Team Blue – 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 Last Stop of Team Blue: Naples, the City of Strong Opinions /last-stop-of-team-blue-naples-the-city-of-strong-opinions/ Tue, 13 Sep 2016 17:09:36 +0000 /?p=6869 By Hanna Polischuk

And the trip of the Team Blue is coming to an end.

Arriving to the port of Naples by ferry, also provided by InterRail as well as all the trains before, the feeling of the ultimate destination made us feel a bit sad. Anyway, one more local was awaiting, so we started our preparations.13254199_616349558512685_8107840103327829189_n

Naples is not only the city of the best pizza in the world, but also a city of tradition, architecture, sea port and brave, strong opinions. Young people are not afraid to express what they think and draw attention to what they consider the important issues. A good example of the fact that the young people care and do not stand aside is the demonstration regarding the mysterious disappearance and further discovery of the tortured body of the PhD student Giulio Regeni in Egypt. We saw this demonstration while looking for interview respondents for our project, and when we saw our AEGEE member, Vincenzo as a participant, we asked him more regarding the topic and joined as well.

We organized the EoT session on the first day of our arrival. AEGEE-Napoli arranged everything in a very nice way, and even though it was grey rainy day, inside of the building we had a cozy and warm atmosphere. Moreover, the project manager of Europe on Track, Nicola Guida, and Sofia Lobakina, attended our last presentation, which was a big honour for our team members. Overall, we had 13 participants and the whole evening for the discussions.13267726_616349371846037_6546641549880635412_n

In the beginning, we introduced the project and presented the results from our trip and all the previous stops. In the next activity, which we call “Map Your Europe”, in the same way as at the previous stops, the participants were divided into two groups and had to draw Europe as they perceive it today (with or without the borders). One of the teams divided Eastern Europe, Turkey and Cyprus into 2 parts stating that one is European, the other is not. Another team just divided Cyprus and Turkey. Both of them excluded the UK. For us it was surprising to see the division of Ukraine and Russia into two parts each, that was a new approach.

444Closing our event, we had one more activity, in which everyone could express their personal opinion on the issue. There was a line with the critical points on the two edges, “yes” and “no” with “zero”, i.e. neutral opinion, in the middle. We were asking the questions, and according to their personal answers, the participants were choosing the place on the line to show how strong they agree or disagree with the statement.

Surprising for us all was the first and  we thought the easiest question, “Do you feel European?” There were not many optimistic answers, and it seems the EU fails to have appreciation in the South of Italy. However, on the question about trusting the EU institutions, most of the participants answered “neutral”, and those who said “yes”, explained it by better functioning according to the Italian ones; those who answered “no” blame the institutions in leaving all the responsibility of the refugee crisis on other countries and is failing in managing it. Finally, the last interesting question was regarding the borders, “Is opening Schengen to other countries a good idea?” We got a big “Yes” from everyone, but it was agreed that this should be done until it is safe.13239382_616349235179384_623226194745115593_n

Having such a productive discussion, taking some interviews on the streets, talking to Project Team members of “Europe on Track” and taking part in the demonstration was how we ended our trip as the Ambassadors of this wonderful project. We would like to express our huge gratitudes to the Project Team, all the locals who hosted us and helped with everything, and special thanks to Interrail for making all this possible! I personally would like to thank my team members, Benedetto and Ksenia, with whom we spent all this time together, travelling, learning, answering to the challenges and making a change!

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If you have a chance to become an Ambassador of the Europe on Track #4, don’t hesitate, do it!

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What do Greeks think about a borderless Europe and the refugee crisis? /what-do-greeks-think-about-a-borderless-europe-and-the-refugee-crisis/ Sat, 16 Jul 2016 16:16:01 +0000 /?p=6684 By Hanna Polischuk

The next stop where we experienced the refugee problem and raised the question about the borderless Europe was Greece. We asked some students, whom we met in Athens and Patras, for their opinions. Most of our respondents have already been travelling around Europe either for holidays or for education and cultural exchanges. Many of them have gained international experience by being members of international organizations and studying in other countries via Erasmus amongst others.

Fly athens

On the question if there are borders in Europe, almost everyone said that they are, but only in our minds:

I think that borders are mostly in the European minds, because now with everything that has been happening, we have more prejudices towards what’s going on in Europe and the people who are coming to Europe. The government is following that mindset, which means that they create policies resulting closing borders.

Theodora Giakoumelou, 19

However, it is not possible to notice the border problem inside the Schengen area:

If we talk about the Europeans, there are no strict borders, but the other people outside of the EU have problems to visit Europe. I know it from the experience of my friends from Asia and Africa.

Dimitris N., 22

There are not really visible borders in most of Europe, but if you check better, you can see that in some countries there are completely no borders: you can go between countries just passing by, while in other countries it’s harder to do that, you have to follow some procedures or some paperwork, especially if you go from the West to the Eastern side of Europe. Nowadays, it is going harder and harder to realize that once we did not even care if there were borders, but now, with the refugee crisis, they are coming back to the reality. Many countries are even building a visual borders.”

Dimitris Bouloubassis, 23

For Greek people as well as fo13265980_615852725229035_4493971792193996963_nr other EU members it is very easy to cross borders and travel from country to country. In the world passport rating Sweden, Finland and Germany are ranked the country #1, for which most of countries are open (visa free). Greece is a bit lower in the list; however, it also has a high position. Many Greek students confirmed that it is not hard to travel for them.

When we went onto the streets, we met many refugees. As we understood from what we saw and heard from locals, the refugee problem is growing bigger every day and Greece accommodates currently more than 50,000 refugees at its territory:

Many refugees, especially in the Greek islands like Samos, Chios, the ones that are actually very close to Turkey. I believe the number is something like 50 thousand people or something, which is related to the population, it is low I guess. But imagine all those people have gone through this situation with women and small children, it is difficult. So, it is not so much problem for us as it is for them I guess.

Orestis Panagiotidis, 21

Greek youth feel mostly safe in their country, being able to understand the reasons why people moved there:

I feel safe because I do not think that these people want to harm us, Greeks. They want to find a new home and job. So, I don’t feel afraid, and I am fine with them.

Vasiliki Petrakou, 21

I think that it is difficult for them too, and I think th13237683_615852638562377_227857386974934013_nat we should have solidarity and help them to integrate here in Greece. Because there is a war at their home, I would be afraid too. It is not safe not only for me, but also for them. It is difficult; ok, I am afraid, but it is not only me here. I live with other people, so… If I had a war in my country too, I would go away, it is true.”

Yiota Mitropoulou, 20

Yes, I feel safe in Greece. I am very proud about the behavior that Greece shows to refugees, and I think that the other European countries do not have the behavior that they should have. So, it is important to inform people about the problems that refugees have, to be more open-minded about these problems, and to understand that we need to help to solve these problems.

Dimitris N., 22

I think that the refugees are the people who have a lot of problems in their countries and they come to Greece or to other countries because they want to find a better life. So, I think we must help them, because all of us, we are the same, we are people, and we should help people who have problems. So, in a lot of cases refugees do not make lots of problems to people who live in the places where they come; but in other cases a lot of them make problems because in such conditions in which they live, they have nothing to eat, they don’t have a house for living. So, it is possible that they will start robbing because they do not have money to eat. And so, it all feels strange: in lots of cases you feel safe, in other you don’t feel safe.”

Akis Tripolitsiwtis, 21

In the opinions of many Greeks, the European Union has failed to solve the refugee crisis. As the EU is trying to find a compromising solution, and it is really hard (almost impossible) to find a compromise between so many countries, the problem becomes bigger instead of being solved. The latest solution was an agreement with Turkey and Greece in order to stop refugees from going further. But even with huge efforts and the financial support, only two countries cannot cope with such a huge problem.

So, should borders be more open or closed at all? This question is difficult because on the one hand we all strive for the mobility, and at the same time we want to be secure and protected:

I think that the borders must be open, but in cases when people come from other countries, they should not create problems to people who live in the country they visit. For example, in Greece we have many economic problems, and many people don’t work, because they don’t have work. So I think when people want to come for vacation, is ok; those who come for living is also ok, but I prefer to take the work which they might take instead of me. This situation is very difficult for us.”

Akis Tripolitsiwtis, 21

13227200_613653185448989_3924533945965814428_nIn my opinion borders have to be open, but when you visit a place, you have to respect the local culture, traditions etc. You have to explain them not to implement them in your life, but you have to respect them. So, open borders with respectful physicals, let’s say. That’s my opinion

Orestis Panagiotidis, 21

When we talk about the Greek-EU relationships, what positive and negative points can you think of?

“Positive? Hmmm… Because we’ve been born and grown up in Europe and having all the privileges of the EU already, we do not perceive them as positive. But, of course, being able to travel around Europe without a passport is a great positive point; Schengen is great, as well as Erasmus and other mobility and educational programs. As for negative points, I think right now when the European Union is facing a great amount of existential problems, meaning that we do not really know what we are doing with the EU, how do we want to change it in order to be able to adapt to the new circumstances, both in economical and the social field.

Elena Panagopoulou, 24

What would you wish for the future of Europe? The most common responses are: being more united, open-minded and helpful. Here some of the responses:

13226936_613653178782323_5795814118772003586_nI would like to say something to be changing the European Union at the moment, because I think that Europe is not only the EU but it really affects the situation around Europe. So, I would like to say changing something in how the European Union is working right now.

Erifyli Evangelou, 21

They should understand that it is not only our problem, of Turkey and Greece, and the Eastern Europe; it is a problem that affects us all.

Vasiliki Petrakou, 21 and Yiota Mitropoulou, 20

I wish a more united Europe in terms of diversity, borders also, and understanding, because if Europeans cannot understand each other, there is no solid future for us. And there is no actually future for this generation. We need to understand our needs, and satisfy everything that needs to be covered. There are actually should be more reforms.”

Dimitris Bouloubassis, 23

To be more open-minded and to feel as European citizens instead of feeling the citizens of a single country that has borders, and to be more secure about economics, about technology. I think there are many people who have the abilities to succeed.

Dimitris N., 22

It was a big pleasure not only to discover this wonderful country, but also to hear the voice of youth, which gave us the insight about the situation and attitude in the country. We sincerely hope for the improvement of the refugee situation and rational, effective actions from the EU side. We would like also to express our gratitude to AEGEE-Athina and AEGEE-Patra for helping us with organization of our activities, for their hospitality and care. Moreover, huge thanks to Interrail for the opportunity to cross borders fast and with comfort!

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Same questions, different people /same-questions-different-people/ Mon, 04 Jul 2016 17:28:56 +0000 /?p=6598 By Hanna Polischuk

Travelling from one Turkish city to another, we discovered that not all the young people see Europe and its current issues in the same way. However, there is a strong wish to become a part of Europen from the youth perspective. Below you will see the current problems the country is experiencing from the point of view of Turkish youth.

DSC_0811Do you think there are borders in Europe?

Yes and no. There are borders in Europe as we see in the maps; but no, because each young person can go abroad and feel as a local there. There are no borders in Europe. If we talk about social and national borders, each nation, each country and each tradition is different; it makes kind of a distinction from people to people. (Ayşegül Gökdağ, 21, Turkish, student)

Yes, of course, because to go to Europe, I need to take 19 different documents, and I need to pay 100 EUR for the visa fee. Every time I want to go to Schengen area, I need to pay. It is like that for all Turkish unless they don’t have a special passport; only the high government officers’ children can get this passport, it is really little amount of people. (Yasir, 27, Turkish,  research assistant)

Do you feel yourself European? Do you think about Turkey as a part of Europe?

I think Turkey is not totally European. We should develop ourselves more, get used to European rules and its lifestyle. I feel myself European, I have been in Europe for so many times and this has changed my opinions: I can think like a European citizen. (Tuğçe Demir, 22, Turkish, student)

I don’t think so. Our country is divided into the West side and the East side. A little bit of West side is a part of Europe but the East side is not exactly, because our culture is very different from the European cultures. It is a problem, I think, but our education, healthcare and economic systems seem like the European ones. (Mehmet Eker, 22, Turkish, student)

In the European Union there are lots of countries and parties that don’t want Turkey in the EU, as there are lots of countries and parties that want Turkey in the EU. Inside Turkey it is the same thing: some people want to enter the European Union as soon as possible, and some people prefer to stay out of it. Between 2003 and 2006 our current government came a long way towards EU membership, but then, the people that were against the membership gained the upper hand both in Turkey and the EU. What is worse, our prime minister used the EU-reforms to gain control over the government, the judiciary, the army, and the media. Now that our prime minister has made himself our president, and cracked down on virtually everybody, I think the EU membership is further than ever. (Evrim Emiroglu, 22, Turkish, Student)

DSC_0007 (1)Do you think there is a refugee crisis in Europe? What is the refugee situation in Turkey? Do you feel safe in your country?

Refugee crisis is a very important question right now. Refugees are escaping from war in their country, and that’s very understandable. Turkey opens its doors for them but there are so many that we cannot maintain home, food, jobs and everything else they need for them. Europe should help us but it just sent all refugees here, maybe they paid a little money for that but it’s not enough. When Europe sent them to us, it wasn’t a solution. It made the problem even bigger for us. Nowadays, there are 800.000 refugees in Europe but more than 1,5 millions in Turkey. Europe should maintain homes, work, foods etc. for them; of course, Turkey can help with that, and it will be a better solution. I hope this war will finish one day and it will be the real solution. We, the people, are living our lives still in our cities like Paris or Belgium. Life is going on, terrorism is everywhere, not just in Turkey; there is no chaos and war here.

The crisis still continues for both the EU and Turkey. The EU doesn’t have a real solution and it is trying temporary ones. Refugees’ situation is better than a for lots of Turkish people. They have more rights than us. For example, we must pass lots of exams to join the university but they don’t need to pass any exams. They don’t need to work anywhere because our government takes lots of money from us and gives it to refugees. You can be a worker or not, maybe you are student but you have to give money every month for this problem and it is not because of the fear. (Ongun Batuhan Altan, 29, Turkish, Founder and Owner of Fotodizayn)

DSC_0653 (1)There are more than 3 million refugees in my country. Everyone is aware of the situation. There is a war in their country, people are dying. I think that European countries should have their doors open to more refugees. To be honest, nowhere is safe anymore. Terror is not just in Turkey or the Middle East. Terror is in Paris, Brussels, Beirut,… Terror is everywhere! (Toygar Öter ,23, Turkish, student)

According to the latest news, there will be an agreement between Turkey and the EU. People wonder whether Turkey will accept all refugees back or not. If the current government accomplishes the deal, visas between them will be abolished (except some countries like UK). Especially during the Syrian civil war lots of people had to abandon their home, and they have no chance to go to Iraq due to some conflicts between those countries. Some of them had to move to Turkey and others had to go to Jordan. Like the other countries, Turkey has plenty of refugee camps to stay. Of course we are people and we have dreams not only personal but also for the next generations. If we think from this perspective, refugees have the right to find a way to live in welfare. I feel myself very comfortable and safe, like other European citizens. Sometimes we encounter too bad situations to put up with, but all around the world people can come across this kind of bad events. (Beril Akan,20,Turkish, student)

I feel safe; refugees are desperate people: there is a civil war in Syria. They only want a place to live and work, a home. But most European countries don’t accept them in their own country, and it is very sad. We have more than 2.5 mln refugees right now, but European countries just want to give money and get rid of them. That’s the situation, unfortunately. (Ozan Çaglayan, 22, Turkish, student)

It depends on where you travel or where you are living. For example, in Istanbul and Izmir I feel safe but when I travel to Eastern Turkey, it is totally not safe. It is not about refugees. Yes, they cause some economical problems, but not problems about security.  (Batuhan Çarıkçı, 22, Turkish, student)

DSC_0576Accession negotiations of Turkey (about joining the EU) started in 2005. Which do you think are the reasons for so long process?

According to my research and because of the fact that I study economics, I know that the growth rate of Turkey is higher than the average of Europe. On the other hand, when we look at the budget deficit, the external debt and unemployment rates are much lower according to Europe. Therefore, the European Union thinks Turkey is not ready to be a part of it. Most EU members have some kind of anxiety. Also in Turkey there is confusion about the taxation system, the environment and human rights. These are really complicated things, and in my opinon, the  European Union is worried about the possibility for Turkey to become a more developed country if it joins the EU; on the other hand, Turkey doesn’t try to grow and develop itself, there is still a long process. (Tugce Fetullahoglu, 21, Turkish, student)

There are many reasons. I can think of the biggest ones: unstable behavior of the government in Turkey, geographical location, terrorist attacks in the East, religion and the prejudices against Turkey. (Anıl Öztuvan, 20 , Turkish , Student)

It is really hard to say. At that time Turkey was never part of Europe. We are a little bit outside it. Our culture is different, our religion is different. And to mix both of them, Europe and Turkey, takes so long. Both sides have different opinions. Maybe because of that? (Jülide Acıkara, 22, Turkish, Student)

As you can see, Turkish youth understands well the problems their country is facing. However, all these people are hoping for the positive changes including the refugee situation in Europe in general. We should open our eyes and listen to what this young people tell us, because they have a reason. When we asked them what do they wish for Europe, in most of the cases we heard “peace”, “understanding”, “hope for refugees” and “no borders”. Let’s make these wishes true together!DSC_0478

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Interviewing at the Bulgarian-Turkish Border /6546-2/ Mon, 23 May 2016 16:45:49 +0000 /?p=6546 By Hanna Polishchuk

On our way from Bulgaria to Turkey we met again one boy that travelled with us in the same train just a couple of days ago from Serbia. We decided to introduce each other and to ask him about the trip. César Perales is a 25-year-old EVS volunteer from Spain currently living in Moldova.

On our last train we all witnessed how the police took several young boys out of the train when we were approaching the Bulgarian border. We thought that they might be refugees, so we began to discuss this topic with our new friend. Below you can find the outcome of our conversation.

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Have you ever been abroad? Have you ever taken part in any international project?

Yes, I visited most of the European countries. Sure, Erasmus in Italy, European Voluntary Service (EVS) in Moldova.

Was it hard to cross the border?

Just waiting many hours while crossing Transdniester, but in general it was easy and fast, especially in the Schengen area.

Have you ever applied for visa? Did you face any difficulties?

Yes, for Turkey. It was not difficult: I ordered it through internet and got it in 20 minutes. The price was 20 EUR, and that’s it.

DSC_0052

What do you think about the refugee crisis?

I think that Europe does not care too much about it. In my opinion, the borders should be opened, but of course there should be the same kind of control in every country. We need to care about refugees, and think how can we help them instead of closing borders in front of them.

I remember the first time when I met refugees. It was in Belgrade, Serbia. We were walking in a park, and at some point we noticed more and more people sitting on the ground and sleeping the street. Later we saw the house of the Red Cross and some other associations. There was also the sign in Arabic and English: “Welcome Refugees!” At this very moment I understood that those people are the ones who run from war in Syria. I was shocked because I did not expect to meet them just like this strolling in the park as a tourist.

The second time I met refugees was about a week ago in a train when I was travelling to Montenegro. As there were free seats near us, 7-8 young boys sat on them. In a while, one of them came to us asking if the train is going to Subotica, a Serbian city on the North. Unfortunately, it was not like this, we were going in the opposite direction. When they realised their mistake, they decided to get off on the next station. When they did, the police was already waiting for them outside. Probably the train controller informed them. The police took all boys somewhere, and since then I have no idea what happened to them.  

Do you think they were dangerous?

No, of course not. They were just like other people. They are running from the war. They were just worrying if they are going in the right way because they probably spent their last money in order to get this ticket. When those boys knew about their mistake, they became extremely sad. They spent lots of money for nothing.

What is your wish for Europe?

I hope for the better future of refugees. Europe has to do something in order to help them; the border should not be closed in front of people who need help. If Europe continues closing and tightening borders, then I don’t want to be a EU citizen.

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At some point our discussion was broken off; we were interrupted by a long stop. We looked at the window, and it was already deep night. The only thing we could see was a high fence with razor-wire fence. Suddenly, two men in military form came in for the passport control. We spent some time to cross the border. In order to receive the stamp on the passport we had to listen to some strange jokes from the control officer who said to our Russian team member: “Are you sure you want a Turkish visa stamp? It is a problem for the Russian passport. Are you sure? Haha!” Right after this interrogation, we went to the bus in order to get to Istanbul. We could not continue by train because the roads were under repairs but the bus trip was not very long, and in the early morning we were admiring the views of this beautiful Turkish city.

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More unity, more solidarity, more European identity /more-unity-more-solidarity-more-european-identity/ Mon, 09 May 2016 07:27:44 +0000 /?p=6507 By Hanna Polishchuk

During our stop in Hungary, we had the opportunity to ask young people what they think about the European Union, borders and the refugee crisis. We would like to share with you some interesting answers we received from Péter Sczigel, 22, Hungarian, Student and the President of AEGEE-Budapest and Màtè Bàlint, 24 ,Hungarian,  Analyst of the Central Bank of Hungary. They both have international experience, and travelled to other countries for different reasons. We asked them how easy it was for them to cross European borders.

Do you feel borders in Europe? If yes which ones?

Péter: Yes, both physical and mental. Outside the Schengen area borders are still very real, but I think that the biggest problem is that even inside Schengen most people still have a mental concept of borders between their country and the rest of Europe that really limits their thinking.

Did you have any difficulties crossing borders?

Màtè: I did not have to apply for anything, I could pass to other countries without borders. So, it was easy.DSC_9966 (1)

Do you feel European?

Péter: Absolutely.

Màtè: I feel Hungarian and European as well. It is a hard question, maybe more Hungarian than European, but I would need more time to decide that,it’s not a clear idea in my mind yet.

Do you think that the European Union should extend or decrease?

Màtè: Well, I can’t think about the size, I have read that it will be expanded a little, including the Balkans, and some countries will join. There is also a plan for Turkey, but it is not decided yet. However, as far as I know it won’t expand, especially to the East. Now the composition of the countries and cultural differences is very fresh, so it would be really risky to expand it more.

Accession negotiations of Turkey (about joining the EU) started in 2005. What do you think are the reasons behind such a long process?

Péter: Because European people are reluctant to have a country with Muslim majority in Europe. Also, regarding the culture, Turkey is very different from Europe and due to its enormous population, Turkey would get a big proportion of votes in the European decision-making mechanisms, which is something that no one in Europe actually wants.

Do you think there is a refugee crisis in Europe? What is the refugee situation in Hungary? Do you feel safe in your country?

Màtè: Well, I know that there is a fence, and that they set the border, which according to what one of the parties in the government says, has a gate, and people who come peacefully and who are proven refugees can come. But the opposition said that it is a closed gate, and no one can come in: there is a fence and people who come there should go home. It is really hard to decide which is the case because I have not been there.

Right now, there are no refugees in Hungary because those who came in passed through, and then the borders were closed. As far as I know, refugees stopped in Turkey and did not go further because there were some caps for them. The European Union made an agreement with Turkey about this issue. Right now no one comes, and even if they came, there is a fence in Hungary; it is like a double security.

DSC_0343 22 copy

From the Hungarian side, I think it is important to accept refugees in an organized way so that people could not come to the Schengen area and just travel inside. Europe is a very fresh alliance, and it should not expand more because it would be too risky. Another point is that the fact that people can travel and come in without any IDs tempers social security because they would feel that they do not have any supervision.

Péter: Yes, there definitely is. The situation is not very serious in Hungary, as most refugees do not want to live here but rather move through the country to get to Western Europe. However, the refugee crisis provided a great political capital to the government, which communicated the situation in order to achieve their political goals. I absolutely feel safe, but I wouldn’t feel threatened even if Hungary was a major refugee destination.

What would you wish for the future of Europe?

Màtè: I think Europe should not jump from one idea to the opposite one, exaggerating one point or the other. In my opinion, the answer for questions like these, which separate people so much, is somewhere in the middle. And if you look at the European history, you can see that extremist ideas obviously led to bad decisions.

Péter: More unity, more solidarity, more European identity, less nationalism, less conservatism.

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Team blue in Zagreb: Experiencing Hungarian/Croatian Border /team-blue-in-zagreb-experiencing-hungariancroatian-border/ Thu, 05 May 2016 11:10:05 +0000 /?p=6481 By Hanna Polishchuk

Everything seemed wonderful at the beginning, but as soon as we approached the Hungarian-Croatian border, the tension began to rise. We thought it is just another ticket control, but the woman asked for the passport. So, we gave our documents to her. The Italian one was turned back quite fast but when she was checking the Ukrainian, at some point we heard her saying “Kaput!” and she left the wagon with the passport. At this point my heart beating was increasing and we all were anxiously waiting for the verdict. At some point, they also asked for Ksenia’s passport and the tension became even stronger. Minutes seemed like hours. Luckily it finished soon, and we were relieved by the sound of stamps in our passports. However, during the rest of the trip, the feeling of worrying didn’t disappear even for a moment. That is the real example of what citizens of the countries outside the Schengen area go through on the borders.

BUD_ZGR

Zagreb greeted us with rain but Zvonimir Canjuga from AEGEE-Zagreb welcomed us so warmly that the weather was not important anymore. The first thing he did was taking us to have dinner so that we could gain some more energy after the trip. The size of plates was incredible, and Croatian food was delicious! When we came to our hosts, Milivoj and Ana, we were working on the sessions’ content to be ready for the next day.DSC_0765

Friday morning our team went out for interviewing people. The majority was not willing to participate but we managed to ask some students and were impressed with their answers. Most of them are very dissatisfied with the current right-wing government in Croatia and its policies. People disapprove its nationalistic inclination. After all, youth participation in Croatia is very low at the moment, it seems that young people do not care so much, and the last elections are the result of it.

When we talk about the borders, at some point this question becomes sensitive. The opinions get divided when we speak about the Schengen borders and the Balkan ones. There is still tension between Croatia and Serbia but mostly in the minds of older generations; younger people are more open but not totally. Regarding the EU, it is very strict about the borders policy. The most influential EU countries dictate terms to those that play the role of doors to the Schengen area. They are not interested in letting refugees moving the whole route to Germany, Austria, France or Belgium. If conditions are not fulfilled and there is the slightest possibility of a threat, they close the border as it happened between Hungary and Croatia. After the Balkan route of refugees was shut down, Hungary reopened the border. Zagreb citizens see one of the solutions as tighter cooperation between countries in their policies.DSC_0897

During the debates about opening or closing borders from the EU neighboring countries, participants looked at the problem from the both sides. On the one hand, the main reasons of opening the borders according to them, are: helping those whose life is threatened and who are fleeing from the war, promoting solidarity and humanitarianism, fighting xenophobia and, thus, making the world a better place. On the other, there are also the reasons to close the frontiers such as security issues together with the risk of terrorism, cultural conflict, increasing amount of economic refugees, health risk, capacity overload and constant conflicts with neighboring countries.

The possible solutions to deal with borders would be, first of all, improving the security system, allocating resources according to the number of accepted refugees, educating and integrating both citizens and refugees, and informing the public about current issues. The problem with security of borders is that each country has its own security system, and they don’t share any information about it. It is yet not clear how to improve this cooperation, though. The major question we heard from Croatian youth was “why should people be restricted in movement whether they want to study, work or travel abroad?” The complicated procedures of getting visa draw them back from mobility, which is an essential factor of development.

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Taking into account the questionnaire, Croatian students who participated in it defined Europe as home. As for most of them it is easy to travel from one country to another without visa, they defined it as borderless Europe; however, some respondents feel those borders either on their own experience or their friend’s from the non-Schengen area. Nika Alujević, Croatian student, 26, defined Europe as a “beautiful idea, with successful past (from 1950’s of course,not before), contested present, endangered/non-secure future”. Young people see many borders in Europe. Apart from the physical ones they talk about cultural, political, social, economiс, national and even borders of values. Most borders grow from people’s mindsets, and unless they are changed the problems will only increase.

This important discussion took place thanks to AEGEE-Zagreb, and made us ask ourselves the questions that we did not dare to ask before. Obviously there are many unfortunate events going on out there but let’s not forget about our own participation in it. We can either improve or deteriorate the situation. By becoming active, we can challenge our decision-makers, and make our opinion heard. Our team hopes that people will wake up from the illusions and start acting.
Big thanks to AEGEE-Zagreb for making this event possible! These people took a good care of us since the moment we arrived till our next train. The next stations will be fast, but hopefully we will have the possibility to learn as much as in this city of hearts.

 

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]]> Two Polish Students, Boguslawa and Daniel, About The Borders in Europe /two-polish-students-boguslawa-and-daniel-about-the-borders-in-europe/ Tue, 03 May 2016 10:15:34 +0000 /?p=6463 Travelling to Poland, Team Blue from Europe on Track 3 got the chance to interview many young people on important issues about European borders and the situation with refugees. Let’s see what results they got!
Two Polish students, Boguslawa, 23, and Daniel, 26, agreed to answer our questions. Both of them have travelled abroad and took part ininternational projects. They are both satisfied with the living and working conditions in their country, and are considering to stay there in the future.

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What is Europe for you? What do you feel when you hear this word?

Boguslawa: I think that it is a way in which all people from Europe share some traditions; and it is very important to know and cultivate them because they allow us to understand history. We share a lot of it: sometime difficult and sometimes nice but by understanding it we can avoid many problems, and I hope we will do so.

Do we need to change anything in the functioning of Europe? What should be improved?

Boguslawa: Of course we should change, but I don’t have any recipe for that, I don’t know how to fix this whole situation. I think that one big issue is that in Poland, and I think it happens in many other countries, so many politicians are involved in media. Sometimes, they own all radio stations, all newspapers, they even funded them! And we have no idea what is really going on because we are just sold some information from people who are personally involved in that. So, we cannot really judge the situation because we are not sure of what is going on.

Here is an example of how media works. I live in a place where there was a march on our Independence Day, and they tell us on a TV some things while I see through my own window other things totally different than what they tell me on the TV! I mean, I see a guy who is talking on his phone, and he raises his hand up saying: “Hey, you can find me here” to his friend, and then I find this picture on the news, and he is called a fascist because he is making ‘roman salute’. The question is how to change it.

That is why we make this project, to get to know what people think to make then the report with systemized data, and show the result. This result will be heard. You asked how we can change it, so probably this is the way, and you are part of it.

Daniel: It is a very wide question, and it could be discussed for at least an hour, with politicians, not with me, I am only a student. However, there are couple of things that could be improved.

Now a lot of people are wondering about the European Union, if it is going to collapse or not. I think there’s a bright future for the European Union because conflict and discussion are something natural for such a big diversity, we have so many countries in it, and it is impossible that all this countries will have all the time the same opinion. So for me the core is this discussion and finding the solution from this conflict.

Now we have a problem with immigrants. For example, Eastern countries say that we need to defend our borders; on the other hand, Western countries say that, we should accept all of them (immigrants). In my opinion, the solution is somewhere in between. We should think about borders, make them tighter because it is a really big problem but, at the same time, we should accept all the people who need help, maybe not all the immigrant who came from other countries with good conditions, but for sure all the people who really need help. Both sides have good intentions; it is hard to connect fire with ice but we have to.

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What would you wish for the future of Europe?

Boguslawa: I hope that these conflicts and discussions about our problems will make us stronger, that we will find some way of communication. Usually few voices, few countries, like Germany, France and England, have the strongest voice, and I hope that we will learn that in conflict situations like this we have to listen to everybody, and we will learn something.

Daniel: I was wondering about the same that was said, I wish that the power of each country would be balanced because some countries are overpowered, and at the same time others are underpowered. So I hope for a better balance, and I wish for a Europe that will be united, and the rest of the countries who are not involved in the European Union will become members. I think that’s all.

Interviewer: Thank you both for your answers and the participation, your voice will be heard.

As we can see from those answers and summarize from other interviews and indoor session, young people strive for equality and non-radical solutions. It is easy to cross borders from some countries to others (from Schengen to non-Schengen) but not the other way round. There are two better solutions to solve two different problems. The first one would be expanding the Schengen area for other European countries. The second one is to help first refugees who are in need and then supporting economic immigrants.

Big thanks to AEGEE-Warszawa for the participation and assistance with the sessions!

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Team Blue: Hungary is not as closed as we think nowadays! /is-hungary-as-closed-as-we-perceive-it-nowadays/ Sun, 01 May 2016 11:17:23 +0000 /?p=6441 By Hanna Polishchuk

One more long train journey directly from Warsaw to the capital of Hungary was ahead of us. However, with Interrail trains it was comfortable and light. This time we decided to sleep in the train almost all the way to get more energy for the evening. Agi from AEGEE-Budapest met us in the train station, and we went to her home. Together with Mate they prepared a tasty traditional Hungarian dish.

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The day after, we met other members of this wonderful local (Peti, Bernadett and Dorottya) who took us to the outdoor session. We were walking through the beautiful streets of Budapest, passing by architectural masterpieces, green parks and astonishing university, which made us exclaim “Wooooow!”

The Corvinus University opened its doors for us to reveal the secret of why this local has so many active members. Every place we passed had a poster of the Summer University project, it was literally everywhere, we felt like in the AEGEE headquarters!

During the next couple of hours we were watching a Hungarian movie that raised the questions and problems young people are facing in their lives, ‘For Some Inexplicable Reason’. We highly recommend it to those who have not watched it yet!

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The day after, we had the workshop at the same university. This time we concentrated on the debating part. Participants were divided into two groups from which one is in favour of borderless Europe, and another one is against. Their task was to persuade their opponents with facts. Both teams had well-structured arguments, and both sides were quite convincing.

Those debates could be going on forever, but at some point we needed to stop them in order to make a decision. Even though both teams were fighting to defend their side, later the task was changed and they had to express their own opinion. As a result, most of them voted in favour of abolishing borders. We all agreed that it was not easy to make decisions, and this is what politicians in the EU are doing every day, affecting the life of each of us. Our views over some questions, such as borders split up, probably because it was an international meeting that included not only Hungarians but also participants from Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine and Italy. It seems that Budapest is indeed an international city.

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During the interviews and discussions, young Hungarians expressed their concerns about the problems such as xenophobia, bureaucracy, corruption and nationalism. There is not enough information about refugees; people complain about them but in fact, almost no one of them has ever met any.

Another problem is that not many people are aware about youth mobility opportunities and they miss them because of the poor information they have. Hungarians believe that if youth is more aware of them, more people will participate in cultural exchange projects and the cooperation between countries will be better. However, we didn’t hear only problems, but also solutions such as better institutions, no prejudices, acceptance of different cultures, breaking stereotypes, supporting national minorities, and being more efficient in implementing the basic idea of the EU. These solutions are not hard to implement but if we do it, it will bring more peace to the society.

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We want to thank AEGEE-Budapest, and especially Peter Sczigel,  for the opportunity to participate in this event and learn about the opinion of the Hungarian (and not only) youth about very important issues like borders, Shengen, refugees and the EU in general. I personally have to admit that I was astonished by the answers and debates during the event. I am sure if we had such politicians, the world would be better!

Please keep changing the future, don’t be afraid to express your opinion and fight for a better reality.

Thanks for welcoming us, the city tour, sessions, food, accommodation, and all sort of help you gave us! We were lucky to take part in this event organized by the AEGEE-Budapest!

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Poland Opens Its Doors to Team Blue! /poland-opens-its-doors-to-team-blue/ Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:47:49 +0000 /?p=6411 By Hanna Polishchuk

Early in the morning we departed from Prague to Warsaw. This time we did not have as many stops as before, only one, in Ostrava, a small Czech city.dAY3 (1)

We decided to try to interview people in the train station but they were not very open for the conversation. Nevertheless, before getting on our train, we managed to talk to a girl who shared with us her views about borderless Europe. Inspired by her, we decided to continue this task in the train. There we found interesting people, mostly from Poland, but also from the Czech Republic and the U.S.A. We even managed somehow to make one interview in Polish, speaking with the participant in Polish-Ukrainian-Russian language mixture. It was quite an exciting experience, and we learnt many impressive facts. After work, and running from one wagon to another, we decided to rest. To our surprise, we got free snacks and soft drinks from Interrail. Everything that we had in our compartment made our trip comfortable and exciting.

DSC_0008-2When we went out of the train, the president of AEGEE-Warszawa, Marta, was already waiting for us. In the evening, we went out to relax before the important day. On Saturday we organized a workshop for the members of the the local representative of our organization. This time we did not have as many participants as in Prague but the discussion was deeper and more specific. Participants shared their worries about the problems with Schengen area and the threat of strengthening borders. During the debates and mapping workshop we all saw that each of us travels to various European countries constantly for different reasons, and setting borders among our countries is ridiculous.

DSC_9861-2On the next day, we went out to the city for more interviews. We met people near the public library, in the city center and other places around. All young people shared our idea of a borderless Europe and that the relationships between the European countries should be improved. In their responses, we see that people are demanding freedom, understanding, mobility, unity, less bureaucracy and more support for other countries. As for refugees, they are not ready to accept every economic immigrant but those who really have to leave their homes behind and ask for the shelter in other countries.

Our visit to Poland was productive because we didn’t only ask people’s opinions but also shared ours and talked about difficulties with which we live in our non-Shengen countries. In one of such discussion about European values with a German and a Canadian we gave them lots of shocking information that they did not think about before. This way, spreading as much as we can, more and more people will get informed.DSC_9744-2
Coming back to the host’s home we kept discussing about the outcome of our work and people’s opinions. Later, while eating true Italian pasta prepared by Benedetto, we were sharing our emotions and excitement from this visit. In the morning we will wake up and go to the Hungarian capital that either divides or unites its two parts Buda and Pest. Are they so diverse in their opinions about the European issues? We are going to discover it soon. Stay tuned!

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]]> Team blue: Stop 1, Prague, Czech Republic /team-blue-stop-1-prague-czech-republic/ Mon, 25 Apr 2016 07:39:05 +0000 /?p=6379 By Hanna  Polishchuk

Prague is an intercultural, young city full of opportunities and contrasts. It is filled with the spirit of tourists and international students. As we discovered, it is not easy to find local people in the heart of the capital: you never know who you are going to meet! Italians, Polish, Spanish, German, Americans, Vietnamese, Russians, Latin Americans, Ukrainians, Dutch people…. And there is an explanation of this phenomena.

DSC_9566Architecture. Passing the streets of Prague, one cannot avoid his/her head moving around not to lose any attraction nor any interesting spot. Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square with famous Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle together with the whole district near it and many other masterpieces hold you in a desire to stay in the city as long as possible. So sad we had to leave soon.

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Cuisine. Of course, as everyone already knows, there are no competitors to the real Czech beer, and we had the possibility to check it. In terms of food, we have to say that it was different from the usual food that we used to eat but it was also very tasty. We got those huge portions from the local organizers who fed us with different dishes of the national cuisine. So we were never hungry and always happy 🙂

Hospitality. If we had to select how hospitable was AEGEE-Praha to us on the scale from 1 to 5, they would get a 10! This local really took good care of us in terms of welcoming, feeding, hosting, showing the city and helping with preparations to the local sessions and everything else. We were happy that we got to know its members

Sessions. We had 15 participants during the session. People were quite active and willing to share their opinion. The mapping debate game as most interactive part was the most interesting for them. People were open in their answers and we heard very interesting and intelligent points. We hope everyone got tons of inspiration about AEGEE, Europe on Track project and active participation in future-changing activities!

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