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by Alf S. Johansen, project manager
Opening speech at PIPE EXPO 2004-06-15
Dear mayors and chairmen, official representatives, ladies and gentlemen.

I am very proud to be here today and give my presentation to this large and very qualified audience. Especially I am happy to meet all my young friends and I look forward to be among you during these days here in this beautiful part of Sweden.

To watch your local projects and your youth enterprises will be a nice experience for all of us. The idea behind this EXPO was to use this event as a momentum which could trigger off local actions, new ideas and energy among young people in co-operation with schools, experts and local and regional authorities.
 
We are here together during these days out of three reasons:

1. First of all to make a manifestation of the PIPE project. This is the place to see what the project has contributed with. All the most significant local actions are presented here at the stands. The PIPE project was never meant to be just another talking project that only produced speeches, documents, reports and files for the archives. No, it should definately produce some valuable, tangible and significant results. My experience is that young people like to see some concrete achievements. The question is, did we manage to create any ? What can you present for us ?

2. To learn from each other. Do not forget to visit the other stands, to ask questions and discuss and see what they have done, why they did it and how they did it. This EXPO does also include a conference and a methodology seminar. The presentations which will be given there will also give all of us a fair chance to learn from each other and to see the PIPE project within a larger context.

3. To hand out awards to the best projects. There will be a seremony on Saturday evening, which I know many youths are waiting for. The members of the Jury have a tough and challanging job in front of them during these days. All stands will be visited by the Jury.

One of the aims in the PIPE project was to try to unlock the creativity and energy among the young generation. The hypothesis was that young people are able to come up with some new ideas and perspectives that older people don't see or don't care about. Not because they are smarter or wiser than us, but simply because they are younger. They are going to hang around for some decades, and they will have to find new ways to earn money for themselves and to finance infrastructure, welfare and even pensions to the retired people.

We are living at the beginning of a new paradigm, in the age of global communication, trade and co-operation. Remember that only ten years ago the Internet was hardly used by anyone, and mobile cellphones were still to big to fit into a pocket. 10 years ago Norway, Sweden and Finland had a referendum about EU membership. Today we are facing a union of 25 nations.

The last century created 2 horrible bloody wars and one devastating cold war. Europe was split into two parts. Many people did think only in their wildest dreams that we could be united again in one peaceful continent.

It is an imperative to utilise the new opportunities given to us by history, and create a peaceful and sustainable development in Europe.

The industrial revolution created the manufactoring industries and gave us steel, electrisity, televison and a whole range of goods and new products. The industrialism created also bigger cities, commuting and emigration from the countryside. Many small towns and settlements came in the shadow of the big cities and even their identity was changed dramatically. A monosentric development is a great threat for the remote and rural areas.

In the PIPE project we see a mission in strengthening the smaller towns, and the remote areas. That's why we try to make the towns more attractive for all people and new investments, but also for young people so they can find a reason to stay or return to their hometowns.

It's important to engage young people in the development of their towns to make the places more attractive. PIPE has challanged the youths and we have got many answers.

To experience all the energy coming out from the PIPE groups and classes in all these 9 partner regions makes me humble. I am just happy to be a part of it. To work together with these creative, positive and energetic young people is just a privelege which can be recommended.

In the PIPE project we have also been dependent on good hired experts, teachers and sivil cervants . They have done a good job, and I thank them all. We have also been very much in contact with the local mayors and other politicians from local and regional councils. Without their understanding and support the PIPE project would have been impossible to undertake. They are also representing the local and regional stakeholders and funders. In addition the European Union and the Norwegian Government have contributed financially at an equal level. So we also should thank them.

On behalf of the co-ordinators and the management team I will wish everyone here a good luck at the EXPO and a special and warm gratitude goes to the hosting municipalities, Tranemo and Ulricehamn. They have worked hard to prepare everything for us.

Now I will give you a short introduction to the PIPE project by showing you a video from one concrete local action. Not because we will promote this as better than any others, but because it is a good and great example of how we are working in the PIPE project.

Thank you very much and may the sun shine for us during these days !