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4 de Julho de 2019.
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8 de Julho de 2019.
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The European Union and Austria

On the 26th of may the people of my country, Austria, will be going to the polls to elect the members of the next European Parliament.

With us, many other people all over Europe will vote and in this way and we will change the future of the European Union. At the moment, we as Europeans are facing many challenges and difficulties. The Brexit (or whatever it’s gonna be?), the immigration issue and climate change problems are just the tip of the iceberg. All of these things could be solved, if the European Union would work together properly – but currently that’s not the case. Right wing and anti-European parties are taking the lead in more and more countries and are trying to achieve the best for their country, no matter what it will cost another one. In my opinion, nationalistic ideas are the biggest threat for the European project. For the newly elected European Parliament, the greatest challenge will be to reunite all countries and define common goals.

Being from Austria, a country where there’s a right wing party coalition in government, I can say that a lot of people have their difficulties with the European Union and don’t like the idea that “someone in Brussels” makes their laws and tells them what to do. But on the other hand, there are many Austrians who are proud and happy to be part of this united Europe, they accept that there are some things going wrong (and need to be solved!) and they don’t give up in believing in this project. It’s mostly young and educated people that see and get to experience the advantages of the European Union, elder people appreciate it mostly because of the peace it brought to our continent.

As I’m part of a European project by doing this volunteer service, I can see the advantages first-hand. In this project on Madeira we are currently volunteers from 10 different countries, living and working together, making new friends and sharing experiences – something that wouldn’t be possible without the EU. It gives us all the chance to abandon our prejudices (and believe me, there are many!), learn to respect other cultures and traditions and appreciate the diversity of Europe.

If you ask me what kind of Europe I’d like to see in 50 years, it’s an easy answer. A united but diverse one. Peaceful countries working together, not against each other. A renewed constitution as a basis of a new European Union, that is ready to face all the challenges that will come in the future.

Text written in February 2019.

Short bio of the volunteer:

I’m Jana Berchtold, a 19-year-old volunteer from Austria who enjoys being in nature and likes to travel – even if it’s sometimes just between the pages of a book.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth, and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing to a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.