borders – 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. Sun, 15 Oct 2017 15:11:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Interviewing at the Bulgarian-Turkish Border /6546-2/ Mon, 23 May 2016 16:45:49 +0000 /?p=6546 By Hanna Polishchuk

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

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

DSC_0040

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

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

Was it hard to cross the border?

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

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

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

DSC_0052

What do you think about the refugee crisis?

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

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

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

Do you think they were dangerous?

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

What is your wish for Europe?

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

DSC_0118

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

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

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

BUD_ZGR

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_0921-2

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

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

 

DSC_0922

]]>