interview – 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More unity, more solidarity, more European identity /more-unity-more-solidarity-more-european-identity/ Mon, 09 May 2016 07:27:44 +0000 /?p=6507 By Hanna Polishchuk

During our stop in Hungary, we had the opportunity to ask young people what they think about the European Union, borders and the refugee crisis. We would like to share with you some interesting answers we received from Péter Sczigel, 22, Hungarian, Student and the President of AEGEE-Budapest and Màtè Bàlint, 24 ,Hungarian,  Analyst of the Central Bank of Hungary. They both have international experience, and travelled to other countries for different reasons. We asked them how easy it was for them to cross European borders.

Do you feel borders in Europe? If yes which ones?

Péter: Yes, both physical and mental. Outside the Schengen area borders are still very real, but I think that the biggest problem is that even inside Schengen most people still have a mental concept of borders between their country and the rest of Europe that really limits their thinking.

Did you have any difficulties crossing borders?

Màtè: I did not have to apply for anything, I could pass to other countries without borders. So, it was easy.DSC_9966 (1)

Do you feel European?

Péter: Absolutely.

Màtè: I feel Hungarian and European as well. It is a hard question, maybe more Hungarian than European, but I would need more time to decide that,it’s not a clear idea in my mind yet.

Do you think that the European Union should extend or decrease?

Màtè: Well, I can’t think about the size, I have read that it will be expanded a little, including the Balkans, and some countries will join. There is also a plan for Turkey, but it is not decided yet. However, as far as I know it won’t expand, especially to the East. Now the composition of the countries and cultural differences is very fresh, so it would be really risky to expand it more.

Accession negotiations of Turkey (about joining the EU) started in 2005. What do you think are the reasons behind such a long process?

Péter: Because European people are reluctant to have a country with Muslim majority in Europe. Also, regarding the culture, Turkey is very different from Europe and due to its enormous population, Turkey would get a big proportion of votes in the European decision-making mechanisms, which is something that no one in Europe actually wants.

Do you think there is a refugee crisis in Europe? What is the refugee situation in Hungary? Do you feel safe in your country?

Màtè: Well, I know that there is a fence, and that they set the border, which according to what one of the parties in the government says, has a gate, and people who come peacefully and who are proven refugees can come. But the opposition said that it is a closed gate, and no one can come in: there is a fence and people who come there should go home. It is really hard to decide which is the case because I have not been there.

Right now, there are no refugees in Hungary because those who came in passed through, and then the borders were closed. As far as I know, refugees stopped in Turkey and did not go further because there were some caps for them. The European Union made an agreement with Turkey about this issue. Right now no one comes, and even if they came, there is a fence in Hungary; it is like a double security.

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From the Hungarian side, I think it is important to accept refugees in an organized way so that people could not come to the Schengen area and just travel inside. Europe is a very fresh alliance, and it should not expand more because it would be too risky. Another point is that the fact that people can travel and come in without any IDs tempers social security because they would feel that they do not have any supervision.

Péter: Yes, there definitely is. The situation is not very serious in Hungary, as most refugees do not want to live here but rather move through the country to get to Western Europe. However, the refugee crisis provided a great political capital to the government, which communicated the situation in order to achieve their political goals. I absolutely feel safe, but I wouldn’t feel threatened even if Hungary was a major refugee destination.

What would you wish for the future of Europe?

Màtè: I think Europe should not jump from one idea to the opposite one, exaggerating one point or the other. In my opinion, the answer for questions like these, which separate people so much, is somewhere in the middle. And if you look at the European history, you can see that extremist ideas obviously led to bad decisions.

Péter: More unity, more solidarity, more European identity, less nationalism, less conservatism.

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Two Polish Students, Boguslawa and Daniel, About The Borders in Europe /two-polish-students-boguslawa-and-daniel-about-the-borders-in-europe/ Tue, 03 May 2016 10:15:34 +0000 /?p=6463 Travelling to Poland, Team Blue from Europe on Track 3 got the chance to interview many young people on important issues about European borders and the situation with refugees. Let’s see what results they got!
Two Polish students, Boguslawa, 23, and Daniel, 26, agreed to answer our questions. Both of them have travelled abroad and took part ininternational projects. They are both satisfied with the living and working conditions in their country, and are considering to stay there in the future.

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What is Europe for you? What do you feel when you hear this word?

Boguslawa: I think that it is a way in which all people from Europe share some traditions; and it is very important to know and cultivate them because they allow us to understand history. We share a lot of it: sometime difficult and sometimes nice but by understanding it we can avoid many problems, and I hope we will do so.

Do we need to change anything in the functioning of Europe? What should be improved?

Boguslawa: Of course we should change, but I don’t have any recipe for that, I don’t know how to fix this whole situation. I think that one big issue is that in Poland, and I think it happens in many other countries, so many politicians are involved in media. Sometimes, they own all radio stations, all newspapers, they even funded them! And we have no idea what is really going on because we are just sold some information from people who are personally involved in that. So, we cannot really judge the situation because we are not sure of what is going on.

Here is an example of how media works. I live in a place where there was a march on our Independence Day, and they tell us on a TV some things while I see through my own window other things totally different than what they tell me on the TV! I mean, I see a guy who is talking on his phone, and he raises his hand up saying: “Hey, you can find me here” to his friend, and then I find this picture on the news, and he is called a fascist because he is making ‘roman salute’. The question is how to change it.

That is why we make this project, to get to know what people think to make then the report with systemized data, and show the result. This result will be heard. You asked how we can change it, so probably this is the way, and you are part of it.

Daniel: It is a very wide question, and it could be discussed for at least an hour, with politicians, not with me, I am only a student. However, there are couple of things that could be improved.

Now a lot of people are wondering about the European Union, if it is going to collapse or not. I think there’s a bright future for the European Union because conflict and discussion are something natural for such a big diversity, we have so many countries in it, and it is impossible that all this countries will have all the time the same opinion. So for me the core is this discussion and finding the solution from this conflict.

Now we have a problem with immigrants. For example, Eastern countries say that we need to defend our borders; on the other hand, Western countries say that, we should accept all of them (immigrants). In my opinion, the solution is somewhere in between. We should think about borders, make them tighter because it is a really big problem but, at the same time, we should accept all the people who need help, maybe not all the immigrant who came from other countries with good conditions, but for sure all the people who really need help. Both sides have good intentions; it is hard to connect fire with ice but we have to.

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What would you wish for the future of Europe?

Boguslawa: I hope that these conflicts and discussions about our problems will make us stronger, that we will find some way of communication. Usually few voices, few countries, like Germany, France and England, have the strongest voice, and I hope that we will learn that in conflict situations like this we have to listen to everybody, and we will learn something.

Daniel: I was wondering about the same that was said, I wish that the power of each country would be balanced because some countries are overpowered, and at the same time others are underpowered. So I hope for a better balance, and I wish for a Europe that will be united, and the rest of the countries who are not involved in the European Union will become members. I think that’s all.

Interviewer: Thank you both for your answers and the participation, your voice will be heard.

As we can see from those answers and summarize from other interviews and indoor session, young people strive for equality and non-radical solutions. It is easy to cross borders from some countries to others (from Schengen to non-Schengen) but not the other way round. There are two better solutions to solve two different problems. The first one would be expanding the Schengen area for other European countries. The second one is to help first refugees who are in need and then supporting economic immigrants.

Big thanks to AEGEE-Warszawa for the participation and assistance with the sessions!

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No Artificial Borders for Refugees in Europe /no-artificial-borders-for-refugees-in-europe/ Tue, 03 May 2016 00:28:18 +0000 /?p=6454 By Chikulupi Kasaka

Team red from AEGEEs’ Europe on Track 3 Project arrived safely in Heidelberg, Germany on the 25th April. In collaboration with the local antenna AEGEE-Heidelberg, they delivered a workshop about the Refugee Crisis in Europe. Team red had the opportunity to interview local youth as well as a refugee. Their opinions were honest enough to raise the voice and awareness for a better Europe and better refugee crisis management.

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Arman Turma is one among the youngsters the team interviewed. He is 19 years old, from Hungary, studying Philosophy and Psychology in Germany. Arman came to Germany in 2015 and at that moment he had little experience travelling abroad except for tourism.

As a Hungarian citizen, Arman doesn’t see himself as a European citizen. However, he perceives Europe as being borderless for the fact that there are no checkpoints across borders, as well as free movement of people is made easy. “Europe is more democratic, has cooperation between its nations, lots of freedom and a wide culture which is modernized in terms of ideas and organisations”, said to Europe on Track. Refugee crisis is the eminent crisis that the European Union is facing currently. Xenophobia is another problem in EU, which is a growing problem that needs to be addressed.

The way forward for refugee crisis management within the EU would be to receive more refugees and to put no artificial borders. The EU has the capacity to accept more refugees, and this can be achieved by being united and representing one voice towards managing the crisis. Politicians should be less populists and opportunistic, ended Arman.

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Team red had also the opportunity to interview Ebrahim, who is a refugee in Germany. Ebrahim is a Gambian citizen who fled his country for fear of persecution towards his life. Gambia became no more safe for him and he had to flee.

Ebrahim’s journey from Gambia to Germany was not smooth neither easy. He initially didn’t know that he will end up in Germany, but the odds were in his favour. These did not happen overnight. He left Gambia in 2013 through a bus to Senegal, then to Mali, to Algeria, and to Libya. The security situation was not good in Libya and he needed to take a boat to Italy. Nothing would stop him. It was a scary choice but to him, it was either being dead than alive in Gambia.

Ebrahim was rescued in Italy by the Italian officials in 2015. He stayed there for two months and fled to Germany because the environment and life were not favourable. In Germany, he was caught by the police, who took him to a controlled Karlsruhe Emergence Camp. He stayed there for a month before being moved to the village where he stays to date. He feels safe being a refugee in Germany and he likes it there. The process to make his stay in Germany legal has started and the police had taken his fingerprints. He is now waiting for official papers and later on documents to be issued. He will be happy if he is accepted to be a German citizen.

As a refugee, Ebrahim thinks that nowadays mostly Syrian refugees are in the centre of public attention, however less is done to assist refugees from other countries, like his one, Gambia. To the decision-makers, Ebrahim is grateful for their job in refugee management even though he would like to see further improvement. He is open-minded and willing to be interviewed by decision-makers in order to improve the condition of refDSC_6894ugees’ management in future.

 

The future is brighter for refugees in Europe as it is in Ebrahim’s heart. Youth envision for more freedom and free movement. With no artificial borders, borderless Europe is way possible.

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Poland Opens Its Doors to Team Blue! /poland-opens-its-doors-to-team-blue/ Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:47:49 +0000 /?p=6411 By Hanna Polishchuk

Early in the morning we departed from Prague to Warsaw. This time we did not have as many stops as before, only one, in Ostrava, a small Czech city.dAY3 (1)

We decided to try to interview people in the train station but they were not very open for the conversation. Nevertheless, before getting on our train, we managed to talk to a girl who shared with us her views about borderless Europe. Inspired by her, we decided to continue this task in the train. There we found interesting people, mostly from Poland, but also from the Czech Republic and the U.S.A. We even managed somehow to make one interview in Polish, speaking with the participant in Polish-Ukrainian-Russian language mixture. It was quite an exciting experience, and we learnt many impressive facts. After work, and running from one wagon to another, we decided to rest. To our surprise, we got free snacks and soft drinks from Interrail. Everything that we had in our compartment made our trip comfortable and exciting.

DSC_0008-2When we went out of the train, the president of AEGEE-Warszawa, Marta, was already waiting for us. In the evening, we went out to relax before the important day. On Saturday we organized a workshop for the members of the the local representative of our organization. This time we did not have as many participants as in Prague but the discussion was deeper and more specific. Participants shared their worries about the problems with Schengen area and the threat of strengthening borders. During the debates and mapping workshop we all saw that each of us travels to various European countries constantly for different reasons, and setting borders among our countries is ridiculous.

DSC_9861-2On the next day, we went out to the city for more interviews. We met people near the public library, in the city center and other places around. All young people shared our idea of a borderless Europe and that the relationships between the European countries should be improved. In their responses, we see that people are demanding freedom, understanding, mobility, unity, less bureaucracy and more support for other countries. As for refugees, they are not ready to accept every economic immigrant but those who really have to leave their homes behind and ask for the shelter in other countries.

Our visit to Poland was productive because we didn’t only ask people’s opinions but also shared ours and talked about difficulties with which we live in our non-Shengen countries. In one of such discussion about European values with a German and a Canadian we gave them lots of shocking information that they did not think about before. This way, spreading as much as we can, more and more people will get informed.DSC_9744-2
Coming back to the host’s home we kept discussing about the outcome of our work and people’s opinions. Later, while eating true Italian pasta prepared by Benedetto, we were sharing our emotions and excitement from this visit. In the morning we will wake up and go to the Hungarian capital that either divides or unites its two parts Buda and Pest. Are they so diverse in their opinions about the European issues? We are going to discover it soon. Stay tuned!

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]]> Team red in Paris: Nuit Debout, the beginning of a social movement /team-red-in-paris-nuit-debout-the-beginning-of-a-social-movement/ Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:08:44 +0000 /?p=6406 By Chikulupi Kasaka

Red Team Travellers from “Europe on Track 3” went to Paris to understand the French Clichés, taking part on the AEGEE-Paris event Voulez-vous Clicher avec moi?

On 23rd the team arrived at the famous Place De la République, where the so-called Nuit Debout protests are held. Nuit Debout is a French word meaning “Rising Up All Night”. Travellers had an opportunity to interview a few people from the crowd participating in the “Nuit Debout” and had this to tell.

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What is Nuit Debout?

Nuit Debout started as a movement with protests against the government for their new project on Labour Law Reforms. It started as a small idea and grew bigger to other cities in Europe and especially in France with bigger and different ideas and perspectives. We conduct peaceful demonstrations and we have legal permission to do it.

We are allowed to be here and stay here from 4pm to 12pm (Midnight) every day. When we arrive, we arrange everything to be ready for our discussions, and when we leave we take all our things with us until the following day.

What is it for?

We question if our parliamentarians and representatives are really representing the people and people’s interest, the common interest. People want freedom of speech as well as freedom of expression over the things and topics the parliamentarians are discussing.

With new reforms, the government wants to change the current protective labour laws to make it easier and less costly for employers to lay off workers. We want to be able to discuss and have a say. We are against how the electorates and parliamentarians represent us and our agenda. We are not against the electoral system.

What kind of people participates?

We want it to represent all kinds of people. We want it to be as representative as possible, we welcome all those who can join us, we aim to represent the French society, the people. There is a great and peaceful atmosphere around here. People are happy and cheerful. I can say that we are working really hard to keep this peaceful and full of hope spirit.

Is it the only agenda?

Nuit Debout started as a protest against labour law reforms by the government, but as I said before it grew bigger and now we discuss about many different kinds of topics. The protestors are many, we have a great varieties of ideas and perspectives. Within our discussions, we always try to reach a consensus.

How long will it last?

It is the 3rd week now since we started but we want Nuit Debout to last longer, not only weeks but months and become sustainable. We have a working group for arranging different activities including votes.

Do you all go home after mid-night?

It is not always the case. There are other people with different agendas who want to stay behind. There are those who want to sleep there and the police fight to remove them and cause violence.

Have you contacted other protestors in other European citiesor other similar social movements?

I haven’t done so personally, but other colleagues have done so.

What are the future goals with Nuit Debout?

We want to overcome the challenge of having different ideas. We want to harmonize ourselves and come up with common ideas and express them to our representatives, to explain them that we are not happy in the way it’s working now . We believe that in future more people will join us.

 

Being able to presence the beginning of this interesting social movement has been an amazing experience for us, team red travellers! We want to thank AEGEE-Paris for organising such a great event and for helping us with translations and interviews 🙂

See you somewehere in Europe!

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Team red in Maastricht interviews Zack, from Canada /team-red-in-maastricht-interviews-zack-from-canada/ Tue, 26 Apr 2016 20:56:10 +0000 /?p=6396 By Chikulupi Kasaka

Team Red of Europe on Track 3, led by Madgalena and Hemmo, travelled to Maastricht in pursuit of Borderless Europe and got a chance to collect opinions of the people from there. Why did they visit Maastricht in the first place? Well, you cannot conduct a Europe on Track Project leaving Maastricht behind due to its history. Maastricht happens to be the birthplace of the European UnionEuropean citizenship, and the single European currency, the euro. It feels like a right place to be.

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Team Red came across a Canadian citizen there named Zack and used the opportunity right away to interview him about Europe. Zack wanted to know some things from Europe likewise EoT wanted to know his opinion over Europe and his Canadian Experience over similar issues. After almost 45 minutes of interview, the main points can be summarized below.

Which are the main positive points that you see in Europe compared with America?

The EU offers free movement of people and has open borders, free movement of goods and commodities. People enjoy better international trade, better salaries, better prices of groceries and easy access to travel and do tourism.

The use of “Euro” as a common currency within the EU is one of the advantages to boost economic growth. Unlike Canada and its neighbor countries, United States and Mexico, where Canada uses “Canadian Dollar”, US uses “US Dollar” and Mexico uses “Peso Mexicano”. This shows that integration is important for economic growth.

What do you know about Schengen area? What’s your personal opinion about it?

Schengen area covers more than 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their mutual borders. It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, a number of countries have temporarily reintroduced controls on some or all of their borders with other Schengen states. As of 22 March 2016 Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, and Sweden have imposed controls on some or all of their borders with other Schengen states.

What do you think about the current situation Europe is facing nowadays?

I think that the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels leave a huge security dilemma within the European countries.

Europe is able to support the refugees coming in. Xenophobia exists over refugees in Europe. Refugees prefer to go to the rich countries for better lives and better jobs. Europeans citizens are faced with fears over security in their jobs. Canada is fairly xenophobic as well. They have accepted more than 25,000 Syrian refugees recently. Xenophobic threats are there in the local citizens.

 

Do you agree with Zack? For us, it was very interesting to get to know the opinion of someone from another continent! 

Next stop: Paris, Facing French Clichés: Voulez-vous clicher avec moi?

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