YVote2014 – 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 ZARAGOZA: OUR LAST IMPORTANT STOP /zaragoza-our-last-important-stop/ Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:54:37 +0000 /?p=5409 Y VoteBus_front_ZaragozaOur stay in Burgos was nice indeed, but it was time to move again, this time to Zaragoza, where we would spend two nights. Our first day would bring some well-deserved free time, after the morning activities in Burgos, and this lifted our spirits visibly. Until now, our trip had been every bit adventurous as it had been busy, and after almost two weeks on the road, the accumulated tiredness began to take its toll on us.

The late evening found us dining in a place nearby, after an incident which turned out for the better: three of us were left without lodging after the hotel had made a mistake, and were eventually transferred to a junior suite, in a 4**** hotel nearby. When the night came, we went all together to the suite, and played some EU-themed games before going to sleep. It is difficult to look at those twenty something young people playing this game without thinking how far we have got. Fifty years ago, this would have been unimaginable.

The next day we began with our usual marathon: street actions and more street actions, followed by a long debate structuredIMG_0882 around three topics: environment and energy, social policy and the future of the EU. This time, the novelty of the street actions stood in the fact that besides promoting the elections, we would ask citizens to send the politicians questions related to the topics tackled, which we would pose during the debate. This approach was meant not only to make them aware of the elections but also to challenge them to think about European issues which are usually less present in their minds.

After a few successful hours of street actions, it was time for the debate. People were quite responsive and some questions we gathered were surprisingly good, showing that Spaniards are informed on a variety of topics such as environment or energy and not only preoccupied with unemployment and the financial crisis. In fact, most questions we got didn’t concern the social policy of the EU -as we would have expected- but the environment and the application of the EU sustainable policies in Spain.

1524844_10152220487258141_2768852095400112404_nThe debate gathered -as usual- 4 different EP candidates and this time it was held in English, as it was not a public debate. This has encouraged us more than before to ask questions we were given and state our own opinions on the matter. It was indeed an interesting and fruitful debate which lasted more than three hours with a break in between. The conclusions were mixed as usual: while some answers were very good, other remained too general or even failed to answer the questions altogether. For us, however, it was good to have the opportunity to express our views on topics on which AEGEE has developed projects and activities such as environment or social policies, this time in a more private framework which allowed for a more intense interaction between us and our guests.

Finally, our stay in Zaragoza ended with yet another good dinner and a sangria toast, for all we have achieved and learned during the past two weeks. Tomorrow would be the last day of our inspiring journey and we were all waiting for it with a certain feeling of relief and sadness. All good things need to end at some point.

Darine Aboulezz, AEGEE Valletta – participant 

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Y VOTE 2014 ON THE BRITISH ROADS & CITIES /y-vote-2014-on-the-british-roads-cities/ Fri, 06 Jun 2014 20:16:02 +0000 /?p=5395 Y VoteBus_front_LondonAs soon as I heard about the Y Vote 2014 bus tour “Y Vote on the Road!” in the United Kingdom, I knew I wanted to go there. I was at the Y Vote convention about Mobility & Education in Krakow at that moment, which I really liked, so I applied. I also had never been in the UK before and was eager to discover the country and get to know its people. As soon as all participants arrived to London and we all found our way to the hostel, Luis Alvarado Martinez (president of AEGEE-Europe) and Beata Matuszka (Commité Directeur) welcomed the participants. Though we should know about the European institutions (after all, we were promoting the elections), Luis gave us a short, but very clear presentation about the institutions and the Y Vote 2014 Project. After, we went for food, took a stroll along the Thames and had a first beer in the pub, before our real programme would start on Wednesday.
DSCN0213London – political debate
In London we had our first (and biggest) debate with six MEP candidates and representatives from the League of Young Voters, European Youth Forum, National Students’ Union and Liberal Youth. A lot of interesting topics were discussed and interesting ideas were born, of which I would like to highlight the following:

“Many countries take it for granted that they are members of the EU. But if you are not just a member, but in the heart, then you are also able to renegotiate the terms on which the EU exists.” – the UK is more eurosceptic than most countries, but this doesn’t mean they should be outside. They should be the driving force for a change.

“Every single opinion poll in Britain shows that young people (aged 18-30) are very much pro-EU, while the older generation (65+) is very eurosceptic. But the second group is three times as likely to vote, so it is crucial for young people to be motivated to vote also” – This also goes for extremists – these people are way more likely to vote than moderate voters, and thus extremist parties get more votes than they are likely to deserve.

“I am concerned about disengaged voters. It is going to be the youth’s Europe for much longer than it is for the older people, and they should think about that.”

“Referendum? Exiting the EU? Why do not we renegotiate? The EU has done good things (for example, the single market, Erasmus, funding programmes), BUT there should be a discussion about reforming the way it works now.”

“We should change the discussion back to individual stories and what people have brought us” – a lot has been said now on the European level, but it is still the same (local) people living in Europe.

“We do not compete with workers in China by our salary but with technology and such things! We have great (vocational) education, and we should find our place [as the EU in the world], and nations [in the EU] have to change.”

“We are expected to achieve so much whilst we do not even know how to solve simple problems, like paying the rent.”
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Bristol – MEP Candidate debate
The day after, on April the 3rd, we started our bus tour and headed for Bristol. I think every single participant was looking forward to visiting Bristol, because we had received many good recommendations about it. Sadly, we were there only for the afternoon and then left for Cardiff. In Bristol, we had another debate with another candidate for the European Parliament, but this time only one: Kay Barnard (Liberal Democrats).  Few students from the university had also come, and we talked about GMO food, youth unemployment, renewable energies, and climate change in the context of the upcoming European Parliamentary elections. It was interesting once again, and our external participants were also very into the topics. For me, maybe even a little too much, but I was not there to judge but to listen how things work in the UK.

Swansea – Workshop

SwanseaAfter a good night out in Cardiff, where we were quickly promoted to VIP guests in the club (if you have seen Jersey Shore, you can imagine what “VIP” means), we continued our travel to Swansea. Luis had left us in London, since he had to go to another parallel Y Vote convention in Brussels, therefore Bea was leading us every since. Bea had done her Erasmus at the Swansea University, and was very excited to be back. She showed us the long (but cold) beach, and we walked for quite some time, only to arrive at what is probably the cutest little university I have ever seen.

We were told to put up our beautiful stand with information materials in the restaurant and ask people to join us for a workshop after. Personally, I had very interesting talks with some elderly people there, but in the end we did not get any participants for the workshop. Hence, we did the workshop by ourselves, which, in the end, was also very valuable, since we got to discuss a lot of topics.

Birmingham – Participants in the spotlight
The Y Vote bus tour was aimed at getting more people to vote, and how would we achieve this, if not with a street action. We gathered together, did some ice-breaking games (I am really jealous of people who can remember names within a day..), and then discussed possibilities for what we could do on the streets. There were quite some ideas that we had, for example, that we would colour our faces blue with yellow stars, or that we would do a street quiz. Another idea that we then put into practice was, that we would come up with a set of questions and ask people to answer them on tape.

It was harder than we thought, but not impossible to get people to speak on tape. What was very interesting though (and shocking), was that only few the people on the street knew about the EU and the elections. Some voices we heard:

“Ignorance is the reason that no one wants to be part of the European Union. We need the European Union.”

“The people who support the EU do not see the downsides, so it seems they are not telling the whole truth, but at the same time, the people who are completely against it, do not see the positives.”

 “We do not really know enough to be able to vote, really.”

Leeds – Participants in the spotlight
We just had a quick stop in Leeds and implemented another street action there. We blew up balloons, played ninja in the city and did a bit of sightseeing before we left for Manchester.
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Manchester – Our hub for the next days

English breakfast Manchester would be our base for the next few days, before set off for Liverpool and Durham. Bryn, who got to know AEGEE member on his Erasmus stay joined us for 4 days and was our guide. Bryan is a teacher and had the amazing ability to remember all of our names within just a few hours. We went to have typical English breakfast – sausages, bacon, egg and beans. I must say, I still prefer my usual breakfast 😉

After, Bryn had organised a treasure hunt around the city, we indulged in with great enthusiasm and had a lot of fun!

Liverpool – Question time and the NUS National Conference
This was the earliest morning of our whole journey. In Liverpool we split up, so 5 of us represented AEGEE and the Y Vote 2014 Project at the NUS National Conference, the largest student democratic event in Europe with more than 1000 delegates from 300 universities. The others, including myself, went for another city rally, but this time we combined the fun with thematic questions. On our to-do-list were things such as “Take a picture with a family”, “Take a picture with a police-officer”, but with each we had to have a talk about the European Union and the elections. We put together a set of 3 questions that everyone had to ask, but this mostly resulted in interesting conversations that often took 15 minutes or longer.

One of the questions was: “Name three things that you know about the European Union” (or that it has brought you, or is bad about it…), and to our surprise, people often could only come up with one thing. In the end, these three questions proved to be very valuable, since we could compare answers instead of having to talk all the conversations through.

After being united with our delegates at the NUS National Conference, we went home to have another night out, this time at the place where they were actually filming for Geordie Shore (I can assure you Cardiff was much more Geordie Shore style) and where again – we had a great time.

Durham – Our last city
Our last day had arrived, and we spent it in Durham, a cute little town located almost in Scotland. There actually is an AEGEE local in Durham, and they provided us with a very nice tour-guide that had set up another city rally to make us move through the city. We split up in groups, asked people about the upcoming elections, and distributed so many balloons, that it felt like every single kid in the city was walking around with it.
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London – Good bye new friends
Needless to say that after these 9 days together, we had a hard time saying goodbye on the 10th, but the fact that many of us had to catch busses and trains to the airport, we did not have much time to be sad about it.

To sum up, it was really great to participate in this event. Content-wise, we could have reached way more people and could have worked much more efficiently, for example by promoting our workshops before we actually arrived at the university. It seemed like we appeared out of nothing and disappeared two hours later, and with a clearer plan and more visibility before the event, we could have put our work into more tangible results.  The participants were very pro-active and I learned a lot about the UK and how people actually see the European Union – and this is not at all as sceptical as we hear about. But I also got to know that there technically is a lot of information around, but people are not going to search for it themselves. It is really weird to me that students have not heard about Erasmus. But I cannot blame them, really. Projects like the Y Vote 2014 should not stop after the elections, but keep the European Union in people’s mind, because that is the only way for people to be informed about the EU. Yes, between 22nd-25th of May and after, my Facebook timeline was flooded with voting-related posts, but what about the weeks before? Yes, political parties put up their huge posters 2-3 weeks before the elections, but do they mention the European Elections, or even Europe on it? Many do not.

So, I wish this beautiful project to continue, and make Europe visible all the time, not only at the time of the elections.

Philipp Blum
AEGEE-Aachen

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BURGOS: AMONG SPANISH AEGEE MEMBERS /burgos-among-spanish-aegee-members/ Thu, 05 Jun 2014 19:56:10 +0000 /?p=5373 Y VoteBus_front_BurgosAfter our activities in the Basque Country, it was time to go to Burgos. Our stay there would be different from all others from one point of view: we would be lodged together with another 25 Spanish participants from all over the country, gathered to celebrate the 5th anniversary of AEGEE Burgos. It was a very good opportunity to meet our Spanish members and discuss the European elections with them. This fact was particularly important given that throughout our journey, the attendance of local AEGEE members to our activities was (disappointingly) low, despite the Spanish organisers’ effort of involving them in the debates and street actions. Another highlight of our stay in Burgos was the fact that we received more PR material (initially blocked at the Spanish custom) which we so much needed and were dearly waiting.

IMG_0881Not surprisingly, our busy agenda would include a street action in the city centre, a debate with politicians and the preparation of a workshop on the importance of voting, that the participants themselves would deliver next day to our Spanish colleagues. And so, with the thought of our next activities in mind, we left Bilbao in the morning, to arrive there just in time for lunch.

The early afternoon proved quite challenging for our street action since there weren’t many people on the streets. This is precisely the type of constraints we had to overcome quite often, since we were usually left with few options due to our ever-busy schedule. The strategy adopted to overcome this inconvenience was that of an active city tour: we would be taken to the most popular places of Burgos and given some time to talk to the locals before moving on. Eventually, our dynamic and flexible approach paid off, giving us the opportunity to cover a larger area, while allowing us to deciding on a case-to-case basis how much time we would be spending in each place, depending on the results we had.

The late afternoon, however, proved less busy than we thought initially: the debate with the politicians had to be called off altogether, given that four of our five guests cancelled at the last moment. We were faced again with undesirable circumstances but we used it in our favour by taking more time to prepare the workshop to be delivered the next day. A challenge of the latter was the fact that it had to be conceived and delivered by no less than ten people, therefore good organisation was needed and the extra time was used well. Truth be told, it proved to be easier than we had initially thought: the participants knew each other well and worked excellently together.
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After the preparation, the following day was performance time. The Spanish participants gathered to listen to us and discuss on topics regarding the European Parliament, the Spanish parties and the importance of voting. While attendance was voluntary and not all Spanish participants managed to come, those who did proved to be open-minded and willing to give the issue a serious thought.

All in all, we considered our stay in Burgos to have been quite fruitful and a good lesson provider, given the inconveniences IMG_0883we had to overcome. As usual, we were always helped by the local organisers who did their best to assist and help us adapt to the changing circumstances. For this reason, we left Burgos with the impression that we couldn’t have done things in a better way. And ultimately, making the best out of each circumstance is what matters most.

Lavinia Manea, AEGEE Bucuresti – EU Affairs Trainer/Content Responsible

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BILBAO: A BASQUE COUNTRY STORY /bilbao-a-basque-country-story/ Sun, 01 Jun 2014 21:56:39 +0000 /?p=5348

Y VoteBus_front_BilbaoOur next journey to Bilbao was long but we needed a rest, so those hours of sleep were received as a blessing. When we arrived to Bilbao we were very much surprised with the beauty and spaciousness of the city, nobody expected to find so much charm in a place other than Barcelona! We arrived to our hotel and then went straight to the Deusto University to have lunch and enjoy a siesta on the grass as authentic Spanish lizards would.

After that however, it was time for a debate with representatives of different political parties as PP and PSOE (finally present Bilbao street actions 2at our debates after a long series of previous cancellations), Recortes Cero, and for the first time in our odissey, regional nationalist political parties: PNV (Nationalist Basque Party) and the Bildu coalition. It was a heated debate and unfortunately, at times the European Elections topic gave way to local tensions between the centrist and the separatist opinions among politicians. It required quite some effort to take this issue off the table, but we managed to direct the debate towards more relevant topics after all.

After the debate we went to the city-centre with posters, balloons and flyers, to spread awareness among Basque citizens on the European elections. We expected them to be more receptive, but faced a barrier of indifference instead. We often wondered if that was owed to the obvious wealth of the Basque inhabitants, which seemed less affected by the crisis, than their other peers. The impression some of us shared was that people were quite well-off and didn’t care about what happened beyond the Country’s border. Dangerous as it is to generalise or draw conclusions based on impressions, though, we agreed these are pure hypothesis which might well turn out to be wrong. On a more optimistic note, despite the hardships, we did register some success in convincing citizens of the importance the EP elections have. Some voices say it has something to do with the flower wand that a mysterious creature called the European Union Fairy carries around Spain… who knows…
Bilbao Julia
The evening – and later the night – in Bilbao were impressive, the city has endless places to discover and we enjoyed it very much as we kept on with our street actions. Work hard, play hard! And sleep hard if you can. The bus tour continues!

Julia Ramos, Barcelona (non-AEGEE member) – participant

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SANTANDER: CLOSER INTERACTIONS WITH LOCALS /santander-closer-interactions-with-locals/ Sun, 01 Jun 2014 21:43:09 +0000 /?p=5331 Y VoteBus_front_SantanderAfter our Asturian adventure, it was time we moved upper north, to Santander. We woke up early in the morning, had a quick breakfast and rushed with our luggage outside the hotel, where our ever-punctual driver was already waiting. One of the challenges we faced during the whole trip was the fast pace in which everything was happening and the necessity to always be ready for two things: dynamic activities (street actions, debates) or moving on to the next city. When the bus began moving, the clock indicated 7.30 in the morning: just in time for our 3-hour trip which would bring us to Santander’s university campus before lunch, for the beginning of our street actions.

No sooner had we arrived, then we started our campaign. Our goal? Besides the elections, promoting 2 workshops organised for students, in the framework of the project: one on the European Parliament, held by a renowned law professor, and another one on the importance of voting, to be delivered by the Y Vote team members, in the afternoon.

Santander table_LeaBuilding on our positive experience in A Coruña, we decided to have at least one table with promotional materials in the campus, for more visibility. Such logistical details seem easy to arrange, but in fact, the different contexts in which we operated (e.g. different university rules, available stands/tables), made it somewhat more challenging than one would think. Fortunately, Santander didn’t pose any problems from this point of view, so we did manage to have our table, located strategically, right outside the university.

Again, promoting the elections among sceptical youth was every bit discouraging as it was rewarding, when we managed to make our point heard and understood. As we often discussed, knowing exactly the proportions of our impact would be very difficult to achieve. However we had no doubt that this but tour was both necessary and useful, as we witnessed how people change their minds once faced with good arguments on the importance of active citizenship.

Santander campus

An hour later, we entered the university for the first workshop of the day. Due to the exams being held on the same day, not many students could attend it. The presentation held by professor Oginoga however, was interesting and useful for us too, as we got the chance to ask questions we were often asked by Spaniards themselves, during our street actions. Time passed quickly, and the afternoon ended with the second workshop on the importance of voting. This was an opportunity for Spaniards to ask precisely those questions that fed their scepticism and discouraged them to vote: why would they care about a Parliament which seems to be so far away from the citizens? Why should they care about the EU when Spain itself is going through such a crisis? Why would they vote when in fact they can only do so for lists and not specific EP candidates? All these questions were answered – we hope – in a manner that showed people that we should not “dessert” as citizens in lack of a perfect society, but work with what we have and contribute to its improvement. Choosing the lesser evil is sometimes better than not choosing at all.
Santander tableFinally, the day ended with a debate among politicians, Spanish citizens and us. The agenda was filled with the usual subjects: economic crisis, democratic gap and – during the open space – specific concerns regarding Spanish politics. As usual, there was a mixture of disillusionment and hope in the questions posed and the comments made. Difficult to point determinately towards one direction or the other. From this point of view, all our interactions with citizens – be they during street actions, workshops or debates – constantly showed that we were swimming in murky waters: with no particular reasons to become too pessimistic but not many reasons for optimism either. Just with the certainty that we have to go on and do our best, no matter what.

Lavinia Manea, AEGEE Bucuresti – EU Affairs Trainer/Content Responsible

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OVIEDO: NO PAIN, NO GAIN /oviedo-no-pain-no-gain/ Wed, 28 May 2014 06:45:57 +0000 /?p=5310 on the way oviedoWe left for Oviedo right after the lunch, and after a 3-hour trip, we finally reached our destination. There wasn’t much to be done for the day, except for a brief street action before dinner. “Armed” with our posters and promotional material, we headed for the city centre with a lot of determination, when suddenly it started to rain. Faced with this unwanted challenge, we decided to change our venue for an indoor one and headed towards a shopping centre nearby. There, however, we would find out just how difficult things can become when trying to challenge people’s perceptions on the importance of voting. Not only were we quite often ignored (and we thought rejection was bad) but we also witnessed an incident during which a man started shouting at us in disapproval of the situation and the political class in Spain. With very few positive results, we decided to call it a day and head for dinner.

And on the seventh day he rested, or we rested. Finally, we got the opportunity to sleep in. This was a good start of the day because the incident of the previous day took some of our enthusiasm away.
Around 10 o’clock we started our street actions in the beautiful city of Oviedo. The cloudy weather was creating a depressing atmosphere that was only accented by the passers-by who immediately became upset once they noticed we were promoting European Parliament elections. The negativism towards the EU seemed almost rooted in the Asturians: hopeless to persist.

Next on our agenda was a political debate. Due to the killing of regional politician Isabel Carrasco, bigger parties cancelled their participation. Hence, we got the opportunity to listen to the voices of civil initiatives such as Podemos, Foro, Equo, Ciudadanos and Primavera Europea. The questions posed to the representatives seemed quite general but their answers were far from clear. Yet, one idea that regularly reappears in the debates are the working hours and how they should be shortened which would result in more jobs. A solution favoured by many, but which makes me doubt the solution to job-creation could be so simple.

Once it turned into the afternoon, it was time to taste the amazing Asturian cuisine which left everybody in good mood for the reflection hour that followed. After one week on the road, it was high time we shared our experiences and thoughts so far and plan the strategy for the week ahead. We might not have been able to convince everybody to vote but we can at least persist by making them aware of the importance of the elections.

oviedoIn the evening, we finally awaited the “official” city tour which took us from the statue of La Gorda pass the impressing cathedral of Jesus Cristo through the city centre until our favourite monument, the statue of Woody Allen.

As the night appeared, the great organizers of AEGEE-Oviedo prepared a typical Asturian dinner for us. We drank cidra, ate pinchos and danced. The final impression has definitely left us with the desire to return, despite the disappointing scepticism of the Asturians and the hard times we had been through.

Sara Kobal, AEGEE-Ljubljana – participant

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A CORUÑA: THE JOURNEY CONTINUES /a-coruna-the-journey-continues/ Wed, 28 May 2014 06:27:19 +0000 /?p=5297

After leaving León, we continued our journey and arrived on a Sunday afternoon to A Coruña, our fourth destination. It took us more than 3 hours to reach Galícia, but it was worth A coruna 2the trip: it welcomed us with its incredibly green nature, it sky-blue ocean and sunny weather. Our tight schedule didn’t allow for more than a brief walk along the coast on our way to our next activity, but we certainly enjoyed it and used it as an effective energiser after the tiring bus trip.

Once arrived to the University of A Coruña, we engaged in a debate with local politicians representing a variety of parties of different sizes and ideologies. I have to say that although such debates do not benefit primarily us foreigners, they represent a very effective tool of involving Spaniards into policy-making and connecting them with local politicians. The debate was quite heated and reached its climax when the EP candidates were asked about Spain’s place in Europe or the future of the EU itself. The sceptical attitude of the Spanish participants and the comments they made, revealed once more the negative effects of the crisis and the mismanagement of the Spanish government. However, besides some rightfully harsh remarks, the comments also revealed that their scepticism is also the result of an obvious lack of information as to which are the benefits of the EU and why it is – not only convenient but- extremely important for Spanish citizens to be informed and involved in the EU decision-making process. After the debate ended – truth be told, with very few specific conclusions – we could finally call it a day and headed towards the city centre to dine.
in A coruna
The following week started well for us, with chocolate and “churros” gave us energy for the day to come. We were firstly supposed to be heading towards a retirement house but we were quite disappointed to find out at the last minute that the management decided to cancel our action in favour of a flamenco show, which they believed would be more “interesting” for the people living there. After this unpleasant news, we focused on our next action, at the University of A Coruña. Once there, we were divided into small groups in the Faculties of Philology and Law where we also had the opportunity to inform Erasmus students on the possibility of voting by email. Generally, the approach had to be short and effective, due to the short time available between classes. The general impression we were left with, was that there is an overall awareness on the elections and more opennessA corunaa towards the idea of voting, compared with the previous day, at least. Our stay in A Coruña was a good way of ending (and starting) a week full of activities which helped us learn and grow and which brought us both hope and disillusionment. Hope because we found many receptive citizens who knew little about the elections but promised to look deeper into the matter and vote. And disillusionment because for every positive answer, we received many more negative ones, coming from people who had lost all hopes for a better future and were very resistant to our encouragement to inform themselves on the elections. To keep our spirits up, we learned to accept rejections and weight our successes over our failures. In the end, changing mindsets was never for the weak 🙂

Rita David, AEGEE Budapest – participant
David Torrente, AEGEE Burgos – participant

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LEÓN: DEEPER INTO THE MATTER /leon-deeper-into-the-matter/ Sat, 17 May 2014 07:58:55 +0000 /?p=5261

Y VoteBus_front_Le__nThe fifth morning of our trip found us in León, where we were immediately welcomed by the mayor of León and his counsellors representing the Peoples’ Party. It was a good opportunity to find out more about the political and economic situation in the region, especially during the debate that followed, hosted by the counsellors, all aged under 35. We discussed on topics related to economy, youth policies at local and regional level and gender equality strategies in León, which brought us a step closer to understanding the situation of the region.

The reception we were given was very warm, and the Q&A session on youth participation in the elections and politics more generally, was very useful, as the answers provided were straight to the point. We left with the belief that citizens might become more involved into politics if politicians would invest more time into informing people and being closer to them.
The next task in the afternoon was to debate with Spanish candidates to the European Parliament, representing different Spanish parties. This time, the answers received were more evasive and the impressions among participants were divided.

10173678_10152220471888141_6793526915452821963_n Finally, a brainstorming followed and we arrived to the conclusion that more impact, more visibility was needed. For this, we decided to make large posters with questions pointing out the impact of the EU on citizens’ daily lives (GMOs, ACTA, roaming) and reminding the date of the EU elections. This proved to be a very good strategy which we decided to follow during the next days as well, as citizens were not only more responsive, but were also approaching us to ask questions.
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As a conclusion on our experience during the first four days, I would say that politicians are not doing enough -if anything at all- to inform people about voting. A surprisingly large number of people were unaware of the elections or the voting procedures. On a more personal level, I feel a growing connection with the Spanish people as the days go by, especially culturally-wise. The European space creates the opportunity of sharing our cultural heritages and growing together, while preserving peace, mutual respect and cooperation. This process, however, will not be an easy one.

Ado Dragičević, AEGEE Zagreb – participant 

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VALLADOLID: POLITICS RETURNS TO THE STREET /valladolid-politics-returns-to-the-street-2/ Tue, 13 May 2014 20:21:34 +0000 /?p=5240 Y VoteBus_front_ValladolidWe arrived to Valladolid on the third day in the afternoon, and went straight to Plaza Cantarranes where the members of AEGEE Valladolid had organised a street action followed by an open-air debate, with candidates to the European Parliament. The entire organisation of the debate was strategic: firstly, because of the place chosen, as Plaza Cantarranes was the host of many social movements which marked important changes in Valladolid; and secondly, because of the symbolic dimension of an open-air debate: that of politics coming back to the street, where many people believe it belongs, primarily.

The topics chosen fell into two categories: youth participation and youth unemployment, and the debate couldn’t have come out better. Firstly, because we had the opportunity of reading out loud and discussing the recommendations on youth participation and youth unemployment resulted after two of the previous Y Vote conventions. It was a particularly good opportunity to promote the results of our work to the Spanish citizens and the EP candidates and understand how they perceive our vision. In broad lines, they agreed with the necessity of offering more support to youth not only in terms of adopting more measures, but also using the available resources more effectively. Secondly -and very importantly- the open-air organisation of the debate, allowed Spanish citizens to join freely the discussion and become informed on the European elections and European issues that affect us daily. Their attitude was quite receptive and the discussions revealed Spaniards’ support for the smaller, reformist parties, against the backdrop of their disillusionment with the Spanish political management.
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Last but not least, in the late evening, we had the opportunity to go on an active city tour and we combined fun and work, by exploring the city and stopping to approach people in different corners of Valladolid. It was again a challenging undergoing, given the late hour, but people responded well, since they were sitting for a drink and were more relaxed and open to discussions. It was yet another long day, at the end of which we were very tired but also satisfied with our outcomes. Tomorrow would be another day.

Simona Sokolovska, AEGEE Skopje – participant 

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MADRID: WHERE IT ALL STARTED /madrid-where-it-all-started-2/ Tue, 13 May 2014 20:19:40 +0000 /?p=5231 Madrid was chosen as the start of our adventure and the concept of the bus tour involved 2 days of trainings, workshops and brainstorming sessions designed to equip participants with the knowledge and tools necessary for the duration of the event.

Y VoteBus_front_MadridThe first of the three days was quite a full one. We started with a training on the EU basics where we discussed about the EU institutions, policies and decision-making process, placing -of course- a stress on the European Parliament: its role, its evolution and challenges. With these insights in mind, we later started a debate with young European Parliament candidates, organised in cooperation with JEF (Young European Federalists) and the Spanish Youth Council. As it was open to a greater public, it was a chance to understand politics as seen through the eyes of Spanish citizens of different ages, who joined the debate. The topics discussed touched upon the future of the EU, democracy and youth policies. Quite clearly, although the Spanish citizens’ trust politicians was shaken, there is a room for hope, and it might be that this is precisely the opportunity that the EU should take, by supporting citizens and bringing them closer to the EU.

The second day in Madrid began similarly early, with a speed training meant to enable us to approach people and promote the importance of voting. We then continued with a brainstorming on different activities we could do in order to approach people more effectively and achieve our goal. We would soon see our ideas put to the test, as we headed to the campus of the Complutense University for our first street action. Our challenges? – to overcome the language barrier and convince students to stop and talk to us. I would say it was a successful endeavour all in all, one which also allowed us to understand better what went well and what we could improve next time we approach Spaniards.
10256905_10152210778338141_7514454329296475887_nThe third day was also our last in Madrid and we were quite excited to start our bus tour through Spain. In the morning we had the chance to attend another debate with European Parliament candidates. It was an opportunity to understand better the positioning of the Spanish parties as to the “European issue”: which ones are more nationalistic and which are more pro-European and willing to sacrifice the short-term national visions for a long-term European one.
Finally, we assisted the ceremony of the rising of the EU flag, since the 9th of May is the Day of Europe, and we embarked on our journey to Valladolid, tired but also excited to start our Spanish adventure.

The first three days in Madrid were challenging but they gave us the opportunity to learn, experiment and gain ownership of the project and the idea behind it. On the one hand, we realised it wouldn’t be easy to convince Spaniards to vote in the European elections, but after all, this is why we chose Spain of all other countries. On the other hand, being in Spain and enjoying all it has to offer, compensates for the days -and nights- of hard work. Spending a day in the sun talking to people and finishing with a round of tapas and good mood certainly makes everything worth it.
In Madrid
Giorgios Lamprou, AEGEE Athina – participant
Maria Ponirou, AEGEE Peiraias – participant
Simona Sokolovska, AEGEE Skopje – participant

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