Opinion / Position – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:59:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.11 Policy Paper on Migration /policy-paper-on-migration/ Wed, 01 Jun 2016 13:11:32 +0000 /?p=6564 AEGEE-Europe Policy Paper on Migration
Adopted in Spring Agora Bergamo, May 2016

01 | SUMMARY

AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) was created under a vision of a borderless, unified Europe, based on democracy and respect for human rights, by bringing together students with different cultural backgrounds. Today, AEGEE is Europe’s largest interdisciplinary youth organization present in 200 cities in 40 countries and with 13.000 friends.

As stated in its Statement of Principles, the members of AEGEE “come together under a common vision of a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe” where “freedom and human rights are essential elements of a European society” [1].

These principles are the key aspect behind the concerns most of our members have about the topic of migration, especially because the diversity of the AEGEE network’s stance in tackling the topic of migration and coming together on common points to agree on based on our values.

As broadly defined in the Annex section A , there are different types of migrants. The categories which are deepened the most in this paper are Forced Migrants and Economic Migrants.

Dealing with Economic Migration in Europe, the Schengen Agreement set in 1985 led to the opening of borders between different European states and resulted in an undoubtedly revolutionary process, not only for European citizens (mostly economic migrants) but also for trade and consequently for the economy.

In fact, according to Davis and Gift (2014)[2], “When two countries are members of Schengen, total trade between them increases by approximately 0.10% every year and a net increase in immigrants from one country to another by just 1%, expand trade between 2 nations by almost an equivalent amount”.

Mobility (migration) of citizens, and in particular of labor, is one of the fundamental preconditions for optimum currency areas like the Eurozone is supposed to be, as stated by Farhi and Werning (2014)[3] (who reinforced the theory proposed by 1999 Nobel Prize for Economics, Robert Mundell[4]) who proved that “Optimal government interventions should encourage migrations out of depressed regions”.

Millions of young people all over the world are migrating due to several reasons today. Some of these millions are migrating within Europe [5].

On top of that, in the year 2015, the so called “European migrant crisis” hit Europe in a very dreadful way. For a very long time, the issue of refugees was mostly just a local, peripheral problem which affected peripheral European countries like Turkey, Spain, Italy and partially Greece. In the year 2015 instead, other countries – from Greece up to the Balkan peninsula until Austria and Germany – had their political agenda incredibly affected by the European migrant crisis. A significant percentage of these Forced Migrants are young people. [6]

With the opening of the so-called Balkan Route (while previously most of the arrivals were coming from the Mediterranean route [7]), the European migrant crisis got broader attention from media worldwide and led to a temporary (later became “undefined period”) suspension of the Schengen agreement in the year of its 20th anniversary [8].

In order to build “A strong Europe upon the foundations of respect, tolerance and solidarity”, the heads of State of the European Countries need to follow democratic values and human rights which are the fundamental tools to get to “an inclusive society where citizens enjoy equal opportunities and rights”. Also, closing borders and building fences in Europe is against our spirit of “striving for a Borderless Europe”. Finally, not providing necessary help to refugees and not providing asylum is against AEGEE’s concept of solidarity and tolerance.

Our solidarity and our tolerance shall not refer only to every European citizen [8], but it also should refer to every human being who decides to migrate, everyone who attempts, everyone who risks his/her own life or flee to Europe to escape from any type of persecutions or conflicts, as according to:

      the article 1. A2 of the Geneva Convention [10];

      the articles 13 and 14 of the Human Rights Declaration [11];

      the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families [12];

     Comment no. 20 of E/C.12/GC/20 (2 July 2009) about “Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the Foreign People” [13];

      General comment no. 16 of 27th session (1986) about “The position of aliens under the Covenant” [14].

 

02 | QUANTIFICATION
Europe throughout the centuries, has seen millions of people migrate for several reasons: economic opportunities, educational intentions (in this case, we remind that AEGEE contributed to the birth of the ERASMUS program [23]) but mostly necessity, no matter those people were forced to or not to.

In the last 20 years, lots of conflicts continued or arose either in Europe or in its peripheral areas. To name few:
– Europe: Eastern Ukraine, Kosovo, Former Yugoslavia, Albania, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia;
– Peripheral area: Libya, Palestine and lastly Iraq/Syria.

These conflicts along with persecutions currently ongoing in other non-peripheral areas (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sub-Saharan Africa), caused over 4.4 million people asylum requests in the EU 28 countries inthe period 2005-2015, (culminated with 1.3 million people requesting just for the year 2015). Only the 52.2% of these requests were accepted [24].

Conversely, just in the year 2013, 3.39 million people in EU 28 countries migrated due to economic or educational intentions.

 

03 | AEGEE’S POSITION
3.1 – DATA ANALYSIS: THE MIGRATION SURVEY RESULTS
In order to address an opinion from the AEGEE Network, we conducted an internal research which consisted on asking through a survey, for 26 days, the opinions of a good sample of AEGEEans.
The aim was to show the general perception and the raised awareness AEGEEans had about the topic of Migration, with special regard to Refugees (Forced Migrants) and Economic Migrants, practices of Interculturalism or Multiculturalism.
Throughout a list of 36 questions, the participants were asked to express personal opinions in order
to build an important, continental and various democratic reflection on these delicate topics.

219 participants representing 88 antennae from 30 different countries of the network in 26 days contributed to this survey. This survey was open to every AEGEEan of present and from the past who has shown interest on the topic. All the participants intervened in this survey represented 1.68% of all the AEGEEans in the network today (according to the global estimation of 13000 AEGEEans, given by the Comité Directeur).

The results (presented during the AEGEE Fair at EPM Leiden 2016) were the following:
· About possible approaches working, AEGEEans thought that Multicultural approach worked better (31%) in their countries with respect to Intercultural approach (20%). Despite that, the majority of AEGEEans rather prefer to have implemented practices of Interculturalism (57%);
· Later we asked different questions for either economic migrants and forced migrants, in order to realize the general level of awareness in the whole network. The results are included in table no. 1:

Table no. 1 – Economic Migrants vs Forced Migrants – Highlights from Interviewed people

Opinions about:

Economic Migrant(s)/Migration

Opinions about:

Forced Migrant(s)/ Migration/European migrant crisis

Have you ever discussed

about refugees / economic migrants?

50% of the interviewed discussed about this topic, 40% did not
Have you ever met a…? 50% said yes 62% said yes
To what extent do you feel threatened by…? 21% by the enhancement of nationalism/racism and xenophobia;

18% are not feeling threatened;

16% by economic problems in the country;

16% by cultural problems;

16% by ghettoization.

24% are not threatened at all;

19% by cultural problems;

18% by ghettoization;

12% by terrorism;

11% by economic problems in my country;

11% by increased perception of criminality

What is your personal feeling about…? 38% said it is a natural unavoidable phenomenon;

19% said it is a bad result of politics at both national or international level;

~16% are fine with that.

~27% said that they want to welcome refugees and they want them to integrate in the society

~21% claimed that EU has to change attitude, to a more tolerant behavior;

~14% said they are scared;

~8% proved empathy for them;

~8% defined the crisis as a big challenge

Are you willing to organize events for… ? 50% said they are willing, 16% still have to decide, 34% are not willing
Do you think that migrants could be successfully integrated in our countries? 66% said yes; 14% don’t know, 20% said no
What is the level of integration in your city of …? 33% said good or more;

32% are neutral;

35% said poor or less.

16% said good or more;

27% are neutral;

57% said poor or less.

How do you judge the level of integration in your country with …? 40% said poor or absent;

30% are neutral;

30% said good or more.

61% said poor or totally absent;

25% are neutral;

14% said good or more.

What policies should your country/EU adopt/implement for…? 28% facilitation of education;

22% Integration policies;

16% A more effective EU legal framework

9% raise security and controls

7% raise awareness among Europeans

22% facilitate bureaucracy;

14% Integration policies;

13% Offer of public services;

9% Ensuring equal opportunities.

SOURCE: AEGEE Migration in Europe – Survey Results (2016) [17]

· Considering other data gathered from the intervened people in the survey:
o Only 28% of the antennae have volunteered for refugees, 31% are willing to destine part of the budget (personal or through a funds’ gathering) to refugees, 33% provided different types of services to them (even without volunteering), 50% of the antennae are willing to setting up initiatives or events for them and 52% are aware about initiatives currently running in their cities;
o 56% said there are initiatives in their cities about refugees while 36% do not know;
o AEGEEans are aware of some examples of services provided to migrants by their state, as well as the education services;
o 45.87% declared that according to certain extents, they feel close to Refugees, while almost 15% declared they are feeling close to them no matter the extent and almost 30% don’t feel them culturally close at all;
o With relation to the origin, 47% of the people felt more close to the European Refugees, 22% to any refugee, 13% to the Middle-Eastern and 9% don’t feel close at all;
o 69% of the people declared that Civic Education can be a tool to tackle against the threatening feelings some young people might have;
o Beyond Education System, we observed that

§ almost 17% considered sanctioning Media which abuses of scaremonging messages;
§ more than 19% considered making serious controls on threatening messages on both Media and Social Media;
§ almost 27% considered bringing “skeptic” people to meetings with Refugees / Economic Migrants;
§ almost 29% retained important to improving the level of talks in the domestic/family/friends atmosphere;
§ almost 4% considered taking Actions without sanctioning media.

· About the perception of which can be the borders of a Borderless Europe AEGEE strives for, the people:
o Retained for a 23% that the borders are cultural prejudices;
o Retained for more than 5% that borders are with countries who are not collaborating to a common EU migration plan;
o Retained for almost 19% that the borders are the ones of the Schengen Area;
o Retained for more than 7% to strive for a borderless world;
· The intervened people in the survey thought that AEGEE should do:
o At a local level:

§ 30.56% wants to raise awareness between friends and in the city;
§ 10.49% wants to help NGOs and volunteer;
§ 12.35% wants to promote integration, solidarity, dialogue, tolerance and common sense;
§ 26.54% wants to organize events and educate them.

o At the European Level:

§ 34.52% wants AEGEE Europe to raise awareness through campaigns and discussions;
§ 14.59% wants AEGEE Europe to lobby decision makers;
§ 17.08% wants AEGEE Europe to be a link/platform among different countries about promotion of Integration;
§ 12.46% wants AEGEE Europe to concretely help refugees or NGOs, Campaign with NGOs and Support Welcoming Processes

3.2 – CONCLUSIONS
AEGEE is a students’ association that empowers young Europeans by giving them a platform for debate and personal development as well as stands for freedom and human rights. We strive for a borderless Europe and we believe that education gives better opportunities to Youth from all over Europe.
These principles are perfectly related to a Europe which is open, rich in diversity, sympathetic and tolerant towards any kind of migrant.
AEGEE Europe now and in the past dealt with projects which were in some sense related to Migration, which are/were:

  • Eastern Partnership [18];
  • EuroArab [19];
  • Europe in Exchange [20];
  • Democracy in Practice [21];
  • Former Human Rights Working Group [22];
  • Where Does Europe End [23];
  • Beyond Europe [24];
  • Youth Mobility Working Group (Working group part of the 2014-2017 AEGEE Europe’s Strategic Plan) [25]

All these projects clearly reflected the focus that Europe is not just a geographical definition with uncertain boundaries, but mostly Europe is defined by the human rights our continent defined and achieved; by the democracies which ended sorrowful decades full of conflicts, authoritarianisms and isolationisms; by the education provided in order to reach the “the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to  “promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and “further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace” [26].

AEGEE- Europe believes in dialogue and mutual understanding as it believes that “the richness of our continent relies on people from different cultures and backgrounds coming together and being united by common values.”  The richness of our continent is also generated by the migrants who looks for better lives by escaping from difficult scenarios or fleeing from conflict, persecutions and disasters.

As AEGEE-Europe strives for a Borderless Europe, we think that the adoption of closing policies and the signature of controversial, highly criticized treaties, policies and regulations violating human rights, can only obstruct the growth and the continuation of the European Project.

We understand the need of security from threats like terrorism and other typologies of crimes, but we showed that “Immigration is unlikely to generate terrorism” and it is “weakly or not affected by poverty, education and ignorance” in the section D.4, we think that any security measures or policy adopted concerning with exclusions of migrants, has to be reasonably calculated before being implemented.

As we serve as an example for the European Youths, AEGEE-Europe shows that a European society where migrants can live peacefully and actively contributing to the local communities and institutions, can exist only throughout the respect of principles like tolerance, education, integration, diversity. With those principles, we can shape a better present and a better future for the European generations.

To achieve such European project, migration is one of the essential requisites. The integration of different people, no matter their origin or their status, is fundamental to keep building a strong, inclusive, European project.

04 | RECOMMENDATIONS

4.1 – TO THE EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS

AEGEE-Europe recommends the European Institutions to respect the human rights in the making of policies and treaties concerning the life of Forced Migrants and Economic Migrants. Especially, we ask a revision of:

     the Turkey-EU deal because of the many criticism that has been raised by independent, non-party NGOs operating for the help of the migrants;

    actions with the countries which are neglecting the provisions included in the Dublin Regulation;

 The list of 3rd-world countries which are considered to be “Safe Third Countries” due to a possible violation of the non-refoulement clause [27].

We also recommend the European Institutions to:

  •      start developing better solutions for the patrol of the external borders and to change the role of agencies like Frontex by adding to the involved forces to save lives of migrants. To achieve this goal, Frontex should need a substantial enhancement of its budget united to a better use of its funds and an optimal European coordination.
  •     Ensure more and more efficient language teaching, a better assessment of foreign qualifications, a broader availability of bridging courses, policies to provide training and work experience – these are among the policy options for migrants which exist currently and need to be enhanced and more broadly implemented;
  •      Promote an inclusive discussion on national/European level with the people who are not convinced about the existing policies for having migrants integrated, especially with the ones who have fears on migration;
  •      Strengthen their support for NGOs which are taking care of the issues of migrants;
  •      Facilitate and encourage the mobility of citizens, in particular for all European youth, in and out of the EU;
  •      Provide humanitarian legal channels for every migrant who wants to seek protection in the EU;
  •      Promote Civic Education [28] as a way to fight against the hate speeches and crimes and promote tolerance, respect, integration;
  •      Raise awareness about the realistic possibilities of asylum these migrants have in their country of origin or in the transit countries;
  •     Consider to implement the Policy Recommendations included in “GMG “Migration and youth – Challenges and opportunities” (2014)” [29];
  •      Consider to implement the Policy Recommendations included in Mercy Corps (2016)[30].

4.2 – TO THE SINGLE INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES

AEGEE- Europe recommends the single countries (and their governments) in Europe to:

     show tolerance and respect, by respecting human rights through the promotion of policies which can be either intercultural or multicultural, towards migrants;

fulfill promises as laid out in the Dublin Regulation, in order to not leave the burden of taking care of migrants just on the first country of entry;

      enhance their participation in the European security programs, instead of providing national, closing solutions and fences, as recommended by the same Frontex Annual Risk Analysis (2016)[31], in its scenario no. 2, a scenario that can be highly improved by more cooperation and interaction between Member states;

      ensure levels of education and educational policies to the migrants as mentioned in the UNESCO Education Response to the Syria Crisis (2015)[32].

4.3 – TO MEDIA

AEGEE-Europe in order to promote tolerance, respect and solidarity recommends the Media to promote an Ethical Journalism by following the recommendations made by EJN listed in the Annex section D.8

4.4 – TO THE EUROPEAN YOUTH

AEGEE-Europe recommends to European Youth (in and out of AEGEE – either as individuals or as groups), to:

  •      Keep promoting tolerance, mutual respect, solidarity and respect for human rights (as included in the AEGEE Statement of Principles);
  •      Be active in the continuous promotion and creation of intercultural events where citizens can actively contribute to activities with migrants to inform them about the standards, values of their new “home” (civil society, rules, values, tradition, religions…)[33];
  •     Gain a critical view on the topic of Migration by:

o   volunteering for NGOs;

o   sharing of contents and campaigning on social media in an ethical and critical way;

o   participating or “making activities with schools, universities and municipalities that inform and raise the awareness of the people toward the refugees”[34].

 

 

REFERENCES

[1] /about-aegee/statement-of-principles

[2] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/twec.12158/epdf

[3] http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/farhi/files/mobility.pdf?m=1398885694

[4] http://people.ucsc.edu/~hutch/Econ241a/Articles/Mundell.pdf

[5] http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/youth/fact-sheets/youth-migration.pdf

[6] http://www.factcheck.org/2015/09/stretching-facts-on-syrian-refugees/

[7] http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/social-issues-migration-health/international-migration-outlook-2015_migr_outlook-2015-en#page294

[8] http://www.unhcr.org/55f80a906.html#_ga=1.37790182.454816804.1456482463

[9] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=URISERV:l33152

[10] http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html

[11] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf

[12] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/international-migration-convention

[13] http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=4slQ6QSmlBEDzFEovLCuW1a0Szab0oXTdImnsJZZVQdqeXgncKnylFC%2blzJjLZGhsosnD23NsgR1Q1NNNgs2Qgv64k2vYou4POAC1yRpwBNq9vvAi%2ftE5XET1wJohest

[14] http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/1_Global/INT_CCPR_GEC_6625_E.doc

[15] http://www.agoravox.tv/actualites/europe/article/franck-biancheri-comment-j-ai-21410

[16] http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics#Main_statistical_findings

[17] http://www.mediafire.com/download/v64i5u1o5bw2m5d/AEGEE+%E2%80%93+MIGRATION+IN+EUROPE+-+SURVEY+RESULTS.pdf

[18] http://aegee.org/position-paper-on-the-eu-eastern-partnership-programme/

[19] http://aegee.org/projects/euroarab/

[20] http://aegee.org/projects/europe-in-exchange/

[21] http://www.zeus.aegee.org/portal/projects/democracy-in-practice/about-democracy-in-practice/

[22] http://www.oms.aegee.org/wiki/index.php?title=Human_Rights_Working_Group

[23] /projects/where-does-europe-end/

[24] /projects/beyond-europe/

[25] http://youth-mobility.eu/about/

[26] http://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/videos/right-to-education.html

[27] http://aegee.org/about-aegee/

[28] http://www.zeus.aegee.org/portal/working-groups-2/civic-education-working-group/about-civic-education-working-group/

[29] http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002277/227720e.pdf

[30]  https://d2zyf8ayvg1369.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/The%20Youth%20of%20Europe%27s%20Refugee%20Crisis%20Report_0.pdf

[31] http://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Publications/Risk_Analysis/Annula_Risk_Analysis_2016.pdf

(pages 56-57)

[32] http://www.unhcr.org/3f7aa8704.html

[33] http://www.cois.org/uploaded/Blog/Jane-Rufugee-Crisis/UNESCO_EDUCATION_SECTOR_Response_to_the_Syrian_Crisis_in_Jordan,_November_2013.pdf

[34] http://www.zeus.aegee.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=79&t=374

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Education and Youth are not a ‘small thing’ /education-not-a-small-thing/ Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:57:50 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1108 Today the European Commission’s president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker announced his “winning team”, a commission in which portfolios are given “to people, not to countries”. AEGEE / European Students’ Forum sees some good developments in the attention given to Citizenship, Mobility and Employment, but has concerns about Education being overshadowed,the total absence of mentioning Non-Formal Education for skills development and employment and the gender composition of the team.

Education portfolio still pressured

As a stakeholder in the fields of Youth, Students and Education, AEGEE-Europe welcomes the establishment of the portfolio on Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship; particularly after the previous information published at the end of last week by EurActiv (link) on the lack of education portfolio in the new European Commission. However, we would still like to emphasise the importance of Education. With Juncker claiming that he wants the Commission “to be bigger on big things and modest on small things”, we urge that education should not be considered a ‘small thing’ in a Union that depends on knowledge-dependant end-products and in which access to education is stagnating [1].

Combining citizenship into the same portfolio could be a good decision, as it paves the way for better civic education for which we see a great need in Europe. Reaching out to Erasmus+ and ‘Europe for Citizens‘ beneficiaries as a means to strengthen EU understanding, as is mentioned in the mission letter (link) to Tibor Navracsics, is highly welcomed. However, we urge that the focus of citizenship should not only be part of education, and mentioned beneficiaries should not be the only vehicle, but the work on citizenship should also encompass the inclusion of all citizens in the decision-making processes and consultations, including, but not limited to, improving the European Citizens’ Initiatives and facilitating pan-European media attention on European issues.

Juncker and Navracsics. Source: Google

Unemployment tackled, mobility boosted, non-formal education ignored Mr. Juncker has prominently highlighted jobs as one of his top priorities, recognizing that the crisis has taken its toll on employment, leaving more than 6 million people without work. In his mission letter to Marianne Thyssen (link) he acknowledges that “unemployment has reached unacceptably high levels in many parts of Europe, particularly among Europe’s youth”. To remedy this situation, he proposes to present a jobs, growth and investment package within the first three months of the Commission’s term, emphasizing the importance of funding towards projects that can help youth get back to work in decent jobs, as well as accelerating and broadening the implementation of the Youth Guarantee Scheme.

As youth employment is one of AEGEE’s priorities in the upcoming years as well, we are happy to see Mr. Juncker recognizing it as an issue to be dealt with. As a measure to fight unemployment we also welcome labour mobility as an own policy field of Commissioner Marianne Thyssen. In order to deepen the European integration it is essential to promote free movement of workers, and AEGEE-Europe sees access to mobility as one of the fundamental rights of all residents on the European continent (link). One of the key issues in order to achieve labour mobility is the mutual recognition of qualifications. Therefore we strongly support that qualifications obtained in different countries have to be recognised for all European citizens.

In the context of employment, AEGEE would like also like to see an emphasis on recognition and validation of non-formal education, especially when it comes to youth. As a youth NGO and a provider of non-formal education, we believe that non-formal education plays a crucial role in helping young people develop a variety of skills useful and relevant in a wide range of workplaces. Working to get non-formal education recognised is now not explicitly mentioned at all in the mission letters to Mr. Navracsics and Ms. Thyssen.

Furthermore, we hope that the Commission will seek out to engage citizens in improving the current situation regarding youth unemployment. Youth organisations provide young people with skills and competences that help in preparing them for the labour market. Therefore, our opinion is that youth organizations could bring added value in fighting youth unemployment, and should be consulted and involved in this matter.

Gender Balance

AEGEE-Europe is pleased to see that three out of seven Vice-President positions were given to female representatives. This is definitely a good step in the direction of achieving gender balance. However, we still hold the opinion that nine female Commissioners, compared to 19 male ones, is far from equality, and it is not a progress compared to the composition of the Commission of José Manuel Barroso. Given the fact that women constitute over a half of the 507 million population of the European Union (104.8 women per 100 men; Eurostat, 2013) and 60% of tertiary education graduates (Eurostat, 2013), we find it astonishing that EU Member States did not manage to find more female candidates for the position of Commissioners. Representation of women in the Commission. Source: European Commission

If there were truly equal opportunities, the probability of having more than 9 female Commissioners would be more than 95%. However, at the same time, we appreciate the efforts of Jean-Claude Juncker calling for more women representatives in the EC in the previous months and the inclusion of the gender equality portfolio in the DG Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. Despite the mentioned concerns, AEGEE-Europe sees potential in the change Mr. Juncker wants to make, and hope to see a positive effect. We wish for a fruitful cooperation with Commissioner Tibor Navracsics of Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship and Marianne Thyssen of Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility. Lastly, we look forward to the efforts of the Commissioner Vera Jourová in taking measures to achieve gender equality.

[1] http://euobserver.com/news/125536

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The shooting down of the flight MH17 in Ukraine should be a wake up call for Europe /the-shooting-down-of-the-flight-mh17-in-ukraine-should-be-a-wake-up-call-for-europe/ Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:19:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1087 The shooting down of a Boeing 777 on July 17th is a shocking reminder of the fact that, while the international community divides its attention between the bombing in Gaza and the holiday destination of the German world champions, the situation in Eastern Ukraine has degenerated into a civil war whose consequences are unpredictable. AEGEE-Europe has been paying continuous attention to the situation and we are worried that this attack can lead to a crossing of accusations and an escalation of the conflict.

The current and the new boards of AEGEE-Europe would like to express their condolences to all families and friends of the 298 victims, and especially to the Dutch nation, that lost 189 citizens according to the first reports. The country declared Friday a day of mourning for the victims.

But this shocking attack has to be a wake up call for Europe. There are many other victims of this conflict that lasts for several months already: dozens of casualties on both sides, journalists, thousands of refugees that are fleeing the region because of fear or the lack of opportunities that have come as a result of this separatist conflict. Europe cannot leave Ukraine alone; it is the moment to make a big stand for peace and get involved in the pacification of the region. Cooperation with Russia is essential if we want to succeed in putting an end to this conflict.

However, the authorship of the attack is still unclear. Rumours point to the separatist faction, and the fact that they are putting obstacles to the investigation does not help their cause. Additionally, media has recently shown that the pro-Russian faction owned several units of heavy armament. In fact, several airlines have already been avoiding the aerial space over the Dnipropetrovsk region over the past months as a preventive measure, but Eurocontrol (the European air traffic management organisation) has not closed it for navigation until today.

AEGEE-Europe believes that transparency and extensive investigation of this and other incidents in Eastern Ukraine are necessary to determine responsibilities and find the key to solve the conflict, and therefore should be a requisite for the EU support to the Ukrainian government, in line with the 18th point of the Joint Motion of the European Parliament For A Resolution on Ukraine (2014/2717) issued on Wednesday, the day after the plane was shot down.

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“If we don’t cry out, who will?” /if-we-dont-cry-out-who-will/ Wed, 04 Jun 2014 10:28:31 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1076 Commeorating 25 years of the Tianammen Square massacre

As a European students’ organisation, we do not often look beyond Europe in these days while so many conflicts are happening in our continent. But today we do. We want to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crackdown of one of the biggest students’ protests in history, the Tianammen Protests in China, with a million of students demanding for reforms towards freedom and opening of the communist regime. “People were disappointed in the government. They thought, If we don’t cry out, who will?” says Kenneth Lam, who was 20 then. When the Chinese government decided to send the army to stop the protests, hundreds (or thousands) of civilians were killed, and a strong secrecy was imposed. Even today, the Chinese government is obstructing those who want to commemorate or investigate what happened, as International Amnesty denounces.

In spite of the efforts of the Chinese government, the massacre hit the news all over the world. The iconic picture of the man stopping the column of tanks became a symbol of peaceful struggle for democracy. This was a  turning point in history in many levels, and is very relevant this year, when students’ have demonstrated all over our continent demanding more democracy. The Tianammen square can be these days in the Gezi Park in Istanbul, in the Maidan Square in Kyiv, at the streets of Tuzla; it can happen at any time, in any other European city. AEGEE-Europe calls for the European governments to refrain from any violence and to respect the democratic rights of the protestors, to take into consideration the demands of their citizens: in most cases, they just want a more democratic society, more opportunities to participate in the decision process and a better future.

We want to remember all the people who died fighting for their rights in China in 1989, and all those citizens (and specially the students) who faced hard repression from police, got gassed, beaten, severely injured and even killed in the last 12 months in Europe. We are proud of you and we support your demand for democracy anywhere you are.

You can read more in this complete article in Time Magazine.

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Tense situation in Ukraine the days before their most important elections. /tense-situation-in-ukraine-the-days-before-their-most-important-elections/ Thu, 22 May 2014 09:56:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1059 Even though most western media have shifted attention from Ukraine, AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum is still concerned about the situation in the country. We pay close attention to the Eastern regions, where several independence referendums were conducted some days ago. Regarding the absence of the international observers, and the lack of a legal framework to hold these consultations, neither the government of Ukraine nor the international community give validity to the results, but this seems to have little importance these days.

The situation in the country is very unstable. On the one hand, the provisional government (established once President Yanukovich fled Ukraine last February) is supposed to govern until the upcoming presidential elections scheduled on May 25th, but it was never fully recognised by the eastern parts of the country, which massively voted for Yanukovich during the elections in 2010. In addition, some of the proposals of the provisional government raised the tension with Russian-origin and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, such as the attempt of cancellation of the 2012 “language law” (that allows regions to adopt more than one language for official purposes if they are spoken by at least 10% of the local population) which was perceived as an attack to the Russian-speaking community. Even if interim president Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed this proposal before it came into force, the harm was already done.

On the other hand, the Russian intervention in Crimea, and its subsequent independence and annexation to the Russian Federation, created a dangerous precedent. The agreement signed on April 17th in Geneva by all parties to deescalate the conflict was never respected, with each party accusing the other of breaking it. As a result, the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk are following the break-away scheme and have become de facto independent territories. The Russian Federation has still not announced whether it will recognise them as independent or not, a prior step to the possible inclusion in the Federation later on. This uncertainty is allowing new illegitimate powers to take control over a huge part of the Ukrainian territory, and brings deeper instability to the region.

The last weeks had seen a dramatic increase in confrontations in those territories. The pro-independence groups have clashed first with the supporters of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and later and more violently with the police and army units deployed by the Kyiv government in an attempt to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine by stopping the independence referendum. The presence of these troops and the violence of the confrontations have been reported to have caused many indecisive voters to opt for the independence in the referendum, aggravating the problem they were supposed to solve.

AEGEE-Europe condemns all kinds of violence. In regions such as Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa (especially in cities such as Sloviansk, Kramakorsk and Mariupol), confrontations have caused death of dozens of civilians, including gruesome acts such as setting on fire a building where a group of protesters had taken refuge, with more than 40 people burned alive. The role of the police and army troops has to be to protect citizens, and to prevent demonstrations from becoming violent confrontations that increase the number of casualties; but episodes of civilians being shot by police or army have been reported. This cannot be tolerated. Therefore AEGEE-Europe calls for an independent, big scale investigation to determine responsibilities and clarify the role of external powers and extreme-right groups such as the Pravyi Sektor in the radicalisation of the confrontations.

The situation in these regions is close to a civil war, with skirmishes from both sides and casualties on a daily basis. Another war, a media and propaganda one, is fought from both sides, making it extremely complicated to understand what is really happening in the region. The fact that journalists are among the victims of gunfire, and frequently threatened and kept captive, is another proof of how far the situation has arrived.

The days before the Ukrainian elections next Sunday will be extremely unstable, as the increase of victims in the past days after some relatively calm days cries. We express our will that the whole Ukrainian society refrains from any form of violence, in order to allow democracy to work free from external pressures. As part of a new project to support democracy in Europe, our organisation has sent a delegation of 21 members as International Observers, in cooperation with local organisations and after participating in OSCE trainings. We hope for a new, fresh leadership coming out of these elections, strong enough to put back Ukraine on track and to close this dark chapter of the country’s history.


Written by Miguel Gallardo, Comité Directeur AEGEE-Europe.
With the contribution of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe and different members of AEGEE from Russian and Ukrainian locals.
Pictures from EaP project, @pmarsupia and @MaximEristavi

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NGOs should be further involved on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee /ngos-should-be-further-involved-on-the-implementation-of-the-youth-guarantee/ /ngos-should-be-further-involved-on-the-implementation-of-the-youth-guarantee/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:25:18 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1032 Last week, AEGEE attended the conference “Youth Guarantee: Making It Happen” organised by the European Commission in Brussels. Both Miguel Gallardo (member of the board of AEGEE-Europe) and Mathieu Savary (from the Youth (un)Employment project) participated in the conference, and also on the preparatory meeting “Youth Employment: what next?” organised by the European Youth Forum and the Youth Intergroup of the European Parliament the day before.

The conference consisted in a series or panels with key note speakers from the different stakeholders involved on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee: member states and its employment services, regional and local governments, companies, trade unions and the youth sector. We could get updated information on which stage the different member states are now, and what are some of the challenges they are facing.

José Manuel Barroso, at the podium, and László Andor, on the right

AEGEE-Europe is happy to see that the Member States are working hard to implement this innovative approach to reduce the impact of the crisis on Youth Employment as soon as possible. However, if only an ambitious plan is essential to tackle effectively youht unemployment, this conference has shown that we are still far from a fully-fledged and successful implementation of the Youth Guarantee:

 

  • There are still some countries who did not submit the Implementation Plans to the European Commission yet;
  • The money made available from the European Union, through the European Social Fund, is not enough to put into practice an effective Youth Guarantee. Member States should cover the rest without any delay, since the ILO study proved that the costs of inactivity will be higher than the amount to be invested;
  • In most countries, the involvement of the youth sector in the development of the implementation plans has been very limited, and in many cases inexistent. This contradicts the Council Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee, which explicitly mentioned that Member States should “ensure the consultation or involvement of young people and/or youth organisations in designing and further developing the Youth Guarantee scheme”.
  • We encourage all countries to extend the age range of potential beneficiaries to 30 years, to reflect the reality of society and include in the Youth Guarantee those young Europeans who finish their studies in their late twenties.

We believe the Youth Guarantee has a big potential to contribute to the solution of the Youth Unemployment crisis in Europe, but the success of this initiative will depend much on the ownership the Member States take from it. It should not stay a European initiative, but countries and regions have to invest on it and include all actors on the process. The youth sector, through the National Youth Councils and other big youth platforms, can contribute with ideas in development, monitoring and evaluation of the whole scheme, and in the outreach to NEETs (not in education, employment and training), mostly young people far away from the labour market who represent a priority target group of the policy scheme. Overall, NGOs can play a decisive role as a possible placement to put into practice the knowledge acquired through formal education, or gain new skills through methods of non-formal education.

Written by Mathieu Savary, Youth (un)Employment project, and Miguel Gallardo, Project Director of AEGEE-Europe.

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AEGEE-Europe celebrates visa-free travel for Moldovan citizens /aegee-europe-celebrates-visa-free-travel-for-moldovan-citizens/ Fri, 11 Apr 2014 08:25:26 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1008 Promotion of youth mobility and related programs plays a significant role in the current policy of AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum. The decision of the Council of the European Union on April 3rd, granting Moldova with a visa-free travel regime, brought on the hope that further developments in this sphere are to come shortly for other members of the Eastern Partnership program of the European Union.

Throughout its activities, AEGEE-Europe has always proved that Europe can be a border-less territory where democracy, respect for human rights and freedom are treated on equal terms. In regards to the decision made by the Council, we would like to asseverate that freedom of movement is an essential right that every European citizen should be granted with. Moreover, we believe it should not apply only to residents of the European Union. Within the mentioned framework, our emphasis is deservedly put on Moldova, the first Eastern Partnership country which has been given a chance to move forward with the integration processes.

The visa-free access to the Schengen area for Moldovan citizens with biometric passports is a result of the visa liberalisation dialogue between the European Union and Moldova initiated in 2010. Since then, the country has successfully implemented many reforms in areas such as the strengthening of the rule of law, combating organised crime, corruption, illegal migration and improving the administrative capacity in border control and security of documents. Although this meaningful sign of the European solidarity is highly welcomed by our association, we still assume all the Eastern Partnership countries as the integral parts of the European Community with a right to well-managed and secure mobility.

AEGEE-Europe has put an effort on the integration of the countries from the Eastern Partnership region in the recent years. First, highlighting the relevance of  the region in our Strategic Plan 2011-14 (Focus Area “Bridging Europe”); and second, through AEGEE’s own Eastern Partnership project, which has been active for three years with great success, and which is starting now its second cycle with a new team and updated objectives.

 

Written by Adrian Browarczyk,
Project Manager of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe

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EU Energy targets for 2030. On the way to 2050? /eu-energy-targets-2030/ Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:50:55 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=988 The European Union strives for less than 2 degrees temperature rise this century in comparison with the pre-industrial times. In order to reach this goal, scientists have calculated that the carbon emission should be reduced by 80% in 2050 (1). There are different ways in which this reduction could be reached: achieve a higher energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce the share of polluting energy sources are ways to decrease the greenhouse gasses emissions.

Every ten years, the European Commission proposes new mid-term energy targets. The current energy targets are set for 2020, and the first energy proposal for 2030 was recently voted upon in the Parliament. The proposal of the European Commission for 2030 is a 40% reduction of greenhouse gasses and reach a 27% (non-binding) share in renewable energies in the mix. The Parliament voted in favour on a resolution of 40% reduction of carbon emission, 30% share of the renewable energy market and 40% energy efficiency improvement by 2030. The Parliament criticised in this way the proposal of the European Commission (2): the renewable energy target is set to 20% in 2020, and increasing it only by 7% in 2030 would be unambitious. Furthermore, there are no national targets for renewable energy, which makes the Member States unaccountable. Additionally, the energy efficiency should be a very important objective, and there is no target set about this topic in the proposal of the Commission right now. However, the resolution of the EP is not binding, and the final proposal will be voted upon by the new Parliament in October.

In an analysis of the Friends of the Earth,  a decrease of 60% of carbon emission would be in line with the targets of 2050, instead of the 40% proposed right now. In total there should be a reduction of 80% in carbon emission by 2050 to strive for less than 2 degrees temperature rise at the end of this century (compared to the pre-industrial times). The reduction of only 40% in 2030 means that after 2030 there should be still an additional reduction of 40% in 20 years. There are no changes in the Emission Trade System so far, and the carbon prices will be low until 2030 when nothing is done (3). Internationally, Europe will continue the trend of losing its leading position in carbon emission with this proposal. The US and China will probably have more ambitious plans and targets to reduce their carbon emission in the future.

We wonder: where is the voice of the scientist and the youth in this proposal? The knowledge of the scientists is used to support decisions when it is in the benefit of the decision-makers, but non-scientific arguments become suddenly more important when the scientific facts are not pointing in the direction of the interest of the political forces. The youth has the power to reform the present in order to preserve the future; their voice and their concerns should be heard!

For many European citizens, the legislators in Brussels seems to be the big angry power which limits the growth of their countries when they impose a limitation of the carbon emissions. It is the responsibility of governments to explain why these energy targets are so important for the future of Europe, and show that this is the only way for a long term successful economy. We should develop not by bringing the healthy future of our planet and children in danger, but striving for a sustainable Europe.

To the decision makers we would like to say: about the importance of a sustainable future, do not only talk but act accordingly!

Written by Iris Hordijk, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for Sustainability

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AEGEE demands more equality in the procedures of EP elections /aegee-demands-more-equality-in-the-procedures-of-ep-elections/ Fri, 28 Feb 2014 09:18:43 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=964 Being actively involved in raising awareness of the upcoming European elections and trying to increase young voters’ turnout, we have identified a number of impediments that under certain circumstances limit citizens’ opportunities to participate in the elections. In a previous article, AEGEE put forward a debate about inequalities that exist in the EU Member States regarding the minimum age to be eligible to vote and to stand as a candidate. This time we address the issue of the different national rules that determine the right of citizens to cast their votes when residing or traveling abroad on the day of elections.

We find it unacceptable that the provisions for participation of citizens while abroad – within the borders of the EU or beyond – are so diverse and discrepant for the European Parliament elections. To mention just a few examples, while Bulgarian citizens are legally allowed to cast their vote if they reside in any other country, Cypriots are completely deprived of this right; while Hungarian electorate has an opportunity to vote in these EP elections no matter where they live – outside or inside the EU-, Greeks can only exercise their voting rights within the Union. There are many more contradictions, therefore AEGEE emphasises that since we are electing a single European legislative body, all European citizens must be provided with equal voting rights and through similar procedures.

Foto from Gunnar 3000 FotoliaEven when people are allowed to vote from abroad, there are many differences: in some countries proxy or postal voting is possible (e.g. Austria, Latvia, Belgium), in Estonia e-voting system functions, but in other countries the only available option is to vote in person from your own country’s diplomatic representation (e.g. Romania, Croatia, Czech Republic).  Current situation causes several negative consequences that worsen EU’s institutional image and decrease citizen satisfaction with, and trust in, the EU.

The obstacles to participate in the EP elections potentially decrease voter turnout, especially in those countries with a significant number of citizens abroad. The level of citizen participation in EP elections is already worryingly low – only 43% of Europeans voted in the last elections to the EP in 2009. AEGEE considers that rules and procedures for participation in European elections should be simplified to counter this low turnout, to avoid losing more voters and more voices in the upcoming elections.

Additionally, when citizens face such set of constraints for their engagement in democracy, the perception of legitimacy of the political entity substantially decreases.  The principles of consistency and equality are undermined from the moment nationals from different Member States do not exercise the same rights. Is this something the EU – being highly criticised for its democratic deficit in the past years – can afford?

Last but not least, these diverse rules and procedures are not in line with one of the EU’s main goals and greatest achievements – mobility of citizens. Having provided us with an opportunity of free movement among 28 countries, the EU has failed to adjust these basic regulations that should enhance the feeling of being European.

The aforementioned implies that the Y Vote project of AEGEE-Europe claims for two explicit things:

  • rules and procedures for the participation in European elections from abroad should be as equal as possible in all 28 Member States
  • these rules and procedures should provide better access to participation in elections in order to foster higher citizen representation.

Hence, AEGEE welcomes the petition Equal Voting Rights and Procedures for all EU Citizens in EP Elections initiated by European Citizens Abroad, and strongly encourages everyone to sign it!

Written by Diana Ondža, Communications Manager of the AEGEE-Europe Y Vote 2014 Project

In order to achieve the goals AEGEE-Europe has set for itself regarding the European elections, the Y Vote 2014 Project was successfully launched  in 2013. The project aims at reaching young people, especially first-time voters, in order to turn them into important actors of the upcoming European Parliamentary Elections through different discussions, campaigns and actions. A number of events have been already implemented, however our ambitions grow as our achievements augment.

Copyright pictures:
eVoting: Gunnar3000 Fotolia

 

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Mc Kinsey report highlights some of the problems behind youth unemployment /mc-kinsey-report-highlights-problems-youth-unemployment/ /mc-kinsey-report-highlights-problems-youth-unemployment/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 14:43:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=956 “In Europe, 74 percent of education providers were confident that their graduates were prepared for work, but only 38 percent of youth and 35 percent of employers agreed” states the Mc Kinsey report, which was released Mid-January 2014. This statement, based on a meticulous research carried out toward 5,300 youth, 2,600 employers, and 700 post-secondary education providers across 8 countries, brings to light the difference of perspectives and the lack of clear understanding among Education providers on the reality of the situation for young people willing to enter the job market.

This research reminds us that apart from the lack of job offers, another key issue is the existing skills mismatch between what Education providers are providing and the actual needs of the companies. These and other factors ended up in 5.6 million young people being unemployed in Europe.

AEGEE-Europe is worried to see that the situation for young people is still blocked and leaves so many young job seekers really unmotivated, desperate to find a job that not only enables them to pay their rent, but also fulfills their expectations. On that matter, we can only keep on calling Higher Education institutions to rethink their learning models and to cooperate further with companies in order to understand, and then translate in their programs, the skills that are being asked for on the job market.

AEGEE-Europe also wants to stress the crucial role of Non-Formal Education players in that field, since skills considered as crucial from employers, such as “spoken communication and work ethic” to quote the Mc Kinsey’s report, are exactly those that volunteers in youth organisations get to experience and develop. Moreover, not only do Youth Organisations provide soft skills needed by the job market, but they give also valuable work experience, which often job applicants lack. For this reason, AEGEE-Europe can only repeat the need for volunteers’ engagement and experiences to be recognised by key players, such as Educational centres (with ECTS compensations), Employers (by taking seriously into account volunteers’ experience) and public institutions (through validation of Non-Formal Education competences).

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