YOUNG & INSPIRED

Azerbaijan 2016 | SPORTS & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Elmir Valiyev, Chairman of the Ganja European Youth Capital Public Union, on what Ganja will bring to the Youth Capital institution.

Elmir Valiyev
BIOGRAPHY
Elmir Valiyev was born in 1989 in Ganja city. He graduated from Baku State University in 2009, after studying international law and international relations. After serving in the military from 2009-2010, he continued his education at BSU to receive extra specializations. In 2014, he entered into BSU to work toward a master’s degree. From 2010-2013, he worked as a consultant in the Administrative and Military Legislation Division of the Azerbaijan Parliament. Since 2013, he has worked as an expert on the State Building and Law Policy Committee. He was named Chairman of Ganja European Youth Capital 2016 Public Union in February 2014. He has also been the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Kapaz Professional Football Club since May 2015.

As Ganja was chosen as the European Youth Capital of 2016 (EYC2016), can you explain the aim of the Ganja European Youth Organization?

The title of European Youth Capital is given by the European Youth Forum to one European city for a period of one year. During this year, the city gets a chance to showcase its youth-related policies, activities, and opportunities for the young people of the city. Ganja city applied for this title in 2013 along with 12 other cities. We won the title in November 2013 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Ganja city was different from other candidate cities. The aim of the Ganja EYC2016 program was also different from other candidates: our aim is to use the title of EYC2016 as a chance to create new opportunities for the youth of the city, put the youth in the center of our focus, and bring attention to youth-related problems. To manage and coordinate all these programs and youth-related projects, the Ganja European Youth Capital 2016 Public Union was created in February of 2014 and was added to the implementation of the program as a main actor.

What are some of the large-scale projects that Ganja will implement over this year?

Ganja EYC2016 has a major action plan for 2016 that calls for 43 projects—25 international and 18 local. All these projects are related to five main priority areas of the Ganja EYC2016 program: youth employment, volunteering, active participation, education, and social cohesion. The projects will start taking place after the Opening Ceremony of Ganja EYC2016 in April. 2016 is promising to be a busy year full of events and projects. The Opening Ceremony itself will be one of the largest held, together with a large-scale international festival that will be organized in October 2016. The festival will bring hundreds of young people from all over Europe in order to discuss a common solution for general youth-related problems and strengthen the intercultural dialogue among Caucasus and other European countries. There are numerous large-scale projects designed by different youth related institutions such as the Ministry of Youth and Sport, local representative of the European Commission, European Youth Parliament, and so on.

What makes Ganja a unique city to be featured as part of the European Youth campaign?

The main difference of Ganja compared to other European Youth Capitals is the fact that Ganja is the first EYC that represents a country outside of the EU. The city was supported by the National Youth Councils of the region, including Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. The title of European Youth Capital has been presented since 2009 and during this time every city selected as EYC has been from the EU. We believe it is an important chance to highlight not only Ganja, but also the whole Caucasus on the map of Europe and to show that the borders of Europe are much wider than the EU. Even though Azerbaijan is only a part of the Council of Europe, it is still a European country that can be an example of a city with a successful youth policy.

What are some challenges that you anticipate over the course of Ganja's tenure as the European Youth Capital?

In general, the whole initiative of being the European Youth Capital is something new for the city. During the first steps of candidacy, it was important to get the support of local youth and youth organizations. Later, we needed to establish a link between the initiative and state institutions and authorities. We can consider ourselves a lucky team, because the whole initiative was highly supported by the youth of the city and the state. One of the main problems that the European Youth Capitals face is difficulties in establishing the budget. It is important to promote the title among foundations, companies, and the public sector in order to attract enough finances for covering the expenses.

How will Ganja use major sporting events to promote sports among its youth?

The interest toward sports among young people has rapidly increased after hosting the European Games in 2015. We found that it is important to use this interest in our projects as well. There is a long-term, sports-related project that will be organized during the year featuring healthy lifestyle trainings, marathons, and championships, for example. The city has launched new infrastructure projects through the building of bike roads in public areas, special places for outdoor sport activities, and more. The European Games also established a base for the volunteering movement in the country. Thousands of young people volunteered for the European Games. We believe it also affected the number of Ganja EYC2016 volunteers in a positive way.