European Union – 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 Team Blue Is in the Country of Democracy /team-blue-is-in-the-country-of-democracy/ Fri, 08 Jul 2016 09:55:43 +0000 /?p=6637 By Hanna Polischuk

After such a warm hospitality of the three Turkish cities that we visited, it was hard to leave the country so soon. However, our route was already planned, and two wonderful Greek locals were waiting for us Our first stop in this country was Athens, the city of the famous Acropolis, democracy, Agora and gods.

AEGEEans from this amazing locals organised a city tour which described us the ancient and modern Greece. The main discussion was about democracy and how it developed through history. We could feel the past when we went up to the Acropolis, the ancient citadel of a great historic significance. But we only felt like real Greeks after tasting gyros and drinking a couple of glasses of frape.

13227116_613652232115751_6734689722210336571_nWe also attended a very interesting exhibition regarding the refugee crisis, “Suspended Step Cartoons”, aimed at showing the real picture of the refugee crisis and organized by The Association of Greek Cartoonists and The District of South Aegean Islands. It had indeed a great success: the hall was full of people exploring the works of over 20 cartoonists. All those works were really touching and frustrating; they made us think and be more aware of the scale of the problem. When we interviewed one of the cartoonists, Vangelis Pavlidis, he could not hold the tears while talking about this. Here you can understand why.

Later on, we gathered together with young Greek people in the university to know what they think about the biggest current problems in their country. We divided them into three groups in order to discuss three topics: EU-Greece Relationships, Youth Unemployment and Refugee Crisis in Greece. One person per team, the moderator, stayed in the same place, while the others were moving to another group in order to have a chance to discuss all the topics.13245487_613652105449097_3672689756546245210_n

As a result, the problems highlighted in the first topic were weak Greek economy, lack of trust to the EU institutions, false image of the country, lack of unity, unbalanced social states, wrong politics and lack of the migration policies. The solutions offered consist on easy steps: learning from the mistakes, understanding the European values, improving the communication and cooperation, fostering and developing the civic education, enforcing the equality among the EU countries, and finally increasing the involvement of the citizens into the decision-making process.

As for youth unemployment, most of the problems were the same as in every European country; however, the unemployment rate in Greece is higher than in most of them. Among the main obstacles to improve the situation are scarce job opportunities, lack of communication between universities and job market, prevailing of connections above knowledge and experience, no willingness to do manual labor jobs while striving only for the ‘prestigious’ jobs, and thus, creation of undesirable supply of workforce in a single field that has no more demand. The unemployment problem exist for many years and the clue is near; there are many ways to improve the situation, but it has to be organized and fast.

The first step will be understanding the real job market’s needs and encouraging the most needed professions; then, improvement of the communication between universities and enterprises, their mutual development of the internship programs; and lastly, the development of the open-mindedness and youth entrepreneurship through the mentorship platforms.

Regarding the last topic of discussion,  the refugee crisis, lots of problems were named. Among them are war and insecurity, racism and discrimination, bureaucracy and corruption, no cooperation between nations, and no fixed political agenda. Young Greeks see the ways to deal with those problems in unity and cooperation resulting to a common policy, integration policies, simplification of the procedures, increasing support and humanitarian help, changing the current government while voting reasonably and implementing the necessary reforms throughout the EU. When there is a problem, there is always the way to solve it, and most of the solutions depend on us.13233157_613651182115856_3997036037883047431_n

After an intensive day in the capital, we departed to Patra early in the morning. The language in the train was not understandable but by the detailed explanations of Dimitris, we managed to get to the next city without any problem. At the bus station we were warmly met by the president and treasurer of AEGEE-Patra. While Ksenia and Benedetto decided to have some rest at home, the rest of the team went to open the swimming season. Even in spring the water in the Ionian sea is warm. After the refreshment and cultural night program we began the serious day. Even under the hot sun we found some young people who shared with us their opinions about the borderless Europe. 13241348_615852195229088_387481140209867202_n

We organized a parliament simulation being the main topic of discussion “Is Schengen Dead or Alive?” Everyone had a chance to express the opinion, and there were many arguments for both sides of the question. The biggest debates were about security versus refugees. From one point of view, it is important to take care about refugees and help them integrate into the Greek society. From the other one, there is a fear that terrorists can pretend to be refugees, and that letting them in will weaken the security and increase the chance of an attack.

Among the reasons to open borders were solidarity, support for the victims of the war, sharing the burden, protection of the human rights and respecting the Schengen agreement. On the contrary, the opposing team explained the necessity to close the borders mainly because of the terrorism. They suggested to enforce an European army with border guarding and intensifying passport control. We should  help people who are leaving their homes and past life behind in order to survive and protect their families without any doubt. At the same time, there is a need to cooperate among all the EU states in order to unify and improve the general security.13256100_615852255229082_6559252599137052595_n

We were actively engaged in both discussions but we let the participants speak out. In the political EU world there are similar discussions going on and on without any clear final solution nor strategy.

By what we understood, if the government does not take any actions, its people will change the rulers. We live in a time of changes and fights for democracy and human rights. Whenever you come to Greece, you feel it more than anywhere else. We are very grateful to AEGEE-Athina and AEGEE-Patra for this amazing experience and their warm hospitality. Also, we would like to thank again Interrail for this opportunity!13267791_615852268562414_4512342797948786114_n

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Position Paper on the EU Eastern Partnership Programme /position-paper-on-the-eu-eastern-partnership-programme/ Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:02:38 +0000 /?p=5471

BACKGROUND

The Eastern Partnership (hereinafter “EaP”) Prague Summit in May 2009 launched a strategic and ambitious EaP Programme as a specific dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. In 2013, the European Union evaluated the achievements of its European Neighbourhood Policy and, more specifically, the level of cooperation with its Eastern neighbours.

Within the last 4-5 years, most participating countries in the EaP Programme (includes – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) have successfully implemented a number of required reforms at home and abroad (i.e. improvements to domestic democratic processes, international economic cooperation agreements, and thoroughly negotiated and signed Association Agreements).([1]) To that end, the EaP Programme has introduced a new kind of Association Agreement that encompasses the following key elements: Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with countries willing and able to enter into such an engagement, gradual integration in the European Union (EU) economy, easier travel to the EU through visa liberalization, and sophisticated measures to tackle illegal immigration.

The negotiated Association Agreements for EaP countries (Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) have addressed numerous issues including political close association with the EU, political reforms, dialogue and cooperation on foreign and security policy issues, and economic cooperation and trade. As a consequence, these agreements have encouraged cooperation in the fields of migration, rule of law, human rights, fight against crime and corruption, protection of personal data, and cooperation against trafficking and terrorism. However, they do not guarantee nor envision EU membership for EaP countries. Nevertheless, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (hereinafter “DCFTA”) is a part of the negotiated agreements that affords EaP countries the opportunity to develop European-oriented functioning national economies, which would enable them to overcome considerable financial difficulties (insofar as they are focused on market competition, technical barriers for implementation of free trade, intellectual property rights, export duties and restrictions, and sanitary and/or phytosanitary measures).

The EU-EaP Vilnius Summit was a landmark event in the context of the EaP Programme, insofar as it dispelled any myths that Association Agreements and DCFTAs are secret documents that are unavailable and withheld from the public. Ultimately, the Vilnius Summit had mixed results: while Georgia and Moldova initialed and signed Association Agreements and DCFTAs with the EU, Ukraine and Armenia did not sign or initial agreements of their own due to political reasons and newly undertaken international commitments towards the third parties. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan signed the Visa Facilitation Agreement with the EU, thus breathing new life into the visa dialogue between the two sides. However, the EU gained better knowledge and experience about how to approach each partner country after the Vilnius Summit.

The EaP Programme is a policy that seeks to create opportunities for everyone. In terms of the principle of conditionality (i.e. “More for more – and less for less”), we can reasonably argue that Eastern partners take into consideration the progress which the respective partner countries have achieved, thus: the more they are reforming – the more assistance they will receive from available European institutions. In this sense, the EaP Programme is grounded in political association based on the notion of shared European values and principles, not to mention the commitment of the Eastern neighbours to enroot those values in their own domestic political affairs and act in the spirit of the principle “more for more.”

AEGEE-EUROPE AND THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMME

Through our experience in a large European students’ network, we have seen how unequally educational/work /social opportunities are distributed among young people in the eastern and western parts of European continent. AEGEE-Europe is deeply convinced that ensuring equal opportunities for young people all over Europe will be beneficial for the continent at large. In support of the ongoing EaP Programme, AEGEE-Europe established the AEGEE EaP Project in 2011, as a mean of improving the knowledge of EU Member States and the EaP Programme States citizens about the existing challenges and visions of further European integration.

The AEGEE EaP project takes into account the principles of the EaP Programme and adds a youth perspective to it. We perceive a huge need for intercultural youth exchange in order to develop active citizenship and democratic participation in an integrated and developing Europe. When trying to establish a partnership of equal states and equal peoples, as it is the goal of the European Union and the EaP Programme, one significant need is to learn about each other’s perspectives for a shared future, to define common values on which this future can be built, and, at base, to get to know each other and become familiar with the political and social landscape in neighbouring countries.

As a pan-European organisation, the members of the AEGEE EaP Project stand in solidarity from a multitude of perspectives, building and strengthening a common European identity. This diversity of perspective has allowed us to develop the AEGEE EaP Project in a way that meets the needs of young people from all over Europe.

AEGEE-EUROPE RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMME

EU Should Ensure the Sustainability of Ongoing Reforms in EaP Countries:

Within the last four years, various reforms and EU funded projects have been launched and implemented in all EaP Countries. However, the sustainability of all implemented programs and reforms should be considered as a high priority for the EU in a long term strategy. The sustainable and visible results of these projects may eventually encourage greater multilateral dialogue and integration of EaP countries with the EU. Taking into account the variety of ongoing EU funded programmes in all EaP countries, AEGEE-Europe recommends that the European Commission ensures the sustainability of the reforms, calls upon the European Council and EU Member States to take further actions in this direction.

EU and EaP Individual Partners Should Boost Visa Liberalization Talks:

AEGEE-Europe stands for a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe that is socially, economically and politically integrated, and values the participation of young people in its construction and development. The young people and youth workers are increasingly mobile across Europe. Most of the EaP countries have already successfully finalized and begun to implement provisions of the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with the EU. However, even in “facilitated conditions,” the existing visa regimes are a huge obstacle to the mobility of young people. In this regard, AEGEE-Europe once again strongly encourages the European Commission and the Schengen Area Countries Authorities to develop certain and unified successful, tested model of online visa application schemes, and to establish shared one-window mechanisms for registering, applying, submitting and receiving Schengen visas, thus avoiding any possible situation in which young people’s, students, volunteers and/or workers’ right to mobility may be threatened.

As it has been mentioned in the Final Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum in Kaunas (October 22nd -25th, 2013), the support for young people’s mobility needs to happen  at every level as well as continued negotiations on the abolishment of visa requirements for young people, especially from EaP countries.([2])

In accordance with Focus Area 3 of Strategic Plan 2014-2017 of AEGEE-Europe ([3]), Visa liberalisation remains a shared objective of individual EaP partner countries and the EU alike in furtherance of “people to people” contacts.

AEGEE-Europe strongly recommends that the national authorities of individual EaP partner countries take constructive and feasible steps to provide grounds for well-managed, organised and secure mobility, thus advancing the ambitious Visa Liberalisations Action Plans with the EU.

EaP Individual Partner Countries Should Undertake Individual Reforms in the Judiciary:

AEGEE-Europe strongly encourages and calls on all EaP individual partner countries to make further steps in strengthening democracy, and guaranteeing respect for human rights and rule of law. We suggest that they take these steps by reforming their judiciaries and strengthening just law enforcement at home, thus excluding any possibility of prosecution based on political views, religion, and gender. We deeply regret any arrest or acquisition based on the political activities of EaP partner countries’ citizens, even if their views contradict to the respective government’s official platform.

These views are reinforced by the Joint Declaration of the Third Eastern Partnership Summit (organised in Vilnius on November 28th-29th, 2013), which highlights the continued need for human rights work in Eastern Partnership countries.([4])

Enhanced Focus on the Role of Civil Society and Youth

The participants of the Vilnius Summit recognize the valuable role of civil society within the Eastern Partnership Programme, insofar as civil society constitutes an integral element of a well-functioning democracy. As a full member of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (hereinafter EaP CSF) since 2011, AEGEE-Europe would like to highlight the contribution and impact of the EaP CSF in the promotion of democracy, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and guarantee of cross-border cooperation throughout the Eastern Partnership region. The establishment of the permanent secretariat of the EaP Civil Society Forum ([5]) and support provided within the framework of the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility ([6]) are other welcome steps towards more structural engagement of the civil society in the process of the European integration of the Eastern neighbours. AEGEE-Europe deeply believes in the further strengthening of the EaP CSF National Platforms ([7]). In this regard, AEGEE-Europe deeply encourages the EU Delegations in all EaP countries to set up and intensively promote special tools, such as the Civil Society Dialogue website of the EU Delegation in Armenia ([8]), aimed at providing civil society actors with the opportunity to exchange their views on a number of issues relevant to the future development of EU-EaP relations.

AEGEE-Europe deeply encourages further involvement of representatives of youth organisations in the Civil Society Forum (CSF) Multilateral Platform meetings. We gladly welcome the launch of the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum which took place in Kaunas on October 22nd-25th in 2013. We intend to support the further EU-EaP youth side events. We recommend that the EU and the EaP individual partners increase dialogue with youth organisations and make the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum an annual event. In so doing, they would give participating individuals and organisations space to share alternative views of the work, direction and goals of the Eastern Partnership. A strong and consolidated youth presence will powerfully promote civic activism and “Europtimism” in the EaP region.

EaP Individual Partner Countries Should Promote the Recognition of Youth Work:

As it has been mentioned in the Final Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum in Kaunas, “the further development of youth worker competencies are needed in order to reach out to and involve minority groups in ways that other sectors can not. More specifically, youth workers need support and training in inclusion, diversity, participatory approaches, citizenship, democratic processes and human rights education. They should be empowered to identify and react to the needs of young people and the communities they work in. Training courses, competency recognition and qualification processes need to be developed and implemented. Quality inclusion youth work practices contribute to the recognition of youth work.”([9]) Accordingly, we recommend that EaP individual partner countries’ national authorities adopt long term strategies that will be responsive to the needs of young people and youth workers of the specific EaP country.

Further EU-EaP Cooperation in the Field of Education:

In the fields of higher education and non-formal education, AEGEE-Europe encourages the EU to support and/or implement well-based promotional campaign in the EaP partner countries on  promote the new “Erasmus+” programme, thus giving young people and students the opportunity to get acquainted with new procedures and possibilities affiliated with the programme. It is our belief that the opportunities afforded by “Erasmus+” will enable EaP individual partner countries to tackle issues such as youth employability and active participation in democratic life.

Greater Focus on the Civic Education of the EaP Countries

In compliance with the Focus Area 4 of Strategic Plan 2014-2017 of AEGEE-Europe ([10]), we encourage all relevant stakeholders of the EaP individual partner countries national authorities to pay special attention to the matters related to the civic education of students and young people. Civic education addresses knowledge, skills and attitudes in fields such as human rights, democratic participation, intercultural communication and sustainability. AEGEE-Europe contributes to the development of responsible citizens through non-formal educational programming, but we need to include such competences in the educational curricula of all European countries in order to have a lasting and meaningful impact.

AEGEE-EUROPE: ABOUT US

AEGEE-Europe was established 29 years ago with the vision of creating a unified Europe, grounded in democracy and respect for human rights, by bringing together students with diverse cultural backgrounds. Today, AEGEE-Europe is Europe’s largest interdisciplinary youth organisation, which includes 40 countries, 200 cities and more than 13,000 members. AEGEE-Europe enjoys participatory status in the activities of the Council of Europe, consultative status at the United Nations, operational status at UNESCO and membership in the European Youth Forum. On various occasions, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, Mr. Martin Schulz, Mr. Stefan Fuele and Baroness Catherine Ashton have expressed their support of AEGEE-Europe activities and have given their patronage to several pan-European initiatives of the Association in the Eastern Partnership region.

 


[7] Since mid-2011 EaP Civil Society National Platforms have been established in all six Partner countries. National Platforms are valuable tools that facilitate the achievement of the goals of the Eastern Partnership in each of the respective EaP countries. They were created for the purpose of ensuring active involvement of each partner-country’s civil society in cooperation with national authorities, offering recommendations for successful implementation of EaP projects, establishing stable relations with European civil society organisations, and facilitation of communication with EU institutions at the central and local level.

[8] Please see  http://www.eu-cso.am/

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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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Europe on Track 2 empowers European youth to become actors in the construction of the Europe of tomorrow /europe-on-track-2-empowers-european-youth-to-become-actors-in-the-construction-of-the-europe-of-tomorrow-2/ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:30:08 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1022 AEGEE-Europe launched on Wednesday 9th April the project Europe on Track 2. After presenting the project in the press conference at the European Parliament, six ambassadors divided in two teams began their traveling by train all over the European continent during one month, with the objective of interviewing young people from various backgrounds about their vision of Europe.

To set the context, the results and the documentary from the first edition (winner of the 2013 European Charlemagne Youth Prize) were presented to the audience. Then the project coordinators introduced the features of Europe on Track 2, which this time focuses on encouraging young people to get involved as active citizens and capture possible ways of participating in the construction of the European Project.

At a time when European integration is being questioned, and when young people’s future prospects have become hazy, Europe on Track wants to act as a loudspeaker for the youth, bringing their opinion, their realities and their wishes to decision-makers” Réka Salamon, project coordinator, said.

The six travelers will visit 25 cities in 16 countries, reaching as far as the Baltics, the Balkans and Ukraine. In local events they will discuss about mobility programmes, youth employment, the European elections, youth participation and europtimism. All the discussions and insights will be documented with videos, pictures and articles shared in the Europe on Track blog and through social media.

In order to overcome the geographical and time limits, Europe on Track partners with Debating Europe to host two online debates on youth mobility and youth participation. “With this partnership we hope to spark online discussion that can add to the project’s results, engaging more young people and even not-so-young people from all European countries“, said Rocío Leza, project coordinator.

AEGEE also counts with the support of Interrail, who makes this ambitious project possible. Besides, our partner Youth For Public Transport supports the sustainable transport of the travelers by providing them with a carbon footprint calculator created especially for the project. “We thought that there was no better way of contributing to the project than supporting the sustainable transport of the ambassadors, providing them with the possibility to really think about their mobility choices!” in words of Jerome Kisielewicz, Y4PT.

Find more about Europe on Track:
We invite you to follow the upcoming events of ‘Europe on track’ on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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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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AEGEE welcomes the launch of EU-Serbia Accession Talks /aegee-welcomes-the-launch-of-eu-serbia-accession-talks/ Wed, 05 Feb 2014 11:17:42 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=926 On January 21st, the official negotiations with Serbia on its accession to the European Union were opened at the first meeting of the Accession Conference at the Ministerial level. The EU delegation, headed by Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Evangelos Venizelos, presented to the Serbian colleagues the “Negotiating Framework” which takes into account the experience of the most recent EU enlargements and on-going accession negotiations. It reflects as well Serbia’s own merits and specific country characteristics. The main aim of the launched negotiations is to prepare Serbia integrally to adopting the EU legislation and ensuring its full implementation and enforcement within the state.

AEGEE-European Students’ Forum would like to express its satisfaction within the recent developments in the EU-Serbia relationship.

Serbia, a country shattered by bloody fratricidal wars back in 1990’s as a result of the collapse of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and who suffered successive reductions of their territory, has progressed a lot within the frame of  the Stabilisation and Association Process for the Western Balkans. The government in Belgrade has implemented big steps towards establishing competitive and well functioning market economy, thus making the country a reliable regional partner of the European Union.

In addition, within the recent months, the Serbian Government has shown a strong commitment for further deepening its relations with the EU, based on the common and shared values. The Serbian authorities have also undertaken visible and constructive steps towards the peaceful settlement of the existing conflict with Kosovo.

AEGEE, as an organisation striving for socially, economically and politically integrated Europe, would like to welcome the ongoing developments and launched EU-Serbia Accession talks. We have local representation in 4 Serbian cities (Belgrade, Kragujevac, Niš, Novi Sad) and we consider that the strong involvement of the civil society, and namely the young people and youth organisations, is vital for development of multilateral discussions over the EU accession process and talks.

The Republic of Serbia has stepped on a fundamentally new stage of its development through initiating the accession talks with the EU. Meanwhile, we would like to highlight the necessity and urgency of sustainability of the undertaken reforms namely in the fields of good governance, rule of law, anti-corruption policy, independence of key state institutions, protection of ethnic minorities and enrooting of active business environment in the country. Only in case of strong commitment to implement the respective reforms, the EU accession talks may be beneficial for the Republic of Serbia.

Armenak Minasyants, Policy Officer for European Neighbourhood Policy of AEGEE-Europe

 

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AEGEE-Europe condemns the new Ukrainian freedom-limiting legislation /aegee-europe-condemns-the-new-ukrainian-freedom-limiting-legislation/ /aegee-europe-condemns-the-new-ukrainian-freedom-limiting-legislation/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 16:05:42 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=871 The members of AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum are deeply concerned with the recent adoption by the Ukrainian Parliament (Verhovna Rada) of a new draft law that would severe multiple basic freedoms in the country. The law was approved on January 16th during a very irregular Parliamentary session, and is now waiting to be signed by President Viktor Yanukovych.

 

Photo: Reuters

AEGEE, as a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation, has proclaimed in its statement of principles that freedom and human rights are essential elements of a European society. Through respecting these values, we strive and stand for an inclusive society where citizens enjoy equal opportunities and rights. In this context, we oppose and deeply condemn any law which in any sense could limit the fundamental rights of the Ukrainian citizens, impede their freedom of assembly and speech, and put under the state control the activities of rightful civil society actors such as independent NGOs and think tanks.

We would like to express our strong support to all representatives of the Ukrainian civil society, and specially the members of our branches in the Ukrainian territory. We are convinced that the signature of this draft law, which contradicts the current Constitution of Ukraine and through a process that violates the existing national parliamentary procedures, is against the interest of the Ukrainian citizens.

At the same time, we fear that this anti-democratic law, which directly contradicts to the European commitments of Ukraine such as the European Convention of Human Rights, may lead to an aggravation of the stagnation of the EU-Ukraine relations. Even though the door to Ukraine’s integration with the European Union remains open (as most of the EU high ranked officials commented, see for instance the speech of Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament), we consider that in case of adoption of this law the negotiations may remain closed for an uncertain period of time.

Moreover, AEGEE-Europe would like to denounce the spread of similar laws in other countries of Europe, even inside the EU, as the case of the Spanish ‘Citizens Safety Law’ proposal, which also was signaled by Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights. At a time when citizens are demanding more democracy, these laws against fundamental rights just go in the opposite direction.

Written by Armenak Minasyants, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for European Neighbourhood Policy.

 

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Looking into 2014: a crucial year for the future of Europe /looking-into-2014-a-crucial-year-for-the-future-of-europe/ Mon, 06 Jan 2014 16:36:52 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=857 2013 was a year where things have started to change in Europe. Economic recuperation has been officially announced, but still has not been felt by the citizens who have to fight against unemployment and cuts in salaries or social benefits in their countries. Angela Merkel got elected again, becoming the first leader among the big democracies in Europe to resist the effects of the crisis on a national election; however, she needed a big coalition to form her government.

While the European Union is being questioned more than ever among its members, thousands of Ukrainian citizens faced cold winter winds and brutal attacks from police just to defend their European dream, first, and to claim democratic reforms in their country, later, making a lot of people think again of the positive facts of the still-in-construction European project. On the other side, we saw PM Cameron launching his proposal of referendum about an exit of the UK from EU, and we feel an increase of nationalistic and anti-EU messages in national media almost in every EU country. On the other hand, the EU welcomed Croatia in a new step towards reunification, especially relevant in a sensible area such as the Balkans. Two steps forward, one backward; this seems to be the rhythm of a new European dance.

But what can we expect from 2014?

The year will be marked by the elections to the European Parliament in May, where the European citizens will have the opportunity to speak through their votes. Will we see an increase of the presence of nationalist and anti-EU parties in the EP? It is quite likely they will increase notably their seats in the Parliament, but presumably they won’t pose a threat to the pro-European policies. And if, instead of sterile complaints and media-ready statements, they decide to have a constructive critical discourse, their contribution will for sure improve the decisions taken in the Parliament. In any case, the most likely scenario is a new decrease in participation in the electoral process, caused by the disaffection of many Europeans to the politicians that govern them and the gap between the EU institutions and the citizens. How the EU will fight the abstention in these elections, is one of the pressing questions this year that will be answered soon.

Apart from the elections, there are several other focus areas to follow in Europe this year. Will the new EU budget have a swift impact on the Member States daily life? Will the evolution of the civic protests in neighbouring countries, such as Turkey and Ukraine, lead to improvements in the democracy in those countries? Will the situation of human rights in Russia worsen, now that terrorism has come back into the scene, or will  the international pressure suceed in changing the Kremlin’s policies towards minorities and civil rights?

The referendum for the independence of Scotland (and the one in Catalonia, if it takes place), and especially the questions related to how to deal with their outcomes, will pose new challenges to the EU. The effects of the full access of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU deserve attention too, and hopefully the apocalyptic messages in UK tabloids will be silenced by facts that prove that the end of this unfair situation will just bring benefits to all of us. And we will still have to deal on a daily basis with the causes and effects of the economic and financial crisis, the solution to the unbearable unemployment rates, and the “austerity vs stimulation” dilemma.

For the young people… what will be the priorities? They will keep an eye on what affects them most: education and grants, and how budget cuts impact them. But… will the European young citizens feel how much their participation in the European Parliament is sought? Will their needs be taken into account by the decision-makers?

Obviously, there will be unexpected highlights in these 12 months of 2014, because Europe will always be an amazing place to live, which never ceases to surprise us.

Anna, Bea, Kathrin, Lucille, Luis, Miguel and Pavel
Comité Directeur 2013-14

Photos: courtesy of AEGEE-Ogre, European Parliament EP elections video and KyivPost

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AEGEE stands with the pro-European Ukrainians /aegee-stands-with-the-pro-european-ukrainians/ /aegee-stands-with-the-pro-european-ukrainians/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 17:53:35 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=809 AEGEE-Europe, shocked by the very recent decision of the Ukrainian Government to suspend the process of preparation for signature of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Ukraine at the EU-EaP Vilnius Summit, would like to present the following statement:

Within the last 4 years, Ukraine has signed the visa facilitation agreement and implemented many reforms, which led to the perspective of signing the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU in the next days. For the last 15 months, we all were closely following the way of Ukraine to the EaP Vilnius Summit, and on many occasions we have expressed our sincere hope for the success of this process. However, there were more than two sides involved into this story. Russian Federation has always considered Ukraine as its resource partner and a strong candidate for joining the so called “Customs Union”, which includes Kazakhstan and Belarus. At the high point, when it has been announced that Ukraine is taking the pro-European external political direction, the pressure from the Russian Federation towards Ukraine has peaked.

In our statement of September 16, 2013 we shared our concerns and condemned the economic coercion exerted by the Russian authorities towards Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia. However, the Russian Federation, not taking into account the calls from the EU institutions and officials that the EaP program was not established to harm bilateral relations of the EaP countries with the Russian Federation,  has extended its pressure to the media blackmailing campaign focused on possible European integration of Ukraine. Even under such pressure from its’ Eastern neighbor, the Ukrainian government was still planning to sign the mentioned agreements in Vilnius. Therefore, the statement made by the Ukrainian government on 21st of November was shocking not only for any common Ukrainian citizen, but also for the European Union. One of the countries that has shown the biggest interest and has made bigger efforts in the European Integration over the past years is now making a sudden u-turn in its external policy and stopping the required preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, to be held next week.

At AEGEE-Europe, we would like to state our serious concerns on such decision. We join the statement 131121/04 of the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on Ukraine and underline that – as a panEuropean student association standing for liberty, democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law – we are fully supporting the European integration of Ukraine as an example for all other countries of the EaP programme. We stand strong with our commitment to the members of AEGEE in Ukraine, young people, students and all Ukrainian citizens in their will for the European integration and better future. We hope that the Ukrainian government, Parliament and President will take into account  the raising movement of #Euromaidan. AEGEE-Europe once again expresses its strict condemnation towards the political and economic pressure exercised by the Russian authorities, since they are in conflict with the right of each sovereign state to decide its political roadmap for the future.

Since its establishment in 1985, AEGEE 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. Exactly 20 years ago the first Ukrainian local representation of AEGEE join our Network, which we consider to be a clear indication of the fact that the European community and fundamental values since the collapse of the Soviet Union have become also part of Ukraine and the Ukrainian civil society. Since 1993 there have  been more than 10 local representations/branches of AEGEE established around Ukraine which led to broad promotion of the European values and European education programmes among the local students and young people. Our association has always supported will of the Ukrainian students to build better society and bring their country closer to the European dream.In regard to our support of the ongoing Eastern Partnership Programme, in 2011 we established AEGEE Eastern Partnership Project, which currently works on the priority directions of the leading EU institutes and brings additional thematic impact to the actions of our organisation. Since 2011 we have been working for both sides: promoting European Values and European Union in 6 countries of the EaP programme as well as raising awareness in EU on current actions in the EaP region, promoting cultural heritage and history of EaP regions, closely following development of the EaP programme as well as the progress done by every single country.

Written by Alla Resheten, Project Manager of the AEGEE-Europe EaP Project, and Armenak Minasyants, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for European Neighbourhood Policy.

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EVA: Does Erasmus make you a better European citizen? /eva-erasmus-european-citizen-elections/ Tue, 22 Oct 2013 09:57:24 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=782 The first meeting of the Erasmus Voting Assesment project (EVA) took place last week in Brussels, at the office of AEGEE-Europe.  This new project aims at answering fundamental questions concerning active citizenship and participation in democratic processes of young students, and in particular the ERASMUS students. Through an in-depth survey, the project will measure the feeling of “being European” among young students and, furthermore, assess any possible existing correlation between having been an ERASMUS student and the level of engagement in the European society. In addition, this project aims to investigate the voting behaviour of Erasmus and university students across Europe in the European Parliament’s elections.

AEGEE-Europe/European Students’ Forum, The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and Generation Europe Foundation partnered up and launched this new project, funded in September 2013 by the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme.

The coordinator of the project, AEGEE-Europe, hosted the kick-off conference in its office in Brussels. The consortium discussed the main project milestones, and some of the first decisions were already taken. There will be 3 study visits in December to three big European universities, recognised for hosting thousands of Erasmus students: Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), Sciences PO Toulouse (France) and Aarhus Universitet (Denmark). A conference in January 2014 with mark the official presentation of the project, involving relevant policy makers and stakeholders, and presenting the survey. The official website for the project will be also launched in January 2014.

The project consortium is supported by an Advisory Board consisting by two European associations with relevant experience in the field of European citizenship and in sociological research: European Movement International (EMI) and the European Sociological Association (ESA).

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