The Golden Times got the permission of Marianne Ranke-Cormier to publish her series of three interviews with three AEGEE members of the first generation, who attended this legendary event: Tanja Masson-Zwaan, Philippe Micaelli and Marie Gutmann. All of them joined the first CD. Marianne Ranke-Cormier is editor-in-chief of NewropMag (www.newropeans-magazine.org), the magazine of the trans-European political movement Newropeans, which was founded by Franck Biancheri in 2005.

Tanja Masson-Zwaan: “A Brilliant and Visionary Decision”

Tanja Zwaan smallTanja Masson-Zwaan was a Law student in Leiden when she participated in EGEE I. The mother of four children became the first Secretary-General of AEGEE-Europe. Today she works at the Faculty of Law where she once studied. She is also President of the International Institute of Air & Space Law.

NewropMag: What was your involvement in EGEE I?
Tanja Masson-Zwaan: Franck Biancheri came to see me in Leiden, where I was almost at the end of my studies – I graduated in October 1985. At that time, I was on the board of the Telders student debating society. A Telders alumnus working in the Dutch embassy in Paris had given Franck our contact details – as I spoke French, I met him and agreed to organise a small group of students to go to Paris in April 1985. Of course I also joined. After that I was strongly involved in the further development of the organisation and became Secretary General of the first CD.

NewropMag: What did motivate you to attend this event?
Tanja: I attended EGEE I, because the ideas of Franck were stimulating, new and interesting. At first we did not really know how to react to this very enthusiastic French student, but it was impossible not to agree with his plans and ideas and so we went along and became as motivated as he was. Of course the idea of participating in a great congress and parties in Paris was also very attractive.

NewropMag: Tell me about the 16th of April, how did you feel about the launch of EGEE I?
Tanja: It was a great feeling to be a part of it. We felt special. I could never have imagined at that time that 25 years later it would have grown to such an incredibly large and influential organisation.

NewropMag: What happened during the week?
Tanja: I admit that I don’t have a very clear recollection of the lectures, or where we stayed, or what the days looked like, but I do recall the great parties in beautiful Paris.

The first CD in 1986
The first Comité Directeur in 1986

NewropMag: What was for you the most important achievement of this event?
Tanja: The bringing together of a small but very dedicated and active group of friends with whom I spent an amazing few years traveling through Europe, interacting with other Europeans, creating unbreakable bonds and, apparently, doing some good work in bringing young Europeans together in an organisation without national delimitations. This was a brilliant and visionary decision.

NewropMag: What is your best memory?
Tanja: Everything…

NewropMag: And the worst one?
Tanja: The fights we sometimes had, but they were necessary to reach common understandings, so they are not really a bad memory. I had actually left the CD when problems started to arise after the first two or three years, as I had started working already in October 1985 and it became increasingly difficult to combine AEGEE with my work at the university. I guess I am lucky to have only happy memories.

NewropMag: Why did you decide to help building the AEGEE network after the congress?
Tanja: We just could not stop there, we had work to do, and the dynamics of the group was very strong. It was new, it was fun, it was necessary.

NewropMag: Can you tell me what was for you the dimension of the event?
Tanja: Before I did it mostly for fun. Afterwards it became a mission.

NewropMag: Did you anticipate its political dimension or its importance for the students in Europe?
Tanja: No I had no idea of the impact we would have.

NewropMag: From this experience which recommendations would you give to the younger generations in Europe today?
Tanja: Exchange, travel, listen, interact, understand, be tolerant, enjoy, learn languages!

 

Philippe Micaelli: “Parties and fundamental work”

Philippe MicaelliPhilippe Micaelli (Mica) studied econometrics at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1985. He was a member of the very first team of creator-founders of the EGEE I project and joined the CD afterwards. In addition to being founder of several companies, he is also involved with Newropeans, for which he was one of the top candidates in France in the last European elections. For him EGEE I was “a mix of memorable parties – and a time when the fundamental work was carried out to create AGEEE, based on new principles that still exist 25 years on”.

NewropMag: What was your role in the organisation of EGEE I?
Philippe Micaelli (Mica): I mostly dealt with logistics, finances and negotiations with our partners.

NewropMag: Why did you want to get involved in planning the event?
Mica: I wanted to be able to participate in the organisation of the first European student conference that brought together students from all four corners of Europe.

NewropMag: Tell me about the 16th April 1985, were you excited about the launch of EGEE I?
Mica: Yes, we made young people believing in the European idea. I felt immense joy to have achieved what seemed unachievable.

NewropMag: What happened that week?
Mica: It was a mix of memorable parties and a time when the fundamental work was carried out to create AEGEE, based on new principles that still exist 25 years on. One example of the principles is that we mainly worked on European level, not on national one.

The cover of the EGEE I event booklet
NewropMag: What was the most important achievement of the event in your opinion?
Mica: To prove that it is possible to promote new political ideas in the citizens’ meaning of the term by breaking existing moulds.

NewropMag: What’s your best memory?
Mica: The day all the students arrived at the Sorbonne.

NewropMag: And the worst memory?
Mica: The end of the event.

NewropMag: How did the congress motivate you to create the AEGEE network?
Mica: We proved that it was possible for young people to work together and take control and create a common European destiny.

NewropMag: Can you tell me how what this congress meant for you before and after it took place?
Mica: Before the congress it was a very important collective mobilisation to stage a fun demonstration at a European level that no other group had ever tried to carry out. After: the creation of the first European student network at a supranational level. It was an example of a working network that had real, concrete proposals.

NewropMag: Had you anticipated the political influence the event would go on to have?
Mica: Yes. That’s why all of us, the founding members, resigned from the Comité Directeur when we graduated.

NewropMag: Based on your experiences what recommendations would you give to young people in Europe today?
Mica: To not listen to the sirens’ songs, calling for compromise. Act outside the box. Be able to question one’s actions. Always use your common sense. Think as a collective.

NewropMag: What do you do for a living today?
Mica: After 10 years working as a trader at the stock market I set up several companies in varied sectors: financial intermediation, methodological consulting and IT security management. I always had a will to innovate.

 

Marie Gutmann: “An Atmosphere, Energy, Spirit of Enthusiasm”

Marie GutmannMarie Gutmann also was a member of the very first team of creators and founders of AEGEE  and of the first CD. The Sciences-Po University graduate worked for many years in a large international media company, before becoming the audiovisual attaché at the French embassy in Morocco. Today she is head of the film production company Méroé films. She produces short films, documentaries and full-length films for directors that have very different geographic and artistic backgrounds. She was awarded first prize – the Golden Muhr for the documentary “Made in Egypt” by Karim Goury at the Dubai International film festival.

NewropMag: What were you studying in April 1985?
Marie Gutmann: I was in my third year at Sciences-Po University in Paris.

NewropMag: What was your role in the organisation of EGEE I?
Marie: I don’t remember exactly what my title was, but I was part of the very first team. I wanted to help organise a high-impact event.

NewropMag: Tell me about the 16th April, were you excited about the launch of EGEE I?
Marie: I was really stressed but at the same time very proud…

NewropMag: What happened that week?
Marie: We went all over Paris in our grey Fiat Panda cars covered in banners. We had to go everywhere ourselves because back then there were no mobile phones or internet! We welcomed the European students and all the prestigious participants, but we also continued to look for funds and support at the same time. There were some really funny situations. Some Italian students asked when they get off the coach: “Where are the Americans?”

Advert in Le Monde for EGEE I
Advert in Le Monde for EGEE I

NewropMag: What was the most important achievement of the event in your opinion?
Marie: The fact that it took place, that what we had envisaged was such a success and that, for the first time, European students, invited by other students, had the opportunity to meet each other.

NewropMag: What’s your best memory?
Marie: It’s difficult to choose a memory among all the moments we shared, from the time the project was conceived of to the continuation of EGEE in the months that followed. More than memories, I remember an atmosphere, an energy, a spirit of enthusiasm that we all shared.

NewropMag: And the worst memory?
Marie: The financial problems probably. With time though only the good memories remain…

NewropMag: How did the congress motivate you to create the AEGEE network?
Marie: It was the desire to continue working together, even after the students went back to their own countries.

 

 

 

 

 

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