From Paris to the Whole of Europe: The Story of AEGEE

The history of AEGEE can be very roughly divided into four different periods:

  • In the early AEGEE years (1985-1989) AEGEE was still restricted to European Community members states. It was a period with far less local grups, events and projects than today, but a much bigger political impact.
  • In the following five years (1990-1995) AEGEE was embracing Central and Eastern Europe very fast. The network was extending rapidly extending, which changed the character of the association. Also the rapid growth in members due to the success of the Summer Universities made AEGEE bigger and open in character.
  • The following five years (1996-2000) saw a strong move towards more professionalism and bigger European projects. This could be seen for example by the move of the headoffice to Brussels with a smaller European board that lived there throughout the year. In addition, with the Network Commission and the AEGEE Academy new bodies were created that helped to develop the network and its human resources.
  • Since then (2001 till present) AEGEE has established itself on a high level, supporting the EU Enlargement and democratisation in the East and South-East Europe.

1985-89: The beginning

Birth as EGEE

16 April 1985 is recorded as the birthday of AEGEE. On this day a huge conference was opened in Paris, called “EGEE”, aiming at overcoming the ongoing Eurosclerosis, the paralysis of the European integration process. Under leadership of Franck Biancheri, the five Grand Ecoles in the French capital organised this event, creating a platform for 500 young Europeans from all European Community countries. The conference, which lasted until the 22 April, proved to be very successful and visible under the patronage of François Mitterand, with an official opening ceremony at the Opera Building of Paris and with full page coverage on the well-known French paper Le Monde.

The main striking outcome of this conference was the common statement published in Le Monde : “Eastern Europe is Europe as well”. The name EGEE (Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe) was related to the Aegean Sea (la Mer Egée) where democracy was created 2,000 years ago. Due to a name collision with a French company, the name was changed to AEGEE in 1988. It is pronounced as if it was a French word “aégée”.

After the organisation of the conference, students involved at that time wanted to carry on with their activities and they decided to turn the EGEE conference into an organization. EGEE wanted to be a platform for young Europeans to discuss the future of Europe, to present their ideas to the officials of the EC institutions and national governments. The participating students also wanted to influence European policy in favour of students. They became enthusiastic and established local branches in their cities, thus creating a network.

Starting in Paris, the association was soon present in Munich, Milan, Leiden, London and Madrid. In 1988, AEGEE was already established in 72 university cities. In this year AEGEE, which was totally focusing on EC member states, opened up to the EFTA countries. An opening to students on the other side of the Iron Curtain was not possible.

Erasmus dinner with Mitterand

In this early period AEGEE’s biggest political success took place – the association successfully lobbied for the implementation of the Erasmus Mobility Scheme after a dinner with Francois Mitterand on 15th March 1987. Impressive was also a satellite link of seven cities in 1986 – which caused bankruptcy for AEGEE-Bruxelles, however. Moreover, AEGEE showed big projects to the outside world: Euromanagers, Europolice, Moot Court, Euro Stage, and the Summer University Project.

Today, nearly all of these initiatives work independently, in their professional demand they grew too strong for a voluntary association. The Summer University Project, introduced in 1988 with 11 courses and now reaching more than 80, still remains part of AEGEE’s activities.

The Agora, which is the democratic AEGEE-Europe general assembly was organised for the first time in Munich, April 1986 creating the structure of the association, composed of the Agora, Presidents’ Meeting (since 2001 Planning Meeting, and since 2005 European Boards Meeting), Comité Directeur and Working Groups. The Network Commission was established only at the Agora in Athens, November 1996.

In 1987 the unofficial board of EGEE came together in Paris on the occasion of a reception at Champs Elysees by Mitterand, where they drafted the first statutes of the association (now known as CIA), they conceptualised the Agora as the General Assembly as well as the European Nights. The Agora in Sevilla in 1987 witnessed the introduction of a chairman at the statutory events, creation of a financial control commission, legal commission now titled as the Juridical Commission, introduction of trans-national regional Antennae meetings later titled as Regional Meetings and since 2006 Network Meetings.

Stagnation and opening towards the East

However, after three years of presidency of Frank Biancheri, a period of stagnation came. The internal trouble started after the short presidency of Vieri Bracco from Milan, who did not complete his task after his election in 1988. In the same year the French locals left AEGEE, forming an own association under the name Artemis. The newly founded French branches could never re-establish in their old strength again.

Europe changed, the Iron Curtain was disappearing, and new perspectives were opened. On the day the Berlin Wall crumbled, on 9th of November 1989, the Agora in Salerno decided to open up to interested students in Central and Eastern Europe. The East-West Working Group started their actions to establish AEGEE locals there – although this was a challenge even for AEGEE network to fully agree and achieve at that time.
(Quoted from the AEGEE Members Manual)

Milestones

1984/1985

  • The event was an iniative of the bureaux des eleves of 5 Grand Ecoles + Sorbonne, who had regular meetings together. Franck Biancheri (president of the science politique one) came with the iniative for a conference for 500 people to discuss European matters. Because the idea was from these grand ecoles it was widely supported. Only a few weeks before the actual forum the idea of continuation popped up. Together with the students who came to the forum the idea was worked out.
  • EGEE I caused a loss of 80,000 ECU for which the organisors stood upright. It was resolved later – the state-owned bank relieved AEGEE from the debts. The interest in politics among the organisers and participants was strong. The believe that France depended on Europe was one of the reasons for the success. During the event there was a big reception in the Elysee (residence of the Frensch president), in the townhall and there was a gala at Chateau Lafitte, the top-winecastle.
  • The event was patronaged by almost all leaders of state of the EC-countries.
  • Paris, Munich, Milan, Leiden, London and Madrid were the six first branches. Strasbourg and Orleans followed. Right from the beginning lot of activities took place.
  • In July 1985 the Statutes of AEGEE-Europe were created.

1986

Nuits de lEurope in 1986
  • Three EGEE working groups were formed: Sponsoring, Traineeships and Language Study.
  • By the start of the academic year, EGEE officially has 26 branches and 6,000 members.
  • “EGEE II – Nuits de l’Europe” took place, a video link between 7 cities all over Europe
  • April: First Agora in München, the structure of the association was adopted, the first CD elected. The structure was promoted mainly by German members, because they thought that that might be more effective. Some AEGEE historians say that almost all changes of structure were either done at German Agoras or initiated by Germans.

1987

Euromanagers Job Fair in 1987
  • EGEE persuades French president François Mitterrand to support funding for the Erasmus programme, a student exchange program financed by the European Commission.
  • The network grows to 25 antennae
  • The first News Bulletin is published, AEGEE’s main information tool in the pre-web and pre-mail era. It was first published in Kiel under the name Information Bulletin, before it was renamed by AEGEE-Toulouse, who took it over in December 1987 and handed it over to AEGEE-Amsterdam in 1988. One year later it was taken over by Maria Alvarez in Oviedo: the University of Oviedo paid the biggest part of it. Until 1993 it was made in Oviedo, then in Madrid and afterwards for several years in Warsaw.
  • AEGEE launches the magazine Europolis. It was a fancy magazine for the youth of Europe about European topics. AEGEE produced only 6 editions because of the high costs. Until today, the magazine of AEGEE-Athina has the same name.
  • AEGEE starts the project “Euromanagers: European Job Fair”. The purpose was to support recruitment of students by companies. It was the first of its kind. After the first successful years the initiators Christian Hunt & Christophe Leclerq started their own company with it called EMDS. It still exists.
  • The Spring Agora in Leiden was the only Agora ever without elections
  • November Agora Sevilla: Affirmation that AEGEE is political, but not linked to any party, creation of Juridical Commission and Audit Commission.
  • The holiday Apoika took place, the predecessor of AEGEE’s summer universities

1988

  • The association changes its name from EGEE to AEGEE following a trademark dispute – check: www.egee.fr.
  • AEGEE planned a Eurovision night: a big show-night which should have been broadcasted all over Europe. It did not take place.
  • Vieri Bracco became second president of AEGEE-Europe and spent several months in Brasil
  • The Summer University project started with 11 events, coordinated by Daisy Kopmels from Amsterdam. She visited all events personally
  • First Presidents Meeting (PM). Its purpose was to prepare the agenda of the Agora
  • Some leading AEGEE members around Franck Biancheri started the political platform “IDE – Initiative for a Democratic Europe”, which ran at the European Parliament election in Germany, France and Netherlands that year. It caused a severe conflict about the involvement of AEGEE into party politics. The result: AEGEE insisted on being politically independent. IDE got 10,000 votes in total.
  • A board of Trustees was introduced to get more continuity in AEGEE-Europe. After some years it was abolished because it did not work out well.

1989

  • After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Agora in Salerno opens up AEGEE to local antennae outside the European Community, making it one of the first European organisations to expand beyond the old Iron Curtain.
  • Also Scope was founded: a newspaper for the European youth, freely available all over Europe. However, it was too expensive for AEGEE, therefore it was cancelled.
  • Moot Court is established, a pan-european contest for law students. It left AEGEE and is now co-ordinated by ELSA.
  • Leipzig becomes first contact group beyond the former Iron Curtain. The East-West Working Group starts initiatives.
  • The CD is reduced from 30 to 16 members

(History overview by Edwin Janssen)

[nggallery id=2]

The Event Highlights of 1986

  
MonthCityTitle
JanuaryBrussel (B)European Student - Utopia or Reality?
Leiden (NL)Industrial Europe
London (UK)European Space Technology
Paris (F)European Defence Policy
Milano (I)European Financial System
München (D)Integration of South Europe
Nice (F)Towards a Data Processing Europe
Strasbourg (F)Media in Europe
MarchAll over EuropeThe European Nights
AprilMünchen (D)Agora (EGEE II)
JulyMadrid (E)Spain's & Portugal's EU entry
OctoberNijmegen (NL)Cross-Borderline Development
NovemberHeidelberg (D)Europe & Middle East

The Event Highlights of 1987

JanuaryHeidelberg (D)European Ecology Politics
FebruaryLeiden (NL)Agora (EGEE III - Europe, Unfinished Symphony)
MarchAmsterdam (NL)Which Defence for Europe?
Delft (NL)Genetic Engineering in Europe
London (UK)Air Transport in Europe
Köln (D)Euromanagers 1987
Madrid (E)Mediterranean Environment
Milano (I)A Technology Strategy for Europe
Nice (F)Sports in Europe
Paris (F)Political Marketing in Europe
Lyon (F)Media in the Membership Countries
AprilAthina (GR)Between Europe & Middle East
JulyHeidelberg (D)European Literature
AugustMadrid (E)Apoikia Summer Camp
SeptemberDelft (NL)Presidents' Meeting
OctoberNürnberg (D)Europe Beyond Reykjavik
Hamburg (D)Completing the Internal Market
NovemberLouvain-la-Neuve (F)European Currency Unit
Sevilla (E)Agora
München (D)European Space Congress
DecemberParis (F)Primer Congress Europe-Afrique

The Event Highlights of 1988

JanuaryKiel (D)Multi-Linguality, a problem for Europe
FebruaryBrussel (B)Euromanagers 1988
Louvain-la-Neuve (F)Presidents' Meeting
MarchLyon (F)EEC and Eastern Europe
London (UK)European Week 1988
Strasbourg (F)Europe - Latin America
AprilMilano (I)Agora
Milano (I)EGEE IV - European Internal Market
MayMainz (D)EuroDefence 1988
Reims (F)Droit Communautaire
JuneBerlin (D)Second European Cultural Week
Hamburg&Lübeck (D)Agricultural Policy
JulyHeidelberg (D)Political & Economic Implications
SeptemberAthina (GR)South Europe Towards 1992
OctoberSaarbrücken (D)Presidents' Meeting
Aachen (D)Initiatives for International Education
NovemberOrleans (F)Agora
Utrecht (NL)The Aims of Higher Education
Köln (D)Art Europe
Toulouse (F)Third European Space Congress
Freiburg (D)AIDS - Problems in Europe
DecemberBonn (D)European Food Market

The Event Highlights of 1989

JanuaryLondon (UK)Human Rights
FebruaryAmsterdam (NL)Envi'rhine'ment
MarchLyon (F)Presidents' Meeting
Louvain-la-Neuve (F)European Week
Leiden (NL)Terrorism in Europe
AprilBerlin (D)East-West Relations in Europe
Madrid (E)EGEE V - Women in Europe
Salamanca (E)Agora
Rotterdam (NL)European Finance
MayNimes (F)Road Security
München (D)EEC Development after 1992
Saarbrücken (D)Tele-Communicating
JuneHeidelberg (D)Identité Européenne
JulyHamburg (D)EEC-EFTA: Partners in Europe
Karlsruhe (D)New Sports in Europe
SeptemberAmsterdam (NL)Presidents' Meeting
OctoberDelft (NL)Transport in Europe
Aachen (D)Working in Europe
Groningen (NL)Southward Bound Future?
Firenze (I)Moot Court
NovemberSalerno (I)Agora
DecemberOviedo (E)Healthy Europe
Sevilla (E)Europe of the Regions