the current crisis and transforming our economy. It is planned to finance the economy, between others the energy transition, by supporting SMEs, and “increase job opportunities and skills to mitigate the impact of the crisis on workers, consumers and families”. It will support investments to be prioritised according to the Green Deal.

Therefore, we must be prepared to support this huge transformation of our economy and the creation of new green jobs. It seems that we are implementing the right project, EUKI – YESClima, thanks to EUKI, at the right time.

YESclima. Young Experts for Climate-Friendly Schools in Mediterranean Countries and COVID-19

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The EUKIYESclima project trains young experts in energy audits. In Andalusia (Spain) and Athens (Greece), students gain experience and are thus prepared for the labour market in regions with high youth unemployment. At the same time, they help municipalities to reduce energy costs in schools. This saves costs and protects the climate.

The EUKI project YESclima offers practical training for students on energy audits in buildings. Due to corona virus, the project work is now taking place online only. But there are also opportunities for the project and climate action in the current development, say project manager Francisco José Sánchez de la Flor and the participating student of Industrial Engineering Paula García Rodríguez. They also provided us with the presentation that had been prepared for the cancelled EUKI networking conference in March.

What impact does the corona crisis have on the work in the YESclima project?

Paula García Rodríguez

Paula García Rodríguez is student at the University of Cádiz.

Photo: PaulaGarcía Rodríguez

Paula: Fortunately, our project has been running for two months already and we have already visited three local schools. Especially the first visit was important to  gather experience and data. The rest of the project is now digital via video chat, which works well. Unfortunately, we had to shorten our study trip to Berlin by one week and to return to Spain. The students from the project in Greece were more affected. Their project has only started a month ago and they have not been able to visit schools for their audits yet. They may have to adjust their project goals now.

Is there a risk that climate action will disappear from the focus of public opinion and the project work will be affected?

Francisco: Of course, it is possible that the focus will be more on economic issues now. However, our project and the students involved will help saving energy in the heating or – something which in the Mediterranean can be even more important – in the cooling of spaces. A lower electricity bill is in the interest of public institutions, especially during an economic crisis. Nevertheless, it is currently difficult to predict what the long-term economic and political consequences will be.

Lower electricity bill is in the interest of public institutions, especially during an economic crisis

In addition to the objective of climate action, the project also sees its activities as a measure against youth unemployment. Is this all the more important in these times?

Francisco José Sánchez de la Flor

Francisco José Sánchez de la Flor is coordinator of the YESclima project and professor at the University of Cádiz.

Francisco: Just last week we had a video training on the topic of “entrepreneurship”. So the students also learn about ways in which they can create jobs themselves. It will certainly be difficult for the students in the future and unemployment will rise sharply. But we are just as much affected as all other sectors.

How does the project proceed now?

Paula: For us students this is the final project. It would be good if we could visit schools again in May or June, but we have all the information we need to continue working on the project.

We have all the information we need to continue working on the project.

Francisco: Climate action, the protection of the environmental and the reduction of energy consumption in buildings will certainly remain important issues in the European Union. We hope that we can put our students in a good starting position on the job market. The project work continues in the video conferences with the same enthusiasm as before and the students learn all the more in the online trainings. After the Corona period we will be able to present our excellent results to the academic community.

Responsible for the content of the interview published in EUKI website is the named author / organisation:
EUKI Secretariat, Samuel Held

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Eco-E.A.R.T.H. Project: a proposal for combining education and innovation in energy and environment

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During our activities in the EUKI  YESClima project, we the students, teams from both Greece and Spain, have developed a proposal for a center, combining environmental education, innovative energy, gardening and plastic recycling, with the motive that all these functions together will have an ecological and environmental-friendly impact on the surrounding area. Therefore, we came up with the idea of Eco-E.A.R.T.H.=Ecological Educational And Recycling Training Hub

Our program consists of a circular, module, building that is divided in three categories:
– First , the Educational Building that consists of an auditorium, a library and a couple of conference rooms.
– Secondly, we propose a PlasticRecycling Unit, a collecting point of plastic products which then are recycled, in situ, in order to create new recycled items, ready to use.
Finally, we propose a third building which will house an open space meeting room and will be suitable for activities and workshops.

The whole complex of buildings will be surrounded by a zone of green space, that can function as a gardening spot and a natural habitat for biodiversity. In the center we place a kid’s playground since they will be our main target group and the people we are more interested in informing about environmental issues.

One of the main goal of this project is also to create a nearly Zero Energy Building. In order to do that we have implemented a number of systems and methods that can contribute to the energy audits of the building. The systems we propose are:

Smart Roofs : A combination of green roofs with solar or photovoltaic panels in order to insulate the building and produce energy, at the same time.
Green facades:can provide adequate shading to the exterior of the building, using deciduous plants and create a more friendly and natural environment for the children
Use of local, natural materials (for example straw, clay and wood) in the construction of the building: This way we lower the construction costs, we support the local economy and we produce a healthier, friendlier environment for the user.

Surrounding Gardens: plantations and vegetation with local plants will help at preserving the local fora of the region by creating a green oasis around the buildings and at the same time it is an effcient way to fght against the growing climate crisis.
Rainwater management : in combination with the green roofs we can harvest the rainwater and then reuse it to irrigate them as well as to use it as toilet water.

We will start with the design of Eco.E.A.R.T.H centers in the two regions in Greece and in Spain, where we are living.
Our central target is to spread more environmentally conscious practices, for every day activities, individually, as well as, to inform (mostly young) people but we also aim at a more holistic approach of the environment action, which includes creating spaces and buildings and eventually whole cities that have a minimum energy impact on our endangered planet EARTH.

YesClima team: D. Beleri , A. Strati, L. Thermos ( Greek team )
D.Rodríguez Benítez, I.Castañeda Lorenzo, P. García Rodríguez ( Spanish team )

Franziska: connecting different lifeworlds and people from all around the world

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Days of Welcommon – more than just a hostel

I am Franziska, from Germany

My motivation

Greek mythology, ancient sights and the entrance to Europe – that’s all that came up to my mind, when I thought about Athens. By researching on interesting social projects on Workaway, I stumbled over the Welcommon hostel and the Wind of Renewal project. I was immediately attracted by the projects description: intercultural dialogue and skills exchange in combination with arts and environmental oriented projects. Any offers were open without any obligation and to everyone, people living in the hostel, travellers, refugees, locals or people on the streets stopping by randomly.

Once I arrived, I found myself immediately welcomed by the team and the staff members in the hostel. The access to the offers were highly appreciated by the beneficiaries, due to the low level approach of the project, where everyone shared their skills and resources to establish together sustainable, social, language and environmental oriented activities in an informal way. Thereby, the hostel provides a safe space for all beneficiaries and connects different lifeworlds and people from all around the world in order to promote the individuals’ independence and self awareness.

The neighbourhood – Exarchia

The hostel is located in the heart of Athens, not very central but still just a few minutes by walking from all the sights and close to big parks and picturesque hills, offering a view all over the city. I enjoyed staying in this neighbourhood especially, because people from any background meet there: homeless, travelers, refugees, squad people, hippies, locals, students, etc. and everyone is treating each other in a kind way. People here have a strong left-wing political attitude, which is expressed in beautiful graffities, the street life is vibrant, you can have interesting conversations on every corner surrounded by alternative, cozy and cheap restaurants, cafés and bars.

The projects

The Welcommon hostel offers their space and commitment in order to support everyone in developing and pursuing their own needs, ideas, skills and resources in an empowering way. By following those principles, we firstly exchanged language skills, especially in German, English and French, but also we volunteers learned some Farsi, Arabic or Turkish. During my time in Athens, the project only started and began to grow very quickly. Each week more people were arriving and after a few weeks it was possible to establish a regular schedule, with language exchange during the day and a variety of offers in the evenings like, Karaoke, cultural nights, movie nights, theater and kickboxing.

Additionally, we offered arts and crafts lessons for families and their children by emphasizing on individual creativity, environment empowerment and self awareness.

Each Sunday, we organized special trips like cleaning up the beach side, visiting a turtle rescue station, carnival, going to several museums, treasure hunts in the parks, photography workshops, discovering the city together.

Our team and the beneficiaries all became friends after a while.

The refugee situation

The times during my stay were shaped by several challenges, especially on the islands like Lesvos, Chios and Moria. Refugees and volunteers were attacked by Fascist people on the islands and the Greek Police, which also affected the situation in Athens and the life there. A lot of peaceful riots and demonstrations were established by locals and volunteers, and it was crucial to be part of this. Still, the effects of the Coronavirus cast a shadow on the general living situation in Athens. All public institutions were closed, which unfortunately also led to an abrupt ending of the Days of Welcommon Hostel and the project established. For the safety to everyone the doors had to close by the midst of March and almost all volunteers were forced to leave the country.

Fazit

Since I had starting volunteering, I totally experienced the Welcommon days vision, which is to bring people together from all over the world, to enable them to communicate, by contributing with own ideas and experience with the highlight of making bridges between communities, social groups, newcomers and local people.

We still try to continue the project by providing online lessons via skype, WhatsApp and e-mail, but of course this is not easy. The people I have met and the experiences I made taught me a lot, like being humble, being grateful for what I have, stand up for your rights and share solidarity.

I realized, that freedom is a privilege and is never for granted. If I get the chance to travel again, for sure my first destination will be Athens to continue the project. Even though, the most beneficiaries were only meant to stay for a temporary period of time, I found a second family there, who were most appreciating, caring and always supportive. I know some day we all meet again.