debate – 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 Team Red in Lyon taking part in Nuit Debout /team-red-in-lyon-taking-part-in-nuit-debout/ Sat, 07 May 2016 12:15:30 +0000 /?p=6499 By Chikulupi Kasaka

In the evening of the 3rd May, Team Red arrived in the place where the Nuit Debout protests and meetings in Lyon are held. This is the second time team red is experiencing the peaceful protests called Nuit Debout, which means Up All Night, made by people showing up in one place from 6pm to midnight to discuss their concerns towards the government.

AEGEE-Lyon introduced Europe on Track 3 in front of the crowd and we all invited participants to join us in a discussion about Schengen area, refugees and migration crisis in Europe.

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A group of 12 people was formed under a tree where the Europe on Track flag was hung. In the beginning, we played a game as an icebreaker to create a safe space for everybody to feel comfortable to express themselves. Lucille from AEGEE-Lyon explained a sign game in order to introduce everyone. 5 minutes later, everyone was motivated, engaged and connected with others in a group.

Larnell from AEGEE-Lyon presented AEGEE, Europe on Track and its aims to the rest of the group. He further elaborated the cross-cutting and burning issues across Europe right now: Refugees and migration crisis, as well as issues concerning Schengen Treaty. Then, he welcomed members to share their views and opinions.

Here you can find some of them:

Schengen area benefits and encourages young people to study across Europe. It has made easy travelling without visa and border check-ups. All these made free movement possible, so for them Schengen area is very important.

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For some people, European identity and citizenship are more prestigious than their own national citizenship. However, this statement created quite an intense debate as some other people disagreed, arguing that due to the EU, national governments lose part of its sovereignty. For example, if the EU passes a law, it needs to be integrated into their national laws. People holding this opinion feel that the EU has a superior status.

On the other hand, people supporting the first idea stated that the EU is only powerful when it comes to economy and other issues related to it, but that it has little powers in political affairs, because the EU only uses its political powers to legitimize its economic affairs like the free market.

They further disagreed with the statement that, in the end, not so many laws made by national parliaments come from the EU, as it mostly works within its different institutions and through its council. Since 2007, the EU is trying to take its power back but despite its competencies, its powers remain limited. There are some discussions within the EU managed by politicians and economists off the record, which shows a lack of public involvement and transparency.

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Concerning Nuit Debout, youngsters felt that the movement and its protests are an important thing to do, despite the fact that they seem to have no immediate impact or pressure on the government. Still, it brings them back unity, togetherness and closeness by sharing their concerns over Europe and their government. By talking together, they are creating a network where they reflect about their ideas and current political issues, contrasting opinions in a respectful way,

Indeed, AEGEE-Lyon and Team Red established new networks and met many interesting people in its participation in Nuit Debout. The discussions were alive and participatory. We ended the discussion and left Nuit Debout feeling like we had an impact in raising youth voice concerning Schengen opportunities and EU functioning.

Thanks to Interrail for making team red arrive safely and on time in Lyon. All these would not be successful without the commitment and support of AEGEE-Lyon team. Special thanks to Marine, Larnel, Lucille, Christine and Clement.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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]]> Team Blue: Hungary is not as closed as we think nowadays! /is-hungary-as-closed-as-we-perceive-it-nowadays/ Sun, 01 May 2016 11:17:23 +0000 /?p=6441 By Hanna Polishchuk

One more long train journey directly from Warsaw to the capital of Hungary was ahead of us. However, with Interrail trains it was comfortable and light. This time we decided to sleep in the train almost all the way to get more energy for the evening. Agi from AEGEE-Budapest met us in the train station, and we went to her home. Together with Mate they prepared a tasty traditional Hungarian dish.

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The day after, we met other members of this wonderful local (Peti, Bernadett and Dorottya) who took us to the outdoor session. We were walking through the beautiful streets of Budapest, passing by architectural masterpieces, green parks and astonishing university, which made us exclaim “Wooooow!”

The Corvinus University opened its doors for us to reveal the secret of why this local has so many active members. Every place we passed had a poster of the Summer University project, it was literally everywhere, we felt like in the AEGEE headquarters!

During the next couple of hours we were watching a Hungarian movie that raised the questions and problems young people are facing in their lives, ‘For Some Inexplicable Reason’. We highly recommend it to those who have not watched it yet!

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The day after, we had the workshop at the same university. This time we concentrated on the debating part. Participants were divided into two groups from which one is in favour of borderless Europe, and another one is against. Their task was to persuade their opponents with facts. Both teams had well-structured arguments, and both sides were quite convincing.

Those debates could be going on forever, but at some point we needed to stop them in order to make a decision. Even though both teams were fighting to defend their side, later the task was changed and they had to express their own opinion. As a result, most of them voted in favour of abolishing borders. We all agreed that it was not easy to make decisions, and this is what politicians in the EU are doing every day, affecting the life of each of us. Our views over some questions, such as borders split up, probably because it was an international meeting that included not only Hungarians but also participants from Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine and Italy. It seems that Budapest is indeed an international city.

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During the interviews and discussions, young Hungarians expressed their concerns about the problems such as xenophobia, bureaucracy, corruption and nationalism. There is not enough information about refugees; people complain about them but in fact, almost no one of them has ever met any.

Another problem is that not many people are aware about youth mobility opportunities and they miss them because of the poor information they have. Hungarians believe that if youth is more aware of them, more people will participate in cultural exchange projects and the cooperation between countries will be better. However, we didn’t hear only problems, but also solutions such as better institutions, no prejudices, acceptance of different cultures, breaking stereotypes, supporting national minorities, and being more efficient in implementing the basic idea of the EU. These solutions are not hard to implement but if we do it, it will bring more peace to the society.

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We want to thank AEGEE-Budapest, and especially Peter Sczigel,  for the opportunity to participate in this event and learn about the opinion of the Hungarian (and not only) youth about very important issues like borders, Shengen, refugees and the EU in general. I personally have to admit that I was astonished by the answers and debates during the event. I am sure if we had such politicians, the world would be better!

Please keep changing the future, don’t be afraid to express your opinion and fight for a better reality.

Thanks for welcoming us, the city tour, sessions, food, accommodation, and all sort of help you gave us! We were lucky to take part in this event organized by the AEGEE-Budapest!

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To vote or not to vote? Should that still be a question? /to-vote-or-not-to-vote-should-that-still-be-a-question/ Fri, 30 May 2014 19:02:34 +0000 /?p=5289 by Monica Nica

In Sofia, the Europe on Track presentation was part of a larger event dedicated to the Y Vote project, also organised by AEGEE. The format comprised an initial debate on compulsory voting, followed by a panel debate on voting and youth participation, ending with our presentation on the European Parliament elections.

During the debate, two teams from Sofia Debate Association brought up their best arguments in favour and against compulsory voting. The debate was carried out in Bulgarian, but we had Angel translating for us. Although he did a great job, he conveyed just the big picture, providing us with the main lines along which the debate developed, without going into details. Basically, the team arguing in favour of compulsory voting said that this measure would cause the receding of right-wing parties’ influence; furthermore, being obliged to vote, citizens would develop an increased interest in politics, give more informed votes and would become more active in holding politicians accountable. This last argument, has been reversed by the opposing team asserting that arbitrary and unreflective voting would take hold of most of the apathetic electorate. With regard to the winners/losers of mandatory voting, the other side of the coin was emphasised, as they said that big parties would profit if everyone would vote. Moreover, the team kept reiterating the ‘not voting’ or ‘not expressing one’s opinion’ right.

10371534_318146711666306_3262859861645054090_nAlthough I do not fully agree with some of the arguments on both sides, since I could not grasp the debate in its entirety, which might have included some nuances making me more amenable to them, I prefer not to rebut them. But I will mention some rebuttal coming from the public. Compulsory voting was compared with taxes, as a duty citizens have and the white vote was mentioned as an option for those who do not want to express their opinion on the political offer. Finally, several participants said that young people’s low turnout does not equate a low interest in politics, conclusion also derived by research on the topic.

An interesting position, which I cannot recall hearing it from a young person before, held during the ensuing panel debate, stated that young people do feel represented; and if they do not, it is because it is normal for them to be against the system. Furthermore, a real dialogue between politicians and the citizens instead of mandatory voting, was mentioned as a different and maybe more effective way of inducing a higher turnout. One very memorable metaphor used for compulsory voting was comparing it to an imagined obligation to buy tomatoes, just that the only ones available on the market are rotten. This statement is quite revealing on how young Bulgarians relate to their politicians and national political arena.

Although research shows that given a congenial setting, compulsory voting seems to be the only institutional mechanism able to raise turnout in the range of 90%, questions remain, for example, how would everyone voting change the politicians’ approach to the citizens? Politicians respond to the interests of those that participate. Hence, could this provide them with an increased incentive to have a real dialogue with citizens mentioned previously? How would outcomes change? Apparently it would not make much of a difference on the outcome as the preferences of non-voters are similar to those who vote.

Although it might be difficult for any of the sides to have an indisputable victory in this debate, it is definitely worth having an exchange of arguments on the topic .

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The European miracle at the Vistula river /the-european-miracle-at-the-vistula-river/ Sat, 26 Apr 2014 07:43:38 +0000 /?p=5084

Taking Europtimism serious during fierce discussions in Warsaw

If there is one city in Europe that can rightfully be called a Fenix that has risen from its ashes, it is the city of Warszawa; the capital of Poland at the Vistula river. It has known a vibrant and often violent history, which climaxed during the Second World War when the city was totally raised to the ground. After the Warsaw Uprising at the end of the war and the Soviet liberation of the city, not much was left of what once was the proud capital of the kingdom of Poland. Today, the city has re-emerged from its ashes and it lives as never before. It’s filled with construction works, young people, businessmen and trendy bars. During our stay, we got to know some of the ambitious young people that represent the future of Poland and even very much the future of Europe.

Visiting the new veins of the city

Metro visitDuring our visit, we got the opportunity to see the change in the city with our own eyes. The biggest construction site in Warszawa at the moment and even one of the biggest in Europe is the second metro line project that will connect the Eastside and the Westside of the city. The metro can be regarded as a symbol of the new Warsaw: a city that matters internationally and the centre of one of the fastest growing economy in the EU. We had a presentation of the CEO of the Warsaw Metro who gave an overview of the current state of affairs and explained the importance of the metro for the development of the city. It was interesting to see how much details were involved in working on such a complicated and multi-faceted project. Moreover, it seemed also to be a great example of European cooperation while it’s mostly EU funded and brings together companies from Italy, Turkey and Poland in a joint partnership.

An optimistic view of the EU

WarsawWhile people in some of the older EU member states seem to be facing many years of crisis and at the same time develop a more pessimistic attitude towards both domestic and EU affairs, Polish youngsters seem to be very ambitious and positive. We have been discussing this during the workshop with students from AEGEE-Warszawa. Almost all the participants stated that they thought that the EU was a positive thing; either for creating peace in Europe, integrating different cultures or making it possible to move around between countries. On the other hand, it was also mentioned that the EU does connote with a sense of bureaucracy; with a feeling that a lot of rules are been imposed that are not necessarily positive. It was argued that the accession of Poland to the EU in 2004 was a very important step in recognizing that Poland was part of Europe and that this development has very much helped in creating the Poland of today.

One of the questions that were raised was whether it would be good to have a United States of Europe. While most participants agreed that it was not a good thing to compare Europe to the USA, many of them nonetheless stated that it would be good for Europe to have a federal state with a real government. It was argued that a federal Europe would be more capable of addressing problems that go beyond the nation state and that it would strengthen the position of Europe in the international playing field.

Playing the advocate of the devil

Debate WarsawAfter the general discussion, it was time to turn the opinions of the participants around. They were confronted with a “House of Commons” style discussion in which two groups had to debate either in favour or against a stronger EU. One of the groups had to defend the idea of a stronger EU in a federal form, while the other had to take a very Eurosceptic or rather Euro-negative position. Although the room was filled with Europtimists, the discussion became quite fierce and both sides came up with strong arguments. The Europtimists stated that a federal state was important for giving people more opportunities to move around and to get the right education. The sceptics, however, argued that a stronger EU and an increasing mobility of people caused countries and regions to loose valuable people and to lose on some of their important interests.

All in all, Warszawa was a great place on the route for our team to get the final input on the topic of Europtimism. We have heard the opinions of students from Mannheim, Berlin, Prague and Warsaw and seen some interesting differences between the participants. This morning, the 25th of April, we have left Warsaw by bus in order to travel to our next stop Riga, where we will have a very interesting meeting about the European elections!

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