europtimism – 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. Wed, 18 Apr 2018 09:33:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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!

EUroptimism in the City of the Squares /europtimism-in-the-city-of-the-squares/ Sun, 13 Apr 2014 16:55:09 +0000 /?p=4539 After an interesting discussion about the European Parliament elections in Aachen, we arrived in Mannheim – the third-largest city in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The uniqueness of this city was obvious from the start as there are no street names and instead letters of the alphabet are used to make the navigation easier. Locals call Mannheim “die Quadratestadt” (city of the squares) because its streets and avenues are laid out to make a grid. “You can never get lost in Mannheim” assured us one of the hosts. Another famous landmark is the 18th century Mannheim Palace, former residence of the prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire. Today this beautiful Baroque palace is home to the Mannheim University and it was our greatest pleasure to find out that the workshop on Europtimism will take place here.


Which one word would you associate the EU with?

One of the goals of the workshop we gave about “Europtimism” was to make participants think about the current perception of the people about the EU and which factors influence our vision of Brussels and the EU institutions. The initial task was to describe with one word what comes to your mind when you hear the word – EU. It was interesting to see a great variety of answers. Among more common bureaucracy, problems, borderless, there were few unexpected replies such as joy, new and network. It was clear that most participants associate the EU with something positive rather than negative. The discussion soon turned into trying to figure out why some people are more Eurosceptical than others. It was pointed out by Philipp that media plays a crucial role in this and not even a single participant could remember a newspaper article or a TV programme that would look at the important and often much needed projects that are initiated by the EU. It is important to raise journalistic standards and present both bad and good sides of the EU instead of just inclusively focusing on the negative, argued the participants.

When asked to guess the number of people who hold federalist ideas about the future of the EU, the answers ranged from 5%-25% and everyone was really surprised to find out that, according to the studies of the Republikon Institute, approximately 31% of the Europeans share federalist views. Stephanie expressed her doubts explaining that it is very unlikely that the responders actually knew what the federalist vision of the EU is about when they were asked to fill in the survey.

It was also insightful to hear participants discuss why some regions and some countries of the EU are more Europtimistic compared to the others. Why, for example, the Czech Republic is the most Euro-pessimistic country among all of the new member states that joined the EU in 2004? Daniel was quick to explain that pessimism of the Czechs comes not from the opposition to the EU and the EU institutions per se but for from the negative attitudes towards Euro. Czech Republic was planning to adopt common currency in 2012 just after Slovakia, however due to the current situation in the South and general mistrust and suspicion of the currency union the plans to convert to the Euro have been put on hold. Team Blue will be visiting Czech Republic on the 16-19 April and we are really looking forward to ask the locals if they agree with Daniel’s point of view.

Mannheim 5Benefits of the Euroscepticism

The final half an hour of our workshop was dedicated to the group discussions during which participants could develop answers to the questions whether the EU should get more or less powers and if the Euroscepticism is doing Europe any good. After some heated debates the 4 teams presented their results to us. Surprisingly, the teams had a lot of similar points. They all agreed that there are certain areas where the EU should get more control and in others – less. EU should, for example, be able to control and check the financial expenses in order to minimize the chance of future crisis from occurring.

Euroscepticism might not be a very positive phenomenon to observe but the EU needs Eurosceptics as much as it needs Europtimists. Eurosceptics make us realize our mistakes and as a result we receive an opportunity to improve and become better. After our visit in Mannheim, we move to one of the centres of power in Europe, the German capital Berlin. In Berlin, we’ll visit some very interesting NGOs that work in the fields of democratization and political participation. Moreover, we’ll shed light on the current situation regarding youth employment; a pressing issue that concerns many young people in Europe.