20 Years ago: AEGEE-Eindhoven organises the biggest PM ever


Vooch. Once again, every­body: Vootch.” The Pres­i­dent of the new AEGEE local in the Pol­ish city Lódz refused to sign the Con­ven­tion d’Adhésion, before every sin­gle del­e­gate in the huge con­fer­ence hall in Eind­hoven pro­nounced the name of her city in the cor­rect way: “Vooch”. This was only one of many high­lights of the Pres­i­dents’ Meet­ing (PM) in Eind­hoven, which took place from 1st to 3rd of March 1996.

Michiel van Hees
Michiel van Hees: mas­ter­mind and main organ­is­er

The most par­tic­i­pants, the high­est num­ber of par­tic­i­pat­ing locals, the biggest event of AEGEE-Eind­hoven: the spring Pres­i­dents’ Meet­ing broke three records. “We were real­ly proud to turn this statu­to­ry event into a big suc­cess”, recalls Michiel van Hees, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Eind­hoven and main organ­is­er. Alto­geth­er 450 stu­dents from 100 AEGEE branch­es attend­ed the PM.

You are not famil­iar with the term Pres­i­dents’ Meet­ing? Well, from 1986 to 2000 this was the name of the small broth­er of the Ago­ra, lat­er called Plan­ning Meet­ing, then Euro­pean Boards’ Meet­ing (EBM) and since last year Euro­pean Plan­ning Meet­ing (EPM). While todays EPM’s role is main­ly to dis­cuss an issue of spe­cial impor­tance dur­ing a con­fer­ence part and also to pre­pare the Action Agen­da of AEGEE, for­mer­ly known as Year­plan, the Pres­i­dents’ Meet­ing was prepar­ing the Ago­ra – which also includ­ed dis­cus­sions about future activ­i­ties and projects.

450 people
450 par­tic­i­pants: a record until today

With this high num­ber of par­tic­i­pants the event actu­al­ly resem­bled more an Ago­ra than a usu­al PM. In fact, AEGEE-Eind­hoven, known for doing things in style and some­times also show­ing off a bit with it, could have eas­i­ly pulled off organ­is­ing an Ago­ra, which had more pres­tige in the net­work. How­ev­er, they decid­ed to go for a PM on pur­pose. “Pres­i­dents’ Meet­ing sound­ed cool­er than Ago­ra”, says Michiel van Hees, who was award­ed Hon­orary Mem­ber­ship of AEGEE-Europe in 2002 — for his var­i­ous activ­i­ties from organ­is­ing projects to cre­at­ing AEGEE.tv.

The PM in Eind­hoven was not only spe­cial in size, but also in qual­i­ty. Excel­lent meet­ing facil­i­ties, low fees and short ways to all build­ings con­tributed to the fan­tas­tic atmos­phere, which was gen­er­at­ed by a team of very friend­ly and pro­fes­sion­al organ­is­ers. A spe­cial high­light: “Our Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty sup­port­ed us with mon­ey from a spe­cial fund, so we could arrange three bus­es for 120 par­tic­i­pants from Cen­tral and East­ern Europe – near­ly for free”, reports Michiel van Hees.

The PM organ­is­ers were very relaxed

I wasn’t on these bus­es, but trav­elled in anoth­er way, which I will nev­er for­get: we were four peo­ple from AEGEE-Göt­tin­gen, crammed togeth­er in a very old Tra­bi. Our anten­na pres­i­dent, Peg­gy Repen­nig, orig­i­nat­ed from East­ern Ger­many, and owned one of those infa­mous trade­mark cars of Social­ist Ger­many. After 1990 you could basi­cal­ly get them for free, often they were just aban­doned at the side of the road, and Peg­gy was still dri­ving one of them, when she stud­ied in Göt­tin­gen. The car was very old and we were afraid it would not make it to Eind­hoven.

And in fact, it didn’t. Right when we reached the city lim­its of the Dutch city, the car broke down. For­tu­nate­ly the uni­ver­si­ty wasn’t far any­more. I went straight to the office of the anten­na, where I was expect­ing to see ner­vous organ­is­ers run­ning around, shout­ing at each oth­er, lament­ing a pos­si­ble fail­ure of the event. Because that’s how it was in Budapest, four months ear­li­er, when the Hun­gar­i­an anten­na organ­ised the Ago­ra. Instead, there were just four guys sit­ting in the AEGEE-Eind­hoven office, being total­ly relaxed, play­ing com­put­er games, check­ing their mails, chit-chat­ting. “This is incred­i­ble. Don’t you have to organ­ise an event?”, I asked. Michiel van Hees just smiled. “Every­thing is ready for weeks”, he replied.

The PM in Eind­hoven was the first statu­to­ry event that used a beam­er.

And indeed it was. In an impres­sive way! Thanks to the great finan­cial and logis­ti­cal sup­port of the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty of Eind­hoven, and due to the fact that this city was the seat of Philips, the build­ing and its tech­ni­cal facil­i­ties were state of the art. For exam­ple, this was the very first statu­to­ry event, where the organ­is­er used a beam­er instead of an over­head pro­jec­tor. We were all so impressed! Right until 2000, over­head pro­jec­tors were still used at Ago­ras and PMs.

But how was the pro­gramme like? It was very dif­fer­ent from today’s EPM. It start­ed on Fri­day at noon with a speed course for fresh mem­bers. Today’s AEGEE Fair was called Work­ing Group Fair and last­ed 30 min­utes. Work­ing Groups with dozens of mem­bers played a big role in AEGEE, before they were delet­ed in 2015 and par­tial­ly refound­ed as Inter­est Groups, being replaced by new Work­ing Groups with restrict­ed mem­ber­ship. After the Work­ing Group Fair the Cul­ture WG, Europe of the Regions WG, Job­fair WG, Edu­ca­tion WG, East-West WG, North-South WG, Envi­ron­men­tal WG, Human Rights WG and the Pub­lic Rela­tions WG invit­ed the par­tic­i­pants for work­ing group meet­ing ses­sions, which were vis­it­ed by many peo­ple. This was a very good con­cept: the Fair made the par­tic­i­pants curi­ous and since there was no alter­na­tive pro­gramme, many peo­ple joined the WG ses­sions right after­wards and became active. Actu­al­ly, the fact that the exclu­sive times­lot for work­ing groups at statu­to­ry events was abol­ished might have played the deci­sive role in their down­fall.

And that’s it with Friday’s pro­gramme. In those days open­ing cer­e­monies as today were not stan­dard. Organ­is­ers could make them, but it was not required. The open­ing took place in the ple­nary on Sat­ur­day morn­ing. What fol­lowed then at the PM, looks like an Ago­ra Light pro­gramme: in the morn­ing the CD pre­sent­ed their Moral Report. Today this is called Activ­i­ty Report, so that mem­bers do not get the idea that the report is about eth­ic con­duct of the CD.

Five con­tacts signed the Cnven­tion d’Adhésion

The Pre­sen­ta­tion of the Moral Report was extreme­ly impor­tant. It gave a great indi­ca­tion about how the CD was doing and helped the locals to pre­pare for the Ago­ra – some­times this meant: sharp­en­ing their knives. In Eind­hoven, AEGEE-Europe’s Pres­i­dent Christoph Strohm had many high­lights to present. Just two months ear­li­er the head­of­fice of the asso­ci­a­tion had moved from Delft to Brus­sels. “Our oth­er big suc­cess­es include the par­tic­i­pa­tion at the EU’s Sin­gle Cur­ren­cy Round table in Brus­sels and a pho­to exhi­bi­tion at the Coun­cil of Europe in Stras­bourg”, he sum­marised. Christoph Strohm stressed that AEGEE should take more actin in organ­is­ing big­ger the­mat­ic projects, such as organ­is­ing a con­fer­ence cycle around the Euro cur­ren­cy and East-West projects.

This report was fol­lowed by a thor­ough ques­tion and answer ses­sion and work­shops in the after­noon. Those work­shops were most­ly about projects, but also inter­nal issues. For exam­ple: after hold­ing the HRWG ses­sion on Fri­day, whose pres­i­dent I was back then, I had a work­shop on Sat­ur­day about the Case Study Trip to for­mer Yugoslavia, which our work­ing group had planned for autumn. Oth­er work­shop top­ics were for exam­ple about AEGEE train­ings or par­tic­i­pa­tion fees for statu­to­ry events.

Workshop results
Pre­sen­ta­tion of work­shop results

On Sat­ur­day evening there was a meet­ing for poten­tial CD can­di­dates, just like today, and a Part­ner­ship Fair. If you now think this is relat­ed to the infa­mous pointsys­tem, then you are wrong. The Part­ner­ship Fair was for anten­nae who were look­ing for a twin – although the name “twin anten­na” did not exist yet and the process was not for­malised either. How­ev­er, also this Fair is an inter­est­ing con­cept which got for­got­ten in time.

The Sun­day pro­gramme again resem­bled the Ago­ra sched­ule: the CD pre­sent­ed the Finan­cial Report, fol­lowed by a ques­tion round – and elec­tions! Yes, indeed! Despite the fact that the PM was not the Ago­ra, it had the pow­er to elect peo­ple for one spe­cif­ic Euro­pean body: the Mem­bers Com­mis­sion. But only for half of it; the oth­er half was elect­ed at the Ago­ra.

CD and organisers
The CD thanks the organ­is­ers.

In case you joined AEGEE in the past cou­ple of years, you know this body as Medi­a­tion Com­mis­sion. In fact, the name Mem­bers Com­mis­sion con­fused a lot of peo­ple, even can­di­dates. As a result, there was always some­one who asked the can­di­dates: “Can you explain what the Mem­bers Com­mis­sion is doing?” This result­ed often in fun­ny-embar­rass­ing moments, because there was usu­al­ly always some­one who said: “The Mem­bers Com­mis­sion takes care of the peo­ple in AEGEE.” They did not know that mem­bers of AEGEE usu­al­ly refers to locals. This time there was one spe­cial can­di­date: Eric Cher­el from AEGEE-Vannes, whose anten­na was under inves­ti­ga­tion for forg­ing the sig­na­ture of the Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe and bul­ly­ing anoth­er anten­na. With his can­di­da­ture he tried to influ­ence the case. Of course the del­e­gates under­stood this and Eric got only 2% of the votes.

In the gym.

The rest of the days were work­shops again — some of them were deal­ing with issues which became pro­pos­als at the next Ago­ra, oth­ers were about the Year­plan and oth­er projects – and the sign­ing of the afore­men­tioned Con­ven­tion d’Adhésion. Five con­tacts became Con­tact Anten­nae: Dunaújváros, Lódz, Gießen, Split and Stras­bourg. And three Con­tact Anten­nae were upgrad­ed to Anten­nae: AEGEE-Lon­don, AEGEE-Rije­ka and AEGEE-L’viv. There was plen­ty of time to get to know the lat­est mem­bers, also due to the less crowd­ed agen­da than at Ago­ras – fol­low­ing the old mot­to: “Ago­ras are for mak­ing deci­sions, PMs are for mak­ing friends.”