The refugee cri­sis is not only the main top­ic in Europe’s pol­i­tics and media; it was also in the focus of this year’s Euro­pean Plan­ning Meet­ing (EPM), which took place from 25th till 28th of Feb­ru­ary in Lei­den. Luca Bisigh­i­ni, AEGEE-Europe’s Pol­i­cy Offi­cer on Migra­tion, shared his impres­sions with the Gold­en Times read­ers.

Luca Bisighini
Luca Bisigh­i­ni

Gold­en Times: Luca, what’s your over­all impres­sion of EPM Lei­den?
Luca Bisigh­i­ni: It was pos­i­tive, fruit­ful and engag­ing. Espe­cial­ly the top­ic of refugees got enough and detailed atten­tion from every­body.

Gold­en Times: The top­ics refugees and migra­tion were in the focus of the EPM. Did the pre­sen­ta­tions, dis­cus­sions and work­shops about that top­ic pro­vide a good basis for dis­cus­sion?
Luca: I can tell you that the con­tent man­agers pro­vid­ed every­thing, from a the­o­ret­i­cal back­ground before the event, to direct meet­ings with actu­al refugees and aca­d­e­m­ic peo­ple.

Gold­en Times: Which state­ments or ideas did caused the biggest con­tro­ver­sies — and which one caused the biggest con­sent? Luca: I still don’t get why dur­ing the debate “Open Europe ver­sus Fortress Europe” half of the audi­ence just changed their mind, while Jon and Paul were talk­ing about com­mu­tat­ing the refugee pol­i­cy into a “Bring­ing in the smartest guys” pol­i­cy through hotspots.

The par­tic­i­pants of the EPM were very enthu­si­as­tic

Gold­en Times: Can you elab­o­rate on that?
Luca: It was part of an Oxford Debate. In the end of it, the audi­ence had to vote for one of two choic­es. Of course, Paul and Jon played their part in a very good way — kudos to them. I may under­stand that their speech­es may have sound­ed more con­vinc­ing. But in real­i­ty, those ideas are total­ly not applic­a­ble and against the Gene­va Con­ven­tion itself. I found the whole sit­u­a­tion real­ly con­tro­ver­sial: after the back­ground pro­vid­ed by the con­tent man­agers, and after the talks of the aca­d­e­mics almost half of the peo­ple prob­a­bly didn’t under­stand why the vote was a huge mis­take. By the way, due to the struc­ture of the Oxford Debate, I didn’t have chance to answer to that pro­pos­al.

Gold­en Times: Do you have an idea what can be done bet­ter?
Luca: I think the Oxford Debate has to be restruc­tured in a bet­ter way next time. Nev­er­the­less, I admire the fact that the con­tent man­agers of the EPM intro­duced such a debat­ing tool.

The AEGEE Fair was one of the big High­lights of the Event.

Gold­en Times: You are Pol­i­cy Offi­cer on Migra­tion. What was your role and involve­ment in the EPM?
Luca: I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Oxford Debate, did the “Pol­i­cy work­shop” with Pablo from the CD about how to make a Pol­i­cy Paper, where I explained the dif­fer­ent posi­tions AEGEE may take about a top­ic — and I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the AEGEE Fair.

Gold­en Times: AEGEE exists in 40 coun­tries — whose gov­ern­ments, soci­ety and media all have dif­fer­ent views on the top­ic at hand. In some coun­tries they call the sit­u­a­tion “refugee cri­sis” in oth­ers “migrant cri­sis” — which are total­ly dif­fer­ent terms. Did this reflect on the EPM par­tic­i­pants? And was there any con­clu­sion?
Luca: Absolute­ly. One clear exam­ple was in fact the Oxford Debate, when half of the peo­ple changed their mind with­out even know­ing that their new opin­ion was in con­flict with the prin­ci­ples of the Gene­va Con­ven­tion. This felt very awk­ward. And indeed, the opin­ions across Europe is incred­i­bly diverse and dif­fer­ent. Dur­ing the EPM, almost the absolute major­i­ty was “pro refugees”, but I have seri­ous doubts about it.

Gold­en Times: You made a sur­vey on migra­tion in AEGEE and there­fore prob­a­bly have the best overview on the atti­tudes of AEGEE mem­bers in this top­ic. You pre­sent­ed the main sur­vey results at the EPM. Can you sum­marise them?
Luca: Well, first I need to state that the sur­vey was made before the EPM. So, I can tell you for sure that almost half of the peo­ple who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the sur­vey were aware and informed about the top­ic before com­ing to the EPM, almost the oth­er half was informed but some­times con­fused to cer­tain extent. A tiny sam­ple of peo­ple in AEGEE just loves the idea of Fortress Europe that much — I am sar­cas­tic about it — to con­sid­er refugees or eco­nom­ic migrants as “Not wel­come”.

The local organ­i­sa­tion of the EPM was very good.

Gold­en Times: For your sur­vey you received 219 replies from 88 anten­nae in 30 coun­tries. Did you expect so much?
Luca: I actu­al­ly expect­ed more! Actu­al­ly, I put a lot of effort in mak­ing it, shar­ing it, writ­ing e-mails to every­body about it, over­com­ing some resis­tances from cer­tain peo­ple… In the end I got those num­bers and I think it was a very rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of the asso­ci­a­tion as a whole.

Gold­en Times: What does the lev­el of par­tic­i­pa­tion mean for the impor­tance of the top­ic in AEGEE?
Luca: The mean­ing is pret­ty easy: by find­ing such a good sam­ple of peo­ple, the sur­vey assumes rel­e­vant sta­tis­ti­cal impor­tance enough to be quot­ed with­out any kind of rel­e­vance prob­lem in my pol­i­cy paper. If the Pol­i­cy Paper will be lat­er rat­i­fied in Spring Ago­ra Berg­amo, we’ll be able to pass from a 1.68% valid­i­ty — the 219 peo­ple — to a 100% valid­i­ty. With­out that sur­vey, maybe some AEGEEans wouldn’t have seen the whole Pol­i­cy Paper as reli­able.

Gold­en Times: Were any con­crete projects or actions on refugees decid­ed as a result of the EPM?
Luca: For sure there will be future projects or events or actions about it, but I don’t remem­ber any­thing so con­crete that arose as a result of the EPM.

AEGEE-Lei­den pre­pared the event for more than a year and received its deserved Applause.

Gold­en Times: The EPM also dealt with the Action Agen­da. How do you remem­ber that part? What were the main ideas for AEGEE that stuck in your head? Luca: Well, talk­ing about con­crete projects, for sure the Action Agen­da was the most con­crete thing by far that I remem­ber. There were so many ideas – and all of those were good.

Gold­en Times: A few words about the con­tent organ­i­sa­tion. Did Chair, EPM con­tent man­agers, Action Agen­da Coor­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee and CD do a good job in prepar­ing the event?
Luca: I think all of them con­tributed to a good event. My spe­cial men­tion goes to the guys and girls of the Action Agen­da Coor­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee: they were incred­i­bly active, pos­i­tive and pas­sion­ate.

Gold­en Times: What about AEGEE-Lei­den? How well did they did their job in organ­is­ing the event?
Luca: They worked in a good way, they deserve to host anoth­er big event like this one.

Gold­en Times: How good were accom­mo­da­tion, food, par­ties and loca­tions in gen­er­al?
Luca: The accom­mo­da­tion was good, the food was fine with too many sand­wich­es and too much Drinky, the par­ties were half good and half inad­e­quate – in Lei­den there was prob­a­bly the worst Euro­pean Night I have ever had — and the loca­tions were opti­mal.


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