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Countdown to the European Youth Capital 2026: What do the finalists have to say?


The wait is almost over. With the nerve-wracking announcement of the European Youth Capital 2026 just around the corner, it's time to find out how the 5 finalists are doing. How are Izmir, Malaga, Sarajevo, Tromsø, and Vila do Conde preparing for the final stage of the selection journey? How have these cities mobilised their local communities? Keep on reading to get a preview of the latest news from these vibrant cities.

Would you like to know more? Get in touch!

Ivan Neirotti

Izmir, Turkey

“Be You! Be Proud!”: Izmir’s message is loud and clear. Their vision is to empower young people and secure their rights, inviting everyone to join them on this mission. So, our burning question is: How are they translating this vision into concrete action?

Not only does Izmir’s team now have a European Youth Capital office - located right in at the heart of the city, but they are also taking over the digital sphere both in social media (@eycizmir) and by creating a dedicated website. Their efforts to engage with young people have included participation in local events - such as the Izmir Marathon, collaborating with youth organisations, and hosting a youth festival, where they set up a European Youth Capital street.

“Hundreds of young people from across the city, along with civil society organisations, private companies and municipal representatives attended the festival,” noted Izmir’s team. The highlight was the 92nd International Izmir Fair which took place in September and was dedicated to young people, drawing national attention and featuring a range of activities under the theme of “Youth: Pioneers of Today”. The fair provided a platform to promote solidarity and cultivate future international collaborations and learning experiences, attracting significant interest from other cities. October was all about the Izmir Career Fair aiming to address youth unemployment and workforce development.

Malaga, Spain

Travelling from Turkey to Spain, Malaga’s focus has got everything to do with inclusivity, technological advancement, and environmental sustainability. Their goal? To create a more participative and vibrant community for young residents, especially those from marginalised and underrepresented groups.

In preparation for the final stage, Malaga has introduced innovative platforms like the Youth Panel and the Agora to engage over 500 young individuals and 40 youth organisations through online and offline consultations. They emphasise inclusivity and building strong ties with marginalised youth, focusing on co-creation of projects through workshops and community events. In the team's own words: “Malaga’s strategy transcends mere communication; it's about building strong ties with local communities, youth groups, schools, and businesses.”

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

More than just a title? For Sarajevo it's about reimagining a future where young people are at the heart of the city's reawakening. Known for its rich cultural heritage, Sarajevo plans to strengthen its diverse traditions focusing on inclusivity and sustainability. Sarajevo's mission? To prove that historical roots and young spirit go hand in hand.

“It's not a top-down approach”, the team proudly says; Sarajevo is actively involving its young residents in the process through youth dialogue and inclusive workshops, ensuring no voice is left unheard. The city has been preparing, with young people actively participating in all initiatives. They have organised workshops, public consultations, and open dialogues to gather holistic inputs from their youth community. And it's not just about gathering inputs, young residents are actively involved in implementing many of these initiatives, making them the true flag bearers.

Sarajevo's vision for 2026? YOUTH are the HEARTbeat of SARAJEVO. How? By creating an inclusive hub where young people can shape their community's destiny. This pursuit isn't just a campaign, it's a movement to place young people at the centre of development and societal growth, promising a bright future led by its young people.

Tromsø, Norway

Did you know that Tromsø is a city of 140 nationalities? It also has the world’s northernmost university and almost 50% of its inhabitants are under 35 years old , which makes Tromsø the “youngest city” in Norway.

The team has been organising events, projects, and social media campaigns to engage young people across the region. They’ve also reached out to politicians on local and national level - and organised a debate between young people and the Prime Minister of Norway.

Tromsø has actively addressed a lack of youth representation in policy-making. Even though it’s the “youngest city” in the country, the team mentioned that “one challenge that we have identified is a lack of representation of young people in policy making, governing bodies and the City Council”. That’s why they launched the "Your Voice, Your Choice" campaign, aiming to boost young voter turnout and support young candidates in local and regional elections, resulting in a record number of young representatives in the City Council. Furthermore, they have begun implementing a Capacity Building programme for young people and NGOs, emphasising creativity, experimentation, and cooperation to encourage active citizenship and contribute to shaping Europe's future. By promoting creativity, experimentation, and cooperation, Tromsø hopes to foster young people’s active citizenship and strengthen their contribution to the development of society and policies overall. Their motto? Together we can shape Europe’s future.

Vila do Conde, Portugal

From ocean waves to young people making waves.The coastal town of Vila do Conde works closely with the town’s young residents. “Every step of the way, young people guided us, from choosing which activities would happen in this process to helping us build our conceptual vision for the Capital”, said the project team.

In preparation for the final stage of the European Youth Capital 2026 selection process, Vila do Conde has focused on youth engagement through various participatory events, collaboration with the National Institute for Youth and Sports, cultural gatherings, and initiatives to enhance youth spaces. Their journey has been guided by young residents, involving them in decision-making, non-formal education, and community events. Vila do Conde's vision is to empower young people, fostering participation, shaping policies, and leaving a lasting legacy while promoting a sense of connection with both the city and Europe.

We can't wait for what's coming next, keep up the good work!

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