Who is the AEGEE member of the year 2016? Which antenna, which project was the best? The Golden Times asked more than 70 locally or Europeanly active members. In the third edition: read what Tekla Hajdu, María Ballesteros Melero, Svetlana Merenkova, Sergio Genovesi, Elinne Mertens and Viola Bianchetti said.

Tekla Hajdu, Network Director of AEGEE-Europe, AEGEE-Budapest

Tekla Hajdu

GT: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2016?
Tekla Hajdu: My personal highlight for 2016 was when I got elected into the Comité Directeur 2016-2017.
GT: AEGEE-Europe had many memorable moments in 2016. Which one do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
Tekla: There were of course many of them, but for me the closing plenary of Agora Bergamo is the most vivid one.
GT: Who were for you the outstanding members in 2016?
Tekla: This year I have to say special thanks for some people who supported me: Réka Salamon, who was encouraging me to dare to do even more for AEGEE; Svenja van der Tol, who did a lot for our organisation – often not noticed enough; and all the members of the Network Commission I worked with this year. They do not just support our locals regularly, but they were amazing team members throughout the year before and during my CD period.
GT: Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2016?
Tekla: I think the whole network deserves applause as this year shows that the direction of world politics is turning into a more populistic and worrying orientation. By being in AEGEE and actively participating in our actions towards a united Europe when the circumstances are showing opposite trends, you are all outstanding.
GT: What do you foresee as a highlight or big topic in AEGEE in 2017?
Tekla: Our European Citizens Initiative “More than education”, the finalisation of the Strategic Plan 2017-2020, and populism.
GT: What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2017?
Tekla: To finish my term in the CD, fulfilling the team’s and my personal Activity Plan and to give as much support as I can to our locals, our members and the European bodies I am responsible for.
GT: How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
Tekla: In Budapest, probably at the New Year’s event of AEGEE-Budapest.

María Ballesteros Melero, AEGEE-Madrid, Civic Education Working Group, Europe on Track, Gender Equality Interest Group

 

Maria Ballesteros small

GT: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2016?
María: Being a CD assistant for “Europe on Track” and the archives. I want to thank the former CD for this intense and amazing learning experience.
GT: AEGEE-Europe had many memorable moments in 2016. Which one do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
María: At Agora Chisinau, when the results of the new Focus Areas were shown and Equal Rights was the most voted one. It is a very visionary Focus Area that was created from the work of a lot of people from all over the network in order to make a real change.
GT: Who were for you the outstanding members in 2016?
María: Erifyli Evangelou, from the Language IG & ACT. Ana Gancearuc, former Mediation Commission and Core Team member at Agora Chisinau. And Natalia Torres, founder of Contact Málaga.
GT: Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2016?
María: AEGEE-Istanbul. Their motto “Istanbul is wonderful” is totally true, and it also applies to their people! I want to thank them all for being such a good example for everyone and to send them my best wishes for the upcoming year!
GT: What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2016?
María: AEGEE Election Observation is getting up to incredibly high standards. Also the work of the former Civic Education Working Group is remarkable, which started the European Citizens Initiative “More than education” – to sign at www.morethaneducation.eu. And the Gender Equality Interest Group, which is the greatest forum for discussion in the network.
GT: What do you foresee as a highlight or big topic in AEGEE in 2017?
María: The European Citizens Initiative for sure, and Intersectionality will be the word of the year.
GT: What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2017?
María: I am focused on the big conference that will take place in Budapest in April and will be the opening of “Europe on Track 4”, which also implies a lot of work. An Action Week for the Women’s Day in the whole network around 8th of March is also something I plan to work on. And, at some point, I would like to join the Academy.
GT: How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
María: With my family and friends in my hometown Cuenca, Spain.

 

Svetlana Merenkova, Netcom Subcommissioner, Secretary of AEGEE-Voronezh

Svetlana Merenkova small

GT: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2016?
Svetlana Merenkova: Most of 2016 I was president of my local, so this was the main highlight of the year for me. As for the events I think it was Agora Chisinau. I was really surprised when it was announced that the Agora will be hosted by AEGEE-Chisinau and was really impressed by the organization of the event. I want to thank all of the organizers one more time for their remarkable work and bringing one more Agora to Eastern Europe!
GT: AEGEE-Europe had many memorable moments in 2016. Which one do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
Svetlana: Launch of the European Citizens Initiative “More Than Education – Shaping Active and Responsible Citizens”.
GT: Who was for you the outstanding member in 2016?
Svetlana: Luca Bisighini for making the Audit Commission great again and his work in the Migration Interest Group.
GT: Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2016?
Svetlana: AEGEE-Chisinau and AEGEE-Bergamo for the outstanding organization of their Agora. It takes so much effort, bravery and dedication to do that.
GT: What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2016?
Svetlana: The DrinkWise project. In the beginning it sounded funny, but it appeared to be very useful at AEGEE events and has a really good potential to make the life of event organizers a little bit easier as well as the participants’ experience better.
GT: What do you foresee as a highlight or big topic in AEGEE in 2017?
Svetlana: The work on the new Strategic Plan and the first steps in implementing it.
GT: What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2017?
Svetlana: I will continue my work as Subcomissioner, successfully end my term as Secretary of AEGEE-Voronezh, and organize one of the best SUs and the best SUPS with our super cool Voronezh team. And, of course, to attend as many AEGEE events as possible. We’ll see maybe something else will come up during the year…
GT: How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
Svetlana: I will spend it in St. Petersburg with friends. How – it is still to be decided.

 

Sergio Genovesi, Culture Interest Group coordinator

Sergio Genovesi

GT: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2016?
Sergio Genovesi: The creation of the Culture Interest Group. I started thinking about re-founding the interest group already during summer 2015 and I am glad that I managed to realise this project together with Alessandro, the other CIG coordinator and co-founder. Over the year the CIG became bigger and more relevant and now, after ten months, we are collecting very positive results.
GT: AEGEE-Europe had many memorable moments in 2016. Which one do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
Sergio: I have very nice memories of EPM Leiden. It was very well organised and I enjoyed taking part in the drafting process of the Action Agenda. Also the Ideas Factory should me mentioned, even if I was not there. They received many different proposals for the new Strategic Plan, focusing on the most various topics, and I think that they managed to find a good compromise between all of them. Especially the point about fighting populism turned out to be extremely appropriate.
GT: Who was for you the outstanding member in 2016?
Sergio: Without doubt Réka Salamon. She helped us a lot during the creation of the CIG and she was always ready to answer our questions. She was a really professional projects director in the CD and I think that she is now an amazing president.
GT: Which were for you the outstanding antennae in 2016?
Sergio: I will not answer objectively. AEGEE-Torino, my antenna, will always remain in my heart. The people are extremely enthusiastic, they always have a good mood and let you feel like in a big family. I would like to mention also AEGEE-Mannheim, AEGEE-Aachen and AEGEE-Moskva: together with them I could feel the same like in Torino. They are amazing people, and always full of energy.
GT: What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2016?
Sergio: I am a “Europe on Track” fan: it is a really cool project. Even the EU parliament understood the importance of the Interrail trip in order to consolidate the EU identity of young people and discussed the idea of giving an Interrail pass to all 18-year old people. Furthermore, the CIG projects were also very interesting. You should have a look at them!
GT: What do you foresee as a highlight or big topic in AEGEE in 2017?
Sergio: In 2016 a lot of extremely important political events happened and now in 2017 we will have to face their consequences. Fighting populism, ignorance about foreign cultures and fear of diversity should be our priority in order to spread Europtimism.
GT: What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2017?
Sergio: Because of my PhD, I will not be able to remain so active in 2017. I hope I will manage to attend at least one Agora and an SU. In any case, I will have to limit my AEGEE engagement to the CIG activities.
GT: How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
Sergio: I do not have any special plans and I think I would like to just stay at home in Tuscany with my old friends. In the last year I travelled a lot – I think I have visited around 15 countries – and now I would like to have some rest and enjoy some quality time at home. Of course, last minute plan changes should always be considered…

 

Elinne Mertens, Your Vision for EUrope, AEGEE-Leuven

Elinne Mertens

GT: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2016?
Elinne Mertens: My personal highlight was the announcement that the Summer University of AEGEE-Leuven and AEGEE-Tilburg was ranked as number 6 in the top 70. I was main responsible for the Leuven part and the fact we didn’t have a strong, present team in Leuven put a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I did my utmost best to not let the participants notice this struggle and I was so relieved and proud to hear that we ended that high in the ranking! So here I want to take the chance once more to express my thankfulness to the participants for being amazing!
GT: AEGEE-Europe had many memorable moments in 2016. Which one do you remember most vividly or was outstanding?
Elinne: Indeed, there are many. The ones coming straight up in my mind are the winning of the Charlemagne Youth Price once again, the launch of the AEGEE Day and the launch of the European Citizens Initiative.
GT: Which was for you the outstanding antenna in 2016?
Elinne: AEGEE-Chisinau for sure! To put so much effort in organising a great Agora in not the best circumstances, they did an amazing job.
GT: What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2016?
Elinne: Of course I will say “Your Vision for EUrope”, because I am a member of it! We got ratified as project at Agora Bergamo, we organised our first conference in Cluj-Napoca and we have a very successful Faces of Europe initiative. And many plans are yet to come!
GT: What do you foresee as a highlight or big topic in AEGEE in 2017?
Elinne: A big topic will be the effort to collect 1 million signatures for the ECI.
GT: What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2017?
Elinne: I will focus more on the European level instead of the local level. Of course I will continue contributing to the “Your Vision for EUrope” project. Besides, I want to put my effort in making the ECI a success by being a part of the ECI Task Force.
GT: How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
Elinne: In Belgium, having dinner, playing games and counting to midnight. Loving and feeling beloved and surrounded by my family, friends and boyfriend.

 

Viola Bianchetti, Your Vision for EUrope Project Team, AEGEE-Heidelberg

Viola Banchetti small

GT: What was your personal AEGEE highlight in 2016?
Viola Banchetti: Definitely the Ideas Factory. Even though 2016 has been a year rich in awesome AEGEE events, the Planning Meeting in León was indeed really special for me. I was part of the Planning Team, which had the task to assist the CD in preparing the Strategic Plan and to work on the thematic part of the Ideas Factory. It was the first time I had such a responsibility in the organization of an AEGEE event, and indeed a very important and complicated one. Therefore I was quite nervous before arriving to León. Anyway, I was very satisfied of the event, the local organizers did an amazing job, the participants were all very involved and motivated and I couldn’t wish for anything better. I also had a great time and met very inspiring people.
GT: Who was for you the outstanding member in 2016?
Viola: It is definitely hard to choose, but I would name Maarten de Groot. He was involved in the campaign “Think Before you Vink” about the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine treaty, he was main responsible for the “Your Vision for EUrope” conference in Cluj-Napoca and elected as CD Member. I can definitely say that he contributed a lot to our beloved AEGEE this year, and the next one won’t be less intense for him. As I was working with him both in the “Your Vision for EUrope” Project and in the Planning Team, he has been a source of motivation and inspiration for me throughout the year. He is definitely one of the most hard-working, enthusiast and knowledgeable AEGEEans I know.
GT: What was for you the outstanding European project, Working Group or Interest Group in 2016?
Viola: The Civic Education Working Group has done and is doing a very great job. They are extremely active and motivated, even if the subject is not so easy to frame and to sell. I also very much appreciated the work of the Gender Equality IG and the LGBT+ IG. In the run-up to the Ideas Factory and the Agora they coordinated themselves to elaborate a common Focus Area proposal and lobby for it effectively. It was impressive to see their enthusiasm and commitment. I am indeed very happy to see topics like women and LGBT+ rights on our agenda, and also to have the demonstration that a bottom-up approach in AEGEE’s strategic planning is indeed possible.
GT: What do you foresee as a highlight or big topic in AEGEE in 2017?
Viola: The European Citizens’ Initiative “More than education” should be our top priority in 2017. I am very happy to see AEGEE taking some concrete actions to raise awareness on Civic Education, which is a fundamental value of our association and two-times Focus Area. Collecting all these signatures requires a huge effort and the involvement of every single antenna. I see it as a challenge to strengthen our network, but also to improve our external visibility and the links with our partners.
GT: What are your personal AEGEE plans for 2017?
Viola: In 2017 I would definitely like to concentrate on “Your Vision for EUrope”. We should close the project at Agora Catania and we have at least another two conferences on our agenda. It will be indeed an intense and exciting year.
GT: How and where will you spend New Year’s night?
Viola: Probably studying in the library. AEGEE New Year’s events have been tempting me for weeks and weeks, but unfortunately I really have to dedicate the Christmas break to my studies.

 

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