House of Europe is an EU-funded programme fostering professional and creative exchange between Ukrainians and their colleagues in EU countries. Toma Mironenko wrote an impression of the multiannual project's impact so far.
House of Europe was launched in Ukraine to support professional and creative exchanges between Ukrainians and their counterparts in EU countries. By now, House of Europe has processed more than 2,500 applications in the last six months. Ukrainians are applying for support for programmes in media, health, social work, education and culture.
How does House of Europe work from within, what are the challenges for the team and how did the first set of programmes go? And most importantly, is there really a benefit?
Tetyana Shulga, sector manager of the EU Delegation, says that plans to create a project similar to House of Europe have been around for a long time – at least since 2016. Back then the development of cultural cooperation between Ukraine and the EU countries was not progressing. When the idea of House of Europe first surfaced it was meant to be a platform to encourage both professional and cultural exchange between Ukrainians and their EU colleagues.
It’s about creating an environment to exchange ideas and knowledge between individuals and organisations all around the world.
However, with time its essence has changed. Now one of the main goals is to establish meaningful contact between people. It’s not only about culture anymore but also about connecting teachers, scientists, media, doctors, social enterprises. The accent now is on creating an environment to exchange ideas and knowledge between individuals and organisations all around the world rather than sticking exclusively to the cultural exchange.
As it turned out it was the right call. For instance, the initiators were really impressed by the response to the offer of infrastructure support. “The amount of money we were able to grant was about 1,000 euros, and yet the demand was great. If I’m not mistaken, there were 900 applications to 6 available slots. They were mostly people looking for financial support for their regional library or a small museum.”
Before the pandemic started and when the borders were still open, Roman Mykhailyshyn, a PhD candidate at Department of Automation of Technological Professions and Manufacturing at Ternopil National Technical University, became one of the participants in the programme and interned at the National Centre of Robotics, Slovakia. Not only did it let Roman do necessary research, it also helped him to establish a collaboration with the Institute of Robotics and Cybernetics in the same city.
“After the programme two things were clear to me. First, international companies are extremely interested in Ukrainian scientific products. Second, sadly, Ukraine has much fewer capabilities for conducting scientific research.” He is now initiating talks with different companies to equip a robotics laboratory at his university. When asked about difficulties in any of the stages of the cooperation with House of Europe, Roman smiles. “Probably the biggest problem with the project for me is that I can only participate once. It really expanded the boundaries – not only physical but also psychological”.
In an optimistic scenario, projects like House of Europe would no longer be necessary.
For Tetyana Shulga, the House of Europe team is now facing a complicated question: who is to manage the exchange? “You see, the thing is, there’s no such thing as the culture of the European Union. We have Austrian, Czech, French – well, national cultures. If we invite all the 27 countries of the EU to participate, it’ll be incredibly hard to organise. But if we don’t, we won’t be able to say that House of Europe is a comprehensive and omnidirectional project – as we dreamt”. For now, the most active international organisations presented in Ukraine are Goethe-Institut, British Council, Institut français and Czech Centre.
For Tetyana, the signal that House of Europe is fulfilling its role would be a reduction in the demand for grants. She says that in an optimistic scenario, this would mean that everything had gone so well domestically that projects like House of Europe would no longer be necessary.
“For now, our main goal is just to facilitate more contacts and bonds between people. Not even on the institutional or organizational level, just on the human level.” This will benefit all the participants in this process, and lead to cultural exchange and important connections.