This weekend AEGEE’s spring Agora 2021 will take place online. The GT sent interview questions to all CD candidates. Four of them replied. Here are the answers by CD candidate Niccolò Berni from AEGEE-Pisa, whose preferred tasks would be Internal Affairs or Human Resources.

The origins of Niccolò.

Golden Times: How would you describe yourself in five keywords?
Niccolò Berni: Pragmatic, problem solver, listener, analyst, AEGEEan.

You have a long resume in AEGEE, organising more than 100 local and European events in seven years is amazing. But you have no European-level experience yet. What motivated you to run for the CD?
I actually did most of it within three years, between age 21 and 24 – and it was very time-consuming. Then I remained a member as I moved to two different cities, Siena and Ljubljana, but I wasn’t quite active in general as my Msc was a bit demanding. As I came back to my city, Pisa, I rejoined the board as President mainly because of a lack of members and I didn’t want to leave my local in bad waters. I have a similar motivation for my CD candidature: I answered the CD call for new candidates and by listening and talking to them I realized how not having a whole team was a problem. Then I struggled for some days as I was worried for my lack of European experience but some candidates places were still empty, so I took this decision. I will be catching up about the European level in the next weeks and I am looking forward to the knowledge transfer in Brussels, in case I get elected, in order to get ready for this new challenge.

You wrote in your candidature that your preferred positions are Internal Affairs and Human Resources. Why is that?
It’s mainly related to the fact that I would like to focus my term on the structural lack of new members, at least for a lot of locals, if not for the Network as a whole. I will be completely open to speak with the other team members about the optimal portfolio division, in case. People may need different incentives for joining AEGEE and to become active; I would like to have a dialogue with all AEGEE bodies involved in order to understand what could be improved and where the CD can help, at every level.

Niccolò with AEGEE-Pisa at EPM Zagreb.

You want to introduce a certification system for achievements, which is in this scope and extent a new idea. What would be the benefits? On a downside, couldn’t it encourage CV hunters?
First of all, it is a direct feedback and recognition for the efforts of being active in AEGEE. Then, it should help AEGEE members when it comes to explaining their volunteering activities in their CV. As long as people are active and strive for organising high quality events and activities, I wouldn’t judge the reasons why people join the association.

Your main idea is to create Eurocitizens, using a phrase that AEGEE founder Franck Biancheri coined. What does that mean? And how do you want to achieve it?
As I understood from his book eurocitizens are the foundation that would be needed in order to unite the whole continent. A population that has common values while respecting the diversities in culture and costums at the same time, willing to live together in peace. AEGEE achieves it every day as there are a lot of exchanges and sharing of common experiences, even during a pandemic. Every activity at every level counts in this regard, so it’s achievable by making AEGEE grow in absolute numbers and geographically, across the whole continent.

You want to go “to go back to the roots and focus on the reasons why our Association has been founded”. What does it mean for you? What does it mean thematic-wise?
It means striving for the unification of the continent. I still like the diversity in thematics that AEGEE offers, that’s why my focus is more on the members side and being sure that they acquire competences and the willingness to keep striving for this goal also after their “AEGEE life”.

AEGEE has been hit hard by the pandemic. Indeed, the consequences for network size, diversity and motivation are severe. What should AEGEE do to make a turnaround?
As a bright man said: “Let not get a good crisis go to waste”. The shrinking network was a problem way before Covid, now it’s really the time to tackle it. I think it is about proposing a mixture of practical incentives, such as official recognition of involvement, and ideal ones – like striving for a common important cause. But it is the duty of every AEGEE member to come up with ideas about it. Regarding Covid, an applause has to be given to the whole Network and former CD’s efforts, as everybody adapted quite fast to this new situation.

Niccolò and the AEGEE-Pisa board of 2015

Let’s move on to some personal questions: how did you join AEGEE exactly?
Is always nice to think back to those times. Like many other AEGEE members I just saw an advertisement about SU’s on Facebook. I went to a public meeting and decided to make the trip. My first SU was in Plzen in 2014 and I will never forget it. After the event I wanted to organise something similar in my city and I became active in October of that year.

What was your first task in AEGEE in general and what was your first position in the local board?
My first task was to organise a general meeting for the promotion of the association. Only two people came but both of them became very active. My first board position was interim PR, for six months.

What was your favourite event as organiser – and why is it your favourite?
As local events I love to organise pub crawls, I have fun and like to drink with the participants. But my heart will always be with the first European event I’ve organised, in the summer of 2015.

Niccolò Berni during one of the many aperitivos by AEGEE-Pisa

What’s the typical food and drink do you bring to European Nights?
I don’t have much fantasy, I usually bring Limoncello. Sometimes I was able to bring a sweet wine called “Vin santo” and sweets “Cantuccini”. They are both typical from my region, Tuscany.

There is a classic typology of AEGEE members, dividing them according to the three aspects fun member, career member and idealist – to which percentage are you which of these aspects?
I really like this question. I would say 30 – 20 – 50.

Moving to Brussels means also a lot of cooking. Do you like cooking and if yes, what’s your favourite dish you like to cook?
I don’t mind cooking, but I need to improve. Considering the ease and the little time involved, I would say “carbonara”.

What’s never missing in your fridge?
Proteins, eggs in particular.

Niccolò at a 90s party

What other hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
After the lockdowns I discovered the beauty of trekking. Then I read a lot of books on economics and finance and follow soccer. I also like to bet on it. My perfect evening is wandering around my city with a beer in my hand and joking with my friends.

How did you spend your time during the pandemic?
Reading, studying, TV series, workouts.

What do you study – and why?
I study finance. I chose it because I wanted to understand very well the crisis that happened in 2007-2008 in the US and then later in Europe.

What’s your dream job?
Organising pub crawls on a professional level.

Did you consider joining a political party or maybe want to do it later?
No, I’ve never considered it. But in case, it would be the “Green” party.

What’s the favourite city or place on this planet you ever visited?
If I can’t count my city I’m going for Ljubljana.

If you could take one AEGEE member to a desert island, who would it be? And why?
After so many years and people that I met, that is a really hard question to answer. But I would choose Emanuele Scapaticci, we organised together our first European event and it proved to me how much trust I could put in a person that I knew since less than a year at the time.

What’s your biggest frustration in AEGEE?
I feel that it is always hard to explain to the outside how amazing a person’s life could become by just joining the association.

Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE is for me…”
AEGEE is for me life, but 10 times faster.