Reaction – 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. Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:38:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 Education and Youth are not a ‘small thing’ /education-not-a-small-thing/ Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:57:50 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1108 Today the European Commission’s president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker announced his “winning team”, a commission in which portfolios are given “to people, not to countries”. AEGEE / European Students’ Forum sees some good developments in the attention given to Citizenship, Mobility and Employment, but has concerns about Education being overshadowed,the total absence of mentioning Non-Formal Education for skills development and employment and the gender composition of the team.

Education portfolio still pressured

As a stakeholder in the fields of Youth, Students and Education, AEGEE-Europe welcomes the establishment of the portfolio on Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship; particularly after the previous information published at the end of last week by EurActiv (link) on the lack of education portfolio in the new European Commission. However, we would still like to emphasise the importance of Education. With Juncker claiming that he wants the Commission “to be bigger on big things and modest on small things”, we urge that education should not be considered a ‘small thing’ in a Union that depends on knowledge-dependant end-products and in which access to education is stagnating [1].

Combining citizenship into the same portfolio could be a good decision, as it paves the way for better civic education for which we see a great need in Europe. Reaching out to Erasmus+ and ‘Europe for Citizens‘ beneficiaries as a means to strengthen EU understanding, as is mentioned in the mission letter (link) to Tibor Navracsics, is highly welcomed. However, we urge that the focus of citizenship should not only be part of education, and mentioned beneficiaries should not be the only vehicle, but the work on citizenship should also encompass the inclusion of all citizens in the decision-making processes and consultations, including, but not limited to, improving the European Citizens’ Initiatives and facilitating pan-European media attention on European issues.

Juncker and Navracsics. Source: Google

Unemployment tackled, mobility boosted, non-formal education ignored Mr. Juncker has prominently highlighted jobs as one of his top priorities, recognizing that the crisis has taken its toll on employment, leaving more than 6 million people without work. In his mission letter to Marianne Thyssen (link) he acknowledges that “unemployment has reached unacceptably high levels in many parts of Europe, particularly among Europe’s youth”. To remedy this situation, he proposes to present a jobs, growth and investment package within the first three months of the Commission’s term, emphasizing the importance of funding towards projects that can help youth get back to work in decent jobs, as well as accelerating and broadening the implementation of the Youth Guarantee Scheme.

As youth employment is one of AEGEE’s priorities in the upcoming years as well, we are happy to see Mr. Juncker recognizing it as an issue to be dealt with. As a measure to fight unemployment we also welcome labour mobility as an own policy field of Commissioner Marianne Thyssen. In order to deepen the European integration it is essential to promote free movement of workers, and AEGEE-Europe sees access to mobility as one of the fundamental rights of all residents on the European continent (link). One of the key issues in order to achieve labour mobility is the mutual recognition of qualifications. Therefore we strongly support that qualifications obtained in different countries have to be recognised for all European citizens.

In the context of employment, AEGEE would like also like to see an emphasis on recognition and validation of non-formal education, especially when it comes to youth. As a youth NGO and a provider of non-formal education, we believe that non-formal education plays a crucial role in helping young people develop a variety of skills useful and relevant in a wide range of workplaces. Working to get non-formal education recognised is now not explicitly mentioned at all in the mission letters to Mr. Navracsics and Ms. Thyssen.

Furthermore, we hope that the Commission will seek out to engage citizens in improving the current situation regarding youth unemployment. Youth organisations provide young people with skills and competences that help in preparing them for the labour market. Therefore, our opinion is that youth organizations could bring added value in fighting youth unemployment, and should be consulted and involved in this matter.

Gender Balance

AEGEE-Europe is pleased to see that three out of seven Vice-President positions were given to female representatives. This is definitely a good step in the direction of achieving gender balance. However, we still hold the opinion that nine female Commissioners, compared to 19 male ones, is far from equality, and it is not a progress compared to the composition of the Commission of José Manuel Barroso. Given the fact that women constitute over a half of the 507 million population of the European Union (104.8 women per 100 men; Eurostat, 2013) and 60% of tertiary education graduates (Eurostat, 2013), we find it astonishing that EU Member States did not manage to find more female candidates for the position of Commissioners. Representation of women in the Commission. Source: European Commission

If there were truly equal opportunities, the probability of having more than 9 female Commissioners would be more than 95%. However, at the same time, we appreciate the efforts of Jean-Claude Juncker calling for more women representatives in the EC in the previous months and the inclusion of the gender equality portfolio in the DG Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. Despite the mentioned concerns, AEGEE-Europe sees potential in the change Mr. Juncker wants to make, and hope to see a positive effect. We wish for a fruitful cooperation with Commissioner Tibor Navracsics of Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship and Marianne Thyssen of Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility. Lastly, we look forward to the efforts of the Commissioner Vera Jourová in taking measures to achieve gender equality.

[1] http://euobserver.com/news/125536

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Tense situation in Ukraine the days before their most important elections. /tense-situation-in-ukraine-the-days-before-their-most-important-elections/ Thu, 22 May 2014 09:56:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1059 Even though most western media have shifted attention from Ukraine, AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum is still concerned about the situation in the country. We pay close attention to the Eastern regions, where several independence referendums were conducted some days ago. Regarding the absence of the international observers, and the lack of a legal framework to hold these consultations, neither the government of Ukraine nor the international community give validity to the results, but this seems to have little importance these days.

The situation in the country is very unstable. On the one hand, the provisional government (established once President Yanukovich fled Ukraine last February) is supposed to govern until the upcoming presidential elections scheduled on May 25th, but it was never fully recognised by the eastern parts of the country, which massively voted for Yanukovich during the elections in 2010. In addition, some of the proposals of the provisional government raised the tension with Russian-origin and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, such as the attempt of cancellation of the 2012 “language law” (that allows regions to adopt more than one language for official purposes if they are spoken by at least 10% of the local population) which was perceived as an attack to the Russian-speaking community. Even if interim president Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed this proposal before it came into force, the harm was already done.

On the other hand, the Russian intervention in Crimea, and its subsequent independence and annexation to the Russian Federation, created a dangerous precedent. The agreement signed on April 17th in Geneva by all parties to deescalate the conflict was never respected, with each party accusing the other of breaking it. As a result, the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk are following the break-away scheme and have become de facto independent territories. The Russian Federation has still not announced whether it will recognise them as independent or not, a prior step to the possible inclusion in the Federation later on. This uncertainty is allowing new illegitimate powers to take control over a huge part of the Ukrainian territory, and brings deeper instability to the region.

The last weeks had seen a dramatic increase in confrontations in those territories. The pro-independence groups have clashed first with the supporters of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and later and more violently with the police and army units deployed by the Kyiv government in an attempt to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine by stopping the independence referendum. The presence of these troops and the violence of the confrontations have been reported to have caused many indecisive voters to opt for the independence in the referendum, aggravating the problem they were supposed to solve.

AEGEE-Europe condemns all kinds of violence. In regions such as Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa (especially in cities such as Sloviansk, Kramakorsk and Mariupol), confrontations have caused death of dozens of civilians, including gruesome acts such as setting on fire a building where a group of protesters had taken refuge, with more than 40 people burned alive. The role of the police and army troops has to be to protect citizens, and to prevent demonstrations from becoming violent confrontations that increase the number of casualties; but episodes of civilians being shot by police or army have been reported. This cannot be tolerated. Therefore AEGEE-Europe calls for an independent, big scale investigation to determine responsibilities and clarify the role of external powers and extreme-right groups such as the Pravyi Sektor in the radicalisation of the confrontations.

The situation in these regions is close to a civil war, with skirmishes from both sides and casualties on a daily basis. Another war, a media and propaganda one, is fought from both sides, making it extremely complicated to understand what is really happening in the region. The fact that journalists are among the victims of gunfire, and frequently threatened and kept captive, is another proof of how far the situation has arrived.

The days before the Ukrainian elections next Sunday will be extremely unstable, as the increase of victims in the past days after some relatively calm days cries. We express our will that the whole Ukrainian society refrains from any form of violence, in order to allow democracy to work free from external pressures. As part of a new project to support democracy in Europe, our organisation has sent a delegation of 21 members as International Observers, in cooperation with local organisations and after participating in OSCE trainings. We hope for a new, fresh leadership coming out of these elections, strong enough to put back Ukraine on track and to close this dark chapter of the country’s history.


Written by Miguel Gallardo, Comité Directeur AEGEE-Europe.
With the contribution of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe and different members of AEGEE from Russian and Ukrainian locals.
Pictures from EaP project, @pmarsupia and @MaximEristavi

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How AEGEE is helping at the Turkey mining tragedy and the Balkan floods. /turkey-mining-soma-balkan-floods-bosnia-serbia-croatia-aegee/ Tue, 20 May 2014 16:28:03 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1047 In the past days, two different tragedies have shaken our continent with too little impact on the news in many of the EU countries, which are focused into their national problems, the European Parliament elections, and in some superficial events such as the end of the football championships.

In Turkey, 300 people died trapped in a mine in Soma, in the worst accident in a mine in the region in the last decades. The mourning for the victims has been mixed with outrage for the feeling that this accident could have been prevented. (1)

Photo from http://www.firstpost.com/

In the Balkan peninsula, a great area – comprising most of Bosnia Herzegovina, and parts of Serbia and Croatia- was hit by the worst floods since the records started 120 years ago. The catastrophe has affected more than 100.000 people and caused more than 25 deaths.

In both cases, the AEGEE-Europe locals in the area reacted swiftly and activated the AEGEE Network, proving that a Europe without borders can be reality if you make it happen. In Turkey, our members broke the news and spread the information about what was really happening, explaining to their fellow Europeans the reasons behind the tragedy; this helped to raise fast awareness on the critical situation of labour rights in one of the candidate countries to access the EU. As a result, the Human Rights Working Group has started to look for ways how to help. In the Balkan case, the reaction of our local groups consists in raising awareness and launching a call for financial support among other local groups, and also getting in contact with their alumni for raising funds. At the same time, their members have joined the volunteer teams and are working in the field to alleviate the situation of those that were most affected by the floods.

We as AEGEE-Europe would like to express our support to the citizens affected by these two tragedies, and to share our pride for the exemplary reaction of our members in both cases. Their acts are an inspiration to other young Europeans!

(1) The privatisation of the mining industry in Turkey has led to a decrease in the prevention and safety investments, in a situation which has been denounced by trade unions in the past months in several occasions, but been ignored by the government. The reaction of the Turkish government after the tragedy has aggravated the violent protests, since they tried to ignore the real focus of the discontent of the people. The recent detention of several executives of the mining sector is a belated attempt to move in the right direction, and it is still perceived as insufficient.

(2) you can read more about the reaction of our local groups here, and find ways how to collaborate.

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Welcome to the new EU-EaP priorities expressed by the European Parliament /analysing-the-priorities-of-the-european-parliament-for-eu-eap-relations/ Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:05:49 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=998

On Wednesday 12 March 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on assessing and setting priorities for EU relations with the Eastern Partnership countries (2013/2149(INI)). The Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe warmly welcomes and supports this resolution.

Regarding points 5, 13, 15, 43 on the role of youth, education and civil society exchanges, the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe would like to emphasise that our objectives are:

  • Enhancing bilateral cooperation in the field of education and culture between youth from EaP and EU countries
  • Strengthening EaP youth participation by promoting active citizenship in the region
  • Developing solidarity between young people in EU countries and in the EaP region
  • Fostering a common understanding by raising awareness about the EU in the EaP region and vice versa

We call upon the particular attention of MEPs the existence of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe. Founded in 2011, this project is a unique initiative created out of the commitment of young Europeans, aware of the importance of youth work and the necessity of providing young people with opportunities to experience cultural diversity. It is also crucial to the development of civil society in the six program countries.

The Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe has developed and will continue to develop a wide range of activities (conferences, training sessions, cultural exchange programmes) within the abovementioned framework.

The Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe would like to express its utmost willingness to fulfill these new priorities for EU-EaP relations. Given the experience of AEGEE-Europe, we are best suited to work in collaboration with the European Parliament, the European Commission and other institutions in order to bring EU and EaP countries closer.

Lea Hannaoui-Saulais, Impact Measurement Manager and Adrian Browarczyk, Project Manager
Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe

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AEGEE-Europe Regrets the Referendum in Crimea /aegee-europe-regrets-the-referendum-in-crimea-2/ /aegee-europe-regrets-the-referendum-in-crimea-2/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 08:59:22 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=975 On March 16, 2014, upon the prior decision of the National Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the referendum was held on the future status of the territory of Ukraine and possible succession of Crimean Autonomous Republic to the Russian Federation.

We consider this referendum as illegal and illegitimate and contradicting first of all to the Constitution of Ukraine. Though the right of self-determination exists (UN Charter, Article 1), the situation is more complex in the peninsula as Crimea is voting to be not only independent but for joining the Russian Federation. Secondly, such referenda should be agreed upon by the country’s government whereas in this case, Crimea organised it by itself, which relates to secession rather than self determination. In addition, the referendum happens in a context of illegal occupation by unidentified military forces (likely to be Russian) of the territory of Ukraine,  which is in violation with the Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapon (Budapest Memorandum of 1994) where the Russian Federation agreed to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine, thus its results could not be recognized. We deeply regret the organization of this referendum itself. In our belief it would bring only additional tensions and escalation of the regional situation, thus harming directly the regional security.

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the Crimean referendum, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 16, 2014. Residents of Ukraine's Crimea region are voting in a contentious referendum on whether to split off and seek annexation by Russia. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

In our deep conviction, the Ukrainian people should decide their future as a united and independent nation. In this regard, only diplomatic and peaceful talks with the respect of all international law norms (including territorial integrity of Ukraine) may allow Ukraine, Russian Federation and the European Union to avoid the further escalation of the situation. However, the results of Crimea Referendum could not be considered as legitimate and they only complicated future efforts to resolve crisis. In all our previous statements we stated clearly for numerous times, that there is no grounding allowing Russian Federation to intervene in Ukrainian internal affairs through its respective actions in Crimean Peninsula.

In addition to this, we strongly call  the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs to evaluate as soon as possible the existing situation over Crimea and decide on certain and urgent measures/sanctions against the Russian Federation, in line with the declaration of the EU Heads of State and Government of the EU of 6 March, unless the Russian side would not take real actions and moves for the de-escalation of the existing situation. The EU should speak and act in one voice: separate negotiations and solutions are not an option anymore for overcoming the existing deadlock.

Simultaneously, we encourage all our AEGEE members in Ukraine, and particularly in AEGEE-Sevastopol, to continue their further activities in a working routine and in the European spirit of AEGEE/European Students’ Forum.

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

AEGEE Eastern Partnership Project Team

 

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