Council of Europe – 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 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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Croatian referendum to introduce discrimination in their constitution /croatian-referendum-to-introduce-discrimination-in-their-constitution/ /croatian-referendum-to-introduce-discrimination-in-their-constitution/#comments Sun, 01 Dec 2013 09:10:03 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=817 Croatia, the newest member of the EU, is today having a referendum that aims to modify their constitution for the first time in 22 years. The change in constitution is to include a sentence that specifies that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. and it is a clear attack to the movement for equal marriage that has been gaining battles all over Europe.

This referendum is the last step of a whole campaign launched by an NGO created ad hoc by a woman called Zeljka Markic, which is the visible face of this initiative. In fact she is the only visible face, while the rest is as obscure as they can. After some research, it has been revealed that the most reactionary groups of the Catholic church are behind this initiative.

Zeljka Markic speaking in front of cameras

The movement called themselves “in the name of the family”, mirroring similar groups that tried to block equal marriage in countries like Spain and France, and managed to gather a small army of volunteers to collect 740.000 signatures to force the government to call for this referendum.

The question that is asked in the referendum is:

Are you in favor of implementing into the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia a regulation that marriage is a life community between man and a woman?

The referendum takes place today, Dec 1st, and the campaign preceding the voting has been really harsh, using manipulative messages to convince people to vote in favour. Moreover, the opposition parties are using this issue to erode the government, which is against this reform. Public personalities from fields such as sports, culture or arts, have also positioned themselves.

The expected result of the referendum will be in favour, therefore including the sentence in the Constitution and blocking the possibility of equal marriage in Croatia. This could be changed if the traditional lack of participation of young people is reverted. If you are Croatian, I would like to quote Zeljka Markic, since she finishes every of her speeches with: “Join us on Sunday to celebrate together the festival of democracy!”: So move your ass, go and vote! You can still avoid staining your constitution with such a discriminatory sentence!

Written by Miguel Gallardo, Project Director of AEGEE-Europe

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Closing our eyes in Azerbaijan? No, thank you! /election-observers-azerbaijan-european-parliament/ Wed, 04 Sep 2013 06:45:57 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=711 The European Parliament’s Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group decided last July 13th that the European Union will not send a delegation of observers for the presidential elections in Azerbaijan next October. This controversial decision contrasts with the presence of the EU as observer in the last Presidential elections in the country, lacked a proper explanation and therefore left the door open for different interpretations.

On one side, the Azerbaijan authorities celebrated the decision and presented it as an endorsement to the good health of democracy in the country. On the other hand, Human Rights organizations protested since they were seriously concerned that this decision was motivated by the wish of pleasing the Azerbaijan government since the EU has strategical investments in the country.

AEGEE has been involved in the Caucasus region since 2004 and we cannot find a coherent explanation to the decision of the European Parliament. The status of the Azerbaijan democracy is constantly questioned by Civil Society Organizations inside and outside the country, the results of the previous EOMs were not concluding unanimously the absence of abnormalities, and even the Council of Europe has a divided position sometimes in the situation in Azerbaijan regarding sensible topics such as the situation of political prisoners.

For these reasons, we motion the European Parliament to reconsider their decision during the meeting of the Conference of Presidents, next September 5th.We have sent a letter to the president of the European Parliament to voice our concern and we hope they revert the decision.

We believe it is in the interest of the Republic of Azerbaijan to receive a big delegation of EU observers in the presidential elections in October. Azerbaijan should multiply the effort to guarantee free and democratic elections, to obtain a positive report from the Observers. Without a unanimous positive report, the elected president will start the mandate contested internally and questioned externally. And this will not be in the benefit of the stability of Azerbaijan and the region.

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Youth demands co-mananagement in the European Union /youth-comananagement-eu/ Wed, 12 Jun 2013 08:00:58 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=632 On June 5th and 6th, AEGEE-Europe hosted a 2 days event in the European Parliament, where different Belgian and European NGOs had the opportunity to discuss the possibilities for Co-Management in the European institutions, together with representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and its Advisory Council on Youth, and the European Youth Forum. The event was hosted by the MEP Hannes Swoboda, who is also President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament and financed through the Youth in Action Grant. AEGEE-Brussels was organising the conference together with AEGEE-Europe.

What is exactly the Co-Management that we are proposing? We want more than just being consulted in the EU decision-making process. Young people should be involved in the three phases: consultation, decision and monitoring. Co-management is a unique model where governments and youth representatives sit together to decide on the political and strategic priorities of the youth sector, including the budget allocations in accordance with these priorities, and to monitor the sector’s annual or pluriannual programmes. We have seen that this scheme works in the Council of Europe and we want to put it into practice in the European Union.

On the first morning, we had two panels moderated by Marco Grdosic, former president of AEGEE-Europe, where we could get a lot of input.

In the first panel there were interventions from Marian Harkin, MEP from the ALDE group; Pascal Lejeune, head of Youth Unit of the European Commission; André Jaques-Dodin,  Head of the Intergovernmental Division of the youth department of the Council of Europe; Maria Paschou, Chair of the Advisory Council on Youth of the CoE; Peter Matjaši?, President of the European Youth Forum (YFJ); and Luca Scarpiello, Secretary of the Youth Intergroup of the European Parliament. They debated the current structure of the Council of Europe as an example of best practices, and explored the benefits of having a similar system for the European Institutions.

The second panel counted on the participation of Giuseppe Porcaro, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum; Kaisu Suopanki from Allianssi, the Finnish Youth Council, which has already implemented a co-management scheme; Ivailo Kalfin, MEP from the S&D Group; and André-Jacques Dodin. They were discussing the different possibilities of implementing the co-management in the EU institutions.

During the afternoon session on Wednesday, two parallel sessions were scheduled to discuss in depth and work in small groups. On one workshop, the focus was on the possible structure for a youth co-management scheme in the EU and the fields where the co-management would be needed; on the second workshop, the discussion was focused on legitimacy and representation of the European youth in this new structure.

On Thursday, the  participants presented the results of the previous day work to MEP Hannes Swoboda, president of the S&D Group in the EP. After that, they prepared the follow-up of the conference. This process was just initiated and has a long way ahead, but we young Europeans want to play a bigger role in the EU!

We would like to thank all participants for their active contribution, their ideas and their involvement in the whole process. Without them, and the expertise from their organizations in many cases, we could never have achieved such a big outcome. Thanks also to the European Parliament for hosting us, specially MEP Hannes Swoboda, his office and the S&D group of the EP for their support.

With this event, we wanted to take the lead in proposing a greater involvement of young people inside the European Institutions, because we believe that we need to involve them when the discussions are taken, in order to make young people more aware and more interested of what European Politics is about. The co-management system is a very open and transparent system for youth and in the current context, where young people’s need are being one priority of decision-makers, we think that it is very important to take into account the input of young people. We hope that in the future there would be a body of young people representing European youth who could sit equally with the European Commission when making decisions about youth issues.

 

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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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Dear Ministers… NOW! /youth-rights-campaign-aegee-europe/ Mon, 06 May 2013 11:41:28 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=607 In September 2012, Ministers responsible for Youth from 47 Member States of the Council of Europe congregated for the Ministerial Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to agree on ensuring equal access to Youth Rights for every single young person in Europe. The aim was to achieve this through the adoption of the Declaration “Young people’s access to rights: Development of innovative youth policies in Europe” which would have served as a guideline to all the Ministers’ work in their respective countries. Some officials, however, had problems with ensuring access to Youth Rights for ALL young people inclusively. Ministers failed to agree on the issue that there should be no discrimination towards people of sexual orientation different from heterosexual, and with recognising other gender identities different from man or woman. In AEGEE we find it truly alarming that this vision came from some Member States of the Council of Europe – the European institution which core values are to uphold Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law. Yet, we very much appreciate the fact that several bodies within the Council of Europe indeed did make sure that a proper follow up to the Ministers’ fiasco at the Ministerial Conference will take place.

This year, in April, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted two important documents: “Young people’s access to fundamental rights” and “Young Europeans: an urgent educational challenge”. Moreover, one of the recommendations coming to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was to adopt a legally binding document on Youth Rights, a policy document that will recognise and respect Youth Rights in their uniqueness, that European governments can then decide to implement in their countries.

This is where young people are stepping in. Several organisations came together to develop a Youth Rights campaign with three main aims: (1) to raise awareness on the situation of Youth Rights, (2) to make the topic of Youth Rights a priority on political agendas and (3) to strengthen the voice of young people in the Council of Europe Member States and structures.

The organisations starting the campaign:

· European Students’ Forum (AEGEE-Europe)

· Young European Federalists (JEF)

· International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student organisation (IGLYO)

· European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL)

· Youth for Exchange and Understanding (YEU)

· World Esperanto Youth Organisation (TEJO)

· National Youth Council of Portugal (CNJ)

· Flemish National Youth Council (VJR)

· Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU)

Together with a legal advisor – the European Law Student Association (ELSA), and a local youth organisation from Kosovo – MUSE-E. And with the support from the Advisory Council on Youth and the European Youth Forum and with many more organisations to join.

The campaign comes at a very important moment in Europe. Today, Europe is a continent where national governments do not always value the voice of young people in decision making processes. It is a continent where governments are continuously making financial cuts influencing young people’s welfare drastically in a very negative way. It is a place where youth organisations are not recognised and are often not given proper support. As the Ministerial Conference showed, it is also a place where young people cannot be guaranteed safety and inclusion.

This is why we are calling for action through a campaign called “Youth Rights. NOW!”: a campaign that aims to mobilise young people to fight for our rights and influence decision makers to put this matter high on their agendas. From 25th to 28th April, the campaign took the first steps, but it will take time to implement all the steps planned, gain finances and provide other prerequisites to set up the campaign.

Nonetheless, the Comité Directeur of AEGEE-Europe will mobilise its members to initiate a dialogue with national decision makers and to start a process of recognition and respect of our Youth Rights! We call also for other youth organisations to join the campaign and to mobilise their members. Finally, we call on policy makers – Youth and Education Ministers, Foreign Affairs Ministers (members of the Committee of Ministers of CoE) and Ambassadors accredited to the Council of Europe, each in their own capacity – to team up with young people and use our ideas and their power to make Europe youth-friendly, NOW!

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Missing democracy! When found, bring it back to youth! /missing-democracy-when-found-bring-it-back-to-youth/ Mon, 22 Oct 2012 13:29:02 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=234 Last week some AEGEEans participated in the first World Forum for Democracy. In his opening speech of Jean Claude Mignon, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe described it as the Davos of Democracy. It was preceded by the
Youth Assembly, where nearly 150 young people (Europe and beyond) discussed on the topic “Youth and Democracy, the young generation sacrificed?” for three days. With such a topic, the Youth Assembly held sessions and worked hard to share opinions and reach an agreement on one final document, which can be found here. This document was supposed to be presented to the World Forum, but the previous night they got noticed that this was some “misunderstanding” and that the young people were “not required” to address the plenary at the Opening Ceremony.

On October 8th, the young representatives went to attend the Opening Ceremony, willing to do everything possible to address the World Forum on behalf of the young people of Europe and the World. First obstacle, not all the young delegates were allowed to come into the hemicycle, the other ones had to follow the streaming in a “video room”. After that, the delegates went to find Mr. Mignon to ask for a change and to be finally allowed to speak. He explained he was not responsible deciding on who should speak there and that he wasn’t authorized to talk there even as a parliamentary representative.

Amandine from AEGEE, Costas from PAFOS, and Mr Connarty (a member of the UK parliament who supports youth issues) tried again, this time talking with the Liaison Office of the Secretary General (Mr Jagland’s). The fact that young people did not want to play the bureaucracy game of meeting in an office while the session was about to start (to sweep the issue under the rug) made them react quite aggressively and the security staff threatened to get our representatives out. In the end things calmed down but we were told that they would not grant us even 2 minutes. Our only hope to address the forum was if someone gave us part of their time, and that we should ask Mr Mignon to let us speak. The official reason was lack of time. Guess what? The plenary started 20 minutes late, 10 speeches worth.

Therefore the young representatives in the hemicycle decided that after the second speaker, during the opening session, they will put tape on their mouths, stand up and hold hands.
They didn’t say anything or make any noise, they just stood to denounce the silencing of youth voice.
The other action the “action group” worked on was distributing flyers : “Missing democracy, when found, please bring it back to youth” was the message. Even when they were not forcing people to take them, immediately a security guy started to collect them all, even from the people that accepted them. He even started chasing one of the youth delegates to tell her to sit down and took all of her papers so she could not distribute them anymore. The security was already surrounding the youth delegation from the moment when they put the tape on their mouths.

Finally it was Mr Mignon who offered 2 minutes of his time of speech so we could be heard. Unfortunately, it was after the closing of the opening plenary and after a break, so most of the media had already left and the room was half empty. In the afternoon, Jean Claude Mignon invited us to his office for one hour so we could talk with him, young members gave him some feedback on what they thought about the Youth Assembly.

On the following days of the World Forum, even though still some difficulties were faced, good networking could be done, and the message of the Youth Assembly was carried out in
the different panels organized.

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