At the Agora in Enschede five candidates compete for four places as general CD members: Beáta Matuszka, Kathrin Renner, Miguel Gallardo, Olga Iatsyna, and Pavel Zbornik. The Golden Times asked all of them for an interview. Read today what motivates Miguel Gallardo from AEGEE-Alicante to candidate as CD member. His preferred task: projects and Working Groups. “The thematic work in AEGEE is the place where our members can develop themselves more, and it should be put back into the core of AEGEE-Europe”, Miguel sees. Read also, why you can make him happy with cheese.

Golden Times: Miguel, five candidates for four CD positions. How do you feel about that?
Miguel Gallardo: Five candidates is not that much; during the CD Candidates meeting at EBM Izmir there were many more! I anticipate that the elections will be decided by a handful of votes, because all the candidates are very valid AEGEE members. I wish we could all be elected as we have complementary profiles.

Golden Times: You are focusing on Projects and Working Groups. What do you like about these tasks?
Miguel: The thematic work in AEGEE is the place where our members can develop themselves more, and it should be put back into the core of AEGEE-Europe. I love the whole process: have an idea, share it with a close circle and make it grow, start transform it into a project, present it to the network and implement it with the support of the great structure that AEGEE provides.

Golden Times: You were involved in the “Sustaining Our Future” Flagship Project. How successful was this project?
Miguel: The success of the SuFu project is the impact it had in our network. We managed to put the Environment in the agenda of AEGEE and we got some valuable external partners. Through the work of the Environmental WG, we have done an intensive follow up to keep our network active in the field. We knew that the environmental topic fit perfectly in the multidisciplinary nature of AEGEE, but without the SuFu project it would have taken us much longer to achieve this involvement. A funny detail that not many people know is that we got a request from the Samoan Islands to send them a physical copy of the results booklet of SuFu, as they were very inspired by our work.

Golden Times: Unfortunately AEGEE wasn’t that lucky in 2011 with its Flagship Project. Some people consider AEGEE’s projects too big and complex in structure. How can the coherence of projects be improved?
Miguel: The topic of Social Inclusion was not developed into a Flagship Project because of some struggles with the whole Flagship Project rules, true, but those regulations are needed in order to ensure that the effort of the whole network for two years is not wasted. The Flagship Project concept has to be assessed and probably needs some changes to harmonise the Strategic Plan structure. But for assessing the needs we should try one whole cycle.

Golden Times: A huge problem of AEGEE’s projects is creating results and use them for an impact of AEGEE. How do you want to improve that?
Miguel: The impact of a project has two dimensions. One is the impact inside our association, for our own members. Some of our projects have a great potential to change our members’ point of view and improve their skills to become active citizens in their societies. The external dimension of projects is more complicated to achieve, as our members often lack the knowledge on how to do a proper follow up of the projects, lobbying and transmitting our opinion to decision makers. In this situation, the role of CD is vital, being present in Brussels and working inside the European Youth Forum and in close contact with MEPs and Commissioners. But the recent push for involvement of our network in the local, regional and national youth councils can bring new ways to spread our ideas and achieve a bigger impact.

Golden Times: Can you tell us three original and attractive topics for AEGEE-Europe projects?
Miguel: My role as Projects and WG responsible would be to support the ideas that come from the network and not to create projects myself. Some hints for new projects can be found at the priorities of the European Institutions, watching the news, or just by looking around in our society. Topics like health, human rights, the economic crisis, migrations, the Mediterranean basin and many more are always there to inspire our members to create new projects.

Golden Times: You are best known for your involvement in Working Groups. Tell us more about why and how you founded the Environmental WG.
Miguel: The EnWG is a great example of how a motivated group of members, even if small, can have an impact. They organised an event to discuss environmental topics during New Year in Estonia, and created the momentum that led to the proposal of the new WG in Agora Valletta where we were born. Wow, it will be already five years in Enschede!

Golden Times: The number of Working Groups went down. How do you want to strengthen the existing WGs?
Miguel: We have seen disappear the Dance WG, the Human Rights WG and BoBiGoSa. But during the past months the trend has changed, and most of our WGs are quite active. You can see the positive impact of reforms, good PR and the work of the responsibles for WGs in the current and the past CD: Thomas, Guille and Gizem.

Golden Times: Does AEGEE need new WGs? If yes, which projects should they cover?
Miguel: AEGEE would benefit from some new WGs, or the revival of some of the WGs recently disappeared. These long term structures provide a very good starting point for members who want to begin their involvement in the European Level of AEGEE, and also should become a hatchery for new projects. There will be surprises soon.

Golden Times: Some WGs turned into committees. What do you think about that? Will you take care of them too?
Miguel: The current committees are now working quite well, and the reserves I had at the beginning have vanished. They are not linked to thematic work, and I cannot know who will take care of them in the new CD. But I can see myself taking care of them too, as probably some of the support they need does not differ much from those of WGs.

Golden Times: Would you be able to do also other tasks aside from WGs and Projects?
Miguel: As stated in my candidature, I have also experience working on Network development and Communication, so I could work on both fields if necessary..

Golden Times: How and when did you actually join AEGEE?
Miguel: I joined AEGEE in the SU campaign of 2004, and for almost three years I knew little about the European Level of AEGEE. It was not until I went to the SU in Georgia and Azerbaijan in 2006, and then Agora Napoli, that I became aware of what AEGEE really is. Since then, I have taken care that no one in my local has to wait so long to discover what the true meaning of AEGEE is.

Golden Times: And which were your best moments so far in AEGEE? And your favourite event?
Miguel: This is the hardest question so far. AEGEE has provided me some great moments, like the closing plenary of Agora Alicante, when we realised as a team how all our effort had been worth, and my antenna gave me the Honorary Membership. But I also remember very fondly the approval of the EnWG in Valletta, the presentation of results of the SuFu project in Leiden, my first SU in Montenegro and every time I see a participant of any AEGEE training taking some responsibility in local or European level. My favourite event as organiser was Agora Alicante with no doubt; as trainer I cannot choose only one; as participant, I loved the Silesian Workshop on Documentary Photography organised by AEGEE-Katowice.

Golden Times: And which were your worst moments in AEGEE?
Miguel: There have been only two really bad moments in my AEGEE life: one was a very sad accident during one of the SU I participated, the other was an internal problem that could not be solved in my local. They were the kind of experiences that make you learn a lot with suffering, and I have to thank the support of other AEGEE members at those times that helped me a lot.

Golden Times: Please complete this sentence: “AEGEE is for me…”
Miguel: The best place where young Europeans can transform their ideas into real projects.

Golden Times: How did you get the idea to candidate for the CD now? After all, you’ve been around for so long.
Miguel: I was approached several times to candidate for the CD, by people I respect a lot, but I never had the real chance to do it as I was busy with field work of my PhD thesis. Now that work is done, and I plan to finish the writing before August, so the timing finally fits.

Golden Times: What hobbies do you have?
Miguel: I love cinema and theatre, both as audience and acting; I like TV series too. I like going outdoor sports, trekking or orienteering – I have already contacted the Belgian Orienteering federation – and of course I like traveling.

Golden Times: What’s your dream job after finishing AEGEE?
Miguel: At the moment becoming a University professor is not an easy option in Spain due to the current crisis, but maybe I can find a position abroad. It may also be something related to communicating science rather than to pure research. But I am aware this year may change everything.

Golden Times: Can you imagine living abroad for more years? Maybe start working in Brussels Or will you go back immediately after your CD term ends?
Miguel: I have no problem living abroad, I was already living in Helsinki, Reunion Island, South Africa and Morocco. I am open to see what time will bring.

Golden Times: What’s never missing in your fridge?
Miguel: Milk and other dairy products: yogurt, kefir, and especially all kinds of cheese. If I am elected and someone comes to stay at the CD house, and they bring local cheese, they will make me really happy.

Golden Times: How would you describe yourself in five keywords?
Miguel: Tolerant, flexible, listener, team player

Golden Times: Anything you’d like to add? What should people know about you?
Miguel: I did not know what to write, so I asked some friends of me:
“Always committed 100%”
“With him in the CD house, no food will ever go to waste, no left overs”
“He bakes amazing chocolate cakes”
“Lots of knowledge about zombies”.