politics – 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, 18 Apr 2018 09:33:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.14 Fences are not made of sausage abroad! /fences-are-not-made-of-sausage-abroad/ Tue, 06 May 2014 17:41:40 +0000 /?p=5134

by Monica Nica

A last minute change introduced a detour in our route between Zagreb and Belgrade. The name of this fortunate twist is Pécs, in Hungary. Although we only spent 17 hours in the European Capital of Culture of 2010, they were filled to the brim both with challenging debates and soaking up some local traditions.

Even though they sometimes needed a push to take the discussion forward, the Hungarian participants had fruitful and interesting debates on all three questions they received: What are the advantages/disadvantages of mobility? Do you imagine yourself working in another country? What is the best way to defend your interests as a young person?

On the mobility matter, the advantages brought up were similar to what was mentioned during the discussions we had with youths from other locations: job/education opportunities, cultural sensitivity, self-improvement, breaking down stereotypes, to cite just a few. In the disadvantages corner, one point stood out among the usually mentioned ones: ‘losing your national identity’. What Leila Abbas meant with it was the fear of one having to relinquish his/her own culture, the fear of a ‘European melting pot’ which would erase the existing cultural differences. A strong attachment to national identity was present throughout the debates on all three questions, although twined with a criticism of the Hungarian government to the same intensity, if not even greater.

DSC01681 (1)Working in another country was regarded by most participants as a short term option. Both types of arguments – pro and against working abroad – boiled down to how despite the dissatisfaction with many things, it is better to live and work in Hungary. For them, a good reason to work abroad is to gain experience which can be later used back in one’s native country. An even more powerful expression of their national attachment came in the form of a reason against working abroad: ‘leaving your country is a kind of selfishness’. Zoltán Bagoly mentioned one Hungarian saying which can help to better understand how they feel about ‘abroad’: in other countries ‘fences are not made of sausages’, in a literal translation. Considering how kolbász (sausage) is one of the staples of Hungarian gastronomic culture, one can easily grasp why sausage fences are regarded as the crest of well-being. Going beyond the tastiness of the aphorism, what Zoltán was trying to convey with it is that they think they have an undistorted view of how things are abroad. Despite the situation in Hungary not being satisfactory, abroad it is not much better. Someone said, to the approval of the rest: ‘as a nation we are too proud to confess that we can learn from other nations’.

The literature on youth participation says that young people prefer alternative channels of action to influence decision-makers. The Hungarian youths confirmed this when they mentioned the best ways to defend their interests: peaceful protests, student organisations and social media campaigns. Although they also brought up establishing relationships with officials, most of the options represent new forms of engaging with the political. When asked why they did not even consider engaging with formal politics they said it is because politics in Hungary is a realm of corruption. Politicians are very protective of their seats and joining their ranks would entail becoming like them.

Knowing perfectly well the feeling of nausea when thinking about how politics is carried out in my own country I could comprehend their stance. Time and the European Union’s influence were two of the cures prescribed by the participants to alleviate the state of affairs in the national political arena. Given that their results are slow and unreliable, I further asked them what can we do now to meaningfully influence policy-making if engaging with formal politics is not a viable option?

A bottom-up approach still remained the preferred course of action. Associations like AEGEE, they said, have an important role, especially through the patronage which alumni can provide to the initiatives of current members.

We believe in voting and democracy, not in politicians /we-believe-in-voting-and-politics-but-not-in-politicians/ Sun, 20 Apr 2014 22:49:54 +0000 /?p=4868 by Monica Nica

Marine, the president of AEGEE Lyon introduced us to her wonderful home city and the French way of spending time – picnicking with friends by the riverside. She also proposed having a different approach to disseminating information about the European Parliament (EP) elections and gathering opinions on it. Instead of holding a presentation we used a method called “Porteurs de paroles” which allowed us to engage the students at Jean Monnet University in a debate on the street.

Even though they were rather shy in starting a conversation, once we approached them they opened up and provided us with a full range of opinions, from Eurosceptic to Europtimist. For example, one student said he is not going to vote, but if he did it would only be for a candidate proposing to exit the Eurozone. On the other hand, some talked about voting as a duty, as a right that must be exercised because people died for them to have it.

DSC00907 (1)Lack of proper information seems to be, as it was in the mobility topic as well, one of the main deterrents for young people.  They complained that the elections for the EP do not receive nearly as much coverage as the national elections and even when they do, the focus of the debate is on national issues. Furthermore, students said that the issues debated do not interest or represent them. Despite this, they mentioned that their decision not to vote does not reflect a lack of interest in politics or the EU.

Lyon’s youths fit in the pattern discovered by various surveys and studies throughout the EU: young people are not apathetic, but their concerns, ideas, and ideal of democratic politics does not find a match within the available political offer. Moreover, there are structural barriers hindering or making it very difficult for the electoral participation of certain categories of young people. Through poverty, unemployment, linguistic, ethnic or social integration, some young people are systemically excluded.

The voting behaviour of young people presents differences based on income and educational background. Income strongly affects the motivations of non-voters: youths from poorer backgrounds are significantly more likely not to vote if there is no candidate or party they want to win.

DSC00902 (1)Although young people have trust in the effectiveness of voting, the older they get their cynicism and belief in non-electoral forms of participation increases. Since the first two elections in the life of a voter are highly important in determining their long-term participation, it is important to encourage and incentivise youths to vote from a young age. Participating in the first two elections they are eligible for can make the difference between habitual abstentionists or habitual participants later on.

The factors that can increase the likelihood of young people voting include being part of an association offering them positive experiences of political efficacy, coming from a family which traditionally votes, having political and civic education in school and last, but most certainly not least, having encounters with politicians who actually listen to them.

But as one student said: “it takes a lot of work to make young people aware that they can have an impact on the decision-makers”.