policy-making – 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 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.14 Fences are not made of sausage abroad! /fences-are-not-made-of-sausage-abroad/ Tue, 06 May 2014 17:41:40 +0000 /?p=5134

by Monica Nica

A last minute change introduced a detour in our route between Zagreb and Belgrade. The name of this fortunate twist is Pécs, in Hungary. Although we only spent 17 hours in the European Capital of Culture of 2010, they were filled to the brim both with challenging debates and soaking up some local traditions.

Even though they sometimes needed a push to take the discussion forward, the Hungarian participants had fruitful and interesting debates on all three questions they received: What are the advantages/disadvantages of mobility? Do you imagine yourself working in another country? What is the best way to defend your interests as a young person?

On the mobility matter, the advantages brought up were similar to what was mentioned during the discussions we had with youths from other locations: job/education opportunities, cultural sensitivity, self-improvement, breaking down stereotypes, to cite just a few. In the disadvantages corner, one point stood out among the usually mentioned ones: ‘losing your national identity’. What Leila Abbas meant with it was the fear of one having to relinquish his/her own culture, the fear of a ‘European melting pot’ which would erase the existing cultural differences. A strong attachment to national identity was present throughout the debates on all three questions, although twined with a criticism of the Hungarian government to the same intensity, if not even greater.

DSC01681 (1)Working in another country was regarded by most participants as a short term option. Both types of arguments – pro and against working abroad – boiled down to how despite the dissatisfaction with many things, it is better to live and work in Hungary. For them, a good reason to work abroad is to gain experience which can be later used back in one’s native country. An even more powerful expression of their national attachment came in the form of a reason against working abroad: ‘leaving your country is a kind of selfishness’. Zoltán Bagoly mentioned one Hungarian saying which can help to better understand how they feel about ‘abroad’: in other countries ‘fences are not made of sausages’, in a literal translation. Considering how kolbász (sausage) is one of the staples of Hungarian gastronomic culture, one can easily grasp why sausage fences are regarded as the crest of well-being. Going beyond the tastiness of the aphorism, what Zoltán was trying to convey with it is that they think they have an undistorted view of how things are abroad. Despite the situation in Hungary not being satisfactory, abroad it is not much better. Someone said, to the approval of the rest: ‘as a nation we are too proud to confess that we can learn from other nations’.

The literature on youth participation says that young people prefer alternative channels of action to influence decision-makers. The Hungarian youths confirmed this when they mentioned the best ways to defend their interests: peaceful protests, student organisations and social media campaigns. Although they also brought up establishing relationships with officials, most of the options represent new forms of engaging with the political. When asked why they did not even consider engaging with formal politics they said it is because politics in Hungary is a realm of corruption. Politicians are very protective of their seats and joining their ranks would entail becoming like them.

Knowing perfectly well the feeling of nausea when thinking about how politics is carried out in my own country I could comprehend their stance. Time and the European Union’s influence were two of the cures prescribed by the participants to alleviate the state of affairs in the national political arena. Given that their results are slow and unreliable, I further asked them what can we do now to meaningfully influence policy-making if engaging with formal politics is not a viable option?

A bottom-up approach still remained the preferred course of action. Associations like AEGEE, they said, have an important role, especially through the patronage which alumni can provide to the initiatives of current members.

What about a youth dimension to policy-making? /what-about-a-youth-dimension-to-policy-making/ Thu, 01 May 2014 08:08:52 +0000 /?p=5113

by Monica Nica

From the border with Italy we were accompanied by “the Emerald Beauty”, one of the rare rivers in the world that retain the emerald-green colour throughout their length. The beauty of the scenery on the way to Ljubljana was only matched by the beauty of the Slovenian people we have met. They gladly welcomed us within their already busy schedule, as AEGEE Ljubljana had an exchange with AEGEE Groningen during the weekend.

The 20 young people of AEGEE Groningen made their way to Ljubljana hitchhiking, in teams of two – some for just 16 hours, other for 2 days. Even the ones who arrived the latest and had to sleep in a gas station, wholeheartedly recommended hitchhiking as a means of travelling: ‘it’s something everyone should try at least once’. As I have never hitchhiked, I asked the young travellers how can one get a ride and who usually gives rides. The answers were unanimous: getting a ride is all about luck; you can stay in a gas station for 10 minutes or for 2 hours until you find someone going your way that is also willing to take you. The people giving rides to hitchhikers are very diverse, from businessmen to hippies and from families to truck drivers. Apparently, businessmen doing this are in large numbers, as they usually travel alone. This reveals an only natural human need for connection with others, as not even businessmen are not islands.

Although they had a full schedule during the day, the young Dutch people lived up to their AEGEE reputation of being the most active and engaged, which sometimes can attract sneers from other nationalities. Their active participation rendered some interesting, and at times heated discussions. Since it was a stop scheduled last minute, there was not a certain topic requested. Instead, we decided to talk with the participants about all the topics. They were divided in five groups, each receiving a question to discuss upon, after which they had to present their conclusion to the rest of the people, engaging them in the debate as well.

DSC01379One of the questions – what is the best way to defend your interests as a young person? – had a very strong opinionated respondent. Although he was as strongly contested by the rest of the group, he did not seem to budge. One of the controversial things he said was that young people protest for the wrong things, like some war in Africa or GMOs. He was trying to say that young people should focus on things closer to them, which have a more easily noticeable impact upon their lives. Also, he asserted that they should act as part of a bigger association because as individuals is harder to make a meaningful change.

This discussion made me think about another debate: should policy-making have a youth dimension, just like there is a gender or an environment one? The proponents argue that approaching youth issues in a coherent and united manner would bolster youths’ voice, giving it a stronger standing in the negotiations of different policies. I agree that lobbying as one group can be beneficial on issues where there is a common denominator. At the same time, young people are very diverse and have opinions which differ to a large extent on many issues. In cases like these, having one voice can be detrimental to the ones which do not fit in the general agreed position. The risk of exclusion from a united youth position would be especially high for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, like migrants, ethnic minorities, those at risk of poverty or social exclusion. And this exclusion would be no different than the general feeling of exclusion from mainstream forms of influencing decision-making young people presently have.