Dear Santa, dear all,

2013 was a great year for AEGEE, with lots of successful projects, a huge improvement in external relations and also the fantastic protests of AEGEE members in Ukraine and Turkey. Thank you! Here is my wishing list for 2014.

1. More discussions

2013 is the year when AEGEE went silent. No, I don’t mean the silence in the plenary at Agora Zaragoza. I mean the absence of discussions on the AEGEE mailing lists. Nowadays only Announce-L shows significant traffic among the big general lists, but this is a moderated list, not suitable and intended for discussions. AEGEE has become complacent and doesn’t use AEGEE-L and Agora-L anymore. My wish: revive the lists! The Forum, which was created as alternative, failed three times. Discussions are not split up in different Facebook groups or private circles, but this is not enough.

Especially before Agoras the network should take ownership of the lists again, especially since Agoras have become a domain of relatively fresh members. In Zaragoza 54.1 percent of the participants had never been at an Agora before, another 31.5 percent at one or two Agoras. More than 80 percent of the people present in Zaragoza had never seen any other CD than the current one. Without serious knowledge about AEGEE it is hard to make constructive or critical contributions.

Due to this fact it is more important than ever, to discuss the big issues of the Agoras in depth before the event. Therefore I ask all people who present for example proposals, to initiate discussions about the proposal on Agora-L several weeks before the Agora. And I ask the antennae to demand such discussions and to contribute to them. Of course, many people who present proposals are afraid that this discussion might change or even kill the proposal. But there is no reason: if a proposal is good, it will always pass, and it will be even stronger, because more people discussed it and contributed to it. And if it fails indeed, then it was obviously not good enough.

But also after an Agora the work is not done yet. I attended 31 Agoras, but never saw that someone took the effort to explain to network what was decided and what the decisions mean for the network. Changing this would be a good idea. And it’s never too late for that.

2. Better event promotion

Do you know which events are coming up in AEGEE? The Calendar of Events is published in the Intranet. If you want to find an event, you have to look it up. But even if you search it, it doesn’t really reach far in the future, only two or three months, because it is not the widespread instrument it once was. Many events are just promoted on Facebook, reaching only a fraction of members.

Did you know that until 2008, the Calendar of events was published every month on AEGEE-L? And it usually reached four months or more into the future. So AEGEE members could plan their trips quite far in the future. And: since it was on the most important mailing list, it went straight into the mailbox of thousands of members.

So my second wish is: bring back the Calendar of Events on AEGEE-L.

3. More inspiration for AEGEE events and projects

One of the biggest focuses in AEGEE in 2014 are the European Parliament elections in May. It is great that AEGEE is making a new edition of its Y Vote campaign with a lot of interesting events and initiatives. For sure this will have a big external impact, like the Y Vote 2009 had. However, no one will talk about the European Parliament elections after May.

So it might be good to plan some highlights for the other 7.5 months of 2014. There is plenty of potential, because there are many big dates in the calendar that could play a big role in AEGEE’s plans. Here are some of them:

–          On 1st of May 2004 ten countries joined the EU, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe, but also Cyprus and Malta. What were they expectations, how were they fulfilled, what are their political, cultural and economic perspectives now, ten years after? In many of these countries the political system is still fragmented, populists are often ruling, the economic transition did not work well everywhere… This basically calls for a project “EU accession – ten years after”with a series events in each of the countries, each focusing on different aspects such as economy, nationalism, populism, media control, cultural developments and many more.

–          Very similar to the previous idea is the topic 25 year after the fall of the Iron Curtain. What AEGEE could do: a nice project with events in two countries each on both sides of the former Iron Curtain, for example in German and Poland, Czech Republic and Poland, Italy and Slovenia – or Austria and Hungary, where it all started. These events could be again cultural, political, economical… Another idea could be an event which analyses the influence of hegemony powers worldwide, from US via Russia to China.

–          2014 marks also the 100th anniversary of World War I and the 75th anniversary of World War II. Both wars had a huge impact on how the world tries to prevent or solve conflicts. The League of Nations was founded as a consequence of World War I, and the EU would not exist without the tragedy of World War II. Even more: these anniversaries put the relations between countries in the limelight that were enemies for a long time: Like France and Germany or Poland and Germany. An organization like AEGEE that put “peace and stability” and “cultural exchange” in the focus cannot overlook the importance of these issues. This basically calls for projects related to nationalism, conflict resolution, or bilateral relationships. In the early years of AEGEE there were several events related to German-French relations. Events or a little project related to these driving forces of European integration would not only be fascinating, but also excellent for fund-raising and external PR.

–          On 1stof January 2014 the Euro turns 15 years. Moreover, Latvia gets the Euro on 1st of January. However, where is the event about perspectives of Latvia and the project “Perspectives for the Euro”? In 1997 AEGEE’s main project was called “Europe & Euro”, analyzing the perspectives of Euro under a common currency in more than a dozen events. AEGEE got a grant of more than 200,000 Euro for it, it was the first project of AEGEE with a paid project manager. It is surprising that no one ever suggested a “Europe & Euro II”

–          Catalonia will hold a referendum on independence next November, Scots will have a similar about staying part of the UK … In both cases it is expected that they will stay, but also this is a great opportunity to discuss independence versus rights of regions in Europe.

–          On 28th of January there is the 1200th anniversary of the death of Charlemagne. Also this could trigger events such as “perspectives for a united Europe” – or again: German-French relations.

4.       Europe is bigger than the EU

In the past few years, the focus of AEGEE has shifted from pan-European integration a bit to a certain EU focus. AEGEE basically went back to the roots, because AEGEE positioned itself in its early years as a sort of EU youth branch and darling of the European Commission. This is very useful for AEGEE, it helps increasing the reputation of the association, helps getting grants and also might help AEGEE members from all over Europe to get jobs in Brussels.

However, Europe is bigger than the EU. AEGEE is currently present in 40 countries plus some more locals in disputed entities, but only 25 of these countries are member of the EU. Even projects like Europe on Track left the EU only once, by going to Istanbul. The Eastern Partnership project was dealing with non-EU countries, but even there was a connection, because it was dealing with those countries within the framework of the Eastern Partnership Programme of the EU – and even took the same name.

AEGEE emancipated from the EU in 1989, because AEGEE saw itself as more advanced, a frontrunner for European integration. This should show more in the activities and projects. For example, the region of former Yugoslavia or region of the former USSR are ideal for projects about culture, society, politics and perspectives of a former united country.

5. Strengthening AEGEE Spirit

AEGEE made huge progress by improving its external image and impact. Internally, the new visual identity and new identity got many friends. However, the atmosphere within the network changed, it became more serious. Uniformity might look nice, but let’s not forget also to strengthen the crazy, daring, over-the-top, absurd AEGEE spirit, that is the social glue between the antennae, which keeps the network together.

It is no surprise that when AEGEE-Eindhoven proposes to go to the next Agora by helicopter, many people talk about the idea and love the idea, because it is crazy and daring. But there are not many ideas like that. The crazy spirit is mainly within locals, but not so much between locals.

AEGEE spirit doesn’t need to manifest itself in spectacular actions, like the proposal by Honorary Member Michiel van Hees from AEGEE-Eindhoven at Agora Poznan 1999, when he suggested in front of the Agora to replace democracy in AEGEE with enlightened despotism. In the roll-call more than 40 percent voted in favour with that crazy idea. Or the Blonde Award – also by AEGEE-Eindhoven – for the most stupid thing that happened in AEGEE in the calendar year? By the way, the last Award went to the Socrates Action Day Team by the way, for sending out a mail that 40 antennae took part in the project and then next day another mail in which another person wrote that more than 100 antennae took part… A strong contester was AEGEE-Utrecht, which filled out a form for a project to the CD, which needed to be printed out five times – and so they attached the same form five times to the mail.

So where is the Enlightened Despotism Fun Proposal or next Blonde Award? But AEGEE spirit doesn’t need these big actions, also on minor scale the network needs it. Because it’s the stuff that people will remember most from their AEGEE time. It’s the stuff that attracts members to join AEGEE in the first place.

So, please strengthen the AEGEE spirit!

Dear Santa, dear all, these are my wishes.

What are your wishes? Don’t be shy and share them. Let’s all think out of the box!

Thank you! And Merry Christmas!