June 2014, Lisbon, Portugal, Erasmus project – “New generations, new policies, new future”
Erasmus plus programs are a great way to educate yourself, to meet new people from all over the world, to travel and to participate in great projects. The extra bonus is that is usually almost free since it is funded by the good, old European Union so your plane tickets (or part of them), the accommodation, the food and materials are covered.
The project that I am writing about here happened in Lisbon (the capital of Portugal) in June 2014. We spent two days in their Parleament 30.06.2014 – 02.07.2014 talking about the future of the youth in the EU. We were playing it big debating in the Parliament and simulating a real plenary session. It sounded fancy and important at first but actually it takes hours and you can not even fall asleep during it because in order to vote you should get up every time. So I feel for the politicians a little bit, so little that it was not actually even worth mentioning it!
There were 10 countries participating in the project – UK, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, France, Italy, Turkey, Denmark and Czech republic. The organisation hosting the project was Portuguese – “Cronoworld” and the one sending us – “Professional forum of education”, Sofia, Bulgaria. They were supposed to cover the costs for our accommodation, food and 70% refund of our plane tickets. During the project it was all good, funny and exciting except the food that they gave us which was completely mismatched with our formal dresses and suits and the beauty of the Parliament ( rice and meatballs in cartoon boxes). Whatever, we are not there to eat and me and my soon to be a friend came almost a week earlier in order to enjoy the city and the cuisine (unforgettable experience) so we overcame the poor food easily. This deserves a whole new post since Lisbon and Porto (which we visited as well) are the probably the best cities I have been in Europe. You can check what my friend has to say about it here. And our country’ label was spelled wrong (Bulgary instead of Bulgaria) but let’s pretend this is how they spell it with a Portuguese accent.
So we had a great time there, we figured out the new legislation for the youth in the EU, we interacted with great people from the other participating countries, we drank a lot of “zhinzhinya”, porto, ate seafood, listened to fado, took an enormous amount of pictures, promised ourselves that we will be friends to the rest of our lives since we had such a great time together these couple days and went back to Bulgaria.
Already back in Bulgaria, we realised that you can gain about 3kg for a week in Portugal, because their restaurants are irresistible, we found out that it is hard to meet with each other once back in reality and in our own routine and it turned out that our Portuguese organisation was planning her future behind our backs while we were discussing the future of the youth. By saying that I mean that it turned out that all of a sudden our reimbursements for our plane tickets were not available. They actually are not available yet till today, believe it or not – an year and a half later! An year of non-stop communication with and no results.
The Bulgarian delegation was supposed to receive an amount of 3 700e in order to reimburse each of the participants which have already paid and used their palne tickets. What is more the organisation sending us “Professional forum of education” had to receive a reimbursement for the previous two conferences held in Bulgaria which were part of the project as well. Today, an year and a half later there is not any money and there are not any expectations for money coming left. What is more none of the other participating countries have received any money as well. So probably someone is having a great time with the money stolen from all the participants – thousands of euro. The person “managing” the project and presenting “Cronworld” is Miguel Gomez, which through the whole communication via email was trying to escape the situation and continued giving us new deadlines and producing excuses. The National agency in Portugal and the Europe direct were contacted as well and know about the situation. Until now nothing is done and they are just shifting the responsibility to each other.
If you want to see part of the correspondence there it is! All of it and all of the efforts were made by participants of the project, not by the Bulgarian sending organisation and its representatives.
We were thinking of starting a court petition, but it would take 2-4 years and it will cost a lot of money. And what is more we should not do that. This whole affair is like an extra bonus to the project probably – learn how to fight for your rights and ask for responsibility from the people who are supposed to be responsible. And it is a responsibility of the National Agency of Portugal to resolve the problem. I guess in Portugal they do not like problems. Neither do we!
Of course we are not still crying for 100-200e per person in the last year and a half. But we are active, young, intelligent students who actually do enjoy being challenged but definitely do not enjoy being treated as the opposite and being underestimated. If we are participating in a project talking about the rights and the future of the youth in the EU and at the same time the organizator of the project is stealing from our future and disrespecting our rights there is something wrong here. And in order these Erasmus programs to work and serve their purpose all of the participants should be trying to make them better and more sufficient. We will not stop trying asking for an answer and reimbursement not only because of the money but because there is a system out there and this system should work. And because once we receive our money we will have a very nice reason for all the participants to gather together again and drink some“zhinzhinya” this time celebrating the future of the youth who are willing to fight for it and create it themselves! (A little bit too dramatic here maybe, but if you support us and help us feel free to join!)
If there is anyone who have an advice or a proposal what is next, we would be happy to hear it!
And besides this “Dude, where’s my money?” situation, I would say:
“Portugal, obrigada! You are such a sweetheart! Looking forward to seeing you again!”