Policy Officers – 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. Tue, 17 Oct 2017 22:02:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 EU Energy targets for 2030. On the way to 2050? /eu-energy-targets-2030/ Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:50:55 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=988 The European Union strives for less than 2 degrees temperature rise this century in comparison with the pre-industrial times. In order to reach this goal, scientists have calculated that the carbon emission should be reduced by 80% in 2050 (1). There are different ways in which this reduction could be reached: achieve a higher energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce the share of polluting energy sources are ways to decrease the greenhouse gasses emissions.

Every ten years, the European Commission proposes new mid-term energy targets. The current energy targets are set for 2020, and the first energy proposal for 2030 was recently voted upon in the Parliament. The proposal of the European Commission for 2030 is a 40% reduction of greenhouse gasses and reach a 27% (non-binding) share in renewable energies in the mix. The Parliament voted in favour on a resolution of 40% reduction of carbon emission, 30% share of the renewable energy market and 40% energy efficiency improvement by 2030. The Parliament criticised in this way the proposal of the European Commission (2): the renewable energy target is set to 20% in 2020, and increasing it only by 7% in 2030 would be unambitious. Furthermore, there are no national targets for renewable energy, which makes the Member States unaccountable. Additionally, the energy efficiency should be a very important objective, and there is no target set about this topic in the proposal of the Commission right now. However, the resolution of the EP is not binding, and the final proposal will be voted upon by the new Parliament in October.

In an analysis of the Friends of the Earth,  a decrease of 60% of carbon emission would be in line with the targets of 2050, instead of the 40% proposed right now. In total there should be a reduction of 80% in carbon emission by 2050 to strive for less than 2 degrees temperature rise at the end of this century (compared to the pre-industrial times). The reduction of only 40% in 2030 means that after 2030 there should be still an additional reduction of 40% in 20 years. There are no changes in the Emission Trade System so far, and the carbon prices will be low until 2030 when nothing is done (3). Internationally, Europe will continue the trend of losing its leading position in carbon emission with this proposal. The US and China will probably have more ambitious plans and targets to reduce their carbon emission in the future.

We wonder: where is the voice of the scientist and the youth in this proposal? The knowledge of the scientists is used to support decisions when it is in the benefit of the decision-makers, but non-scientific arguments become suddenly more important when the scientific facts are not pointing in the direction of the interest of the political forces. The youth has the power to reform the present in order to preserve the future; their voice and their concerns should be heard!

For many European citizens, the legislators in Brussels seems to be the big angry power which limits the growth of their countries when they impose a limitation of the carbon emissions. It is the responsibility of governments to explain why these energy targets are so important for the future of Europe, and show that this is the only way for a long term successful economy. We should develop not by bringing the healthy future of our planet and children in danger, but striving for a sustainable Europe.

To the decision makers we would like to say: about the importance of a sustainable future, do not only talk but act accordingly!

Written by Iris Hordijk, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for Sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Reaction to the draft law of Spanish Government shutting down the Spanish Youth Council /reaction-to-the-draft-law-of-spanish-government-shutting-down-the-spanish-youth-council/ /reaction-to-the-draft-law-of-spanish-government-shutting-down-the-spanish-youth-council/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 17:28:17 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=917 On 17th January 2014, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the draft law of Reform of the Public Administration that, based on an alleged duplicity of functions with the governmental body Spanish Youth Institute (INJUVE), formally abolishes the Spanish Youth Council (Consejo de la Juventud de España – CJE), turning a blind eye to the recommendations of Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, encouraging for the reconsideration of this measure.

AEGEE, as a youth organization striving for the participation of young people in decision-making processes, is strongly disappointed to see such a decision taken from the Spanish government, and calls for the Spanish Parliament to amend the Draft Law of Reform of the Public Administration and preserve the Spanish Youth Council. AEGEE, whose representatives in Spain are members of the Spanish Youth Council, is concerned by the lack of vision from the Spanish Government, which ignores the mandate of the Spanish Constitution (see art. 48) and eliminates the organ that has the representation of Spanish youth to defend their interests.

CJE is an organism founded in 1984, and nowadays gathers 76 diverse national organizations. It voices the interests of the young people on topics that are crucial for them, such as employment, sexual health or education. Shutting it down would worsen the situation of a collective that is already suffering the hard consequences of the international economic crisis. Therefore, AEGEE believes that this measure is a wrong approach to solving their issues problems, because it causes a lack of representation.

The same 17th of January, the Spanish Youth Council published a press release regarding the approval of the draft law showing their disagreement. In this document they highlight that “Spanish Government commits a big mistake that would let the Spanish youth without a valid representation” mentioning that this decision is not taken from the alleged “administrative efficiency criteria”, but with the objective of eliminating an “inconvenient organism”.

The European Youth Forum also reacted against this announcement calling “on the Spanish government to recognise young people, through their representation by youth organisations such as the CJE, as critical components of a healthy democracy”. They base their argumentation, as Martin Schulz also did, upon the European Union’s White Paper on Youth, emphasizing the importance of democratic platforms such as Spanish Youth Council in promoting youth participation through independent institutions.

Written by Pablo Hernández, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for Youth Participation

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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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The European Parliament steps forward for the improvement of volunteering /the-european-parliament-steps-forward-for-the-improvement-of-volunteering/ /the-european-parliament-steps-forward-for-the-improvement-of-volunteering/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 12:27:59 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=866 Recently, the European Parliament voted a report written by the rapporteur Marco Scurria, on “volunteering and voluntary activity in Europe”, where the objectives for this institution are established.

The European Parliament expresses  concern about the follow up to the European Year of Volunteering 2011 (EYV) and the implementation of the ILO Manual, a guide about recognition of volunteering, by Member States. EYV set some objectives that now the European Parliament encourages to promote:

  1. Creating an enabling environment for voluntary activities;
  2. enhancing the quality of voluntary activities by empowering organisers of such activities;
  3. giving due recognition to voluntary activities;
  4. raising public awareness of the importance of voluntary activities.

AEGEE welcomes these considerations and remembers that, as it is established in its position paper approved in Fall Agora Zaragoza 2013 about Recognition of Volunteering, the active participation of all groups in society is crucial to maintain the quality of the democratic life. Because of this, volunteer activities should be valuated as a real and valorised experience.

With this report, the European Parliament refreshes the goals already established at the EYV and encourages all the institutions involved to continue working to achieve the improvement of the volunteering situation in Europe.

The report proves that the situation of volunteering in European society is something that matters not only to European organizations such as AEGEE, but it is also a topic to be debated by relevant European institutions. Volunteering has a major impact in order to provide young people with competences and attitudes actually needed in the job market, as well as in the society. This is shown by the research done by the European Youth Forum on the impact of Youth Organizations in providing skills needed in the job market. Due to this understanding, volunteering should be supported as a factor of European integration and self development.

We see that there is a lack of precision in the ways to achieve the goals established in EYV and confirmed now. We take this report as a first step towards the development of real actions and accomplishment of the objectives

AEGEE also celebrates the optimism showed over the introduction of the European Skills Passport as a tool to provide “a comprehensive picture of volunteers’ skills to enable them to be officially recognized for both employment and learning purposes”. Therefore, we are looking forward to see that the implementation of the European Skills Passport is done according to the higher standards.

Written by Pablo Hernández, Policy Officer in Youth Participation

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The follow up of the COP in Warsaw /the-follow-up-of-the-cop-in-warsaw/ Tue, 07 Jan 2014 10:33:09 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=839 The voice of the youth in at the Climate Change Conference in Warsaw: how serious is the new generation taken in the sustainable development of the world?

From  11th to 22nd of November, the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) gathered in Warsaw for its 19th Conference of the Parties (COP)1. In the capital of Poland the parties attended the Climate Change Conference to discuss and draft an agreement on the way forward to a new global climate deal in 2015. This deal will be implemented in the participating parties from 2020 on, once the second commitment period ends.

It was very surprising the little attention media paid to the COP in Warsaw. I expected more articles in newspapers, interviews and media attention for this climate conference. Perhaps the media thought that the outcome would not be interesting, or decided that people are fed up of bad news that the earth is in danger and do not need any more calls to act now.

The outcomes were not that ambitious indeed; I will just mention the three most important ones. First, the Green Climate Fund (a fund to help developing countries to cope with climate change)  has a board right now, and soon they will fulfill the essential requirements to receive, manage, program, and disburse financial resources.  By 2020 the fund will receive 100 billion US dollars. The 4th of December the fund opened the headquarters in South Korea. Second, the Warsaw Framework REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) program pledges for 280 million dollars from US, Norway and UK. The REDD+ is initiated to stop deforestation and forest degradation on a global scale. Third, the Adaptation Fund, a fund to finance national projects on climate change adaptation, has received money from developed countries.

The outcomes of the Climate Change Conference were quite disappointing for the international youth and environmental and climate justice groups. Thirteen environmental and climate justice groups, Greenpeace, World Wide Fund and Oxfam International included, left the COP before the closing of the conference and made this joined statement: “The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing.” Especially in the latest months, when you could read and see how many people become a victim of the typhoon at the Philippines, a clear example of climate change, it is necessary to take our responsibility. As an interesting contrast, outside the conference center the lobby for coal industry was taking place. The expression ‘green’ coal is still something hard to understand.

NGOs leaving the COP

The Conference of the Youth took place one week before the COP and it was a preparation for the Climate Change Conference. During the COP the youth organisations and delegates worked together to lobby for action. Also other youth initiatives were taken, such as a climate train departing from Belgium2 with 700 young people in total on board. Overall, the feeling of the youth was that their voice is not heard, or not seriously enough taken, although climate change is something that will develop further in the future and affect us specially.

The next COP will be held in December 2014 in the capital of Peru, Lima. Youth will speak out loud and make sure its voice will be heard during this COP . Most of the big leaders in the world are driven by a financial motive, but without a world to live, money is nothing worth. We, Youth, will not give up and we will fight for a healthy future for yourself and the Earth!

Written by Iris Hordijk. AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer for Sustainability.

1 The UNFCCC consist of 195 parties and 192 of them adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. 37 States in total are legally bind to emission limitations and to reduction commitments. The ultimate objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level  that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

2 See the link http://train-en.climatejustice.eu/train.html

 

 

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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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#FreeTheArctic30 /freethearctic30/ Sun, 06 Oct 2013 06:56:10 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=746 Company wrecks climate. Climate melts ice. Company prepares to drill even more oil. NGO protests drills. Coast guard attacks NGO’s boat. Crew are called pirates. Pirates are locked up. The end.

Or is it?

Today, October 5, in 160+ cities around the world citizens stood together with the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues. #FreeTheArctic30 became a global cry for justice, as those 28 Greenpeace activists, along with 2 freelancers are in a Russian jail, facing piracy charges. Criminal charges which even Russian president Vladimir Putin has dismissed.


Following a successful protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in 2012, Greenpeace activists attempted to board the rig again on September 18. Their mission: to stop Gazprom from producing the world’s first Arctic oil. Oil which Greenpeace and other environmental organisations say is neither wanted nor safe, given the extreme circumstances and remote location of Arctic drilling.

The activists barely began their climb up the side of the platform though, as they are hosed down with icy water by Gazprom employees, with 2 of them being captured at gunpoint and taken aboard a vessel of the Russian coast guard. Less than 24h later, while in international waters, their support ship the Arctic Sunrise is boarded and taken over by armed FSB forces, and towed to Murmansk, Russia.

According to several international law experts, this armed boarding and capture of a foreign (Dutch) ship in international waters constitutes a breach of international maritime law (UNCLOS). Ironically, after days of legal uncertainty, the Arctic 30 have now themselves been charged with piracy under Russian law, thereby creating a post factum pretext for the illegal boarding of the Arctic Sunrise.

While people gathered in peaceful protest from Seattle to Sydney and from Cape Town to Moscow, adding their presence to the more than 1 million emails sent to Russian ambassadors the world over, the Arctic 30 remain imprisoned in Murmansk. If convicted, they could face sentences of up to 15 years of jail. They are being treated as criminals, though their only crime consists of peaceful protest against practices which are putting the health of the fragile Arctic at serious risk.

As an organisation which above all values respect for human rights, in particular freedom of speech, AEGEE-Europe is deeply concerned about the situation of the Arctic 30. Each one of us should be given the liberty to peacefully express their views on the society they live in, without fear of political or criminal persecution. The Arctic simply is not a playground for ill-prepared mining companies, a topic AEGEE’s own Environmental Working Group will take up in its upcoming meeting.

AEGEE-Europe therefore wholeheartedly supports the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues in these difficult times. We further applaud the Dutch government for its decision to take legal steps to gain the release of the Arctic Sunrise and its crew, activists, and freelancers. Adding our voices to those of Amnesty International, WWF, and 1 million others, AEGEE-Europe calls upon the Russian authorities to immediately #FreeTheArctic30.

Written by Mathieu Soete, AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer for Sustainability.

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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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Fighting Homophobia is fighting for Europe /fighting-homophobia-is-fighting-for-europe/ /fighting-homophobia-is-fighting-for-europe/#comments Fri, 17 May 2013 20:37:15 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=622 Today AEGEE was invited by the Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker for a conference that was part of a whole programme centered around IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia). We participated in the presentation of a thorough EU LGBT Survey conducted by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) which shows the situation of different aspects of LGBT discrimination in the EU27+Cratia. A very worrying picture, showing that high percentages of EU citizens still live in fear, having to become invisible and pretend being a different person to avoid discrimination or violence.

You can see here a video with a summary of the survey (click the image):

 

You can download the report here and see the whole information in the website. And the good news is that the Council of Europe committed to reproduce the survey in the remaining member countries.

After the presentation of the report, there was a round table were representatives from some NGOs (like Evelyne Paradis from ILGA-Europe), and also some ministers. The survey’s results were analyzed and there was a consensus that these shameful numbers are a sign that we are not performing as well as we want to believe, especially regarding legislation to protect the rights of the transgender citizens.  The results of this survey should act as a wake up call for Europe to get back in tack, and the people present in the room urged the EU Commission to lead an urgent action on European Level to change the situation. This action should be a coordinated strategy involving each of the Member States through active legislation, but also with the participation of the justice, the media and the whole civil society, all over the continent.

For closing the conference, the EU Commissioner Viviane Reding took the stage and began her intervention by remarking that Homophobia and Transphobia go against the fundamental core of the European Union (concretely Art. 2 of the Treaty of the EU). Fighting against Homophobia and Transphobia is fighting to defend European values. Furthermore, she highlighted the achievements of the EU Commission in making sure that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is respected across the EU legislation, and also enforcing it in the MS by demanding amendments in the legislation of the Member States. You can download a complete report of how the charter is applied in this report. She also took the opportunity to publicly demand the Member States (and there were several ministers in the room) to commit themselves to legislate in favour of LGBT rights, and to unblock several initiatives in the European Council. She used, as a reason to keep hope, the interministerial declaration that was signed yesterday by ten EU ministers (+ Croatia). Let’s see if there are changes in the future. To close, and in response to the very emotive request of one of the participants of the conference for the EU to do something in other parts of the world where the situation is dramatic and where LGBT people can only hope on external support to change their fearful reality, Viviane Reding reaffirmed the support of the EU to LGBT rights inside and outside the Union, through diplomacy and through strengthening of the civil society.

It was a very interesting conference for AEGEE, showing how closely related are the fight for LGBT rights and the idea of Europe; a motivation to keep the current work in the field and maybe explore possible partnerships for the future. Thanks to the FRA for their great work, reports like this one prove how important role this agency plays in Europe.

And remember: LGBT Rights are Human Rights!

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