Miguel Gallardo – 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 The shooting down of the flight MH17 in Ukraine should be a wake up call for Europe /the-shooting-down-of-the-flight-mh17-in-ukraine-should-be-a-wake-up-call-for-europe/ Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:19:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1087 The shooting down of a Boeing 777 on July 17th is a shocking reminder of the fact that, while the international community divides its attention between the bombing in Gaza and the holiday destination of the German world champions, the situation in Eastern Ukraine has degenerated into a civil war whose consequences are unpredictable. AEGEE-Europe has been paying continuous attention to the situation and we are worried that this attack can lead to a crossing of accusations and an escalation of the conflict.

The current and the new boards of AEGEE-Europe would like to express their condolences to all families and friends of the 298 victims, and especially to the Dutch nation, that lost 189 citizens according to the first reports. The country declared Friday a day of mourning for the victims.

But this shocking attack has to be a wake up call for Europe. There are many other victims of this conflict that lasts for several months already: dozens of casualties on both sides, journalists, thousands of refugees that are fleeing the region because of fear or the lack of opportunities that have come as a result of this separatist conflict. Europe cannot leave Ukraine alone; it is the moment to make a big stand for peace and get involved in the pacification of the region. Cooperation with Russia is essential if we want to succeed in putting an end to this conflict.

However, the authorship of the attack is still unclear. Rumours point to the separatist faction, and the fact that they are putting obstacles to the investigation does not help their cause. Additionally, media has recently shown that the pro-Russian faction owned several units of heavy armament. In fact, several airlines have already been avoiding the aerial space over the Dnipropetrovsk region over the past months as a preventive measure, but Eurocontrol (the European air traffic management organisation) has not closed it for navigation until today.

AEGEE-Europe believes that transparency and extensive investigation of this and other incidents in Eastern Ukraine are necessary to determine responsibilities and find the key to solve the conflict, and therefore should be a requisite for the EU support to the Ukrainian government, in line with the 18th point of the Joint Motion of the European Parliament For A Resolution on Ukraine (2014/2717) issued on Wednesday, the day after the plane was shot down.

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“If we don’t cry out, who will?” /if-we-dont-cry-out-who-will/ Wed, 04 Jun 2014 10:28:31 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1076 Commeorating 25 years of the Tianammen Square massacre

As a European students’ organisation, we do not often look beyond Europe in these days while so many conflicts are happening in our continent. But today we do. We want to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crackdown of one of the biggest students’ protests in history, the Tianammen Protests in China, with a million of students demanding for reforms towards freedom and opening of the communist regime. “People were disappointed in the government. They thought, If we don’t cry out, who will?” says Kenneth Lam, who was 20 then. When the Chinese government decided to send the army to stop the protests, hundreds (or thousands) of civilians were killed, and a strong secrecy was imposed. Even today, the Chinese government is obstructing those who want to commemorate or investigate what happened, as International Amnesty denounces.

In spite of the efforts of the Chinese government, the massacre hit the news all over the world. The iconic picture of the man stopping the column of tanks became a symbol of peaceful struggle for democracy. This was a  turning point in history in many levels, and is very relevant this year, when students’ have demonstrated all over our continent demanding more democracy. The Tianammen square can be these days in the Gezi Park in Istanbul, in the Maidan Square in Kyiv, at the streets of Tuzla; it can happen at any time, in any other European city. AEGEE-Europe calls for the European governments to refrain from any violence and to respect the democratic rights of the protestors, to take into consideration the demands of their citizens: in most cases, they just want a more democratic society, more opportunities to participate in the decision process and a better future.

We want to remember all the people who died fighting for their rights in China in 1989, and all those citizens (and specially the students) who faced hard repression from police, got gassed, beaten, severely injured and even killed in the last 12 months in Europe. We are proud of you and we support your demand for democracy anywhere you are.

You can read more in this complete article in Time Magazine.

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Tense situation in Ukraine the days before their most important elections. /tense-situation-in-ukraine-the-days-before-their-most-important-elections/ Thu, 22 May 2014 09:56:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1059 Even though most western media have shifted attention from Ukraine, AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum is still concerned about the situation in the country. We pay close attention to the Eastern regions, where several independence referendums were conducted some days ago. Regarding the absence of the international observers, and the lack of a legal framework to hold these consultations, neither the government of Ukraine nor the international community give validity to the results, but this seems to have little importance these days.

The situation in the country is very unstable. On the one hand, the provisional government (established once President Yanukovich fled Ukraine last February) is supposed to govern until the upcoming presidential elections scheduled on May 25th, but it was never fully recognised by the eastern parts of the country, which massively voted for Yanukovich during the elections in 2010. In addition, some of the proposals of the provisional government raised the tension with Russian-origin and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, such as the attempt of cancellation of the 2012 “language law” (that allows regions to adopt more than one language for official purposes if they are spoken by at least 10% of the local population) which was perceived as an attack to the Russian-speaking community. Even if interim president Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed this proposal before it came into force, the harm was already done.

On the other hand, the Russian intervention in Crimea, and its subsequent independence and annexation to the Russian Federation, created a dangerous precedent. The agreement signed on April 17th in Geneva by all parties to deescalate the conflict was never respected, with each party accusing the other of breaking it. As a result, the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk are following the break-away scheme and have become de facto independent territories. The Russian Federation has still not announced whether it will recognise them as independent or not, a prior step to the possible inclusion in the Federation later on. This uncertainty is allowing new illegitimate powers to take control over a huge part of the Ukrainian territory, and brings deeper instability to the region.

The last weeks had seen a dramatic increase in confrontations in those territories. The pro-independence groups have clashed first with the supporters of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and later and more violently with the police and army units deployed by the Kyiv government in an attempt to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine by stopping the independence referendum. The presence of these troops and the violence of the confrontations have been reported to have caused many indecisive voters to opt for the independence in the referendum, aggravating the problem they were supposed to solve.

AEGEE-Europe condemns all kinds of violence. In regions such as Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa (especially in cities such as Sloviansk, Kramakorsk and Mariupol), confrontations have caused death of dozens of civilians, including gruesome acts such as setting on fire a building where a group of protesters had taken refuge, with more than 40 people burned alive. The role of the police and army troops has to be to protect citizens, and to prevent demonstrations from becoming violent confrontations that increase the number of casualties; but episodes of civilians being shot by police or army have been reported. This cannot be tolerated. Therefore AEGEE-Europe calls for an independent, big scale investigation to determine responsibilities and clarify the role of external powers and extreme-right groups such as the Pravyi Sektor in the radicalisation of the confrontations.

The situation in these regions is close to a civil war, with skirmishes from both sides and casualties on a daily basis. Another war, a media and propaganda one, is fought from both sides, making it extremely complicated to understand what is really happening in the region. The fact that journalists are among the victims of gunfire, and frequently threatened and kept captive, is another proof of how far the situation has arrived.

The days before the Ukrainian elections next Sunday will be extremely unstable, as the increase of victims in the past days after some relatively calm days cries. We express our will that the whole Ukrainian society refrains from any form of violence, in order to allow democracy to work free from external pressures. As part of a new project to support democracy in Europe, our organisation has sent a delegation of 21 members as International Observers, in cooperation with local organisations and after participating in OSCE trainings. We hope for a new, fresh leadership coming out of these elections, strong enough to put back Ukraine on track and to close this dark chapter of the country’s history.


Written by Miguel Gallardo, Comité Directeur AEGEE-Europe.
With the contribution of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe and different members of AEGEE from Russian and Ukrainian locals.
Pictures from EaP project, @pmarsupia and @MaximEristavi

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NGOs should be further involved on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee /ngos-should-be-further-involved-on-the-implementation-of-the-youth-guarantee/ /ngos-should-be-further-involved-on-the-implementation-of-the-youth-guarantee/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:25:18 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1032 Last week, AEGEE attended the conference “Youth Guarantee: Making It Happen” organised by the European Commission in Brussels. Both Miguel Gallardo (member of the board of AEGEE-Europe) and Mathieu Savary (from the Youth (un)Employment project) participated in the conference, and also on the preparatory meeting “Youth Employment: what next?” organised by the European Youth Forum and the Youth Intergroup of the European Parliament the day before.

The conference consisted in a series or panels with key note speakers from the different stakeholders involved on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee: member states and its employment services, regional and local governments, companies, trade unions and the youth sector. We could get updated information on which stage the different member states are now, and what are some of the challenges they are facing.

José Manuel Barroso, at the podium, and László Andor, on the right

AEGEE-Europe is happy to see that the Member States are working hard to implement this innovative approach to reduce the impact of the crisis on Youth Employment as soon as possible. However, if only an ambitious plan is essential to tackle effectively youht unemployment, this conference has shown that we are still far from a fully-fledged and successful implementation of the Youth Guarantee:

 

  • There are still some countries who did not submit the Implementation Plans to the European Commission yet;
  • The money made available from the European Union, through the European Social Fund, is not enough to put into practice an effective Youth Guarantee. Member States should cover the rest without any delay, since the ILO study proved that the costs of inactivity will be higher than the amount to be invested;
  • In most countries, the involvement of the youth sector in the development of the implementation plans has been very limited, and in many cases inexistent. This contradicts the Council Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee, which explicitly mentioned that Member States should “ensure the consultation or involvement of young people and/or youth organisations in designing and further developing the Youth Guarantee scheme”.
  • We encourage all countries to extend the age range of potential beneficiaries to 30 years, to reflect the reality of society and include in the Youth Guarantee those young Europeans who finish their studies in their late twenties.

We believe the Youth Guarantee has a big potential to contribute to the solution of the Youth Unemployment crisis in Europe, but the success of this initiative will depend much on the ownership the Member States take from it. It should not stay a European initiative, but countries and regions have to invest on it and include all actors on the process. The youth sector, through the National Youth Councils and other big youth platforms, can contribute with ideas in development, monitoring and evaluation of the whole scheme, and in the outreach to NEETs (not in education, employment and training), mostly young people far away from the labour market who represent a priority target group of the policy scheme. Overall, NGOs can play a decisive role as a possible placement to put into practice the knowledge acquired through formal education, or gain new skills through methods of non-formal education.

Written by Mathieu Savary, Youth (un)Employment project, and Miguel Gallardo, Project Director of AEGEE-Europe.

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Choosing a leader for your EP2014 Campaign /choosing-leader-european-parliament-campaign-ep2014/ Fri, 24 Jan 2014 09:29:42 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=886 The political family in Europe has a wide variety of colours, representing the diversity of our continent also at the level of the ideas. In the European Parliament there are seats for hosting all the options of the political arc; and under the roof of the plenary room, eurosceptics exchange ideas with pro-Europeans, nationalists debate with federalists, and different political groups ally themselves to approve their proposals since no group has a majority to do it on their own.

As a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty, and following the recommendation of the European Parliament known as the Duff Report, in 2014 many political groups will campaign with a visible figure on the European level, which represents their candidate for the position of President of the European Commission. This is a great innovation that AEGEE and the Y Vote 2014 project welcome enthusiastically. We believe it will have a very positive effect in both keeping the focus of the campaign on European issues; at the same time it can be a decisive factor to increase participation in the elections by increasing the relevance of this election process on the eyes of citizens. This idea, however, has faced criticism from relevant politicians such as Herman Van Rompuy, European Council President, and Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany.

It is interesting to see how, facing such a new situation inside the political groups, each one of them adopted a different approach. We present you with a brief analysis of the methods used by the five groups which have announced they will have a candidate for the position of President of the EC .

The first announcement of a frontrunner came from the Party of the European Socialists. From the very beginning, Martin Schulz (president of the European Parliament) never hid his intention to become the candidate of all the European social-democrats. Even when Schulz had promoted the idea of having primary elections to elect the socialist candidate, nobody else among the socialist ranks postulated a candidature; therefore, as early as Schulz was chosen on the 6th of November, he unofficially continued with his campaign.

 

A similar situation happened within the Party of the European Left. At their congress of December in Madrid, they approved the only candidature of Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Syriza party in Greece. He had been proposed by their Council of chairpersons in October and he got more than 80% of the votes. The European Left opted to present a candidate for President of the Commission not because they believe this new system will bring more democracy to the Union, but because they did not want to leave the monopoly of speaking to their rival parties.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe party faced a dilemma, with current commissioner Olli Rehn competing for the leading position on one side, and the former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on the other. Some analysts feared that the tension between these two figures, which represent two different trends inside the Liberal family (Rehn representing the more pro-austerity sector, and Verhofstadt the more pro-European), could break the liberals in two factions. The mediation of Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, and Christian Lindner, the leader of the German FDP, ended up in an agreement that places Guy Verhofstadt as the Liberal candidate for Commission Presidency, and reserves another big position, related with economic of foreign affairs, for Olli Rehn.

Among the christian-democrats of the European People’s Party, the situation is still far from being clear. The decision will be taken in Dublin during their congress on 6-7 March. Until then, negotiations will take place internally and they promise to be arduous. Already in December there were “at least 6 interested people”, according to Joseph Daul, the EPP president. The names of the interested people are not officially announced, but once Barroso seems to be discarded, the rumours signal to Jean-Claude Juncker (former prime minister of Luxembourg, with a clear opposition of the CDU of Angela Merkel), Jyrki Katainen (Prime Minister of Finland), and Fredrik Reinfeldt (Prime Minister of Sweden), as the ones with bigger possibilities. Other names on the rumours are Latvian ex-PM is on that list- Valdis Dombrovskis, Lithuania’s President and winner of the Charlemagne prize in 2013 Dalia Grybauskait?, Commissioners Vivianne Reading and Michel Barnier, or the IMF president Christine Lagarde. But  we should not discard the option of a surprise candidate as a result of a consensus decision, and it’s very likely that nothing will be known until the group announces it in Dublin. Until then, you can guess at the poll organised by Europe Decides, an initiative to help Europeans follow all the changes to happen in 2014.

The European Green Party, on their side, have launched a pioneering process of primary elections open to all Europeans. They have an online voting system where anyone (it is not necessary to be member of a Green party to participate) can choose up to two candidates for the position of President of the Commission. Every EU resident who is 16 or older can vote at the website www.greenprimary.eu until 28 January 2014 at 18:00. On the website you can also find the profiles of the four candidates: José Bové, the famous activist, with a profile oriented to the rural world; Monica Frassoni, co-Chair of the European Green Party, with a more Europeanist profile; Rebecca Harms, anti-nuclear militant with a wide experience in the EP; and Ska Keller, from FYEG (Federation of Young European Greens) and with a more social agenda.

It would be relevant to analyse if the method chosen to select their candidate had any impact in the election results that each political option will achieve, although it will also depend vastly on the resources they invest and in the attention that the national media pay to their messages. In any case, AEGEE welcomes the initiative of these political groups to readily follow the guidelines marked in the Lisbon Treaty, since these change brings us closer to the so-much wanted (but still so far away) scenario of real transnational European Elections with pan-European lists. We encourage the remaining political groups to follow the lead and select, according to their own favourite methodology, a visible head for the campaign. That person would be able to represent their views on equal conditions on the European level, and participate on the discussions about the relevant European topics of the campaign. This will be necessary if we want to avoid the risk of getting entangled in national debates. Moreover, this will make easier for the regular citizens to understand the implications of casting a vote and to make a choice, bringing Europe closer to them.

You can read more about the Y Vote 2014 campaign in our website.

 

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Looking into 2014: a crucial year for the future of Europe /looking-into-2014-a-crucial-year-for-the-future-of-europe/ Mon, 06 Jan 2014 16:36:52 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=857 2013 was a year where things have started to change in Europe. Economic recuperation has been officially announced, but still has not been felt by the citizens who have to fight against unemployment and cuts in salaries or social benefits in their countries. Angela Merkel got elected again, becoming the first leader among the big democracies in Europe to resist the effects of the crisis on a national election; however, she needed a big coalition to form her government.

While the European Union is being questioned more than ever among its members, thousands of Ukrainian citizens faced cold winter winds and brutal attacks from police just to defend their European dream, first, and to claim democratic reforms in their country, later, making a lot of people think again of the positive facts of the still-in-construction European project. On the other side, we saw PM Cameron launching his proposal of referendum about an exit of the UK from EU, and we feel an increase of nationalistic and anti-EU messages in national media almost in every EU country. On the other hand, the EU welcomed Croatia in a new step towards reunification, especially relevant in a sensible area such as the Balkans. Two steps forward, one backward; this seems to be the rhythm of a new European dance.

But what can we expect from 2014?

The year will be marked by the elections to the European Parliament in May, where the European citizens will have the opportunity to speak through their votes. Will we see an increase of the presence of nationalist and anti-EU parties in the EP? It is quite likely they will increase notably their seats in the Parliament, but presumably they won’t pose a threat to the pro-European policies. And if, instead of sterile complaints and media-ready statements, they decide to have a constructive critical discourse, their contribution will for sure improve the decisions taken in the Parliament. In any case, the most likely scenario is a new decrease in participation in the electoral process, caused by the disaffection of many Europeans to the politicians that govern them and the gap between the EU institutions and the citizens. How the EU will fight the abstention in these elections, is one of the pressing questions this year that will be answered soon.

Apart from the elections, there are several other focus areas to follow in Europe this year. Will the new EU budget have a swift impact on the Member States daily life? Will the evolution of the civic protests in neighbouring countries, such as Turkey and Ukraine, lead to improvements in the democracy in those countries? Will the situation of human rights in Russia worsen, now that terrorism has come back into the scene, or will  the international pressure suceed in changing the Kremlin’s policies towards minorities and civil rights?

The referendum for the independence of Scotland (and the one in Catalonia, if it takes place), and especially the questions related to how to deal with their outcomes, will pose new challenges to the EU. The effects of the full access of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU deserve attention too, and hopefully the apocalyptic messages in UK tabloids will be silenced by facts that prove that the end of this unfair situation will just bring benefits to all of us. And we will still have to deal on a daily basis with the causes and effects of the economic and financial crisis, the solution to the unbearable unemployment rates, and the “austerity vs stimulation” dilemma.

For the young people… what will be the priorities? They will keep an eye on what affects them most: education and grants, and how budget cuts impact them. But… will the European young citizens feel how much their participation in the European Parliament is sought? Will their needs be taken into account by the decision-makers?

Obviously, there will be unexpected highlights in these 12 months of 2014, because Europe will always be an amazing place to live, which never ceases to surprise us.

Anna, Bea, Kathrin, Lucille, Luis, Miguel and Pavel
Comité Directeur 2013-14

Photos: courtesy of AEGEE-Ogre, European Parliament EP elections video and KyivPost

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Greek universities: when austerity threatens recuperation /greek-universities-when-austerity-threatens-recuperation/ Thu, 24 Oct 2013 10:41:03 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=790 Austerity has been the recipe of European Commission to get out of the crisis. Even when it is true that the drastic reduction of income made impossible for most governments to keep the expenses at the level of the years before 2008, this is a dangerous strategy if kept for too long. Austerity is a temporary solution to adjust to a new situation and cannot compromise fields of the economy that should contribute to the future growth, which is the long term exit to the crisis.

Some of these sectors are obvious: education, science and research, which are at the roots of the 2020 strategy and the transition to a knowledge-based economy. However, some countries’ policies seem not to understand the same.

Last week, MEP Nikos Chrysogelos and MEP Rebecca Harms hosted a Round Table Discussion with rectors of some of the biggest universities in Greece. They wanted to present to the European Parliament a call for support, since the Greek government policy of cuts has reached a point when the next measures will suffocate them. After cuts in funding and non-replacement of staff, university has already contributed already to austerity enormously. But the policy of mobility in the public sector threatens now to force them to inactivity by depriving the universities of  the staff they need to keep security in the campuses, keep their laboratories open and running, attend the students in secretaries, manage the whole paperwork of the different faculties…

In spite of the crisis, the Greek universities have managed to keep their good position in the rankings of universities but this will change if the Greek government does not step back from their intentions of transferring (based on supposed redundancies) up to 40% of the staff of some of the big 8 universities. Institutions like the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens will lose 498 out of 1.316 admin staff. Others will not do much better: National Technical University of Athens (339 out of 882), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (169 out of 747), University of Crete (49 out of 363), University of Patras (118 out of 442), University of Ioaninna (42 out of 288), University of Thessaly (33 out of 302) and Athens University and Economics and Business (35 out of 190). The ratio of administrative staff per student is already quite low in Greece (3,6 per 100 active students) when compared with other countries (in Germany is 11,5 per 100), therefore the implementation of this reform would paralize the activity of the universities.

Rectors claim that these cuts will make it impossible for Greek Universities to contribute to the European-funded projects they are now working at, which will lead to losses of funding and further worsening of the situation.

Moreover, rectors denounce is the fact that this measure is sold to the general public as an imposition coming from the European institutions, when the truth is that they are not included in the memorandum signed between Greece and the international lenders (the Troika). This is once more an example on how governments use Europe as a scapegoat to deny their responsibility in unpopular measures.

The rectors communicate that the Greek Government has never engaged with them in a direct negotiation, in opposition to what happened in other countries where the crisis has forced cuts in the public sector. Even worse, the Government refuses to clarify the methodology used to calculate the redundancies and the needs of each university, while the studies that universities have conducted show that they are already understaffed.

The rector from the Aegeean University of Athens, Paris Tsarkas, fears that behind this strategy may exist an interest to weaken the public universities in Greece, seen as a focus of opposition to the government policy, and suspects a hidden agenda to create favourable conditions to transfer students from public to private universities. This situation reminds very much the direction of other conservative governments such as Spain which face nowadays protests caused by the same kind of measures.

Since the European Parliament proved again this week that for them austerity cannot cut future opportunities for growth, we hope that they answer the call for support from the Greek Rectors’ Conference and avoid this unjustifiable attack to the Greek Universities.

You can read more about the Round Table Discussion in this article from www.worlduniversitynews.com.

Written by Miguel Gallardo, Projects Director AEGEE-Europe

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Let’s give peace an opportunity /lets-give-peace-an-opportunity/ Sat, 21 Sep 2013 09:47:25 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=733 Have you heard of World Peace Day? Today we celebrate the annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence. 21 September become the official International Day of Peace in 2001, before it was changing dates.

But the United Nations count for this day with an incredible ally, the Peace One Day organization which works to make this day a real success and to have a bigger impact than just a red mark in your calendars. The guy who started the initiative, Jeremy Gilley, has mobilised in the last 15 years thousands of people to really make this day an opportunity for peace in many conflict areas of the world. Together with them, the impact has reached 280 millions of people last year through 6000 events, including concerts, sport matches and workshops.

Here you can see some more about the project: www.peaceoneday.org

Click on the image to see the video

 

We in AEGEE support peace but we do not have many opportunities to contribute. This year, however, we start on the same Peace Day something big. We are joining the University of Youth and Development (UJyD) in Mollina (Malaga, Spain) where we will host a Peace Bilding training focused on the Caucasus region. The multicultural environment of the UJyD will serve as a great framework where we can build up bridges among the youth of the Caucasus region and foster mutual understanding. We hope the outcome of this training course are positive and we will build up a bigger strategy in the next months. In the end we would like to give Peace not only a day in the calendar, but a home everywhere in Europe.

The University of Youth and Development is an initiative of  the North South Center of the Council of Europe, with the support of the European Youth Forum (YFJ), the Spanish Youth Council (CJE), the Latin American Youth Forum (FLAJ) and the Spanish Youth Institute (INJUVE).

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Impressions on the EP plenary on Youth Employment /impressions-on-the-ep-plenary-on-youth-employment/ Wed, 11 Sep 2013 06:54:40 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=717 Yesterday the European Parliament held a session dedicated to Youth Unemployment. It was a very interesting session to follow, where almost all voices agreed on some points such as the seriousness of the situation in some of the countries and regions and the need for a strong action from the European Union.

We learned at the very beginning that the Lithuanian Presidency has adopted Social Inclusion of NEETs (youth Not in Education, Employ or Training) as its priority on Youth policy. We in AEGEE celebrate this decision.

Commissioner László Andor began by presenting all the actions taken on the European Level to revert the trend of destruction of jobs. Here, the initiatives included in the Youth Employment Package and developed in the Youth Employment Initiative, were showcased; namely the Youth Guarantee Scheme and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships. Later interventions however remarked the fact that independent studies have shown the big gap between the necessary funding and the amount allocated from European budget. This was supposed to be covered by countries but it is not certain it will happen, risking the success of these measures.

MEPs more on the left side blamed the conservative parties of being hypocrites for asking for solutions to the problem of youth unemployment, while they are responsible for it (at least partially) through the imposition of austerity measures.

According to many MEPs the solution to the problem of unemployment has to be based in investment. The necessary austerity measures should not apply to areas such as education, entrepreneurship, I+D… which require strong investments to start working full steam again.

Moreover, some MEPs highlighted the risk of placing the young Europeans on a terrible dilemma. The one of having to choose between a badly paid job and no job at all. Moreover, those work-for-free schemes such as internships have become sometimes traps for our youth, and they do not lead to stable jobs after the learning process because another intern covers the same place.

In the end, it was a very interesting plenary because the different speakers showed up that, even on such a critical point of the political agenda, they are divided and there are contradictory positions. Something that young voters will take into account for sure when deciding their vote in the next elections. We in AEGEE will give Employment a great focus in our new project Y Vote 2014, which aims at empowering young people to make an informed choice during the European Parliament elections by undertaking actions both on European and local level.

Time now to follow the State of the European Union plenary. You can follow it here.

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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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