Get­ting inspired by AEGEE’s great­est events ever as well as cre­at­ing new ones: this is one of many things that Novak Simin from AEGEE-Novi Sad wants to do if he gets elect­ed Net­work Com­mis­sion­er at Ago­ra Kraków. “I would also like to see more locals coop­er­ate on a joined project or joined event”, he says. The 22-year old engi­neer­ing stu­dent cur­rent­ly serves as Sub­com­mis­sion­er of Mari­na Klan­jčić and is also mem­ber of the Action Agen­da Coor­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee (ACT).

Gun­nar Erth: Novak, how would you describe your­self in five key­words?
Novak Simin: Tough ques­tion, I haven’t real­ly ever thought about it. If I had to choose I would say: ambi­tious, inde­pen­dent, ratio­nal, punc­tu­al and respon­si­ble.

Why do you think the Net­com would be the right next step in your AEGEE career?
Dur­ing my time in AEGEE I received a lot of knowl­edge. I think the time has come for me to be return­ing or pass­ing on this knowl­edge to the oth­ers. I have tak­en my steps in AEGEE grad­u­al­ly, slow­ly tak­ing up new chal­lenges as I went along the way. Being a Sub­com­mis­sion­er for almost a year now, it felt nat­ur­al tak­ing the next step and can­di­dat­ing for the Net­com. I believe that while being a Sub­com­mie of Mari­na, I learned a lot about the func­tion­ing of the locals and about the work of the Net­com. Some­thing more impor­tant: I like work­ing with locals and help­ing them. I was also giv­en a lot of sup­port from Mari­na dur­ing here term and she encour­aged me to run for Net­com. Which is why I would like to use this oppor­tu­ni­ty to thank her.

You want to expand the net­work. Where in your area would you help found­ing new Con­tacts?
The first city that comes to my mind is Sara­je­vo. Being the largest city and cap­i­tal of Bosnia and Herce­gov­ina I think Sara­je­vo has great poten­tial for wel­com­ing AEGEE. Being a city with a very diverse com­mu­ni­ty and a large uni­ver­si­ty cen­tre, it would be ide­al for a new local. Anoth­er one would be Split, as it is the sec­ond largest city in Croa­t­ia and also a uni­ver­si­ty city I believe it is a shame there isn’t a local. Of course I would look for oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to found a local, how­ev­er I would like to start with these two cities.

How would you revive locals in cri­sis and delet­ed anten­nae?
If we are talk­ing about the cities that are cur­rent­ly in cri­sis of being down­grad­ed or delet­ed I would con­tact the cur­rent board or any mem­bers still being there, try to come up with a recruit­ment strat­e­gy, orga­nize some events, vis­it them and then work on some­thing if I see as the best solu­tion. If we are talk­ing about cities that have already lost their locals I would first try to estab­lish a con­nec­tion between some of their old real­ly active mem­bers or the last board and see where it all went bad. Then I would dis­cuss with them the pos­si­ble to help to revive the local. If they aren’t inter­est­ed I would look for oth­er AEGEE mem­bers that are cur­rent­ly in those cities, either for work, Eras­mus or whichev­er the rea­son, and then try to come up with a plan of recruit­ment and pro­mo­tion. I believe that even with the hard­est effort made by any­one who isn’t cur­rent­ly in the city it would be close to impos­si­ble to revive the local.

You want to get inspired by some of the best Balkan events of the past 20 years. Can you give some exam­ples of the most spec­tu­acu­lar events?
This might seem a bit biased but one that real­ly caught my atten­tion was an event in Novi Sad in 1998 about the Minori­ties in Vojvo­d­i­na, a province in the north of Ser­bia. The event focused on the cul­ture in the province and how it was effect­ed by all the 26 nations and nation­al­i­ties liv­ing there. The event also had a dis­cus­sion about Koso­vo and the con­flict there, as well as what it may esca­late into and how it could be pre­vent­ed, just one year before the Nato inter­ven­tion. There was also a Case Study Trip orga­nized by a num­ber of locals in the region which last­ed for 11 days and focused on the for­mer Yugoslavia coun­tries, what it was like in Yugoslavia for them and how they stand in the present. Par­tic­i­pants vis­it­ed Slove­nia, Croa­t­ia, Bosnia and Herce­gov­ina, FYR of Mace­do­nia and Ser­bia, where they were giv­en lec­tures by either politi­cians or uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sors about the top­ic. What fas­ci­nates me is how pro­fes­sion­al this looked, how well it was planned and the scale of the project – it was some­thing that apart from the SU now we don’t have. While I can’t talk about all the events, I would like to men­tion a few more, a train­ing con­fer­ence by Bel­grade and Istan­bul that last­ed for almost 20 days, an 80-par­tic­i­pant East­er event by AEGEE-Zagreb or a con­fer­ence in Split.

Aside from this, which new top­ics would you sug­gest and moti­vate locals to turn into events or even inter­na­tion­al projects?
I would like to see more dis­cus­sions on inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion. A part from the SU orga­niz­ing locals I don’t see that many locals work togeth­er on a joined project or joined events through­out the year — that’s a pity if you ask me. I would like to moti­vate locals to have more events orga­nized togeth­er. One top­ic I believe we’ve put aside would be migra­tion. I am not just talk­ing about the Migrant Cri­sis which is still ongo­ing, but rather about migra­tion between Euro­pean coun­tries them­selves. We see more and more peo­ple leav­ing their home coun­tries and going to oth­er, for work, study­ing, or any oth­er rea­son and not com­ing back. This has a huge effect on soci­ety and I would like to see locals and AEGEE in gen­er­al putting an effort in dis­cussing this and cre­at­ing projects relat­ed to migra­tion.

Many locals don’t real­ly care about the top­ics of the Focus Areas. What do you do with them? Push them any­way to do an Action Agen­da relat­ed event?
Of course not. Locals are the core and soul of AEGEE and if they wouldn’t want to do some­thing or aren’t inter­est­ed in some­thing I can see no rea­son why try push­ing them. There are two dif­fer­ent ques­tions we need to tack­le when it comes to the Action Agen­da, one being whether it is well planned and some­thing that could and should ben­e­fit AEGEE, while the oth­er one would be whether the locals are inter­est­ed in it. In my opin­ion the first ques­tion shouldn’t even be dis­cussed if the answer to the sec­ond one is that the major­i­ty of locals aren’t inter­est­ed in it. If that is the case I think we are just wast­ing our time and ener­gy try­ing to push some­thing that there is a lack of inter­est in. Though most of my fel­low ACTies wouldn’t agree with me and would prob­a­bly hate me for say­ing this, but I real­ly believe that we need to ask our­selves is Action Agen­da nec­es­sary or should we just drop it if locals don’t real­ly care about it.

Many locals espe­cial­ly in the Balkan coun­tries don’t always have the best knowl­edge trans­fer and inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion. How can that be improved?
I believe the solu­tion to the knowl­edge trans­fer prob­lem can be found in two ways. One would be pair­ing a less expe­ri­enced local which didn’t have a good knowl­edge trans­fer to anoth­er local which is expe­ri­enced. The board mem­bers from one local can advise the oth­ers with the help of the Net­com and Sub­com­mie team. Anoth­er solu­tion to the prob­lem could be cre­at­ing a joined plat­form or data­base for knowl­edge trans­fer, one for the entire area for exam­ple, so that even if one local lost its con­nec­tion to their pre­vi­ous teams they could still find help­ful infor­ma­tion on this joined data­base. When it comes to inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion, I believe that in the Balka­ns we lack more region­al events or at least one event oth­er than a NWM where we could gath­er, get to know each oth­er and plan activ­i­ties or events togeth­er.

You said in your pro­gramme that you saw how much we aren’t doing in AEGEE. What pre­cise­ly is miss­ing and how do you want to imple­ment it?
I would like to see more exter­nal­ly focused projects done by AEGEE. In ACT I worked with Action Agen­da and I couldn’t but won­der why the Action Agen­da isn’t func­tion­ing as well as it should be and why the locals aren’t that inter­est­ed in it. One of the issues might well be that we are too inter­nal­ly focused. What is the point of set­ting goals such as the Action Agen­da if we keep them focused on our­selves. I don’t believe we are miss­ing much, I wouldn’t say that I would like AEGEE to change, how­ev­er I would like us to stop going back to the same things and keep focus­ing tons of our ener­gy on struc­tur­al prob­lems, strug­gle with the AEGEE iden­ti­ty, dis­cussing whether we should bring back some­thing we changed a while ago, but rather focus on what we are now and what we can do with what we have, not keep think­ing how we can change it. Can you imag­ine an Ago­ra where instead of dis­cussing pro­pos­als about changes in AEGEE we would be dis­cussing ones about new future projects?

You were ESN mem­ber and want to imple­ment things from ESN to AEGEE. What pre­cise­ly?
ESN in my opin­ion is a stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion that most resem­bles AEGEE, both in its focus on youth poli­cies and inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion and pro­mo­tion of Euro­pean Cul­ture, also both are inter­dis­ci­pli­nary. A thing that dif­fers us is the bureau­cra­cy, most notable to me was the fact that it takes an aver­age of three months to found a new “sec­tion”, as they call anten­nae in ESN. At the moment ESN has some­where around 500 sec­tions, much more then AEGEE, and even though one could argue that because they are lib­er­al in found­ing sec­tions they also have a lot of them dying fast, I believe this is what is dri­ving their net­work for­ward. There­fore I would like to see a sim­i­lar change in AEGEE. The amount of time it takes to get from point zero to anten­na in AEGEE is slow­ing us down and I believe we need to reduce this time. Anoth­er thing that I liked in the func­tion­ing of ESN is the nation­al lev­el; know­ing this is strict­ly going against the core val­ues of AEGEE I am well aware we can­not imple­ment it, how­ev­er I would maybe like to see a stronger con­nec­tion between locals in areas. This is where my idea about rein­tro­duc­ing local cou­ples came from.

You organ­ised sev­er­al Net­work Meet­ings. How would the pro­gramme of the per­fect NWM look like?
What I noticed dur­ing the orga­ni­za­tion of NWMs is how much we lack free time dur­ing them. Though they last just for a few days, we have so much to do dur­ing them… I don’t think they need to be so ful­ly packed with activ­i­ties. There­fore, if it was up to me I would have them divid­ed in a kind of oblig­a­tory part that should be attend­ed by every­one and then a part where you could choose between work­shops, some col­lec­tive activ­i­ties or free time. Mean­ing that for exam­ple in the morn­ing we could have an oblig­a­tory part, than pri­or to lunch and after lunch free time, non-oblig­a­tory ses­sions or some fun activ­i­ties while in the evening we would be expect­ed to come all togeth­er to fin­ish the day, before going to din­ner and social activ­i­ties.

What do you think about the anten­na cri­te­ria pro­pos­al pro­posed by CD?
I wel­come it full-heart­ed­ly. As I have already said: one of the things I liked in ESN is the fact that when it comes to becom­ing a sec­tion, you do not have to pass so much bureau­cra­cy as in AEGEE and that I would like to see to come to AEGEE as well. I believe this to be a step in the right direc­tion, how­ev­er a change on this scale would have to be observed through time. I hope the pro­pos­al will be accept­ed by the mem­bers. If you ask me I would work on it even more, reduc­ing the anten­na cri­te­ria even more, though not yet, first I would like to see how the cur­rent for­mat will stand.

You can read Novak’s full can­di­da­ture here.