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, 22 Nov 2017 19:16:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.11 Policy Paper on European Citizens’ Initiative /policy-paper-on-european-citizens-initiative/ Mon, 23 Oct 2017 14:19:33 +0000 /?p=7203 By Júlia Hanesz

Introduction

AEGEE / European Students’ Forum is a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit student organization, which has around 13,000 members from close to 200 cities and almost 40 countries all over Europe. We strive for a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe, which is socially, economically and politically integrated and values the participation of young people in its construction and development. Our main mission is to strengthen mutual understanding among young Europeans and bring Europe closer by empowering them to take an active role in the society. For this reason, AEGEE aims to create a space for dialogue and learning opportunities for young people as well as act as their representative to decision makers.

 

Civic Education has become an important topic for our organization, while having a twofold approach and purpose. On the one hand, we aim to increase the civic competences of AEGEE members to enable them to become responsible citizens. On the other hand, we aim to put civic education on the political agenda at all levels. In 2008, AEGEE with other organizations lobbied for the introduction of the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) as the first transnational participatory democratic tool of the EU. We contributed to it by initiating a project called “Take Control – Ways to democracy in Europe”. Additionally, AEGEE took part in The ECI Campaign[1] together with many organisations such as Democracy International. Eight years later, AEGEE used the ECI to raise awareness on the topic of civic education by launching the “More than Education – Shaping Active and Responsible Citizens” European Citizens’ Initiative. The project has allowed us to develop our own civic competences and is, therefore, a great example of informal civic learning. Furthermore, the purpose of using the ECI tool has been to assess its strengths and the limitations as a tool for European citizens.

 

The following policy paper aims to achieve three things. First, the paper will highlight the importance of such a participatory democratic tool. Secondly, there will be a summary of the experience of young Europeans dealing with the ECI and lastly the paper will outline possible improvements for the ECI.

During the preparatory phase of the project we discovered some imperfections of the tool, therefore the development of this policy paper started in the initial stages of the ECI – More Than Education campaign.

The European Commission decided to address the issues related to the ECI and launched an official consultation process, which AEGEE also participated in. As we are primarily an organisation that focuses on youth, this policy paper highlights a youth perspective of the ECI. Moreover, we mention future activities that will form part of an overall strategy.

 

In the first section of this paper, some aspects of the wider social and political context are described, which highlight the relevance of the ECI and other forms of democratic innovation and citizen participation. This follows a short section characterising the most important details of organizing an ECI.

The relevance of direct participation in policy making, tools like referendums and citizens’ initiatives was examined in a survey among AEGEE members. Its results and implications are presented in the third section.

Following this, the story of the “More than Education – Shaping Active and Responsible Citizens” ECI organized by AEGEE members is detailed. Based on a questionnaire and interviews with members involved in the campaign, the main benefits of the tool are described and faced obstacles are identified in order to form recommendations for further improvement of the tool.

As a conclusion, the final position of AEGEE and recommendations towards the European Union and member states for the development of the ECI are stated in the last two sections.

 

01| Contextualisation

 

Today’s Europe is a multicultural society that is experiencing constant changes in terms of various socio-economic factors such as the intensive migratory flow to Europe from non-European countries as well as migratory flows between European countries. Furthermore, effects of the financial crisis of 2008 are still perceptible in many regions. Potential radicalisation among marginalized groups and the extremist movements have become a serious threat to Europe. The EU as an actor has an important role to play in tackling cross-border challenges. However, the EU itself is challenged by other issues (for instance by the Brexit) and this puts any further development of the EU into question.

 

Although 68% of the Europeans identify themselves as citizens of the EU, only 56% are optimistic about the future of the EU and less than half, 42%, think that their voices count on the EU level [1]. This shows that many Europeans are still not fully aware of the European civic identity. The democratic governance of some European countries was challenged through social movements like the 15M in Spain or the Syntagma protests in Greece, which strived for better political representation. These revealing issues or even crises of European democracy contributed to the rise of populist politics.

It seems that to face these challenges a great amount of flexibility is required and new political, economic and social solutions need to be found. Direct democracy can play an important role in these processes at the local, regional, national and even European level. However, we should be aware that direct democratic procedures have a long-term political cultural learning effect. People have to first acknowledge and practice such forms of decision-making, in particular with the help of public debates. During this process they are likely to develop a different and more cooperative view on their life, community and society they are living in [2].

 

If bearing in mind the literal meaning of the word ‘democracy’ as the rule of the people, ‘direct democracy’ aims to achieve the most direct translation of the people’s will into political decisions that is practically possible [3]. Therefore, direct democracy can be described as a political system, which enables citizens to decide for themselves whether to adopt or change laws [4]. Similarly, participatory democracy is founded on the action of citizens who can exercise some power directly and decide on issues affecting their lives, however, this does not involve voting on specific policies [5]. Most importantly both concepts allow citizens to participate directly in law and decision making processes in addition to the right to vote during elections for representatives in the parliament. Examples for direct democratic tools are referendums, recalls and examples for participatory democracy are citizens’ juries, town meetings or citizens’ assemblies and initiatives. The ECI is also considered to be a participatory democratic tool, since it enables the citizens from all member states to propose legislation to the European Commission, but it does not include voting on a given issue [6].

 

02| The European Citizens’ Initiative: One year, one million signatures

 

The ECI was introduced in 2012. Since then, more than 50 Citizens’ Committees have tried to launch their own initiatives and collect the million signatures required. Any ECI can be successful if at least one million signatures are collected. So far four of them succeeded. In the following section the procedure of the ‘One year, one million signatures’ is described.

 

The main body that manages the whole procedure of an ECI is the Citizens’ Committee, which consists of at least seven EU citizens coming from minimum of seven member states. They have to request the European Commission to register their initiative. The Commission has two months to decide whether the proposed initiative complies with the requirements set out in the Regulation[2] 211/2011 on the citizens’ initiative. In the meantime, the organisers have to set up a collection system and have it certified. If the aforementioned conditions are met, the Commission registers the ECI and the collection begins. One million EU citizens have to endorse the related idea of an ECI within one year from the date of registration for it to be successful. A minimum number of signatures[3] has to be met in at least seven member states – these countries being at the choice of the Committee. Organisers can collect the signatures, to be seen as statements of support, either online or on paper. Citizens who want to support an ECI must be eligible to vote in the European Parliament elections. After the one year period has expired, the organisers have to have the offline signatures verified by the national authorities of individual EU Member States. Only then can the ECI be submitted to the Commission.

 

The consequence of a successful ECI is the following: Representatives of the Commission have to meet with the organisers to allow them to further explain their objectives, the organisers can present their ECI at a public hearing in the European Parliament and finally, the Commission must respond to the ECI. The response needs to spell out arguments for the Commission’s decision whether to act on the ECI or not. The Commission is not obliged to take any positive action regarding the subject-matter of an ECI which, as will be further explained, presents one of the biggest issues in the current regulation.

The tool itself has provided a new platform on which Europeans can share their ideas and spread their beliefs. Yet, the before mentioned procedure is fraught with technical, administrative and legal difficulties that potentially inhibit the usefulness of the tool.

 

03| Relevance of the European Citizens’ Initiative in the eyes of young people

 

In order to find out AEGEE´s position on the matter of direct and participatory democracy in Europe, a survey was conducted among 124 AEGEE members from 20 countries.

More than 70% of the participants believe that it is important to be actively engaged in politics on local, national or international level. However, only 5,6% of the respondents thought that they can have a big influence on European politics in general. The majority believes that young people can have only a little or some influence.

Having the possibility to participate directly in the legal decision making processes and to vote during elections was important for 75,6% of the participants. Only 12,1% of participants stated that it was not important at all or less important. Answers were similar when participants were asked about having this possibility at the European level. One of the participants highlighted two main reasons behind the importance of such a tool. For instance the control of the governance and the possibility to raise awareness about certain topics: “The only way a real democracy can work is by having the correct tools to control what politicians make. There should be a way to let our governments know that we do not agree with decisions they have made and to put on the table something that is being ignored.”

 

The results regarding the specific types of direct or participatory tools are more heterogeneous. 42,7% of the respondents thought that referendums are very or rather useful, 31,5%, stated that referendums are rather unuseful or not useful at all, and the rest 25,8% were neutral on this question. These results might be influenced by the recent use of referendums in some European countries with controversial outcomes, such as the Brexit or the referendum carried out in the Netherlands on the approval of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine.

 

In contrast to referendums, the European Citizens’ Initiative was generally a more favoured tool among the participants of our survey. 86,83% of the respondents thought it is very or rather important than unimportant to have a right to start an ECI. “Although I’m not particularly in favour of a direct democracy, having a road into the political structures of the EU is very important. This can provide information about interests, wishes and red lines from the general population”- wrote one of the respondents. Others also identified that the ability to make your voice heard is a very important aspect of the ECI, which can also encourage people to be active citizens since they can change things through it. “The right to start an initiative is important because the motivation for many citizens to keep themselves informed about politics is directly linked to the degree of self-involvement that it requires.” In other words, an ECI can empower citizens since it also “…brings people together and motivates them to fight for their dreams/opinions/projects and not just cast a vote” and “…it also strengthens the feeling of having your voice matter and thus improves the general feeling about democracy in the EU.”

 

          Although the above listed comments definitely support the ECI, many participants described their concerns about the actual impact of it: “The question, for me, however is the extent to which decision-makers actually change their opinions about it. I’m not certain of the answer to this question, but that does not mean that I don’t believe that the opportunity should be cherished and used maybe more often by Europeans citizens.” Similarly: “It is important, but it requires a huge effort and the result (examination by the Commission) does not have a particular impact.”

 

To summarise, young people find it relevant to have an opportunity to be involved directly or through participatory tools in the decision making process in the European Union. In contrast to referendums, which seem to be controversial among young Europeans, they favour the European Citizens’ Initiative, even though its impact is still questionable. We cannot conclude from this that more direct or participatory democracy itself would help young people to feel more involved and get more engaged in politics, but it could be one possible way to it. Improving the ECI tool itself, therefore, could be a significant step in fighting the challenges that Europe is facing.

 

04| Case study of the AEGEE ECI

          The ECI “More than Education – Shaping Active and Responsible Citizens”[4] was registered on the 6th October 2016, with the following subject matter and main objectives:

 

Subject Matter:

A set of incentive measures, including support and monitoring, to develop citizenship education in curricula on all levels of formal education throughout Europe, aimed at shaping democratic citizens.

 

Main objectives:

A democratic society relies on the citizens’ participation, shared values and capability of critical thinking. The Commission should support member states in their responsibility to enable young people from all backgrounds to develop competencies for participating responsibly in society. To promote cohesion, action should be coordinated throughout the Union, by setting a long-term agenda, creating benchmarks, providing support to states, doing periodic evaluations and sharing best practice.

 

The preparation for this ECI started more than a year before registration by gathering a motivated team, later called the ECI task force. At the beginning, the team consisted of seven people, and later on other people joined to fulfil a certain task for a longer period or to participate in a specific project or event for a shorter time. Some people also left the task force throughout the preparatory phase, due to lack of time or losing motivation. It is important to highlight that all organizers participated in the campaign as volunteers, dedicating their time and effort to the project next to their studies and other duties. Results of the online survey conducted among 18 AEGEE members actively involved in the campaign showed that the main motivation behind joining the team was first of all the topic of civic education and secondly that they could get familiar and use the ECI. Even though for many of them this was the first time working with the tool, it brought a great opportunity to learn a lot and to educate AEGEE members about it. Therefore, when examining the development of the work and the results of this ECI, we should keep in mind the aspects of voluntary work and youth involvement.

 

During the preparatory phase, the task force consulted various experts such as professors, partners, civil servants and other ECI organizers. For instance Carsten Berg (the ECI Campaign) helped us to get a deeper understanding of the procedure and requirements of carrying out a ECI. Although, some of them emphasised that it is not worth the effort and the ECI should be improved in many aspects, we decided to continue keeping in mind that apart from the signature collection, our experience with the ECI could be a case study for further development of the tool. The consultations with many academics working on their masters and PhD theses on the ECI, showed us that there is a big interest in revising the tool.

 

On the 7th of July 2016 the ECI was registered by the European Commission for the first time. The announcement of it came as a surprise and because of technical difficulties with the online collection system, and because it seemed more feasible to start the campaign after summer, the AEGEE ECI had to be withdrawn.

The withdrawal from our side was met with concern from the European Commission’s side as the Commissioners had their meeting during which they decided to allow our Initiative around the same moment we sent our withdrawal statement. A phone call from the Commission asking us to reconsider our withdrawal suggested some political interest in our ECI, but the ECI was withdrawn nonetheless.

During the next three months a new website was created and the collection system hosted by the European Commission was set up by the task force and audited by the Luxembourgish authorities. For this audit, the organisers had to come up with a security policy, write a business impact assessment, risk assessment, and risk treatment plan, which was a challenging process in order to conform to high security standards. In this process, collaboration with the technical department of the European Commission went smoothly. However, it was difficult to understand what was happening on their side, as they take care of the development, installation and auditing of the software and servers.

 

Brainstorming for the campaign itself started as well. During summer events, some AEGEE members were introduced to the ECI and learned more about our own initiative. Finally, in October 2016 the ECI was registered for the second time and the signature collection could be started.

It was clear for the core team that for reaching one million people willing to sign the initiative a much bigger team was needed. Hence at the beginning we tried to focus on motivating AEGEE members to join the task force or organize a local signature collection and inviting other NGOs to set up coalition to do the ECI together. However, we met a very reluctant reaction from the civil society, emphasising that ECI is not worth the effort and it has no actual impact.

Motivating others can be difficult, especially if the goal of reaching the one million signatures seems impossible to them and it was not really the aim. The Activity Plan of the Civic Education Working Group of AEGEE, which started organizing the initiative stated: “Note that it is not feasible to collect a million signatures this year. However, we are going to start collecting signatures and involve the Network in that.” Considering the ECI as a great opportunity to promote the importance of civic education turned out to be a difficult way to encourage young people to join.

 

When asking members of the task force or other people involved in the campaign whether at the beginning they believed in reaching the needed number of signatures, out of 18 nearly 40% (7 people) believed in doing so. Other four people (22.2%) did not believe in collecting that many, and the rest was aware of some difficulties, but still hoped for success. On the contrary, 16 people would probably or for sure do it again.

Most of the respondents highlighted that they learned a lot, and that the ECI offered them the opportunity to raise their voice for an important topic for them, that they could be part of a big scale initiative. One of the team members said: “It made me aware of the fact that to voice something that needs to be changed it takes a lot of effort to get people to become aware of the topic. It takes a lot of communication, motivation and good will from a good team of people to be able to do something. It also made me believe that as young students you can voice something and it can be heard by the politicians.”

 

One of the aims of an ECI is to raise awareness about an important issue. This was fulfilled in the case of the “More than Education” ECI. Even though due to the lack of financial resources we were not able to run a traditional campaign, we were able to discuss civic education with many European students within AEGEE on various occasions, such as during ten network meetings reaching 400 members or at conferences of 1000 people, while all of them learned about ECI. The fourth edition of the project Europe on Track[5], thanks to ECI, was committed  to raising awareness on this topic. The task force was present at the Yo!Fest in Maastricht, organized by the European Youth Forum and other external events presenting the ECI. In May 2017 we organized an event in the European Economic and Social Committee with the title: ‘Mind the gap – how to strengthen civic education for all throughout Europe’ and as an opening eventhosted in Budapest the Franck Biancheri Award Conference ‘Education for the present- Democracy for the future’ at the Central European University tackling the topic of civic education and its role in building a strong democracy.

 

The impact of the ECI could be seen in the launch of new cooperation with many external organizations working on the topic too. In other words, it became an important promotional and networking tool for AEGEE. We could spread our views about the need to improve civic education in Europe and because of the ECI many organizations reached out to us and this opened new doors. One great example is be the cooperation with the European Economic and Social Committee. Other than hosting our event, they supported our work by helping to translate materials for us, gave us an opportunity to be present and introduce our views during the ECI day organized by them and included us in the meeting of the ECI ad hoc group and further collaboration is planned as well.

 

While working on the ECI and during the signature collection events, the people involved identified some obstacles. Maybe the most crucial part was the lack of financial resources. The project was only run from the budget of AEGEE and some small online donations all in all less than 500 Euros. Other than that, the long and complex administrative process and setting up the IT infrastructure caused a delay in starting the campaign, what resulted in some people losing motivation and leaving the team, as well as a problematic planning for further steps.

When asking organizers of signature collections about their experience, they highlighted that the ECI in general was not known by citizens, so first they had to explain this concept in general before starting to explain our particular ECI. They also mentioned that both the online system and the paper forms are not user friendly and caused a lot of confusion during the campaign. Some obstacles were: filling the online form took a lot of time and the platform is not mobile friendly; in case of paper forms the required data differ in each country and the text itself is very small, signatories made a lot of mistakes during filling them in. Moreover, organizing a signature collection in a public place in some countries requires registration at an administrative body. However, in some cases even competent officers were not sure how to proceed with it.

Another aspect of the whole ECI process is the communication with the Commission, which was not ideal. Although, our ECI is not going to reach the one million signatures, and by that call the European Commission to put the improvement of civic education on their agenda, we were happy to see that many new initiatives on the topic of education are being prepared, such as the public consultation: Promoting social inclusion and shared values through formal and non-formal learning[6]. However, since we showed interest in the topic, and are willing to be actively included in the process, we were not informed about the ongoing work at the time of the registration.

 

Next to the ECI, an online petition[7] has started as well, so AEGEE members who come from non-EU countries can be included in the campaign too. However while this is useful to get support from the non-EU members, these statements of support do not count in the one million needed for a successful ECI.

 

05| Position of AEGEE-Europe

 

Today’s Europe is facing many challenges that cannot be adequately tackled by single countries only. AEGEE believes that a better integrated and borderless Europe is possible and that the creation of active, responsible and democratic citizens are key elements of it. These citizens should be able and willing to participate in the changes and to find solutions for current issues.

Having the opportunity to raise awareness and call policy makers to action regarding issues that concern each citizen on local, regional or national levels is important. But AEGEE also believes that it is important to engage with people from other countries. AEGEE advocates for democratic tools which will enable every European citizen to participate in the decision making processes at local, national, but also European levels.

The recent survey among the AEGEE members showed that many of them question the use of referendums; therefore the European Citizens’ Initiative represents a more relevant participatory tool for them.

 

Based on our experience, the ECI is a great opportunity to promote a topic and raise awareness about an issue that matters to citizens. Throughout the year of collecting signatures, thanks to the ECI we were able to reach out to many stakeholders dealing with civic education. However, our example also shows that collecting one million signatures for a youth organization relying on voluntary work is not possible yet. Reasons behind could be the lack of funding and a need for specific knowledge and experience but also the user friendliness and possible results of using the tool. For instance, some contacted NGO partners refused to cooperate with us, due to previous experiences with campaigns and they found the tool not worth to invest time and financial resources in it.

 

AEGEE is motivated to take an active role in shaping the future of Europe.  Therefore, we call for a revision of the ECI to make it more accessible and usable for young Europeans. Fighting challenges faced by Europe nowadays is possible when every citizen feels responsible and is willing to bring their contribution to find solutions. Including more people – especially the youth – in policy making is a step towards in the development of a common European identity which is necessary for tackling common issues .

As we believe in the ECI is as an important tool, we

argue that it should be promoted and reshaped to a form, which truly enables citizens to raise their voices, influence policies and assist in creating a democratic Europe.

 

 

06| Recommendations for improving the European Citizens’ Initiative

 

AEGEE advocates for the following measures in order to make the ECI more accessible and usable for young Europeans.

 

6.1. Recommendations for the European Union

  • The Commission should enter into dialogue/meet with organizers, not only at the end of the successful initiative but at the beginning of every registration in order to foster debate with citizens. The EC should be proactive in information the organizers on ongoing processes connected to the topic of their ECI and related issues.
  • The Commission should provide the online platform for the online signature collection, so the technical side of the signature collection would not cause too much inconvenience to the citizens.
  • Allow Citizens’ Committees to choose the starting date of the signature collection after the ECI has been registered, and within a certain period of time, in order to give them the opportunity to finish all the preparations and plan the campaign in detail. This would make it easier to apply for funds, since the organizers would be sure that the ECI is registered.
  • Improve the platform where all ECIs are listed, by integrating information on European processes concerning the topics of the respective initiative.
  • Offer financial support for Citizens’ Committees and/or financial advice on planning a campaign and applying for funds.
  • Harmonize the minimum age of the signatories at 16 years of age in order to encourage young people to be active citizens from an early age onwards.
  • Create a more user friendly platform for the online signature collection, which is easier to fill in, applicable for different websites and is accessible on mobile phones as well.
  • Simplify and restructure the paper forms for offline signature collection, such as not having only three signatures per paper.
  • It is of crucial importance that citizens of successful initiatives feel heard, taken seriously and are recognised in their efforts. Therefore, the hearing at the European Parliament should only be focused on them and other relevant experts and stakeholders that the Citizens’ Committee puts forward, even though this may not ensure a fully balanced debate with opposing viewpoints. But the Commission has other means at its disposal to ask for opinions from other stakeholders (such as a public consultation). Furthermore, the follow-up for successful ECIs should be improved: more details and fact-based answers from Commission should be given.
  • Give a positive experience to unsuccessful ECI organizers: the Commission should address them personally in order to recognize their efforts and lay down the EU’s current actions related to the topic of the registered ECI. In order to recognise the efforts of organisers and to enhance the visibility of the ECI as a tool, the Commission should communicate via its own channels when ECIs reach certain numbers of signatures – milestones. Other than that, more information about the ECI should be given through (the channels of) national level authorities.

 

6.2. Recommendations for the Member States

  • Harmonize the process of signature collection in the member states, such as the amount and type of personal data required to be filled in on the paper forms.
  • Take an active role in informing citizens about the ECI and promoting it as a participatory democratic tool at the EU level.
  • Create a user friendly environment for the ECI signature collection and offer country-specific advice for Citizens’ Committees, such as easily understandable and accessible guidelines.

 

References

[1] Standard Eurobarometer: Public opinion in the European Union, First results (87), pp. 21- 38.

[2] Dirk Berg-Schlosser (2007): Direct-democratic procedures as corrective mechanisms in consociational systems or for clientelistic structures—some brief remarks. In: Pállinger, Z., T., Kaufmann, B., Marxer, W., Schiller, T.  (2007): Direct Democracy in Europe. GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden.

[3] Marxer, W. (2004): „Wir sind das Volk“ — Direkte Demokratie: Verfahren, Verbreitung, Wirkung. Beiträge Liechtenstein-Institut Nr. 24. Bendern.

[4] Lakoff, S. (1996): Democracy: History, Theory, Practice. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

[5] European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA), Maastricht (NL) Best, E., Augustyn, M., Lambermont, F. (2011): Direct and Participatory Democracy at Grassroots Level: Levers for forging EU citizenship and identity? European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA), Maastricht (NL).

[6] Altuna, A., Suárez, M. (Eds.) (2013). Rethinking Citizenship: New Voices in Euroculture. Groningen: Euroculture consortium.

 

Annex:

 

  1. Details of the survey: Relevance of the European Citizens’ Initiative as a direct democratic tool

 

  • Conducted between 20th March and 3rd August 2017.
  • Total number of respondents: 124. 119 AEGEE members + 5 non-AEGEE members
  • Answers from 20 European countries: Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine.
  • Average respondent’s age: 23 years; median age: 23.
  • Gender characteristics: 50,4% females, 48,4% males and 1,5% other or preferred not to share their gender.

 

Figure 1: How important is it in your view that citizens have the possibility to participate directly in law- and decision-making processes on EU level in addition to the right to vote during European Parliamentary elections?

PP CE 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2: Do you believe referendums are generally useful direct democratic tools (at either the national or the European level)?

PP CE 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: Do you believe it is important for EU citizens to have the right to start a European Citizens’ Initiative?
PP CE 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Details of the survey about the ECI conducted among the task force and other AEGEE members involved in some project during the campaign

  • Conducted between June 9th – August 8th 2017.
  • Total number of respondents: 18.
  • Answers from 10 European countries: Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia.
  • Gender characteristics: 72,8% females, 27,8% males.

 

[1] More: http://www.citizens-initiative.eu/

[2] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:02011R0211-20150728&from=EN

[3] http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/signatories

[4] More details: https://morethaneducation.eu/ https://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/REQ-ECI-2016-000004/public/index.do

[5] The “Europe on Track” project was launched to capture young people’s vision and wishes for Europe in 2020. It is a youth-led project where six young ambassadors across Europe with InterRail passes for one month informing and interviewing young people about their vision of the Europe of tomorrow. In order to do so, they participate in local events bringing content and creating spaces for dialogue and discussion with a main focus that changes every year, achieving a bigger impact through a travel blog, videos and social media.

[6] More: https://ec.europa.eu/info/consultations/public-consultation-recommendation-promoting-social-inclusion-and-shared-values-through-formal-and-non-formal-learning_en

[7] More: https://www.openpetition.eu/petition/online/more-than-education-shaping-active-and-responsible-citizens

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AEGEE Strengthens its Presence in the South Caucasus: EPM Yerevan 2018 – Bridging Europe /aegee-strengthens-its-presence-in-the-south-caucasus-epm-yerevan-2018-bridging-europe/ Sun, 15 Oct 2017 15:09:24 +0000 /?p=7192 On 8-12 March 2018, Yerevan will be hosting the European Planning Meeting 2018, which will be organized by AEGEE-Yerevan / Yerevan European Students’ Forum Youth NGO.

For the first time in its 32 years of history, the pan-European network of  AEGEE / European Students’ Forum will organise a statutory event  in the South Caucasus, marking the intention of AEGEE-Europe to enlarge the scopes of interaction with the youth of the non-EU member states and overcoming the existing barriers of youth mobility.

The EPM Conference welcomes 250 youth workers, government officials, as well as business, civil society, academia and media representatives from more than 40 the European Union (EU) and Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, in order to discuss key priorities of the EU’s Eastern Partnership strategy, and to draft the AEGEE network’s Action Agenda to tackle European issues that shape young people’s lives across the continent.  Participants will have the chance to take part in workshops, panel discussions and roundtable discussions before working in focus groups drafting specific youth-related recommendations.

The European Planning Meeting Yerevan 2018 creates a forum for integration of ideas, policies and common interests aimed at deepening and enhancing existing relations between the EU and EaP countries. The Conference will draw particular attention to the main topics of the European Agenda, including Europe’s current new forms of cooperation between the EU and its neighboring partner countries, youth unemployment, Erasmus+ Programme, youth participation in democratic transformation and the importance of the strengthening of the civil society capacity in the non-EU countries.

Considering Armenia’s Government intention for signing the Comprehensive Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union in November 2017, the Conference will also focus on youth entrepreneurship, promotion of sustainable economic growth, unleashing youth potential in high technologies  and diversification of cooperation between Armenia and the EU including prospects of boosting people-to-people contacts and launching visa liberalisation process.

The participants of the EPM Yerevan 2018 will also get a chance to participate in thematic workshops and master classes held  by experts, as well as the Fair will be hosted for the Armenian students and the general public. In addition a special cultural programme will be organized for all international participants thus providing them a real-time opportunity to discover the long lasting and unique European cultural heritage of Armenia.

The European Planning Meeting Yerevan 2018 is the biggest thematic European youth event ever organized in Armenia, proudly marking the 2800th anniversary of the city of Yerevan.

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AEGEE’s Statement on the recent events in Catalonia /statement-on-the-recent-events-in-catalonia/ Tue, 03 Oct 2017 17:32:18 +0000 /?p=7156 After years of increasing tension between the Spanish central government and the Catalan autonomic government, in September, the Catalan Parliament approved the call for a referendum on the independence of the Spanish region, which was prohibited by the Spanish Constitutional Court. On October 1st, 2017, the referendum unilaterally declared by the Catalan autonomic government regarding Catalonia’s independence took place.

We condemn the violence and brutality occurred in different parts of the region along that day, resulting in hundreds of injured citizens. We defend the respect of fundamental human rights of all citizens, with special attention to the freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, and believe that violence is never the solution.

AEGEE stands for a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe, strengthens mutual understanding and creates a space for dialogue. These values have been challenged by the recent happenings in Catalonia and we urge political parties and organisations to find peaceful solutions. We support our locals in the involved areas, being young people a key player in democratic dialogue and understanding that should be listened to.

We call on all parties involved to partake in respectful dialogue and find a common and peaceful solution, respecting the rule of law and fundamental human rights.

Sources:

http://www.osce.org/odihr/347171

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57785#.WdO242i0PIV

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-17-3626_en.htm

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Statement on Gefira /statement-on-gefira/ Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:42:29 +0000 /?p=7149 AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum was founded in 1985 by a group of young people around Franck Biancheri. Our organisation is politically independent and strives for a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe, which is socially, economically and politically integrated, and values the participation of young people in its construction and development.

Moreover, as stated in our Policy Paper on Migration: “our solidarity and our tolerance shall not refer only to every European citizen, 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.”

We would like to underline that the values and principles upon which our organization was founded are in contrast with the positions of the Gefira Foundation, and that we do not have a relation with it. We therefore call the representatives of Gefira to refrain the usage of our name in their public means of communication.

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Policy Paper on the Summer University Project and the recognition of AEGEE as a provider of short-term youth mobility programs /policy-paper-on-the-summer-university-project-and-the-recognition-of-aegee-as-a-provider-of-short-term-youth-mobility-programs/ Sun, 11 Jun 2017 13:49:50 +0000 /?p=7076 01 | Introduction

AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum is a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit student organization which has around 13000 members from more than 200 cities in 40 countries all over Europe.[1] The mission of AEGEE is creation of borderless Europe, which could be implemented by giving the young people opportunities of cultural exchange, integration and travelling.[2] Visiting different countries is the best way to broaden the mind and share cultural diversity. However, quite a lot of destinations are still rather problematic for young people to reach, mostly due to bureaucratic (visas) and financial (high ticket prices) barriers. Moreover, many opportunities are missed due to lack of information: Most young people have only heard  about Erasmus student exchange, although  there are  a lot of other possibilities (for instance, the Youth Exchange Training Course, EVS, the EU Aid volunteers, etc.). Since the foundation of AEGEE many steps towards broader availability of travel have been taken, especially in the Schengen Area. However, there are still many obstacles to mobility in Europe: As 25% of the AEGEE network is outside the European Union, visa problems can sometimes be substantial.

In the following paper the importance of youth mobility will be explained in terms of the biggest and most significant project of the organization: the Summer University. While long-term mobility programs supported by universities (like Erasmus) are broadly recognized, there are still short-term mobility programs supported by international NGOs, which also contribute a lot to creating European citizens. First of all, in section 3 the essence of the Summer University project will be described, as well as its history, development, purpose and diversity. Further, in section 4 the methodology of the research will be explained. The research presents the results of a questionnaire conducted among members of AEGEE on the impact of participation in and/or organization of a the Summer University on their life and personality, and also the statistic and description of various mobility barriers faced by members of the organization  when trying to reach the place where the SU will take place..

Based on the results and statistics of the survey and the position  of AEGEE, illustrated in section 5, recommendations about possible measures concerning visa procedure and possible international support of NGOs (as stakeholders in organizing mobility projects and events) from the institutions and local governments will be given in section 6.

02 | Context       

The issue of youth mobility programs is as urgent as ever, especially taking into account not only the question of individual development but also the social situation in Europe, decrease of the level of European identity and solidarity, and raising Euroscepticism.

To the question concerning the Erasmus program (which “enables European students to spend part of their studies at another higher education institution or with an organisation in Europe”), a large majority of Europeans express a positive opinion about it (86% ‘positive’); just 5% have a negative opinion, and 9% are unable to answer.[3]

The essence of the Erasmus program – as well as its main benefit – is its contribution to creating European citizens in the sense  for which the whole European policy strives: democratic, tolerant, open-minded, with a wide range of interests. The importance of this program cannot be understated (especially in view of the rise of populism, nationalism and Euroscepticism), but we must keep in mind that Erasmus is not the only mobility program which can help to achieve this aim. There are many other long-term and short-term mobility programs with various contents  but with a common result. One of these programs, coordinated by AEGEE-Europe, is the Summer University project  (detailed in section  3).

One undeniable advantage of the Summer University project over the Erasmus program is that it is open  to absolutely all young Europeans regardless of background or whether they are studying at university (only students can take part in the Erasmus program). Besides, not all European countries are involved in the Erasmus program so far, whereas the Summer University project is accessible for citizens of any European country  (both EU  and non-EU).

 

03 | The Summer University Project

AEGEE provides young people with a lot of opportunities for travelling and self-development by organising various international projects and events. The biggest and most significant project, which is described in detail below, is Summer University.

The Summer University project was established in 1988 and this is one of the largest and most successful youth exchange independent short-time mobility volunteering project organized by an NGO.[4]

Summer Universities are events which  take place during summer for between one and four weeks in most of the cities in which  AEGEE is present. Understanding and exploring the multicultural dimension of the European continent, overcoming national and cultural stereotypes, fighting for tolerance and creating open-minded citizens are some of the reasons why 20 to 50 young Europeans from all over Europe come together in each Summer University.[5]

The second part of its name – “University” – is not simply a word, it is very significant, concerning AEGEE’s aim of non-formal education and being realized with workshops, discussions, presentations or even projects provided by either experienced members of AEGEE or by other partner institutions.[6]

The idea of this project belongs to Daisy Kopmels (member of AEGEE-Amsterdam, 1988). First Summer Universities were 10 language courses offered to 320 applicants, taking place in Bellaterra/Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Heidelberg, Kiel, Milano, Amsterdam, Orléans, Paris and Toulouse. The languages which were studied at these courses were Catalan, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch and French.[7]

The following timeline illustrates the development of the  project:

  • 1989: The number of courses reaches 16 and, for the first time, it was possible to study Greek and Computer Sciences
  • 1991: The first SUs in Eastern Europe take place
  • 1992 : The first 5 TSUs (Travelling Summer Universities) are organized
  • 1994: SU Types: Summer University, Summer University +, Travelling SU, Summer Camp
  • 1995: The fee is now 100 ECU[8], raised many more times after.
  • 1996: Summer Events are introduced
  • 1999: Electronic applications replace paper forms
  • 2000: Webpage: (www.aegee.org/su). Fee is now paid in Euro
  • 2003: Applications now via website
  • 2004: The SU on its peak: 96 SUs! The first SUPS (Summer University Project School – a training for future Summer University organisers) took place[9]

The Summer University project suggests a big variety of themes, which can help its participants in developing new competences, gaining useful skills and knowledge. For example, there are such topics as History and Local culture, Civic Education, Sports, Language, Art and Creativity, etc. Apart from the cultural exchange these Summer Universities also include sessions and trainings on different topics, provided in an interactive way and based on the principles of the non-formal education.

Summer Universities are currently divided into Summer Course, Summer Course Plus and Travelling Summer University.

  • Every Summer Course is characterised by:
    • A duration of between 11 and 28 nights; exceptions for a duration of minimum 8 nights can be made by the SUCT (Summer University Coordination Team) for organising Locals which have not been granted this exception the previous year;
    • At least 14 hours of tuition per week;
    • A minimum number of 15 participants.

The course should be about main subject/roof topic, classes about related topics are possible.[10]

A Summer Course Plus is an intensive course on any subject. These courses are officially recognised and supported by the university, the educational institution in which they take place or AEGEE-Academy (a  training association within  AEGEE-Europe, formed by members of Locals interested in trainings) and lessons are taught by professional teachers or trainers approved by AEGEE-Academy. A proof of the teachers’ or trainers’ qualification and experience is to be provided to the SUCT (Summer University Coordination Team, responsible for the good functioning and for the development of the project).

  • Every Summer Course Plus is characterised by:
    • A duration between 11 and 28 nights;
    • At least 20 hours of tuition per week on average;
    • A minimum of 15 participants;
    • A minimum of 4 cities visited.[11]
  • A Travelling Summer University is a cultural travel through Europe. Every Travelling Summer University is characterised by:
    • A duration between 14 and 28 nights;
    • At least 20 hours of tuition per week on average;
    • A minimum of 15 participants.[12]

According to CIA (Corpus Iuridium AEGEEnse, General Rules of AEGEE-Europe, version 27, July 2016) the Summer University participation fees are set to a maximum of 14.00 Euros per person and per night, in which at least two meals per day (of which at least one is warm), all lodging, transportation, tuition and activities are included. Fees set by the preceding SUCT can be increased by a maximum percentage based on Eurostat Euro Area annual inflation statistics of the calendar year[13]. Locals are encouraged to set the fee as low as possible in order to  encourage and foster travelling according to the aims of the SU project.

In summary, the Summer University project is AEGEE’s longest-lived and most successful project, which has evolved and taken many shapes over its history and throughout its different instances , even though the basic concept has remained the same: summer events organised by and for young people from all over Europe, with both educational content, cultural exchange and with room for fun and leisure. In the past year 2016 the total number of SU applicants was 2767, the number of Summer Universities was 75, the number of organizing locals was 101 and the total number of places was 2181. 30 countries[14] were involved in the organizational process.[15]

 

04 | Analysis and Overview of the Mobility Survey Results

In order to present the most topical information about the impact of the SU project on the young people and the mobility barriers, a questionnaire was conducted  among all members of AEGEE from 13th of March and 8th of April. 122 members from 20 different European countries[16] took part in this survey.

The questionnaire had the following aims:

  • To find out the influence SU participation has on young people;
  • To find out and classify all mobility obstacles AEGEE members had faced while getting visas and reaching the place of the SU, as well as financial barriers;
  • To clarify the reasons for these obstacles.

While answering 16 questions the participants could evaluate the impact of the participation or organization of the Summer University on their life and personality from 1 to 7 (1 – do not agree at all, 7 – agree completely), report about any difficulties (problems getting visa, lack of financial means, etc.) reaching the place of the Summer University, and also give their comments and share their opinions regarding all these questions.

The survey shows the following results:

1) Concerning the impact of participation in the SU project on the personality and life of AEGEE members, 83,6% have participated in the SU; 36,9% – several times (two or more); 72,1% have been organizers or helpers in this project, besides, half did it after being a participant. These numbers brightly illustrate the positive impact of the SU project on the activity of the previously not too active young people, who start their acquaintance with this project from simple participation and then become inspired and start organizing something by themselves, taking responsibility.

According to the statistic, SU had the biggest impact on the development of such qualities as language and communication skills (79,5%[17] agreed with this statement to different extents) and self-confidence (81,9%[18] of participants feel like that). 84,4%[19] agreed that their participation in the Summer University had made them more open-minded, and 75,4%[20] are now feeling more European.

“Of course I’m more open minded now, meeting specially those from super far away countries (Armenia, Russia or Ukraine) helped a lot to destroy stereotypes and indeed made me feel more European to have friends scattered all around the continent and beyond.”[21]

“As participant, it engaged me in European / Political issues, by meeting people from other countries.”[22]

 Soft skills (like event management, team management, time management) were also quite strongly developed, especially among organizers and helpers: 73,8%[23] of the respondents have agreed with this statement.

“My Summer University experience … opened me the door to improve all soft-skills people can find in AEGEE by the willing to do something for the organisation after SU. I took role of an organiser after my SU experience and it developed all my pack of soft-skills for 100%.”[24]

“As organizer, I developed skills I wouldn’t have without this project.”[25]

Apart from the above-listed results, 39,3%[26] marked that after participating or organizing the SU they feel better prepared for the labour market.

“I would say that I developed all the soft skills on the list and more, therefore I consider I’m better prepared for the labour market.”[27]

As organizer I’d put ‘7’ because I’ve got a lot of soft skills and become prepared for the labour market being organizer.[28]

2) Concerning the necessity of visa for reaching the place of the SU and related problems, as well as any other obstacles, 37,7% of the AEGEE members needed visa for participating in the SU. Almost a quarter of them faced various problems while getting their visa, for example: slow and expensive procedure, lots of documents needed, unexpected costs, applying several times, etc.

“It was always some problems with docs/invitation so I needed to apply several times.”[29]

For another SU (Russia), the procedure to get the visa was slow and expensive.[30]

“I had to prepare too many documents and make a lot of appointments plus spend a lot of money on these issues.”[31]

 One quarter of the members who faced these problems could not finally solve them: they either had to pay much more money than what they expected, or even had to cancel their attendance to the SU.

“The solution was paying the fast visa transmit, that was more expensive.”[32]

“So I didn’t go to SU.”[33]

 Regarding financial barriers, one third of the respondents could not go to the SU due to the lack of financial means.

“Financial issues is the real barrier. …I really spent a lot of money on the tickets. …all summer is high tourist season, so it also influences the price and the speed of the disappearance of cheap tickets. So, this year financial issues really prevent me from going to any SU.”[34]

“The most important thing that prevented me from participating was lack of money. And the most expensive thing about going to a summer university is travelling to the place.”[35]

 

Some respondents pointed out that financial barriers and challenges are to be found not only on the side of participants, but also on the side of organisers. Given the limitations that our internal regulation puts on the fees for SUs, it makes it exceedingly difficult for certain AEGEE locals to organise them and to compete with other “cheaper” locations.

“Money is a barrier but 14 euro per night at summer is nothing. Most of the locals can’t fit into that price but it’s a HUGE mistake to settle the budget based on probable fundraising.”[36]

 Based on statistic, we can conclude that participation in or organizing the Summer University project has a huge positive impact on the personality, makes people feel more open-minded, more European, and also allows gaining and developing different soft skills, useful for the labour market (e.g. time management, event management, conflict management, the ability to turn the ideas into reality), broaden the mind and rise the level of tolerance in Europe.

“Both when participating in and organizing a SU, all the experiences are totally valuable in so many ways. I would not like to miss any of those experiences – whether good or bad ones. Participating and organizing is a totally different experience regarding for example responsibility, yet it’s the same feeling you have after the SU: feeling united, having new friends, having broken stereotypes, having overcome own fears, knowing a new culture, language, cuisine, places … all that helps oneself to grow as a person, and in this environment it works so much better than in any other (forced) environment.”[37]

To sum up, the real value of the Summer University project is that all soft skills, language skills, perception of peculiarities of lots of various cultures are assimilated in an informal atmosphere but at the same time this atmosphere, this event are organized so properly by volunteers who do believe in values of borderless Europe and the necessity of youth development and international connection, that all these skills, knowledge and tolerance become a natural part of the participants.

At the same time quite a lot of young people still face mobility barriers like unexpectedly long and expensive procedures for obtaining visas or extremely high prices for the tickets to particular destinations. Often the first issue causes the second one, as visa participants cannot buy cheap tickets in advance due to the uncertain situation of their visa application. When they finally receive an answer from an embassy, it is often too late to buy tickets for an affordable price, so young people have either to waste much more money than they had planned, or just miss the opportunity to take part in such a promising and useful Summer University project.

05 | Position of AEGEE-Europe

AEGEE believes in the importance of youth mobility, which is one of the pillars in the forming of the world for which we all strive: a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe without national levels posing obstacles in the way of mobility, valuing and  encouraging young people to contribute in its development. The young people are going to take part in forming such a society very soon (and some of them are already involved in this process).

Youth mobility in a friendly atmosphere unites and connects young people from completely different countries with absolutely dissimilar social and economic background; and such connection is what forms groups and personalities who sincerely desire to achieve a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe and contribute in the process of its development. Especially taking into account the current rise of populism, nationalism and Euroscepticism, the possibilities and undertaken actions for creating young European citizens with fresh views should not be neglected.

AEGEE provides opportunities for self-development of the youth, especially with such interactive and effective methods like travelling, intercultural exchange and volunteer organization of events internationally (all of which are fully included in the Summer University project). From our side – the side of AEGEE-Europe – we always take all possible measures in order to facilitate the process of obtaining a visa for those participants who need it and to minimize the prices for participating in the SU. However, our opportunities there are limited and AEGEE members are forced to waste a lot of  time in the  collection of all required documents (even several times), unexpectedly pay money, or even refuse participation in the event.

Following the evidence previously provided and the importance of this topic in European society today, AEGEE calls for the recognition of AEGEE and other international youth NGOs as providers of short-term youth mobility programs. AEGEE also calls for providing equal opportunities of participation in mobility programmes for visa-countries.

06 | Recommendations

AEGEE advocates for the following measures to be taken in order to involve NGOs and official stakeholders when talking about organization of international mobility programs, and also to simplify visa procedure and encourage young people to travel to all destinations within Europe without exceptions.

 06.01 |  Recommendations for the European institutions

  • calling for the recognition of AEGEE and other international youth NGOs as providers of impactful short-term youth mobility programs;
  • structured inclusion of AEGEE and other international youth NGOs in the dialogue on the development of policy proposals related to youth mobility programs and related matters;
  • creation of an enabling environment within AEGEE and other international youth NGOs when it comes to providing youth mobility opportunities, including providing financial support.

 06.02 | Recommendations for the National parties

  • creation of an enabling environment within AEGEE and other international youth NGOs when it comes to providing youth mobility opportunities, including:
    – providing support for young people in order to overcome visa barriers;
    – working towards simplifying and reducing visa procedures and obstacles;
  • involvement of young people in the parties concerned about the discussion over visa procedures and mobility obstacles and over actions for creating the desirable mobility.

References

  1. About Summer University. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.zeus.aegee.org: http://www.zeus.aegee.org/portal/projects/summer-university/about/
  2. Europeans and the Erasmus programme: awareness and opinion. (2016, November). Standard Eurobarometer: Public opinion in the European Union, First results (86), pp. 34-35.
  3. Gagarkina, Y. (2015-2016). Summer University – AEGEE Superproject. Key to Europe, 91.
  4. Juridical Commission: Claudio Gennaro, G. L. (Ed.). (2016, July). Article 5: Summer Course. Corpus Iuridicum AEGEEnse(27), p. 76.
  5. Juridical Commission: Claudio Gennaro, G. L. (Ed.). (2016, July). Article 6: Summer Course Plus. Corpus Iuridicum AEGEEnse(27), p. 76.
  6. Juridical Commission: Claudio Gennaro, G. L. (Ed.). (2016, July). Article 7: Travelling Summer University. Corpus Iuridicum AEGEEnse(27), p. 76.
  7. Juridical Commission: Claudio Gennaro, G. L. (Ed.). (2016, July). Article 9: Summer University Participation Fees. Corpus Iuridicum AEGEEnse(27), p. 77.
  8. Statement of Principles. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.aegee.org: https://www.aegee.org/about-aegee/statement-of-principles/
  9. Summer University 2016. (2016). Retrieved from www.projects.aegee.org: http://www.projects.aegee.org/suct/su2016/statistics2016.php
  10. What is AEGEE? (n.d.). Retrieved from www.aegee.org: https://www.aegee.org/about-aegee/

[1] What is AEGEE? (n.d.). Retrieved from www.aegee.org: https://www.aegee.org/about-aegee/

[2] Statement of Principles. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.aegee.org: https://www.aegee.org/about-aegee/statement-of-principles/

[3] Europeans and the Erasmus programme: awareness and opinion. (2016, November). Standard Eurobarometer: Public opinion in the European Union, First results (86), pp. 34-35.

[4] About Summer University. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.zeus.aegee.org: http://www.zeus.aegee.org/portal/projects/summer-university/about/

[5] About Summer University. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.zeus.aegee.org: http://www.zeus.aegee.org/portal/projects/summer-university/about/

[6] Gagarkina, Y. (2015-2016). Summer University – AEGEE Superproject. Key to Europe, 91.

[7] About Summer University. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.zeus.aegee.org: http://www.zeus.aegee.org/portal/projects/summer-university/about/

[8] European Currency Unit, a former basket of the currencies of the European Community, precursor to the euro

[9] About Summer University. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.zeus.aegee.org: http://www.zeus.aegee.org/portal/projects/summer-university/about

[10] Juridical Commission: Claudio Gennaro, G. L. (Ed.). (2016, July). Article 5: Summer Course. Corpus Iuridicum AEGEEnse(27), p. 76.

[11] Juridical Commission: Claudio Gennaro, G. L. (Ed.). (2016, July). Article 6: Summer Course Plus. Corpus Iuridicum AEGEEnse(27), p. 76.

[12] Juridical Commission: Claudio Gennaro, G. L. (Ed.). (2016, July). Article 7: Travelling Summer University. Corpus Iuridicum AEGEEnse(27), p. 76.

[13] Juridical Commission: Claudio Gennaro, G. L. (Ed.). (2016, July). Article 9: Summer University Participation Fees. Corpus Iuridicum AEGEEnse(27), p. 77.

[14] Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Greece, Russian Federation, Turkey, Serbia, Romania, Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Ukraine, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Portugal, Slovakia, Austria, Latvia, Finland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Belgium, Georgia, Hungary, Republic of Moldova, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro

[15] Summer University 2016. (2016). Retrieved from www.projects.aegee.org: http://www.projects.aegee.org/suct/su2016/statistics2016.php

[16] Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine

[17] The sum of the respondents who chose “5” (27), “6” (22) and “7” (48) divided by the whole amount (122)

[18] The sum of the respondents who chose “5” (21), “6” (34) and “7” (45) divided by the whole amount (122)

[19] The sum of the respondents who chose “5” (21), “6” (25) and “7” (57) divided by the whole amount (122)

[20] The sum of the respondents who chose “5” (21), “6” (26) and “7” (45) divided by the whole amount (122)

[21] The respondent from Spain, 22 years old

[22] The respondent from Germany, 25 years old

[23] The sum of the respondents who chose “5” (27), “6” (25) and “7” (38) divided by the whole amount (122)

[24] Respondent from Russia, 28 years old

[25] Respondent from Germany, 25 years old

[26] The sum of the respondents who chose “5” (25), “6” (10) and “7” (13) divided by the whole amount (122)

[27] Respondent from Spain, 22 years old

[28] Respondent from Russia, 23 years old

[29] Respondent from Russia, 23 years old

[30] Respondent from Spain, 30 years old

[31] Respondent from Turkey, 27 years old

[32] Respondent from Spain, 29 years old

[33] Respondent from Turkey, 22 years old

[34] Respondent from Russia, 28 years old

[35] Respondent from Belarus, 24 years old

[36] Respondent from Russia, 28 years old

[37] Respondent from Germany, 23 years old

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Europe on Track training and opening conference in Budapest /europe-on-track-training-and-opening-conference-in-budapest/ Thu, 27 Apr 2017 07:06:08 +0000 /?p=7061 By Rut & Ele 

On the 15th of April, 2017, the ambassadors and project team started arriving in Budapest and Monday evening we finally all gathered together, offline, for the first time.

E0FA2F99@A8E16365.73D1F658 (1)

Starting the Monday “fashionably” late, we went on a city tour, led by Luca Búr, to admire the beautiful architecture and fascinating history of the city. Budapest being known for its ruin bars, we ended the day at Szimpla, the city’s first and most famous ruin bar, known for its disoriented but charming environment.

Our training as ambassadors officially started on Tuesday, and the past few days have been intensive, motivating and full of caffeine-derived energy. During the training, we prepared for our workshops, conducted mock-interviews, and performed team building activities. Benedetto, one of the ambassadors from last year’s Team Blue joined us to share his experiences and knowledge transfer in order for us to learn from previous mistakes and best practises. Although we will probably face many challenges on the way, we now all believe that we are better prepared for any obstacles that may cross our paths.

On 27th April, the day before our opening conference, the annual Report by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe was released, in which states that “the Europe-wide project on democratic citizenship education should be implemented as a priority.” This statement proves the importance of the topic of our opening conference “Education for the present, Democracy for the Future”, which started on 28th April, officially launching Europe on Track! It is organized by AEGEE-Budapest, the Europe on Track Project Team and the Civic Education Working Group, with support of the Associations des Amis de Franck Biancheri.

The conference started with an address from the Comité Directeur, Maarten de Groot and Joanna Pankowska, followed by the president of AEGEE-Budapest, Ákos Glaub. Then followed a speech by the representative of Central European University, Serge Sych, who expressed his admiration of the unique bond of the AEGEE family after witnessing our dynamic energizer. The main organizer of the conference, Petra Buruzs, shared a fairytale story about the birth of the conference, that started with a “marriage proposal” from María Ballesteros Melero and Nicola Guida, from EoT and CEWG.

During the conference we had parallel workshops on The Concept of Civic Education, The Evolution of Democracy and The Power of Knowing. Using AEGEE’s democratic tool of finger gestures to communicate, the early hours did not withhold the participants from engaging in intense debate, breaking down definitions and constructs. During coffee(candy) breaks, we got to enjoy different candies brought from all over Europe! Furthermore, Marie Heller’s spoke about Civil Society’s role in shaping active and responsible citizens, using the complex history of civil society in Central Eastern Europe. This talk was followed by four different focus group sessions on Economics and Democracy, Current (European) Democracy, Civil Society and Euroland.

Not only did we listen to lectures, but the participants also came up with their own projects that they presented at the final day of the conference, promising to execute their ideas and move forward in creating a better Europe together.

The conference with 80 participants and speakers took place at the Central European University in Budapest, in the midsts of current struggles regarding academic freedom, and thus, according to many speakers, the perfect location at the perfect timing for this conference. Hungary is not an exception – right-wing populism is rising across Europe, bringing the future of democracy in danger, highlighting the responsibilities of all of us to gather against such forces. Democracy is not a given, but its dynamic and fragile nature requires citizens to be active, responsible, and critical.

We want young people’s voices to be heard, and we can’t wait to hear the thoughts of young people from all over Europe during the next one month. It’s almost amazing that we’ve only known each other for less than a week now, for it feels like we’ve known each other for years, and we are all incredibly excited for the journey ahead of us!

]]> The Future of Europe – Quo Vadis Europa? /the-future-of-europe-quo-vadis-europa/ Tue, 11 Apr 2017 09:06:32 +0000 /?p=7054 EMI Brexit Position

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Happy birthday, Franck! /happy-birthday-franck/ Sat, 11 Mar 2017 17:35:32 +0000 /?p=7036 By Daniela Maria Maris

Today we celebrate the Birthday of Franck Biancheri, a visionary to inspire European citizens to envision and build “tomorrow”.

While being a student, in 1985, Biancheri founded the first biggest European studentnetwork, AEGEE-Europe. This and his involvement in founding the Erasmus program were the first steps in building the first generation of “Europeans”. Throughout his life he has concerned himself with the European project and the it’s flaws. In the 90’s he concerned himself with the issues of the European public funds and lack of communication between EU institutions and citizens, major problems that enabled the development of a European citizenship.Franck_Biancheri_R0011616-for-Wikipedia_15-03-2007

Franck Biancheri remains the only person who managed to build a trans-European political movement, Initiative for a European Democracy (IED) and presented lists in different countries (France, Spain and the Netherlands) in the European elections in 1989.

Continuing to focus on political anticipation and activities serving the democratization of Europe in 2000 Franck Biancheri organized the ” Newropeans 2000 – New Europe, New Challenges, New Generations ” congress in Paris. An event that brought major stakeholder together to participate at the creation of tomorrow’s Europe. 2,000 young Europeans and politicians from national and European level took part at the event which had as a result the most important e-democracy world project, Eu-StudentVote. It consisted in the online election of the first EU Student Council in June 2002.

Newropeans Democracy Marathon was also one of the major projects16904866_10154359114592045_6811806335422664527_o of Biancheri which consisted of a series of 100 conferences in 25 different European countries in one single year. The aim was to point out that the European construction has reached a crucial stage of its history and that the main challenge of this decade consists of being able to reconcile democracy and European unity. He already draw attention in 2002-2003 that fact that if not taking any action many undemocratic movements will appear in Europe also as a result of populist trends. Following this project, Franck Biancheri was elected one of Time Magazine’s 2003 European Heroes (People’s Choice). He was nominated as one of the top 25 who are changing the world of Internet and Politics, as selected by Politics Online and the 5th E-Democracy Worldwide Forum!

As former president of Newropeans, the first trans-European political movement with the objective to democratize Europe, Franck Biancheri is considered to be the first trans-European political leader in the history of European democracy. Besides this he coordinated researches at t20170224_120604045_CAMhe European Laboratory of Political Anticipation LEAP/Europe 2020, with a particular focus on the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin. Since 2012 his legacy is carried on by AAFB. The “Education for the present – Democracy
for the future” Conference is also part of Biancheri’s legacy, to bring young Europeans together and empower them to take action and shape tomorrow’s Europe.

For more information about Franck Biancheri, his work and ideas we recommend his book

“The Emergence of Eurocitizens”
http://geab.eu/…/the-emergence-of-eurocitizens-a-must-read…/

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Do you want to “Get involved”? AEGEE-Budapest knows how! /do-you-want-to-get-involved-aegee-budapest-knows-how/ Thu, 09 Mar 2017 17:20:05 +0000 /?p=7023 By Ákos Glaub

AEGEE-Budapest is the winner of this year’s Franck Biancheri Award with the “Education for the Present, Democracy for the Future” Conference, which will be the opening conference of EoT4. AEGEE-Budapest is strongly committed to this edition’s topic, Civic Education, carrying out their local project “Get involved”. Get to know more about this interesting project thanks to AEGEE-Budapest president:20170221_181004181_CAM

Our latest event organized by AEGEE-Budapest’s very own „Get Involved!” Project explored the topic of populism. Approximately 50 students from different universities and academic fields attended the event. The discussion was part of the lecture series preceding the Franck Biancheri Award winner Conference “Education for the present, Democracy for the future” organized in April by the Budapest antenna, the Civic Education Working Group and the Europe on Track Project.

After two successful events examining the current political state of Turkey and the integration of refugees20170221_191120106_CAM the Project chose another actual and relevant subject. During a round table discussion our invited experts (Ádám Paár and Ágoston Mráz, political scientists, and Zoltán Farkas,a journalist) explored what populism really means, how people and the media use the term, thus we got to know the origins of the expression.

Furthermore, the audience could get to know the reasons why populism is so wide-spread nowadays, how it has become mainstream, and what are its effects on politics. Besides describing possible outcomes and future trends, the questions of the audience were answered and discussed.

All in all, the event brought us a closer look and better understanding of populism, a word and a trend that influences the political atmosphere all around the globe these days.

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AEGEE’s response to populism: European Planning Meeting Zagreb 2017 /aegees-response-to-populism/ Tue, 07 Feb 2017 01:10:14 +0000 /?p=7009 Long before President Donald Trump’s victory, Europe’s populist movements have been on the cusp of sweeping far-right, nationalist and euroskeptic parties into power across the continent in a series of upcoming elections. Once consigned to the fringes of the political scene, these parties now legitimately stand front and center alongside their more traditional counterparts.

The word “populism” and “populist movements” are everywhere in the media. But what the concept means in the everyday realities of citizens of Europe? Opinions might differ.

Many also claim that the upcoming European elections in several countries elections and the decisions citizens take might bring an end to the European project sooner than the Brexit negotiations would finish.

What will happen in France? It could be very impactful for the rest of Europe – especially if we begin to see a trend or more similar activity in the Netherlands and other countries.

What about Italy? Italy is well-known for its fluid political spectrum, having seen a number of populist parties come and go over the years.

And the more East we go in Europe the more we are being confronted with the alarming signs of populist movements taking gradual and stable ownership of not only political parties but of the mind of the general population. The case of Hungary, once being ‘the odd one out’ is slowly becoming the mainstream.

Application form for the conference: EPM Zagreb 2017 February 23-28 – “Populism and anti-European agitation”
Conference Program

EPM zagreb cover

What can we do?

AEGEE / European Students’ Forum is organising one of the biggest thematic conferences for 250 young people in order to learn more not only about populism and its possible consequences for the future of Europe, but also to plan the next steps from an active and aware young generation that is not willing to leave space for radicalisation and extremism to take over the Europe we believe in.

The European Planning Meeting Zagreb will host a 3-days-event where young people from all corners will gather to learn from experts, to discover many different social factors that can cause the risk of populism, from media to identity questions, to debate about possible causes and consequences and to create an action plan where the network unites in action.

Young people have the power to change the course of tomorrow by not abiding to societal trends that are seemingly harmless, yet can have detrimental effects on the continent. AEGEE, therefore have put the development of flagship initiatives for its future that will bring back the most important European values to its members, and the society we live in.

AEGEE’s response to populism is exploring in detail how equal rights in society can change people’s mindset, how civic education can equip you with the most important skills to become an active citizen, how youth and skills development will build a smart society, and how European citizenship has been building a generation of young activists who don’t recognise national borders on the map or in the mindset.

AEGEE builds bridges for intercultural dialogue and understanding and creates space to explore common European challenges together, showcasing the different country’s reality by not focusing on the country at all: but by building a network of empowered cities that reaches out to the grassroot layers of society, reaching small communities and citizens as individuals and as change-makers.

If you would like to learn more about AEGEE and our activities and actions, start by joining us at the European planning Meeting Zagreb!

 

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