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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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Let’s give peace an opportunity /lets-give-peace-an-opportunity/ Sat, 21 Sep 2013 09:47:25 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=733 Have you heard of World Peace Day? Today we celebrate the annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence. 21 September become the official International Day of Peace in 2001, before it was changing dates.

But the United Nations count for this day with an incredible ally, the Peace One Day organization which works to make this day a real success and to have a bigger impact than just a red mark in your calendars. The guy who started the initiative, Jeremy Gilley, has mobilised in the last 15 years thousands of people to really make this day an opportunity for peace in many conflict areas of the world. Together with them, the impact has reached 280 millions of people last year through 6000 events, including concerts, sport matches and workshops.

Here you can see some more about the project: www.peaceoneday.org

Click on the image to see the video

 

We in AEGEE support peace but we do not have many opportunities to contribute. This year, however, we start on the same Peace Day something big. We are joining the University of Youth and Development (UJyD) in Mollina (Malaga, Spain) where we will host a Peace Bilding training focused on the Caucasus region. The multicultural environment of the UJyD will serve as a great framework where we can build up bridges among the youth of the Caucasus region and foster mutual understanding. We hope the outcome of this training course are positive and we will build up a bigger strategy in the next months. In the end we would like to give Peace not only a day in the calendar, but a home everywhere in Europe.

The University of Youth and Development is an initiative of  the North South Center of the Council of Europe, with the support of the European Youth Forum (YFJ), the Spanish Youth Council (CJE), the Latin American Youth Forum (FLAJ) and the Spanish Youth Institute (INJUVE).

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Concerns about the Russian movements before the Vilnius Summit /concerns-russian-movements-vilnius-summit/ Mon, 16 Sep 2013 16:59:10 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=723 AEGEE-Europe’s Reaction on the Latest Developments within the EU Eastern Partnership Program and Pressure Exercised by Russia

Within the last weeks the Head Office of AEGEE-Europe was following up the political developments in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP)  who previously officially expressed on the highest level their willingness sign the Association Agreement, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union.

At the end of November 2013, the Eastern Partnership Summit will take place in Vilnius (LT). This summit will discuss the establishment of closer relations between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries. So far, the EaP Program has worked towards providing better economic association and political integration of the Eastern Partnership members with the European Union. Also the EU Eastern Partnership Program has improved cooperation in the youth sector. Through the EaP the youth in these countries have achieved better social inclusion and have raised the quality of life of young people who have benefited from several European programs. These programs, mostly funded by the EU institutions, focused mostly in participation, mobility and education opportunities.

We witnessed in the past weeks with concern huge political pressure and speculations exercised on the EaP countries by a third party. At the brink of the upcoming Vilnius Summit, the Russian authorities are showing their reluctance to let the former Soviet allies make moves towards the European Union. Russia has set up its own equivalent of the Eastern Partnership, namely the “Customs Union”, and now Russian authorities exert pressure the Eastern Partnership countries to leave the European track and follow the Eurasian one.

AEGEE-Europe is deeply concerned with such political approach and we denounce the use of economic threats and sanctions exercised against Moldova (Russian authorities banned import of Moldovan wines, one of the country’s biggest source of income) and Ukraine (Russian authorities warned Ukraine for protective measures if Ukraine signs the Association Agreement), since they are in conflict with the right of each sovereign state to decide its political roadmap.

AEGEE-Europe emphasizes also the urgency in the EU-Armenia Association Process, which has been basically frozen as a result of the above mentioned pressure exercised by the Kremlin. On September 3rd 2013, after 3 and half years of successful and finalized negotiations on Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU, the Armenian authorities expressed willingness to retreat from the European prospect and join in the Russian-led “Customs Union”. This decision was followed up by anti-governmental protests in Yerevan, which led to violence sometimes. Two members of protest groups (Haykak Arshamyan, from the Yerevan Press Club YPC, and Suren Saghatelyan, from Transparency International-Anticorruption Center Armenia-TI Armenia) were beaten on September 5 by a group of ‘unknown assailants’ as they returned from demonstration in support of the Armenia-EU integration process. Those intimidating attacks led to a statement of the EU Member States’ Heads of Mission in Armenia which AEGEE-Europe supports, and we call upon the Armenian authorities to take the required steps to protect the civil society.

Simultaneously, AEGEE-Europe wants to express full support to its only local representation in Armenia, AEGEE-Yerevan, and assure the members of the Organization, the Armenian students and the respective stakeholders that the activities and projects of AEGEE will not be frozen in Armenia. We again emphasize the urgency for the Armenian authorities to develop a multilateral structured dialogue with the representative of the civil society, with special attention to the youth sector, which will give overcome the existing deadlock.

We consider that the recent developments in Armenia and the pressure exercised on Moldova and Ukraine by the Russian authorities will have a very negative impact for the future of the Eastern Partnership, risking the advances in the recent 3-4 years. The countries of the Eastern Partnership can become more hesitant to sign documents with the EU. Unfortunately this may lead also to the stagnation in the field of youth cooperation with the consequent loss of opportunities for young people in the EaP countries.  Cooperation, exchanges and understanding will find more obstacles. The carefully build up relations between EU-EaP programs for formal and non-formal education will lose their visible impact. We give special importance to the position expressed in the official statements done by the European Commissioner Štefan Füle and the High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton, as well as we appreciate the approach expressed at the special session of the European Parliament dedicated to analyze the external pressure on the EaP countries. We would like to express our full support to the principles of legal non-compliance of the Association Agreement and DCFTA with the legal framework of the “Customs Union”, as well as we call up the EaP authorities to avoid any misinterpretations of the mentioned legal documents.

AEGEE-Europe restates its faith in a Europe standing for liberty, democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law, and our will to cooperate with institutions that promote these concepts. In our belief, the surprising decisions of Armenia have brought additional doubts to the future of the EU Eastern Partnership program in general. Additionally we witness increasing political and economic pressure by the Russian authorities on the EaP states to abandon their pro European policies. We consider such pressure as an inappropriate tool for development of the relationships with the EaP countries. The EaP program was not established to harm bilateral relations of the EaP countries with the Russian Federation, but foremost to give the EU Neighboring Eastern partners chance to develop market economies as well as fully functioning democracies which would correspond to the EU standards.

Written by Armenak Minasyants, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for the Bridging Europe area, and Alla Resheten and Mara Ioana, from the Eastern Partnership project of AEGEE-Europe.

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Closing our eyes in Azerbaijan? No, thank you! /election-observers-azerbaijan-european-parliament/ Wed, 04 Sep 2013 06:45:57 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=711 The European Parliament’s Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group decided last July 13th that the European Union will not send a delegation of observers for the presidential elections in Azerbaijan next October. This controversial decision contrasts with the presence of the EU as observer in the last Presidential elections in the country, lacked a proper explanation and therefore left the door open for different interpretations.

On one side, the Azerbaijan authorities celebrated the decision and presented it as an endorsement to the good health of democracy in the country. On the other hand, Human Rights organizations protested since they were seriously concerned that this decision was motivated by the wish of pleasing the Azerbaijan government since the EU has strategical investments in the country.

AEGEE has been involved in the Caucasus region since 2004 and we cannot find a coherent explanation to the decision of the European Parliament. The status of the Azerbaijan democracy is constantly questioned by Civil Society Organizations inside and outside the country, the results of the previous EOMs were not concluding unanimously the absence of abnormalities, and even the Council of Europe has a divided position sometimes in the situation in Azerbaijan regarding sensible topics such as the situation of political prisoners.

For these reasons, we motion the European Parliament to reconsider their decision during the meeting of the Conference of Presidents, next September 5th.We have sent a letter to the president of the European Parliament to voice our concern and we hope they revert the decision.

We believe it is in the interest of the Republic of Azerbaijan to receive a big delegation of EU observers in the presidential elections in October. Azerbaijan should multiply the effort to guarantee free and democratic elections, to obtain a positive report from the Observers. Without a unanimous positive report, the elected president will start the mandate contested internally and questioned externally. And this will not be in the benefit of the stability of Azerbaijan and the region.

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Deportation of a French student in Turkey as a consequence of the #Gezi protests /deportation-elise-couvert-turkey-gezi/ Wed, 03 Jul 2013 14:53:38 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=658 Turkey is not in the news anymore. The focus of the media shifted to more pressing events in other parts of the world, like Brazil (first because of the massive protests there, later because of a football championship). Even the new massive protests in Egypt are not on the first page of the newspapers anymore; after one month of people in the street, tear gas and messages against their government, attention is focused now in where in the world is hidden Mr. Snowden.

However, in Turkey normality has not come back. There are still groups of citizens which non-violent protest on the streets, while most of the people recover from their injuries at home. Citizens try to forget the nightmares of running in front of the police or being detained, and some live with fear that their government may find that they were active on the protests in Facebook or twitter, and will go after them. Something has however changed among the Turkish youth, and as one of them voiced out, the difference is that now they “hope that things will change”.

There is one face of the conflict that has not received enough attention. Let me tell you the case of Elisa Couvert: a French student who, after being Erasmus in Istanbul last year, decided to stay and study a postgraduate course there. She also was volunteering for the Human Rights Association. When the protests started, she joined the crowd claiming for more freedom and more democracy in the country where she had decided to spend several years of her life. She ended up searching refuge from tear gas in the office of a political party, where police entered and detained several people. She was kept in detention for too long without any charge, and finally freed just to see, some days later, how her residence permit had been revoked. She was therefore deported last week back to France.

News report that during the whole process, she was denied the right to information, the right for an interpreter, she was kept way too long in detention without charges… Not to mention that the conditions of the detention center were quite poor and she was treated with little respect. This happened to a foreigner, to a citizen of the European Union, therefore we can assume that their own citizens have suffered the same fate, or even worse. Special concern has been raised among Human Rights NGOs for the treatment of the minorities which were so active in the Turkish protests.

It is sad that Turkey has decided to deport a Human Rights activist, but this can be seen as part of the whole strategy of blaming external agents for the protests. Instead of reflecting on the real causes of the discontent, the government of RT Erdogan tried to find a scapegoat abroad. The crisis management of the protests by the authorities, instead of calming down the situation, dragged more and more people to the streets with inflammatory messages and outrageous treatment in the mass media. People answered with humour and turned then to Social Media for getting the information, which caused Twitter to be accused of being “the worst menace for society”.

National TV showed penguin documentaries instead of protest news

The case of Elise Couvert has had almost no impact on European news. This lack of attention in media and the lack of reaction of the French Government (and the European institutions) to this violation of the rights of one of its citizens is very worrying. The Turkish government has failed to provide a justification to the deportation, there was no solid evidence against Elisa Couvert, but she has seen herself expelled from Turkey in another authoritarian decision of the Turkish government. AEGEE-Europe calls for a reaction on this matter, we want the European Union to stand with this girl who just wanted to pursue her studies in a more democratic Turkey.

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AEGEE supports strengthening of the EU-Armenia relationship /strengthening-eu-armenia-relationship/ Thu, 20 Dec 2012 08:53:08 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=344 On December 17th 2012 the Council of the European Union, represented by the Cypriot Foreign Minister Ms. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis and the EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ms. Cecilia Malmström, signed the Visa Facilitation Agreement with the Republic of Armenia, represented by the Armenian Foreign Minister Mr. Edward Nalbandian.

Photo: The Council of the European Union

According to the provisions of the agreement, significant changes are coming to regulate bilateral visa matters between the agreeing parties. Particularly, starting from 2013 all the EU citizens will not have to pay for achievement of the Armenian entrance visa. For the Armenian citizens it will be easier and cheaper (30 EUR instead of 60 EUR) to achieve short-stay visas (period is exceeded up to 180 days). Additionally, according to the distributed official press release, visas will be free of charge for certain categories of applicants, including members of official delegations, children below the age of 12, pensioners, researchers and students. Holders of diplomatic passports are exempt from the visa obligation. The signed agreement will get in force right after the entry into the force of the EU-Armenia readmission agreement which will also be signed in the nearest future.

Taking the possibility, AEGEE-Europe would like officially welcome this important step in the development of the EU-Armenia bilateral relationship. We highly appreciate the special focus of the agreement on students and youth activists’ category and consider it fundamental ground for development of students’ mobility across Europe. We would like to state that this might become one of the most visible and the biggest benefits of the close cooperation, which has been developed between the EU and Armenia during the recent years within the frames of the EU Eastern Partnership Program.

AEGEE-Europe is also pleased with the strong commitment of the European Union and Armenian authorities to strengthen the existing relationship. The signed agreement and the recent political developments between the sides and bilateral visits of the high ranked politicians to Brussels and to Yerevan, and particularly the participation of the EU officials to the meetings with the representatives of the Armenian Civil Society, once again reaffirm strong belief on the European integration of Armenia, and the commitment of Armenian authorities to promote the shared European values in the South Caucasus.

AEGEE-Europe will also like to join to the official press points of the EU Commissioner Štefan Füle and call up the Armenian Government to continue the policy of internal reforms and strengthening the promotion of the common values in Armenia on which are based the bilateral relations between the EU and Armenia, and to enhance the involvement of the youth in the civil activism.

Submitted by Armenak Minasyants, Policy Officer on EU Integration of AEGEE-Europe

Brussels, Belgium

 

 

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We all won the Peace Nobel Prize 2012! /nobel-peace-prize-2012/ Sat, 13 Oct 2012 19:21:10 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=205 Yesterday started with a long anticipated news, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has announced the Peace Nobel Prize for 2012. The Laureate was a great surprise for all the AEGEE members and all the Europeans, since the prize has been awarded to the European Union “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

Even though the prize mainly has been given to natural persons, organisations such as Amnesty International, International Labour Organization, International Committee of Red Cross or the UNICEF have been also awarded in the past.
This prize, on the 60th anniversary of the European Coal and Steel Community carries an extremely important message: keep calm and carry on! Through these six decades “most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace”, said Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee when he announced the award in Oslo.
This prize showed us that we need to stop for a moment in our crisis-torn Europe, in our home and think about all those things which have been achieved in the past years, and also about the importance of further and stronger cooperation among the the citizens not only of the European Union but also whole Europe, since there is a lot of work and improvement yet to be done in our continent and in the world  We also hope that this prize will stimulate and increase efforts to solve existing conflicts through dialogue, diplomacy and other non-violent methods.

Peace and stability are also the core values of our association, therefore we shall also bear this message in mind and aim for a strong cooperation towards a democratic and peaceful Europe.

But this should also push us forward, thus AEGEE calls for peace in those European countries which are not Member States yet, and demands the EU for a stronger cooperation with our neighbouring countries in order to promote our values of peace and respect for Human Rights. We also wish that these countries can benefit soon from the positive impact of friendship and cooperation that this project has brought amongst the countries that are now members of the EU.

“It is a justified recognition of this unique project that has brought peace to our continent.”

 

In the interview after the announcement with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said: “ the European Union that united them [the nations] in peace around the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, justice, rule of law and respect for human rights. And the European Union was able to do it through separate national institutions representing the common European interests.”

Written by Beata Matuszka,  Comité Directeur

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Conscientious Objection to military service: it is your right, and you should know it /consciousness-objection-is-your-right-and-you-should-know-it/ Wed, 26 Sep 2012 18:59:29 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=79 AEGEE-Europe was invited to the presentation of the Annual Report prepared by the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) that took place on Wednesday, 26th September. We support the right EBCO is fighting for: conscientious objection to military service, a right included in the European Convention on Human Rights, and part of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The meeting was hosted by the Member of the European Parliament, Nikos Chrysogelos.

 

MEP N. Chrysogelos, EBCO Chair F. Schneider, and EBCO researcher D. Brett

At the roundtable, relevant members of EBCO were present, including the main researcher of this year’s Report. During te presentation we learned that in spite of improvements in those countries where conscription still exist, there are still too many occasions where people who refuse to join the compulsory military service get severe sentences, and are sometimes even judged at military courts. Furthermore, sometimes at the end of their time in jail, they are conscripted, again and in case of refusal to join the army, they are put to trial again. Yes, this happens inside the European Union. If the candidates for membership of the EU are required to comply with the laws containing the right of Conscientious Objection, how is it possible that some countries can violate them repeatedly with impunity?

Other organizations like Amnesty International, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the War Resisters’ International Right to Refuse to Kill Programme, offered their point of view on the problem. Thanks to them, we now know that even in countries where conscription is abolished (or suspended), militarisation of society is far from disappearing. They may not conscript people anymore, but they conscript our money. Defense chapters in European budgets have surprisingly survived the austerity measures much better than education, health, or science. 25 out of 27 Member States participate in military operations in Afghanistan and last year some member states participated in missions in Lybia and Somalia.

Even more worrying is the continuous attempt to militarise youth. By being present at music festivals, campaigning in educational centers, and lobbying through social media, not ot mention the special privileges offered to the military in access to education, they try to recruit young members of our society. In times of crisis and high youth unemployment, those campaigns take advantage of the situation, trying to become attractive for young people with less resources.

 

Luis intervening at the presentation of EBCO Annual Report

The intervention of Luis Alvarado Martínez, our president, stressed the fact that the conscription arrives at a crucial moment of students’ life, breaking up the storyline of their life. We have seen that our members, after years of working actively in AEGEE for values like democracy, peace and stability, and tolerance, got severely stressed when facing the moment of conscription. We consider that there are different and better ways to contribute to society than joining the military, and volunteering is on of them.

The right for Conscientious Objection exists on paper, so now we just need to make European youth aware of it, and stay alert to make sure that it is respected by their countries. This is the main aim of EBCO, and we will help them.

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