The final cur­tain fell at Ago­ra Istan­bul. With his clos­ing remarks the sev­en-year long AEGEE career of Zvon­imir Can­ju­ga final­ly end­ed. AEGEE-Zagreb Pres­i­dent, CD mem­ber and Ago­ra Vice-Chair were just some of his many tasks, which he all did with pas­sion, ded­i­ca­tion, intel­li­gence and a big heart. For the Gold­en Times Zvon­imir looked back at those years, but also at the two recent Ago­ras in par­tic­u­lar.

Dominic Dimian and Zvonimir Canjuga
Zvon­imir Can­ju­ga and Dominic Dimi­an

Gold­en Times: Zvon­imir, you final­ly retired from AEGEE after Ago­ra Istan­bul. Do you regret your deci­sion?
Zvon­imir Can­ju­ga: This deci­sion was not out of the blue. I took some time for myself to fig­ure out what I want to do, and if I can con­tribute more to this orga­ni­za­tion. I start­ed to feel that AEGEE start­ed to exhaust me more that I would want it to do that. It is now almost sev­en years since I joined, and I believe I have done every­thing that I want­ed, and I tried to do it to my best knowl­edge and exper­tise. It was a sad and emo­tion­al Ago­ra, because dur­ing the clos­ing ple­nary it final­ly hit me: it is over… How­ev­er, I do not regret any­thing. AEGEE can be many things, for exam­ple stress­ful, but moti­vat­ing or com­plex but naive. I expe­ri­enced many things: real love, new friend­ships, drunk nights and days, par­ties, hard work, the sense of grown-up respon­si­bil­i­ty. It made me a bet­ter man that I was before. Now new chal­lenges are ahead of me, and I am look­ing for­ward to it.

GT: Your anten­na award­ed you hon­orary mem­ber­ship recent­ly. Did you expect it? And what does it mean to you?
Zvon­imir: Dur­ing the last gen­er­al assem­bly of AEGEE-Zagreb, the board decid­ed to award me hon­orary mem­ber­ship. There are no words to describe how I felt then, as I did not expect it. Only few awe­some peo­ple have this hon­or in AEGEE-Zagreb and I am real­ly proud of it. But I would not have been able to do what I did with­out of the sup­port of love­ly peo­ple of my local. They gave me their trust to lead, and togeth­er we did an amaz­ing work dur­ing the years, so yes, I got the award, but this is also an award for all those love­ly peo­ple, my friends that were with me all those years invest­ing all of their love, time and pas­sion in com­mon goals.

Zvon­imir run­ning for Chair at Ago­ra Cata­nia 2017.

GT: Let’s talk about the Ago­ra in Istan­bul. In terms of the organ­i­sa­tion it was quite a chal­leng­ing event. How do you see the Ago­ra organ­i­sa­tion over­all and how did it impact your role as a Vice-Chair?
Zvon­imir: Look­ing back and think­ing about what orga­niz­ers were going through, I believe they did their best to car­ry it out. I wish we had more com­mu­ni­ca­tion between local orga­niz­ers and Chair team, but this whole sit­u­a­tion is so com­plex it is maybe bet­ter to leave it in a past. Réka cer­tain­ly brought them a whole new set of work­ing habits, exper­tise, ideas, and tire­less devo­tion to the project. We as Chair need­ed to approach every sit­u­a­tion dif­fer­ent­ly and push our­selves to be more deter­mined than it was nec­es­sary on oth­er Ago­ras. How­ev­er, this is the mag­ic of event man­age­ment, it is so com­plex and so com­pli­cat­ed, that it chal­lenges you to mod­i­fy your behav­iour, to learn new stuff and han­dle a lot of stress.

Zvonomir run­ning for Finan­cial Direc­tor at Ago­ra Berg­amo 2016.

GT: There were quite a lot of Ago­ra pro­pos­als in Istan­bul. Which ones do you see as espe­cial­ly impact­ful for AEGEE?
Zvon­imir: None. I real­ly do not get this fas­ci­na­tion with pro­pos­als as they all are shrink­ing the cre­ative space with­in the organ­i­sa­tion. We are adding more rules, restric­tions and use­less pat­terns how to do things, which is reduc­ing the poten­tial of our mem­bers to shine with their ideas and projects. The frame­work of the orga­ni­za­tion should enhance and sup­port our mem­bers and sim­pli­fy things, to make them eas­i­er, but I do not believe this is the case in AEGEE. As long as we are spend­ing more time deal­ing with bureau­crat­ic stuff, we will become slow­er and more inef­fec­tive as an orga­ni­za­tion.

GT: Talk­ing about Ago­ra in Kraków and Ago­ra Istan­bul in gen­er­al, what were your per­son­al high­lights regard­ing your work in the Chair Team?
Zvon­imir: Well, it is for sure work­ing with Tekla, Eyrin and Sergey. Those amaz­ing peo­ple lived for those two events and they all did an amaz­ing job. Every day we spent work­ing on it was a plea­sure and I am real­ly hap­py that I was part of the team. Also, I would high­light that Shell non­sense that hap­pened in Kraków. There were peo­ple fight­ing for their beliefs and val­ues with a noble cause, but those actions could have dam­aged the amaz­ing work the orga­niz­ers did and poten­tial­ly ruined their rep­u­ta­tion and all oth­er aspects of the project and the local. We can all fight for our val­ues and beliefs, but if we put our orga­ni­za­tion as a plat­form for activist work at risk, then we would lose it quite soon. Ways on how to fight such caus­es need to be thought trough to min­i­mize the risk for AEGEE and to pro­tect its finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and all oth­er aspects.

GT: Some­times you had a hard time get­ting the Ago­ra par­tic­i­pants under con­trol. What makes it some­times so dif­fi­cult to han­dle the ple­nar­ies?
Zvon­imir: Dur­ing the Ago­ra there are a lot of strong peo­ple stand­ing for their val­ues and fight­ing for them. It can make a per­son very sub­jec­tive and blind in a sense not to see clear­ly oth­er argu­ments and posi­tions. The job of the Chair­per­sons is to stay objec­tive and indif­fer­ent in every sit­u­a­tion as it is the only way to sur­vive there. I must admit: the hard­est ple­nary was in Kraków when the SUCT almost received a vote of con­fi­dence, but we man­aged to deal with it. But, in any case, you can always cut and close the ques­tion line and you solve a lot of prob­lems. [laugh­ing]

Réka Sala­m­on (right), togeth­er with Ago­ra Chair Tekla Haj­du and Vice Chair Zvon­imir Can­ju­ga

GT: There are con­stant talks about Ago­ra reforms. What would you change?
Zvon­imir: Less pro­pos­als, more time for mem­bers to share ideas, projects and time to cre­ate real part­ner­ships with­in locals for spe­cif­ic activ­i­ties – such as projects, events or oth­er actions. And I would like to see a more dig­i­tal Ago­ra.

GT: You had a long AEGEE career: anten­na pres­i­dent, EQAC speak­er, CD mem­ber, Vice-Chair — did I for­get some­thing?
Zvon­imir: Mem­ber and vice-speak­er of the Human Resources Com­mit­tee, AEGEE Day ambas­sador, two-term sub-com­mis­sion­er in the Net­com and some more. It was a lot of posi­tions and work done as you can imag­ine, but the real delight is to see those bod­ies devel­op even more after you. I can say dur­ing my time in some on those bod­ies we man­aged to set some ini­tial rules and work­ing habits to the best of our knowl­edge — and we saved them from los­ing mem­bers.

Zvon­imir and one of his suc­ces­sors as Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Zagreb, Mari­na Klan­jčić

GT: Do you remem­ber par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tions where you in hind­sight would have done some­thing dif­fer­ent­ly? If yes, what?
Zvon­imir: I would have invest­ed more efforts in team build­ing of my CD 54, but I do not see that it would have made any impact to change things.

GT: You sur­prised a lot of peo­ple when you ran for finan­cial Direc­tor at Ago­ra Berg­amo. What moti­vat­ed you to do this? And did you expect so many ques­tions as a can­di­date?
Zvon­imir: I want­ed to go to Brus­sels for a long time, mean­ing that I want­ed to be a CD mem­ber at one point. Just liv­ing there in Brus­sels and being a Direc­tor is enough of a chal­lenge to moti­vate a per­son.  Also see­ing a vacant place for such an essen­tial posi­tion in the organ­i­sa­tion was real­ly sur­pris­ing. I felt that the organ­i­sa­tion need­ed me and I applied. I did not know what to expect in Berg­amo, but the size of the ques­tion line was respectable. If we have such an inter­est in ask­ing ques­tions to all can­di­dates, we would elect far more bet­ter can­di­dates and have a bet­ter insight in their actu­al plans and exper­tise.

GT: You were in the CD when we saw quite some back­stab­bing and intrigues in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion 2017. How did this elec­tion make you feel? And how can AEGEE do bet­ter?
Zvon­imir: My friends from my CD had their rea­sons and I would not like to go into them, as I nev­er did, nor will I under­stand their action. We had one agree­ment before the Ago­ra; they decid­ed to break it, and thus know­ing­ly destroyed the team and trust. Even if it was all about anoth­er per­son, I believe we all felt betrayed and dev­as­tat­ed by such actions. But as I said before, it is a democ­ra­cy, it is naive to think that democ­ra­cy is per­fect. It can be nice and trans­par­ent, but it also can be nasty and mean. With that sit­u­a­tion we are not bet­ter than any oth­er demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem of any coun­try. It is just a small­er envi­ron­ment. Dur­ing that Ago­ra, we saw all faces of democ­ra­cy.

Zvon­imir and his fel­low CD mem­bers at Ago­ra Chisin­au 2016.

GT: Are there any fun­ny or mov­ing sto­ries from your time in the CD that you could share with us?
Zvon­imir: Of course there were. We had many of such moments and it would be unfair to think of my CD as a CD that did not work out as a team. In the end I think we were quite an effec­tive CD. If you com­pare it to CD 55 and what hap­pened there I think we were quite ok. I just con­sid­er all those moments are pri­vate moments of the sev­en of us and I would like to keep them for myself. We had good and bad moments, like any team had.

GT: What does your fam­i­ly think about your strong com­mit­ment in AEGEE? You could have worked all the time…
Zvon­imir: Oh, I must con­grat­u­late them on tol­er­at­ing my time with AEGEE. At first they did not real­ize what I did but that slow­ly changed since Ago­ra Berg­amo. With­out their sup­port and bless­ing I would not have been able to do the CD year. Now they even see that I miss it a bit, as my moth­er is ask­ing about many of my friends, and I say I do not know, as I am not fol­low­ing things with­in AEGEE like I used to.

GT: You just start­ed work­ing. Where do you work now?
Zvon­imir: I start­ed to work in my field of inter­est, audit. I start­ed to work as Audit intern at Ernst and Young.

Zvon­imir at Ago­ra Kraków, with Michele Turati, coor­di­na­tor of Les Anciens.

GT: Did AEGEE help you find the job or did it pre­pare you in some way for the job?
Zvon­imir: Of course it helped me. 70% of my CV is AEGEE stuff. Dur­ing the live inter­view with EY man­agers we spoked about things I did in AEGEE so I believe it helped me to get this job.

GT: Which AEGEE or Les Anciens events are you plan­ning to vis­it in 2019?
Zvon­imir: Except crash­ing AEGEE-Maribor’s New Year’s event just for the New Year’s par­ty I do not have plans yet for 2019. There are some events con­firmed for Les Anciens, but as I don’t know my work oblig­a­tions I can­not ful­ly plan any event.