Happy faces everywhere: the autumn Agora of AEGEE-Europe 2014 in Cagliari will be remembered as a well-organised and very inspiring Agora. And there are many reasons for it: outstanding local organisers; a very nice and professional CD, which was always approachable; great discussions and sound plans for the future – and finally a beach next door as well as great parties at night. Of course some things were not so great, especially the constant delays in the programme. This photo recap will bring you back to some of the most memorable moments of a great event.

1. Great opening with lots of culture…

Let’s start the review with the opening on Wednesday night. As usual the organisers made a big secret of the opening ceremony. The surprise succeeded: it was maybe the best opening ever, presenting a very rich cultural programme with several short acts, ranging from music from traditional instruments to acrobatic dancers. Absolute highlight was the choir Tonara, which caused standing ovations.


2. …and great words…

Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, sent video greetings, which showed that he knows AEGEE very well. No surprise, after all he was already patron of AEGEE-Aachen when not many people outside of the Rhine area knew him. But also the other speeches were impressive. AEGEE-Europe President Paul Smits addressed the audience with identical speeches in Italian and English language of several minutes duration. A great example of including the whole audience. In the past, other presidents neglected part of the audience by not following this approach. The mayor and other local and regional officials gave speeches, of course also the antenna president Damiano Deidda and main organiser Simone Ruscica, who explained that they chose the Agora motto “A piece of the continent”, because Sardinia is a European place, a European-minded place. And then there was another very special speech…


3. …by the Grand Lady of AEGEE

Silvia Baita took the hearts of the audience by storm. Not many people in the audience knew her before; not many knew that she started her AEGEE career in Cagliari 12 years ago, that she became President of AEGEE-Europe two years later, Vice Chairlady and finally Honorary Member of AEGEE-Europe in 2009. Her speech was impressive, finding the right balance between inspiration and programmatics, between heart and mind. Easily the best speech of the night, the audience gave her standing ovations and the longest applause of all. In addition, Silvia gave a great presentation of Les Anciens and a workshop about AEGEE’s alumni association.

Silvia Abis

4. Fantastic main organiser…

Did you know the name Simone Ruscica before the Agora? The main coordinator of the Agora was the maestro of a great ensemble of skilled and friendly organisers. What does vice coordinator Mattia Abis say about him? “Simone’s biggest strength: to be stubborn to believe in what for the others was impossible – and to be right about it! Especially referring to the Agora locations, he was the only one thinking we could get the international fair of Sardinia.” Simone has actually quite some organising experience from outside AEGEE, especially with a big Red Bull concert in Sardinia. Maybe that was the reason why you always found him calm and rational, never getting nervous. AEGEE needs more organisers of this kind.


5. …and a great team

An organiser is only as good as his team – and Simone was lucky in that respect. Around 50 people worked on the Agora as organisers or helpers. Some of them very experienced people, who were President of AEGEE-Cagliari before; others were helpers from all over Italy, equally experienced, creating one big great team.

Organisers Helpers

6. Logistics: everything in one place…

The international fair of Cagliari was a great choice as location. Plenary, workshop rooms, food, a very nice gym… everything was in walking distance. Alright, the showers were a bit further away and not always operational (mainly due to misbehaving participants), but that was not disturbing the overall positive impression. Even the opening ceremony was in the plenary hall. Something else was near too…


7. The beach was just a couple of bus stops away

Two big cities in Europe are famous for having a great beach in the city: Barcelona and Cagliari. In the past, AEGEE-Cagliari made actually bad experiences with that: in 1998 and 2002 the participants of the PMs (predecessors to EBM/EPM) enjoyed the beach a lot, so that not too many people were in the plenary. Nowadays, with the scanning system it is harder for the delegates to escape – but not so hard for visitors. However, the workshop time slots provided a good opportunity also for delegates to get into the water, which was warm enough to swim – if you were from a Northern country. Especially, since the Agora was right next to a bus stop for two lines which went straight to the beach. Therefore, especially the workshops suffered from low participation due to beach fans. In most workshops there were only 10-20 participants. Not much, considering there were 700 people. Maybe it would have been better to do what one workshop leader did at the PM in 2002: he made his workshop about event organisation at the beach…


8. A new CD…

Many people were curious, how the new President Paul Smits and his CD team would present themselves. Do they look like hardworking idealistic, yet pragmatic people with a clear plan for their term? Would they always be approachable? Would they attend the parties and mingle with the crowd? Yes to all. The new CD made a very good impression. They were down to earth, open to discussions and accepted other opinions and suggestions. And they also had fun…


9. …with a sense of humour

President Paul Smits gave the impression of a dedicated, yet relaxed president with a sense of fun. Would he otherwise dress up like a butcher with a big plastic knife at the Halloween party? It was very nice to see that when the president drinks a beer at a party, it’s because he is thirsty and not because he wants to do lobbying and networking. On the photo you seem him with several Les Anciens members, who also attended the parties. Despite the knife being so close, Theijs van Welij (former President of AEGEE-Europe and President of the Foundation AEGEE Trust Fund) surviving the evening unharmed.


10. Standing ovations for the old CD

Also the old CD, whose term ended in July, got the opportunity to shine. They presented their final activity report, where they gave themselves high percentages for their achievements. The Agora sent them into retirement with standing ovations. However, not all retired – four of the seven old CD members are in the new Advisory Board.

Advisory board

11. Less crowded Action Agenda

It was also good to see that the CD wants to keep the Action Agenda less crowded. “Less is more” is the motto of the hour. According to the new CD the recent Action Agendas looked overcrowded, which made focussing on and implementing ideas actually harder. The new concept is: one or two aims only per focus area – and also less objectives. Funny though that this means that AEGEE is reinventing itself again. In the mid-90ies AEGEE had a Long Term Plan for three years (predecessor of the Strategic Plan) and a Yearplan with usually three aims per year – which was replaced by a crowded Action Agenda. AEGEE is now coming back to what we had in the past: a plan with a clear focus with a high amount of transparency!

Strategic Plan

12. Focus on Russia…

One focus of AEGEE in 2015 will surely be the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. For example, it will be the main topic of the European Planning Meeting (EPM) in Burgos in February 2015. Seven possible EPM topics were presented to the delegates, more than ever before – ranging from sustainability to education. The voting was supposed to take place in two rounds, but that wasn’t necessary, since “Europe and Russia”, presented by Marta Wnuk (sitting in the middle in the photo), got the absolute majority already in the first round!

Marta Wnuk

13. …and focus on Ukraine

The applications for the autumn Agora 2015 were also very competitive. Five antennae wanted to organise AEGEE’s most prestigious event: Beograd, Bergamo, Cluj-Napoca, Kyiv and Valletta. Has there ever been a stronger competition? No! The winner was AEGEE-Kyiv! Everyone welcomed this decision for an Agora, which shows AEGEE’s interest in the situation in Ukraine. AEGEE-Kyiv President Anna Pykhtina was overjoyed. She will assume the role as Agora coordinator.

Smailikova Wall

14. Very close EPM and Spring Agora

The two statutory events before the Autumn Agora 2015 were also a big topic in the final plenary session, but for less happy reasons. The organisers of the EPM in Burgos (see some of the organisers on the photo) and the Agora in Oviedo want their events only five weeks apart, although according to the CIA it must be six. The Agora granted an exception, but the dates were still not be settled, since the organisers should look into alternative dates. Another complication: a possible Agora data is Catholic and Protestant Easter. 22 years ago this situation created a big problem during the Spring Agora 1992 on the Greek island of Kos.  But now due to organisational reasons it might be hard to get the Agora facilities on a non-Easter weekend.

EPM Burgos

15. Competitive elections

It is always great when there are more candidates than places at the Agora elections. While no one dared to candidate against Financial Director Ioana Duca, there were seven candidates for six Netcom positions (see photo), four people wanted to become chair, five went for the four SUCT tasks, five for four Medcom places and so on. There were even two people competing for the task of Secretary of the Agora, something which never happened before.


16. No Visa Freedom Fighters anymore

Most AEGEE Working Groups are doing fine, at least on paper. With one exception: the Visa Freedom Working Group (VFWG) was inactive for the past two years, therefore the Agora deleted it after a long debate. The VFWG was once founded as Visa Freedom Fighters at the turn of the millennium, when even for countries such as Romania or Serbia-Montenegro visa were required. Today still visa are an obstacle to mobility in Europe – for example, several Russian Agora participants did not get their visa in time and could not attend the Agora. However, but with less countries concerned, the interest in the working group became smaller. Also: the new name VFWG didn’t sound as cool as Visa Freedom Fighters… Anyway, this doesn’t mean that AEGEE doesn’t care about visa issues anymore. This topic plays a substantial role in the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe.


17. Welcome to new projects!

The Agora officially closed several projects, which ran its course, but also welcomed new ones! The Election Observation Project and Democracy in Practice (see their photo) were ratified by the Agora, the representatives of the projects signed contracts with AEGEE-Europe. Good luck and success to both of them!

DIP small

18. Smooth proposals and two new Contact Antennae

The Agora was nearly in favour of everything. Most proposals passed, except for one, which regarded the right of representation of candidates. The proposer wanted that candidates, who cannot show up personally at the Agora, cannot be represented by a person, who actually has that position. Among the proposals that passed was for example one regarding exclusion and banning of misbehaving participants in AEGEE-Europe events. Also at the Agora, the AEGEE family welcomed two new members: AEGEE-Dresden (see picture) and AEGEE-Podgorica signed the Convention d’Adhésion. Both had actually been Antenna before! Good luck to both of them!


19. AEGEE Aachen and Warszawa got married

There are quite some twin antennae in AEGEE. But never before has this connection been celebrated like the wedding of AEGEE-Aachen and AEGEE-Warszawa – or short: AEGEE-Aachenawa – at Agora Cagliari. The antennae of the polar bear and the panda bear prepared the celebration very thoroughly. AEGEE-Aachen member Kai Lehmkuhl: “We rented even the dress of a priest.” Prominent Agora participants got a role in this ceremony, for example AEGEE-Europe President Paul Smits. Check out their wedding video!

Aachen Warszawa

20. Preparing for AEGEE’s 30th anniversary

AEGEE turns 30 next year – and the association is determined, to handle the anniversary better than the 20th and 25th anniversary, by more events and a better planning. There will be a range of events and activities, similar to the legendary 10th anniversary. There was a very interesting workshop on this matter. The association gets also support from outside: Marie-Hélène Caillol, wife of the late AEGEE founder Franck Biancheri, went on stage exactly two years after the too early demise of her husband. She said that the association of the friends of Franck Biancheri supports activities related to the anniversary, for example for re-enacting the legendary Night of the Antennae in 1986, when several antennae made a satellite link between their cities. In each city there was a programme of discussions, interviews and music acts. Today it is a lot easier than to do it in 1986, but the idea is still fascinating!


21. Great Agora Inspire session

Not only the visit of Franck Biancheri’s widow was inspiring; also the Agora Inspire session was. The concept was introduced at the EBM Valletta last year and has been a constant programme part of all statutory events, but also even of some Network Meeting: AEGEE members talk freely for about five minutes about a topic, which is dear to their heart. It can be how AEGEE gave them self-confidence, or about micro credits in Asia. Anything is allowed. Six members used the opportunity in Cagliari, one of them was AEGEEan Chief Editor Anna Gumbau, who talked about how AEGEE changed her life for the better. This speech was so moving that everyone gave her standing ovations.


22. Lots of delays – and no Internet

The Agora programme was rich and exciting for nearly everyone. However, the days were very long, sometimes up until 10 pm or even later. The closing plenary ended at 10:40 pm. What was the reason? The chairing of the Agora? An overambitious Agenda? Late coming participants? Or the scanning of the delegate’s badges at the entrance, which also took a lot of time? On the positive side: you did not see by far as many sleeping AEGEE members in the plenary as for example in Mannheim last year. But some people looked pretty tired; and the fact that there was also hardly any Internet in the plenary made some people read their badge over and over again – or even the Agora booklets.

Long plenaries

23. AEGEE-Catania organises best SU again!

Three times is a charme: No other antenna than AEGEE-Catania managed to make the best SU in 2014 again, as the SUCT announced. Already in the past two years the Sicilian local got the best evaluations by their participants. “The secret is in the heart of the organisers”, said the overwhelmed antenna representatives on stage.


24. Successful Wall of Summer

All SUs in one spot, all 2000 participants and hundreds of organisers. This was the Wall of Summer, which attracted many people. For the duration of the whole Agora the participants could check out group pictures of every single SU in 2014, a project by the Golden Times and the SUCT. On an area of more than six square meters you could see how important the SUs are for AEGEE!

GT wall

25. Fantastic Fair

The AEGEE Fair is one of the most popular agenda items of every Agora. The participants can check out, what the projects, Working Groups and bodies of AEGEE are doing – and how they can become active maybe in one of the countless initiatives themselves. These 90 minutes attracted hundreds of members and you could feel the enthusiasm everywhere. Some working groups collected lists of 30 signatures or more of people who want to receive more info. If it’s followed up properly, this is a great success!

Slovak Fair

26. The Abis Birthday WG

He is probably the most popular AEGEE member in Southern Europe: Mattia Abis, Agora Vice-Coordinator of AEGEE-Cagliari and Network Commissioner for the antennae in Italy and Malta until the very same Agora. A man with a sharp mind, a big heart – and the most famous pub-crawl in the network, which is named after him. Several Italian AEGEE members knew that he had his birthday during the Agora, spontaneously formed the “Abis Birthday Working Group”, jumped on the stage with a transparent and animated the Agora to sing Happy Birthday for him.

Abis WG

27. Successful fund-raising

A sign of the very good organisation of the Agora was the very successful sponsoring, a success especially thanks to FR coordinator Stefano Corsini. Among others, Red Bull seems to like AEGEE-Cagliari a lot. They created a Red Bull zone near the Agora entrance, with games and energy drinks.

Red Bull

28. Great Agora parties

The party locations were not always very close, but really good. The music was also fine, although AEGEE-Europe chief musician Benjamin Feyen was right in stating: “More 80ies music would be better next time, everyone dances to that. And why don’t the participants bring music from their countries and we play them – that would really create a European Night.” Nevertheless, the atmosphere was great; the weather was perfect also to spend time open air in front of the party places and a lot of people dressed up nicely for the theme parties.


29. Nice merchandising articles

In the last couple of years the number of available merchandising articles at Agoras has increased a lot. Not only the organisers offer shirts and other things, also the antennae know that many people are just waiting to get their hands on cult T-shirts. And then there was also AEGEE-Genova… The Italian antenna sold T-shirts for the benefit of the recent flood victims in the Italian city. Background: on October 8th Genova suffered from a terrible flood, one person died, many shops and houses were destroyed due to the flooding of the rivers Bisagno, Fereggiano and Sturla. Now that the streets are clean, but it is still necessary to help the victims of the tragedy, who lost all they had. AEGEE-Genova created a crowdfounding initiative for the “Centro di ascolto Vicariale di Marassi”, an association, which wants to help the victims. A perfect example how the European association AEGEE is also rooted in their local communities and supports them.

Genova Flood

30. Oldies everywhere

Among the 700 participants was also quite a range of AEGEE oldies. The Agora participants were very happy to meet the former members of the association. The oldies were happy to share their ideas and knowledge, for example in an AEGEE history workshop or a Les Anciens workshop, where the creation of local alumni associations was a big topic. The oldies had actually their own event in parallel to the Agora, where they talked about old times and the new AEGEE over many glasses of wine and tasty cocktails. They also went sightseeing in Cagliari and surroundings and attended lots of plenaries and all AEGEE parties. It was a perfect example of integration of different AEGEE generations!


Bonus: the power of the rainbow

No, AEGEE does not have a national level. And no regional level either. And this is actually very good, as the AEGEE history shows. That being said, it’s also great to see how various antennae in Italy were not only supporting the organisation of the Agora, but also spread their amazing AEGEE spirit. The Agora was just one of many events in the Rainbow area. Keep an eye for the next ones and join them – it’s worth it!


Thanks for reading!
See you at the next AEGEE event!