schengen – 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, 15 Nov 2017 17:59:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.11 Team Blue Is in the Country of Democracy /team-blue-is-in-the-country-of-democracy/ Fri, 08 Jul 2016 09:55:43 +0000 /?p=6637 By Hanna Polischuk

After such a warm hospitality of the three Turkish cities that we visited, it was hard to leave the country so soon. However, our route was already planned, and two wonderful Greek locals were waiting for us Our first stop in this country was Athens, the city of the famous Acropolis, democracy, Agora and gods.

AEGEEans from this amazing locals organised a city tour which described us the ancient and modern Greece. The main discussion was about democracy and how it developed through history. We could feel the past when we went up to the Acropolis, the ancient citadel of a great historic significance. But we only felt like real Greeks after tasting gyros and drinking a couple of glasses of frape.

13227116_613652232115751_6734689722210336571_nWe also attended a very interesting exhibition regarding the refugee crisis, “Suspended Step Cartoons”, aimed at showing the real picture of the refugee crisis and organized by The Association of Greek Cartoonists and The District of South Aegean Islands. It had indeed a great success: the hall was full of people exploring the works of over 20 cartoonists. All those works were really touching and frustrating; they made us think and be more aware of the scale of the problem. When we interviewed one of the cartoonists, Vangelis Pavlidis, he could not hold the tears while talking about this. Here you can understand why.

Later on, we gathered together with young Greek people in the university to know what they think about the biggest current problems in their country. We divided them into three groups in order to discuss three topics: EU-Greece Relationships, Youth Unemployment and Refugee Crisis in Greece. One person per team, the moderator, stayed in the same place, while the others were moving to another group in order to have a chance to discuss all the topics.13245487_613652105449097_3672689756546245210_n

As a result, the problems highlighted in the first topic were weak Greek economy, lack of trust to the EU institutions, false image of the country, lack of unity, unbalanced social states, wrong politics and lack of the migration policies. The solutions offered consist on easy steps: learning from the mistakes, understanding the European values, improving the communication and cooperation, fostering and developing the civic education, enforcing the equality among the EU countries, and finally increasing the involvement of the citizens into the decision-making process.

As for youth unemployment, most of the problems were the same as in every European country; however, the unemployment rate in Greece is higher than in most of them. Among the main obstacles to improve the situation are scarce job opportunities, lack of communication between universities and job market, prevailing of connections above knowledge and experience, no willingness to do manual labor jobs while striving only for the ‘prestigious’ jobs, and thus, creation of undesirable supply of workforce in a single field that has no more demand. The unemployment problem exist for many years and the clue is near; there are many ways to improve the situation, but it has to be organized and fast.

The first step will be understanding the real job market’s needs and encouraging the most needed professions; then, improvement of the communication between universities and enterprises, their mutual development of the internship programs; and lastly, the development of the open-mindedness and youth entrepreneurship through the mentorship platforms.

Regarding the last topic of discussion,  the refugee crisis, lots of problems were named. Among them are war and insecurity, racism and discrimination, bureaucracy and corruption, no cooperation between nations, and no fixed political agenda. Young Greeks see the ways to deal with those problems in unity and cooperation resulting to a common policy, integration policies, simplification of the procedures, increasing support and humanitarian help, changing the current government while voting reasonably and implementing the necessary reforms throughout the EU. When there is a problem, there is always the way to solve it, and most of the solutions depend on us.13233157_613651182115856_3997036037883047431_n

After an intensive day in the capital, we departed to Patra early in the morning. The language in the train was not understandable but by the detailed explanations of Dimitris, we managed to get to the next city without any problem. At the bus station we were warmly met by the president and treasurer of AEGEE-Patra. While Ksenia and Benedetto decided to have some rest at home, the rest of the team went to open the swimming season. Even in spring the water in the Ionian sea is warm. After the refreshment and cultural night program we began the serious day. Even under the hot sun we found some young people who shared with us their opinions about the borderless Europe. 13241348_615852195229088_387481140209867202_n

We organized a parliament simulation being the main topic of discussion “Is Schengen Dead or Alive?” Everyone had a chance to express the opinion, and there were many arguments for both sides of the question. The biggest debates were about security versus refugees. From one point of view, it is important to take care about refugees and help them integrate into the Greek society. From the other one, there is a fear that terrorists can pretend to be refugees, and that letting them in will weaken the security and increase the chance of an attack.

Among the reasons to open borders were solidarity, support for the victims of the war, sharing the burden, protection of the human rights and respecting the Schengen agreement. On the contrary, the opposing team explained the necessity to close the borders mainly because of the terrorism. They suggested to enforce an European army with border guarding and intensifying passport control. We should  help people who are leaving their homes and past life behind in order to survive and protect their families without any doubt. At the same time, there is a need to cooperate among all the EU states in order to unify and improve the general security.13256100_615852255229082_6559252599137052595_n

We were actively engaged in both discussions but we let the participants speak out. In the political EU world there are similar discussions going on and on without any clear final solution nor strategy.

By what we understood, if the government does not take any actions, its people will change the rulers. We live in a time of changes and fights for democracy and human rights. Whenever you come to Greece, you feel it more than anywhere else. We are very grateful to AEGEE-Athina and AEGEE-Patra for this amazing experience and their warm hospitality. Also, we would like to thank again Interrail for this opportunity!13267791_615852268562414_4512342797948786114_n

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Team Red in A Coruña: United in Diversity? /youths-in-coruna-debate-whether-the-refugee-crisis-unites-or-divides-europe/ Fri, 13 May 2016 08:15:12 +0000 /?p=6517 By Chikulupi Kasaka

Team Red of Europe on Track 3 arrived in A Coruña, Spain at 11am on 7th May 2016 with the best train experience. Thanks to Interrail for making it a real once-in-a-life experience!

AEGEE-A Coruña warmly welcomed the team and offered us a nice time to relax and get ready for the sessions. Our host, Alejandra, took the team for lunch to boost their energy before going to a workshop. This revived the energy and enthusiasm of the team to go and discuss the Refugees and migration crisis in Europe.

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AEGEE-A Coruña organized an event under the name “Whole of Europe is a theatre”. Isn’t it a curious title? Yes, it is! And the team was curious to find out what A Coruña youth thinks about Europe.

The workshop was organized into 5 mini sessions. The first session was about the introduction and presentation about Europe on Track 3; then, we presented and explained our personal experiences with mobility and travelling abroad and within Europe. The third session was an exercise on “Where does Europe End?”; the fourth session was a presentation about “Refugee Crisis in Europe: Do refugees pose a threat to Europeans?” which was followed by a critical debate. The last part of the workshop was a short questionnaire about Europe.

Mobility and traveling abroad. We realized that many youths in A Coruña have not benefited a lot of from exchange programs like Erasmus Scholarships or European Voluntary Service (EVS). On the other hand, many of them have enjoyed travelling within Europe through AEGEE programs. To them, AEGEE is really important in enhancing youth mobility and integration in Europe.

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Where Does Europe End? This exercise was really fun, critical and worth doing. Each participant was given a map to draw a border on where he/she thinks Europe ends. Each participant came up with different borders on their maps. At the end, we all came to the conclusion that the borders to where Europe ends are not really known. Some of them were confused over the members of the European Union and those within Europe. At some point, participants were discussing if Luxembourg, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina they were part of Europe or not. The exercise was enjoyable and all were happy eventually to learn more about Europe.

Refugee Crisis in Europe and whether refugees pose a threat to Europeans. The presentation analyzed how someone can become a refugee and the process one goes through from being an asylum seeker to being accepted as a refugee. The youth in A Coruña was familiar with some refugees’ experiences in Turkey and Greece. Participants were shown the data on the number of refugees arriving per day in Greece, which is from 0-4500 and that Turkey has the largest number of refugees, over 2 million people. Finally, the presentation showed the amount of money already spent on the refugees. At the end of the presentation, a question was asked to all participants; do refugees pose a threat to Europeans?

The question led the participants to debate over the new topic, whether “Refugee crisis unites or divides Europe”. One side held the opinion that refugee crisis unites Europeans, especially when they came together to help other countries like Greece and Turkey and when the European civil society stood up for refugees with the Refugees Welcome movement that quickly spread through European society.DSC_7309

On the other side, some participants were reluctant to the acceptance of refugees into Europe and said the crisis divides Europe, because some countries do not agree on accepting refugees resettled in their own countries. Other topics related to this issue that are influencing some parts of society are Islamophobia, xenophobia, security  protection over one’s national culture, and fear of the downgrading of the living conditions.

The workshop ended by neither party win nor another lose. All participants agreed that Europe has the political will and financial power to assist and help refugees. Finally, the questionnaires with short questions were distributed to the participants and all shared their answers to the questions asked and what can be improved for a better European future.

The workshop was successful due to the teamwork and great preparations of AEGEE-Coruna. Special thanks to Alejandra Pérez and Paula López, main responsibles of the local event, for making the ambassadors’ experience in A Coruña warm despite of the rain and very much worth it.

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Our next stop is Barcelona. Stay tuned!

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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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Threat to free movement: security and Schengen restrictions in Bulgaria and Romania /threat-to-free-movement-security-and-schengen-restrictions-in-bulgaria-and-romania/ Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:43:11 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1275 The recent terrorist attacks on the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo and the hostage taking in the Jewish supermarket just outside of Paris have caused a major disturbance in European Union’s security policies. AEGEE-Europe acknowledges the grave and deep impact of these events, but would like to express its concern with recent developments around the heightened security threat and the stricter regulation of the Schengen Area. According to Romanian MEP Traian Ungureanu, Romania’s and Bulgaria’s chances to join the Schengen zone have diminished sharply now that Germany and France have become more cautious [1]. Some Schengen countries fear that accession of Bulgaria and Romania would ease the transition of Islamic extremists into Europe via Turkey and successively Bulgaria.

AEGEE-Europe considers this a thought that connects two developments with each other which are not related at all. Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and have been meeting the technical requirements of joining the Schengen area for years, which was confirmed by the European Parliament already in June 2011. At the same time, since the rise of the Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria, the countries have done their duty as European Union border countries, taking care of refugees as well as investigating them.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said “police have arrested and sent back to Turkey more than 3,000 immigrants. (…) There have been more than 12,000 asylum-seekers since the start of 2014. Some 5,500 asylum requests have been granted for humanitarian reasons”.

Refusing the Schengen accession of the eastern Balkan member states on grounds of security threats goes against the solidarity and humanitarian principles which have always been a cornerstone of the success of the European Union. Not only would such a measure be unfair to Romania and Bulgaria who have made distinguishable successes in their justice and home affairs policies, but also to asylum seekers fleeing from the crisis situation. Not granting Schengen rights to Romania and Bulgaria on these grounds misses the point of better security measurements, as protecting the security of European citizens should focus  on establishing adequate gate-keeper procedures for the border countries, not on excluding EU citizens from the passport-free area.

AEGEE-Europe believes in democratic values and a borderless Europe; a Europe in which it would be unfair to undo the good work of Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area. Therefore we hope that these threats will not become a reality and fair democracy in Europe can be preserved.

Written by Matthijs Overhaal (Policy assistant of AEGEE-Europe) and Paul Smits (President of AEGEE-Europe)

 

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