participation – 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 Is youth mobility socially mobile? /is-youth-mobility-socially-mobile/ Fri, 25 Apr 2014 00:35:46 +0000 /?p=5074 by Monica Nica

Heading to Naples we were hoping that the sunny weather we had experienced up to that moment would get even better. Instead, rain and clouds insisted to tag along with us through the two days we spent there. But the outside chilliness was counteracted by the warmth with which Nicola and his family welcomed us in their home. His mother not only treated us with a delicious traditional Easter dinner, but also with some interesting thoughts on the youth’s situation nowadays. For example, something that worries her is the fact that young people do not consider family and community ties as an important piece of the puzzle called life.

During the event, although we started the presentation on the topic of youth mobility, the conversation quickly went far beyond it as most participants were knowledgeable in the area. We touched upon issues of identity, the future young people envision for the EU, the moral values defining society today, and equal opportunities for youths.

We have already travelled 4000 km, visited 5 cities, met and discussed with almost 100 hundred people, and they unanimously agreed upon one thing: travelling is great! Everyone should travel, everyone should meet people from other countries, and everyone should experience other cultures. Many young people said that after returning from yet another trip they feel different relative to their friends who stay at home, they feel they know more, they feel they can do more. As I travelled a little bit myself during the past 3 years, I can say one thing: travelling is addictive! Once you start, you can hardly stop. There is always a new place to discover and interesting people to meet.

DSC01189If only everyone could indeed profit from all the advantages of travelling: independence, self-confidence, better language skills, adaptability, and inter-cultural communication abilities among others. The main recurrent reason for not travelling given by the young people we talked with was unsurprisingly related to the financial situation. Most simply cannot afford it.

Since my travelling has all the time been connected with something educational or professional, I had some kind of scholarship, but there were always expenses which I had to cover myself. If it weren’t for my parents and friends helping me out with that part, I wouldn’t have been able to travel anywhere. Even when all the expenses were covered by the organisers of the conference, the procedure usually involved a reimbursement. So there’s no such thing as free travelling, which means that the majority of young people can’t enjoy the benefits of it.

Mr. Luciano Griffo from Europe Direct in Napoli said that the EU mobility programmes are very good and that all young people should participate in them. At the same time, when asked about the real availability of these programmes for all youths, he admitted that they indeed represent opportunities mainly for university students. And the majority of university students come from middle and upper-middle classes.

DSC01174Without the support of family or friends, it can be very hard or even impossible to rely solely on the grants offered through the various mobility programmes. Even in AEGEE members have to pay in order to avail themselves of the wonderful travelling opportunities highly praised by everyone we have talked with.

Unfortunately those who can’t afford it are the ones who need it the most. The active youths already possess the skills and resources necessary for political participation. If decision-makers want all young people to be active citizens they need to offer everyone the tools necessary to address the barriers for participation in terms of skills, language, knowledge and ethos. Studies show that the more socially excluded young people are, the less they participate. But if given a good social condition, they are willing to exercise their formal rights. It might seem like an enormous task to undertake, but why not start with making the mobility programmes truly available for every young person, irrelevant of their social condition.

We believe in voting and democracy, not in politicians /we-believe-in-voting-and-politics-but-not-in-politicians/ Sun, 20 Apr 2014 22:49:54 +0000 /?p=4868 by Monica Nica

Marine, the president of AEGEE Lyon introduced us to her wonderful home city and the French way of spending time – picnicking with friends by the riverside. She also proposed having a different approach to disseminating information about the European Parliament (EP) elections and gathering opinions on it. Instead of holding a presentation we used a method called “Porteurs de paroles” which allowed us to engage the students at Jean Monnet University in a debate on the street.

Even though they were rather shy in starting a conversation, once we approached them they opened up and provided us with a full range of opinions, from Eurosceptic to Europtimist. For example, one student said he is not going to vote, but if he did it would only be for a candidate proposing to exit the Eurozone. On the other hand, some talked about voting as a duty, as a right that must be exercised because people died for them to have it.

DSC00907 (1)Lack of proper information seems to be, as it was in the mobility topic as well, one of the main deterrents for young people.  They complained that the elections for the EP do not receive nearly as much coverage as the national elections and even when they do, the focus of the debate is on national issues. Furthermore, students said that the issues debated do not interest or represent them. Despite this, they mentioned that their decision not to vote does not reflect a lack of interest in politics or the EU.

Lyon’s youths fit in the pattern discovered by various surveys and studies throughout the EU: young people are not apathetic, but their concerns, ideas, and ideal of democratic politics does not find a match within the available political offer. Moreover, there are structural barriers hindering or making it very difficult for the electoral participation of certain categories of young people. Through poverty, unemployment, linguistic, ethnic or social integration, some young people are systemically excluded.

The voting behaviour of young people presents differences based on income and educational background. Income strongly affects the motivations of non-voters: youths from poorer backgrounds are significantly more likely not to vote if there is no candidate or party they want to win.

DSC00902 (1)Although young people have trust in the effectiveness of voting, the older they get their cynicism and belief in non-electoral forms of participation increases. Since the first two elections in the life of a voter are highly important in determining their long-term participation, it is important to encourage and incentivise youths to vote from a young age. Participating in the first two elections they are eligible for can make the difference between habitual abstentionists or habitual participants later on.

The factors that can increase the likelihood of young people voting include being part of an association offering them positive experiences of political efficacy, coming from a family which traditionally votes, having political and civic education in school and last, but most certainly not least, having encounters with politicians who actually listen to them.

But as one student said: “it takes a lot of work to make young people aware that they can have an impact on the decision-makers”.