It will be a battle: After Luis Alvarado Martínez (22) now also Olimpia Pârje (22) declared that she will candidate for the AEGEE-Europe presidency at Agora Enschede in May2012. The Golden Times asked her about her motivation and programme. Note: The Golden Times will stay impartial in this election. Every other CD candidate will receive the chance to present himself or herself in an interview.

Golden Times: Olimpia, you will candidate for President of AEGEE-Europe. What motivates you for this?
Olimpia Pârje: My motivation seems so difficult to put into words, but it is AEGEE itself. Europe is at a crossroads now, with euro-scepticism growing higher and the EU itself facing some of its biggest challenges. And now more than we know, we need to take action. I cannot stand idly by and watch our Europe get further and further away from what it should be – a land of democracy, equality, cooperation, opportunities and respect for all its peoples. We are here today as AEGEE and we must put our all into making our dream of Europe come true. This is what I believe in and I wish to be one of those who will lead our organisation onto its path to reaching this point – we ourselves are true European citizens by the way we live our lives from one corner of Europe to another, the values that we share, by the friends we have in cities many of our non-AEGEE friends have never heard of, and by the way we see ourselves as the generation that will ensure a united Europe. My motivation lies in my deepest wish to be a part of and live in this Europe.

Golden Times: What fascinates you so much in AEGEE?
Olimpia: It must be the people. I have met some of the most extraordinary people in AEGEE and what was so fascinating was that they were all brought together by AEGEE, by the ideals that stand behind our organisation and by their belief that youth have a voice to be recognised and that voice will be the one making those ideals of “one Europe” our reality.

Golden Times: How and when did you actually join AEGEE? Is there an interesting story?
Olimpia: I joined AEGEE in my very first year of university, when I was 18. The campaign slogan of AEGEE-Bucureşti at that time was „Do you want to be a superhero?” and being the curious-minded person I still am, I decided to see what AEGEE was actually about. The name of the organisation was vaguely familiar as well as the best friend of my brother had been the Secretary in the board of AEGEE-Bucureşti in the past. The funny thing that motivated me the most and probably got me fully into AEGEE was an exchange that was taking place in Bucharest at that time and a great friend that I met there. I was convinced I would probably not see him again for a very long time, as I had only been abroad once before with my parents that same year. And so I made a promise that if I were accepted as a member of AEGEE-Bucureşti, I would visit my friend in the Netherlands. And so I did, the next year, just before my first Summer University.

Golden Times: Olimpia, you were Speaker of the Network Commission and editor-in-chief of the Key to Europe. What else did you do in AEGEE so far?
Olimpia: I was involved on local level for the first two years, then I joined the Culture Working Group (CWG) and the CWG board as IT responsible mostly. Soon after I started my contact with the Netcom, first as subcommie and then Netcom Assistant to later on be elected as a Netcommie in Agora Istanbul. I took part in a “Y Vote” conference on Creativity and Innovation in Munich in 2009 after which I organised a local two-day seminar on Europe’s Day, and was a participant in European School 2 Poznan in September 2010. Since last October I joined IPWG and the Action Agenda Coordination Team (ACT) that will be in charge of supporting the implementation the first AA of this Strategic Plan.

Golden Times: How did you get the idea to candidate for president?
Olimpia: I made my final decision a few weeks before the EBM in Izmir after much consideration, but the idea was in my head already for some time before that. I had even heard rumours about my supposed upcoming candidature a long time before that.

Golden Times: As a CD candidate, you must have a programme. What would you like to change or improve in AEGEE?
Olimpia: There are so many things to be told here. My programme is twofold, as it has both an internal and an external part. Internally I wish to work on a change of mentality within our organisation, by creating a much more involved AEGEE generation from the local to the European level, one with a European-minded view on matters, responsible and very active. I want to see our members aware of what AEGEE is, what we have done and learned throughout all these years and work on our “memory issues”. As you know, as AEGEE we often forget about knowledge transfer and so much is lost because of this. We need our current structure to function properly with competent and responsible people involved and we need more projects and we need these projects to be sustainable.

Golden Times: What is the external part of your programme?
Olimpia: On an external perspective I wish to work on our relationship with our partners and the organisations we are part of to make sure we get the visibility we desire and the results we need – in such cases as the Erasmus for All, Eastern Partnership programme and other topics that matter to us, where we as AEGEE should have our say. I want to change the conceptual gap between what we perceive of ourselves as AEGEE and what some new members and externals often perceive as AEGEE – a holiday organisation.

Golden Times: There are some people on European level, who think about structural changes, for example to strengthen the role of the Network Commission or to outsource tasks from the CD to the network, in order to have more resources for the CD to do lobby work or fundraising in Brussels. What do you think about this?
Olimpia: There is a big commitment level difference between members of the CD and everyone else involved in AEGEE. Not regarding motivation but regarding time availability – when you are in the CD, AEGEE is your life, you have no more university, job and little private life, while most of our members are indeed still students and have other responsibilities. That is why I believe we need a strong CD to keep a fulltime overview over the network. The Comite Directeur is there lead, not only administer the organisation, to be its political voice and that’s why they need support with the administrative tasks. Most CD members have such a support team: network development has the Network Commission, human resources has the newly established HRC, for PR and communications we have the PRC, for thematic part we have Working Groups and now the Action Agenda Coordination Team. The biggest and most important thing missing is a support team for fundraising.

Golden Times: So what would you do about that?
Olimpia: A fundraising assistant position for just a couple of months before the Spring Agora is not enough for the amount of work that needs to be done, considering also the fact that AEGEE is in danger of losing its biggest financial support from the European Commission and we need a much stronger fundraising effort from other sources. So I see as necessary the creation of a sort of FR Committee as support team for FR for AEGEE-Europe, projects and locals. The creation of a secretariat is also an idea but it’s a long-term change that needs a lot of discussing and analysis.

Golden Times: What about giving the NetCom more tasks?
Olimpia: I don’t necessarily believe we need to give more powers to the Network Commission as they are already quite packed with responsibilities that keep them busy and that also keep them neutral and always having the best interest of the locals at hand. While giving them more power, though I am not exactly sure what kind of power you mean here, may compromise the balancing effect that the Commission currently has.

Golden Times: Many people say that AEGEE talks too much about structures and too little about content. Regarding content, can you tell three great ideas for European projects AEGEE should do?
Olimpia: I agree, we talk way too much about ourselves and too little about what is going on in Europe and the world around us. I was present in Poznan at our Planning meeting so I support the ideas that were created there, meaning that I want to see our network more involved in our three focus areas: youth participation, bridging Europe, inclusion of minorities – as they were also the ones that the network decided to be the most important at this moment. I don’t want to leave out the topic of education, both higher education and non-formal education, which is one topic we as students should pay great attention to. And I would particularly like to point out two specific topics.

Golden Times: Which are these?
Olimpia: The EU Parliamentary elections in 2014 for which we should already be preparing – and active citizenship as a whole, taking a look at all the events and revolutions of 2011, the „Occupy” movements, the „indignados” and other such memorable events that took place during the last year around Europe and the world and that are still taking place now. I believe AEGEE has not talked enough about this and would very much like to see our members more informed, more critical and more opinionated on these matters.

Golden Times: You just came back from EBM Izmir. What do you think of the new concept, what would you further improve?
Olimpia: The new concept is great, after a long time I finally felt that this was a promising event, the kind that we should be doing in AEGEE. It showed a lot of promise and reminded me once more of the great potential of AEGEE. There were a lot of members that attended the EBM for the wrong reasons and one thing that I would like to see improve is the commitment of some of the participants and their involvement in the discussions. The development of the objectives for the Action Agenda is another thing that could be improved, perhaps with more preparation before the event itself.

Golden Times: How did you contribute to the EBM?
Olimpia: During the EBM I was with the Action Agenda Coordination Team (ACT) and with the back office, helping out and keeping together with the others an overview over the Action Meetings, gathering and managing the results. Due to a shortage of people, I doubled as an observer for one Action Meeting. Being there as IPWG, during the AEGEE Fair I was making rounds from ACT table to IPWG table, and passing by the Netcom table as simply couldn’t stay away, since currently I am still a subcommie for Iulia Ştefan.

Golden Times: You had a very adventurous trip to and from the EBM. What happened? And how did you deal with it?
Olimpia: Adventurous is putting it lightly. We were supposed to have a simple train ride and two days in Istanbul before travelling to EBM, but Andra Nicu from AEGEE-Ploieşti and me were lucky enough to have almost everything go wrong – with our train derailing, Bulgarian roads being flooded and borders closed on one side, and snowstorms and three meters snow on the other. You can read more about the whole trip in an article we are preparing for the AEGEEan, but what more I can say now is that nothing could stop us from reaching Turkey and the EBM, not even the Embassy that told us to go back to Romania. We kept our spirits high and reached Istanbul two days later than initially planned, and the next day we were in Izmir!

Golden Times: Having been Network Commissioner, what are your most memorable moments of this task?
Olimpia: It’s very hard to pick, as there are so many in almost two years time spent somehow in connection with the Network Commission. Some that just come to mind now are: saving AEGEE-Iaşi from being deleted, AEGEE-Ploieşti signing the Convention d’Adhesion and becoming antenna, all the Netcom trips, official and unofficial, seeing my locals organise successful events, and of course the endless meetings of the Network Commission and so many other moments.

Golden Times: You also made a very good Key to Europe. How do you remember the work on it?
Olimpia: Coming from you, that appreciation means a lot so thank you! I remember working on the Key to Europe took a lot of effort; it started in Agora Alicante with a preliminary meeting and finished a few weeks before Agora Skopje when we sent the file to the printing house. Working in the summer with the network was the most difficult thing as communication was slow many times, but thanks to a very hardworking team we managed to pull it off in time and we got good feedback from everyone. The bigger concept was simply to create a publication that reflects AEGEE and that we can use to show our external partners – why we are here, where we are active and what we are doing as an organisation.

Golden Times: Finally, a few more personal questions. How do you feel about leaving Romania and to move to the rainiest capital of Europe, in case you are elected to the CD?
Olimpia: I don’t really have a problem with that as Romania has all kinds of seasons and I am used to having also very rainy months or long snowy winters when you don’t see the sun for weeks, like now for example. I’ll be quick to adapt to Brussels!

Golden Times: What was your favourite AEGEE event?
Olimpia (smiling): That’d have to be Agora Kyiv. Because it opened my mind to a completely different AEGEE – bigger, brighter and with long question lines.

Golden Times: Which were your best and worst moments so far in AEGEE?
Olimpia: I can’t point to specific moments because there are simply too many at this point – but I can say that the best feelings I always had at Agorae when I was always running from one place to another, to make sure I don’t miss anything, and the moments I had to be in three places at the same time. The worst moments were always the ones when people lost perspective and got personally upset because of differences of opinions and worst of all, when they kept a grudge because of it.

Golden Times: What’s your dream job after finishing AEGEE?
Olimpia: Not really sure, maybe working for Amnesty International on Human Rights, the UN Development Programme or something similar.

Golden Times: What hobbies do you have?
Olimpia: I like swimming and badminton but I haven’t had much time for them lately.

Golden Times: What’s never missing in your fridge?
Olimpia: I would say chocolate but that’s the first one gone from the fridge. Yoghurt.

Golden Times: How would you describe yourself in five keywords?
Olimpia: Enthusiastic, realist, ambitious, responsible, idealist.

Check out also the interview with Luis Alvarado Martínez.