A great location in a palace, superb organisers, but content-wise it could have been better – that’s how the Agora Rhein-Neckar, which took place from 2nd till 6th of April 2013 in Mannheim, will be remembered. If you were expecting big plenary debates or projects related to current issues  such as the Euro crisis and the rise of nationalism in Europe, this was the wrong place. Current issues were rather on the sideline, mainly in workshops parallel to prytannia. The Agora mainly dealt with organizational issues, such as the network structure or electronic voting. Below you will find the top 25 facts about the Agora.

1. Continuity for AEGEE

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For the first time ever, a complete CD stood for reelection. Due to their very good work, the Agora granted them their wish with partly excellent result. President Luis Martinez received more than 91 percent of the votes. Network Director Beáta Matuszka, Secretary General Lucille Rieux and Financial Director Anna Gots received more than 80 percent. Especially Anna Gots would have deserved an ever higher result, because her work was outstanding. It was a bit surprising that the other three CD members received less than 80 percent. Maybe a result of the fact that some candidates rather presented their achievements and not their future plans, their big vision? In general, it was a courageous step for the CD to recandidate as a whole team. They made that decision when they were in office for only six months – now they still have nearly 1.5 years ahead of them.

 

2. Very smooth Agora in a great location

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An Agora in a palace – do we need to say more? The palace in Mannheim is seat of the university. From the inside it actually doesn’t look like a palace, but that didn’t matter. Also from the logistical point of view the Agora location was very good – the distances were short and even the rooms had enough sockets, so that people could use their computers all the time. Which they did, when they were not listening or sleeping.

 

3. Great organizing team

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Granted, from an Agora in Germany you expect good logistics. However, all participants were amazed by the excellent organizing team of Agora main coordinator Alex Sieber. Thanks to the idea to join the forces of seven antennae, you had the best minds of a whole region plus a lot of manpower, so that the Agora was not exhausting for the organisers. You always saw them relaxed, happy and very helpful. On Friday afternoon, Alex Sieber even found the time to make tiramisu for his fellow core team members. Some other people liked the work of the team so much, that they discussed to join forces for future Agoras. Also: watch out for the next events of the antennae of this area, for example the ones of the brand-new German-French Student Network, which is managed by AEGEE-Mannheim members.

 

4. Inspirational new honorary member

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Before the Agora hardly any of the participants knew the name David Stulik. On Saturday morning, the former vice-president of AEGEE-Europe became the 16th honorary member of AEGEE-Europe. David, who is Czech, studied in Poland and works now as press officer for the EU delegation in Ukraine, gave a stunning speech, which was both very funny and very inspirational. “Hard times are ahead of you. Don’t give in to the demagogues and populists in Europe who are flourishing in the crisis. Create a better future.”

 

5. Not many alternative candidates

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The fact that the CD candidated together, some other people postponed their CD ambitions. In the end only two AEGEE-Budapest members dared to candidate: Szabina Hellinger and Dávid Székely. For so far unknown reasons Dávid Székely decided to withdraw his candidature in the last minute, thus only Szabina Hellinger remained. With 31 percent of the votes she did not manage to get elected, but earned a lot of respect for her very good presentation. If this had been an election of a completely new CD, she would have had a great chance to be elected. Szabina: “I wasn’t elected, but I got my aim. I wanted to show to the association that it is not necessary to get scared just because the CD decided to recandidate together. I would like to thank you all for those votes which I have got, see you in the stage again at Agora Patra!”

 

6. Finally a surplus!

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Most of the last financial years were negative. AEGEE made a loss. Not so last year. Anna Gots and her CD – as well as the preceding CD – did a great job. The Audit Commission did not find any flaw in Anna’s financial report. Audit Commission president Michele Minuti: “Not even a single comma was wrong.” Great job!

7. The NetCom proposals failed…

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The proposal to re-introduce network regions in AEGEE stirred a lot of debate already before the Agora. Therefore it was no surprise that the prytannium about that proposal was very controversial. The Network Commission was against the proposal, the CD in favour , the delegates divided. The argumentation lines: regions might bring short-term benefits of regions for antenna cooperations, better visibility, common PR and FR activities; but might also create strong regional identities which damage cooperations on the European scale – and are against the basic idea to be an association without borders. With 38 votes against and 34 in favour the prytannium gave a negative recommendation. Next day, the delegates took that advice and voted with 61 percent against the proposal. Also the second proposal – electing a separate NetCom speaker that does not have to take care of locals – failed.

 

8. …but the problems cannot be ignored

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The fact that the prytannium vote about the regions was so close showed that the NetCom work of the past few years was not considered as perfect. Often changing NetCom areas, not enough communication with some Network Commissioners and a lack of joint activities was criticized. However, when something goes wrong, it’s often not necessary to introduce new laws or rules, but just to apply the current ones better. Also in the current NetCom system there can be more coherence in the regions and cooperation between antennae without having fixed borders for three or more years. It’s up to the new NetCom to put a better strategy into practice. For sure they understood the message of the Agora.

 

9. Advisory board and higher SU fees

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Most Agora proposals passed, but most of them were of lower significance. AEGEE-Europe will get an advisory board that meets the CD a couple of times a year and supports them. The Summer University fees, which have been constant for six years now, will be automatically pegged to the inflation.

 

10. The SU book is gone

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The Summer University booklet, which existed since the very first years of SUs in 1988, is not printed anymore. The SUCT presented an SU map with the basic data. This tool gives a good first impression on SUs – and it’s a great giveaway. Since 15,000 copies were printed, it can be used perfectly at info desks. Nevertheless, some participants missed the old SU booklet and would like to get at least a nicely layouted PDF version.

 

11. The membership cards are back

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For the past couple of years AEGEE antennae asked: when will there be new membership cards? At the Agora new ones were finally distributed – and they are made from plastic for the first time! The question is however: are membership cards still needed? In the past they were necessary because of the individual membership number which was printed on. It was used for example for registration to statutory events. Nowadays everyone has a login to the intranet, cards are not needed anymore for that purpose. But they look good and are nice to have. By the way, it cost AEGEE-Europe 3000 Euro to produce 15,000 pieces, that’s 20 Eurocent per card. By the way, honorary members did not get membership cards. The CD: “We did not think about it. We have to discuss it at a CD meeting”.

 

12. A lot of bureaucracy

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Agoras have become really bureaucratic. The number of reports and procedures has increased a lot in the past years – and not even the chair team of Alla and Paul could do anything against it. Many participants had the feeling that the Agora talks mainly about organizational issues instead of giving space to the content direction of AEGEE. Of course, there were 20 mostly interesting workshops, but in the plenary the word Euro crisis or other current issues were hardly heard. However, a motion was passed that the content of the Action Agenda, the programme of AEGEE-Europe, will be discussed at the next Agora for several hours. By the way, the Agora was longer than ever, starting Tuesday night, ending Saturday night – but people enjoyed that actually.

 

13. Europe is on track

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While projects were not a topic in the plenary, there were at least some workshops. For example the one about the “Europe on Track” project was very interesting. Last autumn six AEGEE members travelled across Europe in to teams, meeting a lot of AEGEE members and non-members, discussed about issues such as the future of Europe, mobility or sustainability. This year the project will take place again – and this year AEGEE-Europe recived 20 Interrail passes instead of 12, so also more people can probably take part in “Europe on Track”. This year the content of the project will be even better, because there is more time to prepare the travel routes, the meetings and the support from the EU or other authorities.

14. Y Vote is back!

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Another good project: AEGEE will organise Y Vote again. It’s a project which helps to increase the participation of young people in the European Parliament elections 2014. The same project took place already five years aggo and was very successful. Project manager Lea Charlette presented the basics of the project and the team members.

15. Incredible sexchange

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Highlight among the parties was the Sexchange party. Girls dressed up as boys, boys as girls. A couple of hundred people enjoyed being in each other’s shoes. And in each other’s toilets. At least a lot of girls used the opportunity to go to the boys toilets.

 

16. Bunnies and singers

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The rest of the social programme was equally fun. For example the Easter party with a lot of bunnies – like the ones from Torino on the photo. But also for example the opening ceremony with a great singer and a local band was spectacular. Definitely one of the best in recent years.

 

17. Premiere for Agora Inspire

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Maybe you are familiar with the concept of TED: in short, these are inspirational speeches about topic which are important to the speakers. After a successful premiere at EBM Valletta in March, also at the Agora people could talk 5 to 10 minutes. While some of the presentations of “Agora inspire” were very good and the topics interesting, others were not. In general speeches about the personal AEGEE background of people were liked most. The idea of Agora Inspire still needs to be improved, some guidelines or best practice videos would be good.

 

18. Lots of statistics

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172. That’s the number of AEGEE events organised in 2011. Former CD members and AEGEE statistics expert sent a video message with a lot of interesting data. One of the core messages: the number of events organised has been shrinking a lot in the past years. Especially the number of events with serious topics has been going down. In addition, Mickey presented the number of members, which also decreased in the past years. By the way: this was the first time in years that concrete numbers of members were presented.

 

19. New additions to the network

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Two new contact antennae want to help to make the network bigger: AEGEE-London and AEGEE-Den Haag signed the Convention d’Adhesion. Both antennae are actually not new – they existed before. Good luck to them! And: AEGEE-Passau and AEGEE-Delft signed a partnership agreement.

 

20. Better visual identity

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At the Agora, the visual identity manual was presented. One of its main elements was the standardisation of the use of the logo. Good news for all locals that want to have a local adaption of the logo. A customisable area on the logo is permitted!

 

21. High-ranking guests and video greetings

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The panel discussion about the future of education with Professor Ulrich Teichler was another highlight. It took place on Wednesday night. Teichler is one of the greatest Bologna reform experts in the EU. In addition, lots of high-ranking EU politicians sent video messages.

 

22. No flag stealing, but Tunak and Kiki

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In the past, flag stealing and recovery actions in front of the plenary took a big slice of the evening programmes. Since many people felt that it grew out of proportion, this time there were no flagstealing chores in the plenary anymore. And no one really missed it. There was other entertainment though. Like last time in Budapest, the Agora danced the “Tunak Tunak” song, which is actually the AIESEC song. The CD also showed the Agora, how to have a “Kiki” – a song with funny dance moves by Scissors Sister, which became popular due to the TV show Glee.

 

23. Lots of sleeping people

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It’s amazing where people can sleep. In the plenary, on tables, on the ground, everywhere. A lot of Agora participants simply didn’t manage to keep their eyes open, which might be due to the fact that the waking-up in the lodging place, a school, was between 5.30 and 6 in the morning. One participate created the Facebook page “Sleeping AEGEEans”, where people could post photos of fellow participants. Within three hours the page had already more than 100 fans. Always awake was AEGEE-Delft, the antenna that always sits in the front row. Always. But, wait a moment – in the first two days they were in the fourth row. When they realized that this was against all traditions, they moved again to the front.

 

24. AEGEE-Europe goes merchandising

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Want a cup? Or a hoodie? AEGEE-Europe wants to earn more money with merchandising goods. A few 1000 Euro in the budget are supposed to be raised by selling AEGEE-branded products. Lets see whether this will work out.

 

25. And the Agora goes to …Patra!

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After the Agora is before the Agora. After AEGEE-Zaragoza presented itself as organizer of the autumn Agora 2013, taking place from 30th of October till 3rd of November, the CD also announced the organisers of the next EBM and Agora in spring 2014. AEGEE-Lublin was chosen as EBM organiser, which is an achievement, because at least four locals wanted to have that event. Organiser of the spring Agora 2014 will be AEGEE-Patra. The Golden Times reported on Friday that the Greek antenna was according to sources the only applicant and that the chance to get the event was very high. Congratulations to AEGEE-Lublin and AEGEE-Patra! And: See you in Zaragoza, Lublin and Patra!

 

In case you want to see and read more about the Agora, click here:

Golden Times Facebook group about the Agora: https://www.facebook.com/groups/agora2013

Agora Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SpringAgoraRheinNeckar2013

Golden Times Photo album about the Agora: Click here

 

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