Maria Smirnova, current HR Responsible of AEGEE-Moskva, will present her candidature for the role of “European Citizenship Working Group Coordinator” at Agora Kraków. The 23-year old already gained experience on European level as member of the Action Agenda Coordination Committee (ACT) and Speaker of the Events Quality Assurance Committee (EQAC). Read the interview below.

Matteo Lai: Maria, what would you like people to know about you? What is your history with AEGEE?
Maria Smirnova: I found AEGEE accidently in the Russian social network VK – and after reading the description I  felt I truly found my place. My first local event was the European Day of Languages – and I discovered the joy of organizing instead of listening to a professor; my first European experience was in the Youth Mobility Working Group, where I recognized the true value of research and paper writing, unlikely formal university tasks. Then, there were EQAC and ACT, new knowledge, ideas and people, finally the drafting during EPM Yerevan with a concentration of knowledgeable and understanding members – it was a perfect chemical compound.

What is that you like the most about AEGEE?
I like the AEGEEan networking, I like when AEGEE is being noticed and valued in educational and political spheres, in media. I like when chatting about travelling turns into deep discussion about peculiarities of languages, and I like generating crazy ideas with like-minded members.

What made you want to become European Citizenship Working Group Coordinator?
The desire to take something about which I do care in my hands. Literally, what else can keep me in good form if not coordinating an area of such importance?

What actions are you considering feasible in order to make the name “AEGEE” recognizable in all European countries?
To find at least one local per country which has the opportunity to get in touch with their policy and/or decision makers. This can be achieved with help of universities which are in contact with such people, or with any companies – either partners of the locals or employers of the members. Also, more promotion of the thematic events, extensive media coverage as well as establishing contacts and getting best practices from NGOs.

Can you tell something about the cultural events in collaboration with ACT?
ACTies – using the information and ideas which the ECWG can provide – may encourage locals that they are for example responsible for taking part in flashmobs, social media challenges, local events marathons. This can work either in the format of the work of the AEGEE Day ambassadors or by choosing an intermediary member for this aim in every local.

Which could be the main topics of the conferences related to the objectives for fulfillment of the Action Agenda?
Implementation of the methods of teaching foreign languages in countries which have lack of  development in this sphere; the simplification of the procedures of getting cultural and student visas; and equality in access to various websites, online platforms and software applications.

How would you persuade locals to follow the objectives of the Action Agenda?
European Citizenship month; mini-projects with topics related to the Action Agenda, with project team and ambassadors – like AEGEE Day has, for example – and with a proper PR campaign in advance.

Do you think your previous experience in the Events Quality Assurance Committee can help you in covering the new European position?
Yes, I think so. This experience has taught me and continues teaching teamwork and coordinating work, both virtual and real. It helps me to understand better the processes on European level in AEGEE, to deal with unexpected obstacles and to see more and more opportunities.

Are you planning to incorporate the upcoming European elections 2019 in your activity plan for next term?
This can be included in the fulfillment of the fourth objective. For better incorporation I would like to cooperate with the Politics Interest Group and witht the Civic Education Working Group.

Why should people vote for you?
It will be beneficial both for AEGEEans and non-AEGEEans. I like setting ambitious goals and I enjoy planning. I am familiar in practice with the work on European level in AEGEE, I’m in love with the cultural diversity we have and I couldn’t hate more the barriers caused just by one’s passport and place of birth. And I like acting till the particular result is achieved.

Question from the Network

Question one: Will you join ECWG even if you are not elected as a coordinator?
I’ll propose to implement the position of vice-speaker. Yes, hah, I’d like to join. After all, work in AEGEE is based on democratic principles.

Question two: What are some areas that can be tackled when deciding on the topic of the Policy Paper?
The correlation between different citizenships and access to education and employment, for example.

Question three: Your programme is very focused on youth mobility which was the Focus Area in the previous Strategic Plan. How do you think that can be fit in the current objective of the European Citizenship Focus Area?
Youth Mobility is something, which is interwoven in all AEGEE activities, and especially in the European Citizenship Focus Area. Without mobility, it’s hardly possible to talk about European diversity, so it’s better to avoid a too formalized approach. Restrictions in mobility have an effect on the recognition and involvement in cultural diversity and European processes.

Written by Matteo Lai, AEGEE-Cagliari

Check Maria’s programme here.