The Presidents of AEGEE-Europe (I): Jeroen Hoogerwerf (1992/93)


There are not many things that Jeroen Hooger­w­erf did not do in AEGEE. He was Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe in 1992/93, Chair­man of the Ago­ra in 1991/92, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Ams­ter­dam, chief edi­tor of AEGEE’s News Bul­letin (the Gold­en Times of ancient times) and main Ago­ra coor­di­na­tor in 1991. No won­der that he became Hon­orary Mem­ber of AEGEE-Europe. In the first edi­tion of the new arti­cle series about leg­ends of AEGEE, Jeroen looked back at great events, peo­ple and fun­ny anec­dotes.

1 London 88
The begin­nings: Trans­porta­tion con­fer­ence in Lon­don, March 1988

GT: How and when did you join AEGEE?
Jeroen Hooger­w­erf: I joined AEGEE in autumn 1987, dur­ing the info mar­ket of Ams­ter­dam Uni­ver­si­ty. I was 18 years old and in my first uni­ver­si­ty year, just enrolled to study his­to­ry and Euro­pean stud­ies. A that time we were look­ing for­ward to the more inte­grat­ed EU of the Maas­tricht Treaty of 1992, so it was inter­est­ing to join as asso­ci­a­tion that dealt with Europe.

GT: Soon after, you became Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Ams­ter­dam. How did that hap­pen?
Jeroen: Indeed, it hap­pened very fast. The founders of our anten­na, who start­ed it in 1986, were old­er stu­dents. In Octo­ber 1987 we organ­ised a cul­tur­al week, which was a big con­fer­ence. Ams­ter­dam was the Cul­tur­al Cap­i­tal of Europe in that year. The board asked me to host some peo­ple, so I got real­ly fast into AEGEE. Three months lat­er, in Jan­u­ary 1988, our trea­sur­er left for stud­ies in the UK, so they asked me to join the board as trea­sur­er. Two months lat­er our pres­i­dent resigned, so I became inter­im pres­i­dent in March and was offi­cial­ly elect­ed in April 1988. So I was pres­i­dent in 1988/89 — and start­ed to trav­el.

The News­Bul­letin — here an edi­tion made in Oviedo — was AEGEE’s main infor­ma­tion source.

GT: You were chief edi­tor of the very fresh News­Bul­letin, which had a huge impact as AEGEE’s main inter­nal infor­ma­tion chan­nel before the Inter­net. How did that hap­pen?
Jeroen: We took over the News­Bul­letin when Ams­ter­dam became in the focus of AEGEE, when the AEGEE-Europe head­of­fice moved to Ams­ter­dam.

GT: What was the rea­son for that?
Jeroen: In Novem­ber 1988 there was the “Bat­tle of Orleans”. It was the Ago­ra six months after the end of Franck Biancheri’s term as first pres­i­dent and founder, the Ago­ra where he was sup­posed to become hon­orary pres­i­dent of AGEEE. Franck Biancheri was busy with his new asso­ci­a­tion Prometheus and with his polit­i­cal par­ty IDE. It was a bus time in AEGEE. Vieri Brac­co was vot­ed Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe in April, but he dis­ap­peared, so we need­ed a new one. There were also trou­bles with AEGEE-Paris and they had prob­lems with Biancheri, too, inter­nal trou­bles. So we got the head­of­fice and took over the News­Bul­letin. I think CD mem­ber Daisy Kop­mels from Ams­ter­dam start­ed it.

4 Berlin 88
Jeroen Hoogew­erf at the Cul­tur­al Week in Berlin, June 1988 — the Wall still stand­ing

GT: Ah, the girl who cre­at­ed the Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty project. How did you become chief-edi­tor of the News­Bul­letin?
Jeroen: I took over, because we thought it was good to have such a bul­letin and we could gath­er all nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion in the Euro­pean head office. I did it while being Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Ams­ter­dam – which was a lot of work. With over 200 mem­bers we were one of the biggest anten­nae in AEGEE at that time. We also helped coor­di­nat­ing the SU in its cre­ation year 1988, by the way. We had one among the first ten SUs! 15 peo­ple were com­ing to Ams­ter­dam, tak­ing part in a Dutch langue course.

7a Envi'Rhine'ment 89
Jeroen at the AEGEE-Ams­ter­dam con­fer­ence Envi’Rhine’ment, Feb­ru­ary 1989, with Georg von der Gablentz (AEGEE-Berlin) and May­or Ed van Thi­jn.

GT: What was the impact of the News­Bul­letin on AEGEE?
Jeroen: It had a huge impact. You have to remem­ber, we still used post, fax­es and tele­phone. The News­Bul­letin was the first medi­um of anten­nae among each oth­er. It was impor­tant to have it, espe­cial­ly the Cal­en­dar of Events and reports of meet­ings.  And it called for action.

GT: How often was it pub­lished?
Jeroen: Every two months, I think. Yes, details dis­ap­pear in one’s mem­o­ry.

GT: How did you get the con­tent in the pre-Inter­net age?
Jeroen: By post and fax main­ly. Infor­ma­tion on events came via the cen­tral office of AEGEE in Ams­ter­dam. We did it for around one year. Then AEGEE-Oviedo took over, because they had good
con­tacts with the uni­ver­si­ty, and most impor­tant finan­cial sup­port.

GT: How was financ­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion of the News­Bul­letin?
Jeroen: The mon­ey came out of the bud­get of AEGEE-Europe. AEGEE got a lot of mon­ey from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion at that time, around 75.000 Euros per year.

8a Queensday 89
Queens­day 1989 at the AEGEE-Europe office, Vinken­straat, Ams­ter­dam. The sound instal­la­tion stood in the office with the sound box­es out­side.

GT: In April 1991 your anten­na organ­ised its first of three Ago­ras with you as main organ­is­er. How do you remem­ber that?
Jeroen: It was the time when AEGEE grew a lot in the East. In 1990 we organ­ised a the­mat­ic con­fer­ence about Japan, where we had the first par­tic­i­pants from Cen­tral and East­ern Europe. AEGEE-Leipzig founder Michael Merk­er and his broth­er took part. His broth­er was robbed in the red light dis­trict, but then the thief saw that he had Ost­mark in the wal­let. So he returned it with 10 Guilders extra… The year after, in April 1991, we made a con­fer­ence on the top­ic of ener­gy with AEGEE-Rot­ter­dam and AEGEE-Lei­den, imme­di­ate­ly fol­lowed by the Ago­ra in Ams­ter­dam. AEGEE-Budapest, AEGEE-Pra­ha and some Pol­ish con­tacts joined the net­work there. The Ago­ra was one great par­ty.

GT: How many par­tic­i­pants did you have?
Jeroen: We had about 500 par­tic­i­pants. It was the first big Ago­ra, that’s when it start­ed to have many peo­ple present. Our mem­bers lodged all par­tic­i­pants.

8b Queensday 89
Jeroen serv­ing food at Queens­day 89

GT: How did you man­age that?
Jeroen: We sim­ply called them and told them to take two par­tic­i­pants each. “Take them or you won’t be mem­ber any­more”.

GT: Your next big career step in AEGEE was being Chair­man of the Ago­ra, right? What was your moti­va­tion to do it?
Jeroen: I liked the job very much. I was elect­ed Chair­man at Ago­ra Ams­ter­dam. I had vis­it­ed many Ago­ras already and thought it would be good to see the oth­er side. I like to have results at meet­ings and that’s what you can achieve as chair. You have only two days and must come to good deci­sions.

GT: Was it easy to chair the Ago­ras and Pres­i­dents Meet­ings?
Jeroen: The Pres­i­dents Meet­ings were eas­i­er, because there were less peo­ple. I have a loud voice, so I could man­age. Ago­ra Budapest in autumn 1991 was my first Ago­ra as chair, it was fun­ny. There was a stat­ue of Karl Marx at the end of the hall. Some­one asked: “Should we cov­er Marx, you have to watch him all days?” Of course I said no. Also the Ago­ra in Budapest had around 500 par­tic­i­pants. The Pres­i­dents Meet­ing in Kraków in spring 1992 was nice and with about 150 peo­ple not too crowd­ed. The organ­is­ers of this young anten­na want­ed to show what Pol­ish peo­ple could achieve. I real­ly liked the loca­tion — they have one of the nicest and old­est uni­ver­si­ties, Jagiel­lon­s­ki Uni­ver­si­ty.

GT: Ago­ras were a lot short­er than today — only two days long. Was it hard to make every­thing in just two days?
Jeroen: It was always very hard, but it’s about time man­age­ment. If you have a prop­er agen­da, you can push it through. The CD met already on Fri­day and also sev­er­al Work­ing Groups met the day before, so some things were pre­pared well.

GT: Who was your vice chair?
Jeroen: Eric Magielse from AEGEE-Delft. It was a per­fect coop­er­a­tion.

1991 Agora Amsterdam Plenary
1991: Ago­ra Ams­ter­dam Ple­nary.

GT: After fin­ish­ing your term as chair­man you became Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe in Spring 1992. It was quite an unusu­al way to do things. How did that hap­pen?
Jeroen: There was nobody who want­ed to become pres­i­dent. That’s how it always hap­pened. My pre­de­ces­sor Georg von der Gablentz asked me sev­er­al times to join his CD. As a chair I had close con­nec­tions with Georg and the CD in gen­er­al. In spring 1992, when I chaired the PM in Krakow, I was stu­dent in Val­ladol­id (where I set up a new anten­na with the sup­port of the For­eign Office of the uni­ver­si­ty). Georg and I had sev­er­al dis­cus­sions and then he asked me whether I would run as pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. So I had to find a sec­re­tary. First I worked with Marnix Schöy­er from AEGEE-Delft, then with Lies­beth Soer from AEGEE-Maas­tricht.

1991 Agora Budapest chair table small
Jeroen as Chair­man at Ago­ra Budapest 1991

GT: True, at that time pres­i­dent and sec­re­tary and to can­di­date togeth­er, in order to ensure a good coop­er­a­tion. You became Pres­i­dent in Kós, which was quite a chaot­ic Ago­ra. How do remem­ber the fuss about an Ago­ra tak­ing place dur­ing East­er and the prob­lems to get to the island of Kós dur­ing a fer­ry strike in Greece?
Jeroen: I had no prob­lems with get­ting to Kós, since I flew in direct­ly from Spain to Athens. There were also char­ter flights direct­ly to Kós for Ger­mans and Dutch, so many peo­ple had no prob­lem. The loca­tion was organ­ised well, the gov­er­nor of Kós had arranged every­thing. The organ­is­ers from AEGEE-Athi­na had more prob­lems and were ner­vous because of the strike of the fer­ries, which end­ed just before the Ago­ra start­ed. But every­body man­aged to get a fer­ry on time and we were lodged in nice hotels.

1991 Agora Budapest Marx statue
The Marx stat­ue at Ago­ra Budapest 1991

GT: How was that Ago­ra?
Jeroen: The Ago­ra itself was very nice. The only spec­tac­u­lar issue was brought up by AEGEE-Bonn: they want­ed to get Turk­ish locals into the asso­ci­a­tion, which was not very diplo­mat­ic to do in Greece. The result: we would vote about it city by city. This prin­ci­ple was reversed at Ago­ra Ams­ter­dam in 1995. I made the pro­pos­al myself. So only from then on all Turk­ish locals could join with­out prob­lems.

GT: Also the orig­i­nal State­ment of Prin­ci­ples was cre­at­ed there.
Jeroen: Yes, Stathis Mihos intro­duced the State­ment of Prin­ci­ples, since Greece is the cra­dle of democ­ra­cy. It was a high­brow state­ment.

GT: How was can­di­dat­ing for pres­i­dent?
Jeroen: I had a dou­ble role, being chair and can­di­date, so my vice chair took over dur­ing the elec­tions.

GT: You took over from Georg von der Gablentz, the Quo Vadis Pres­i­dent. Were those big foot­steps?
Jeroen: It was actu­al­ly quite easy to fol­low him. The office was not in Ams­ter­dam any­more, it had moved to Delft. My sec­re­tary gen­er­al was from Delft, so it was easy to run the asso­ci­a­tion from there. They also had e-mail and Gopher, so we could reach some Inter­net. As inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool we intro­duced the CD fax, the week­ly newslet­ter to all CD mem­bers. I asked them all for a report week­ly, and faxed that to all CD mem­bers. The inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the CD was a prob­lem before.

GT: CDs had 16 mem­bers back then, liv­ing all over Europe and not in one place. How many CD mem­bers were actu­al­ly work­ing?
Jeroen: To be hon­est, not all 16. We always had some peo­ple who did not work, but the major­i­ty did.

1991 Agora Budapest plenary small
All three Budapest Ago­ras took place in this hall

GT: What were the biggest issues of the year Pres­i­den­cy? Any hot top­ics?
Jeroen: I don’t remem­ber hot issues. The biggest issue was to get the mon­ey from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. That’s why we intro­duced the Year­plan and made a book­let from it. With this it became more struc­tured what the CD was doing. With this Year­plan we want­ed to show what we want­ed to achieve. We did not only make it for the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, we realised that it was impor­tant for the net­work as well. AEGEE always organ­ised many seri­ous events – and with the Year­plan we cre­at­ed more vis­i­bil­i­ty.

GT: How did AEGEE devel­op in that peri­od? Was the big growth in the East slow­ing down?
Jeroen: Not at all, it was going sky high in that peri­od! Many new locals were cre­at­ed. We had events with whole bus­es from Hun­gary and Roma­nia. AEGEE in Bul­gar­ia was devel­op­ing, too. This devel­op­ment also trig­gered of dis­cus­sions on visa issues. There were also trou­bles with AEGEE-Mosk­va — the Russ­ian mafia was sup­pos­ed­ly behind it.

14a Turku 92
Saunas were pop­u­lar at Pres­i­dents Meet­ing Turku.

GT: Dur­ing your pres­i­den­cy, you also had a Pres­i­dents Meet­ing in Turku, the first big event in the North. How was that?
Jeroen: That was great! We had a CD meet­ing in the sauna and some real­ly good par­ties. There were 100–150 peo­ple — not so many, but it was good to be in the north. We had a CD mem­ber from Fin­land, Paula Kin­nunen, her anten­na organ­ised it.

GT: How was the coop­er­a­tion in the CD?
Jeroen: With most peo­ple it was real­ly good. We already knew that six­teen was a big num­ber of peo­ple, so we start­ed the dis­cus­sion to reduce the size of the CD.

11 European School Madrid 92
Euro­pean School Madrid 92, at thee ear­ly phase of train­ings in AEGEE.

GT: You had the strange nick­name Hitler-Stal­in-Hooger­w­erf. Who invent­ed it? And were you real­ly such a tough per­son?
Jeroen: Paula Kin­nunen cre­at­ed the nick­name, prob­a­bly with Michael Merk­er. It start­ed when I was chair­man, I was quite strict. If you have one minute to speak, you can only speak for a minute. I was also a bit stricter in the CD then Georg was. How­ev­er, the nick­name was clear­ly exag­ger­at­ed, if you ask me.

GT: How would you describe your man­ag­ing style with­in the CD and towards the net­work?
Jeroen: I was an inte­gra­tor. Look­ing back to my AEGEE time 25 years lat­er, that’s my strength. You have a goal togeth­er, you work togeth­er — that’s the pur­pose of AEGEE. There are rules, but I can also be flex­i­ble with it. After all, Dutch always go for com­pro­mise.

Ago­ra Kos 1992. It was not easy to get there.

GT: What would you do dif­fer­ent as Pres­i­dent if you had the chance?
Jeroen: I was 23. I did it the way I am, and prob­a­bly I would do it the same way now.

GT: At Ago­ra Utrecht in 1993 you became hon­orary mem­ber of AEGEE-Europe. What do you con­sid­er as your biggest achieve­ment in AEGEE?
Jeroen: The organ­i­sa­tion of the CD, espe­cial­ly the organ­i­sa­tion of the Year­plan. By the way, I cre­at­ed three fold­ers of doc­u­ment and advice for my suc­ces­sor, but he lost it in the train the week after…

1992 Agora Kos clapping small
Clap­ping at Ago­ra Kos 1992.

GT: Where do you live now?
Jeroen: I live in De Meern, next to Utrecht. I live there hap­pi­ly with my non-AEGEE wife and three kids.

GT: What do you work now?
Jeroen: I am an edu­ca­tion­al and children’s book pub­lish­er. I have my own com­pa­ny. I write some books myself, but also pub­lish books of oth­ers. I start­ed my busi­ness three years ago. Before that I was in mar­ket­ing at a big pub­lish­ing house, then switched to an edu­ca­tion pub­lish­ing house.

I would like to thank Gun­nar for the ini­tia­tive for this inter­view. It is fun­ny how mem­o­ry works. Before the inter­view I did not have many thoughts on what the sto­ry would be. Dur­ing the inter­view my brain start­ed to work fran­ti­cal­ly to get mem­o­ries back and answers to the ques­tions. Most of it came out direct­ly and found its way in the inter­view as writ­ten down by Gun­nar. But many more mem­o­ries (and espe­cial­ly details) came back lat­er, as I searched for pho­tographs of this peri­od.