From May 23rd till May 28th, AEGEE’s biannual General Assembly took place in Enschede, the Netherlands. More than 600 members, young people from all around Europe, attended the event, thereby observing and participating in AEGEE’s highest decision-making body, the Agora. Participants got the chance to discuss the questions that transcend the life-cycles of our membership and our generation: the future of AEGEE and the future of Europe.
“The future of Europe is at crossroads” – one often hears nowadays. AEGEE has once again proved itself to be an actor in the construction of the future of Europe by using the space of the general assembly to bring the biggest forum for discussion when it comes to gathering the opinions of young people and finding answer to the most important question: what kind of Europe we want for the future? The AEGEE Agora has hosted the diversity of opinions in Europe, from manifestos for LGBT+ rights from Spain, through calls for partners to build a stronger civil society in Turkey, to discussing the historic elections of our times in France and in the Netherlands.
‘ True to the spirit of AEGEE’s founder (Franck Biancheri) and his last appearance 5 years ago, his ‘Occupy the Future’ – the speech was still present in its spirit, and it that was as critical and provoking as it was challenging and motivating. The youth should continue giving its contribution to occupy the future – and the hosting AEGEE local in Enschede had set the course for including the Future of Europe discussion high on the priorities of the general assembly.
The event warmly welcomed guest speakers and external partners who have contributed to the content with their relevant insights into the European economic and social context, as well as the role that young people need to take. Welcoming the Vice-President of the European Youth Forum, Carina Autengruber, the participants got a chance to meet face to face with one of the biggest youth organisations in Europe – as well as to reflect on their own roles as volunteer changemakers.
Another distinguished speaker of the event was Bernd Huettemann, Vice-President of the European Movement International and Secretary General of European Movement Germany. Bernd had laid a strong foundation for the importance of revising our democratic practices in Europe, in order to create a truly citizens-focused Europe that is understood and built by European citizens and not by high-level decision-makers.
Talking about the Future of Europe, a panel discussion on the first day of the Agora kicked off with the “White Paper on the Future of Europe” from the European Commission. Following the introduction of the White Paper by AEGEE-Europe’s President, Réka Salamon, the panellists followed with thought-provoking observations and reflections. Dr James Skelly (Founder and Academic Director The Centre on Critical Thinking), Marie-Hélène Caillol (President of LEAP and AAFB), Wessel Reijers (active member of DiEM25) and [..] Julia Roshan Moniri (organiser of the Pulse of Europe citizens’ movement). The contributions and discussion were moderated by Astrid Schrader (Founder of TheArctraining.org). The discussion touched upon many different issues, ranging from the need for transnational elections to the problem of environmental sustainability and the role of young people in shaping a better Europe.
While this panel discussion set the tone, giving the participants a sense of the wider context in which AEGEE operates, in the following days of the gener
al assembly, the participants also had the chance to practice their democratic rights and obligations they have been introduced to on the first day. From organisational discussions and debates, to the elections of the new European Board of AEGEE, the Agora has been an event filled with exchanges and learning about the intercultural dialogue.
During the last day of the Agora, there was time to showcase successful local projects and to discuss the bigger questions in AEGEE by means of the AEGEE Inspire & Where does AEGEE go? Session, an open space ideas lab and reflections on the volunteers and projects’ place in AEGEE, as well as AEGEE’s place in society. The reflections only continued during the closing plenary of the event with an Honorary Membership nomination of Bernhard Müller.. Living in Asia, Bernhard placed Europe in the wider context of global challenges.
Spring Agora Enschede left little room for doubt. The future of AEGEE and the future of Europe is ours. And the future is now, so it is up to us to occupy it or not.