The CD selected AEGEE-Yerevan as host of Spring Agora 2021 – one year after the originally planned date, before the Coronavirus made a live meeting this spring impossible. The decision still needs to be approved by the Agora this weekend. The Golden Times had the chance to speak with Armenak Minasyants, co-founder of AEGEE-Yerevan, president of the antenna for several years and main organiser of EPM Yerevan – the first statutory event in the Caucasus region – two years ago. “The safety and health of the AEGEEans at the statutory events shall be the priority”, stresses Armenak. “Our intention to have an environmentally sustainable, completely digitalized and impactful Agora in Yerevan next year.”

Armenak has undoubtedly been the most active AEGEE member in the Caucasus region in the past decade

Golden Times: It was announced that AEGEE-Yerevan will host Spring Agora 2021 – is it official?
Armenak Minasyants: Yes, it is all official and I am very pleased to confirm that AEGEE-Yerevan is selected as the host of the next Spring Agora! As of now, the decision shall be still ratified at the upcoming Spring Agora 2020. We are hopeful that the Agora will ratify it.

GT: What motivated AEGEE-Yerevan to apply again?
Armenak: The entire team of Agora Yerevan has a strong vision and commitment towards AEGEE and our common values. We also received a lot of supportive messages from different parts of the network and we observed European-spirit solidarity from AEGEEans when the cancellation for 2020 was announced. I think that in life nothing comes easy, including success. You have to go out and fight for it every day and everyone in this team is a true warrior. Their positivity, passion and motivation are simply beyond describable terms. We really passionate to give the network the opportunity to discover the South Caucasus and be a part of this great event! And if you really believe in something, you gotta get up every day and make it real.

GT: Can you describe the mood in your team when you realized that due to the Coronacrisis you won’t be able to host the event this year?
Armenak: The Coronavirus has created huge challenges and complications all across Europe. AEGEE has also suffered a lot from its consequences. The Agora team was extremely upset, emotional and devastated at the beginning of the crisis, yet common sense and the perception of the severity of the situation have kept us all grounded. Force majeure situations are like this – nobody could predict them, yet we all need to adjust our actions to the new realities, whether we like them or not.

GT: Let’s go back a few months – your team first tried to postpone the Agora, but then the virus was spreading too fast. Can you describe what happened and how you tried to save the event?
Armenak: We were trying to develop a consolidated and comprehensive matching-all-solution, yet, back at the beginning of March, the virus was simply uncontrollable and no country in Europe could basically handle it. Furthermore, there have also been technical, statutory, and organizational complications over postponing the Agora. In the end the Agora Coordination team members all favored canceling the event. More notably, AEGEE-Yerevan also had a round of comprehensive consultations with the Ministry of Healthcare of Armenia, in order to count all risks and potential solutions. The safety and health of the AEGEEans at the statutory events shall be the priority, always.

AEGEE-Yerevan and the international team at Agora Salerno

GT: How did you deal with the fact you already had to make reservations and down payments? Did you manage to get out of it without problems?
Armenak: Yes, you are right, as the team has already put a giant work into making Spring Agora 2020 possible. There were a variety of local payments made before the Agora cancellation was announced, as the Agora was in the very deep stage of preparations when the virus struck. Anytime you need to put together an event of Agora’s scales, there are lots of ongoing costs that you are supposed to cover beforehand. The team made the reservation and prepayment at 14 different hostels for 575 persons, there were also transferred costs for the printing materials, transportation buses, party venues – the list goes on. I can honestly tell you that the majority of our partners were keen to continue the cooperation and we basically decided jointly to sign new partnership contracts and to transfer the done financial transactions for the next year. This was probably the only rational solution, otherwise, AEGEE-Yerevan would face a huge financial crisis now and to some extent even fiscal debt.

GT: You already had a very strong application last year. Was the new one similar? I heard something about 84 pages…
Armenak (laughing): Come on, it was only 75 pages in the final booklet! As I said, this organisational team is super motivated, versatile, passionate, educated, full of love and enthusiasm, and more notably – they are all super hungry for success! It is easy to have 75 pages when your team works like this and they have such a level of motivation and ambition! I give credit to everyone out there for the incredible job done. Agora Yerevan will create the true legacy of AEGEE for tomorrow!

GT: So how will Agora Yerevan be different from what would have been this year?
Armenak: The Coronavirus is changing the game rules for everyone. We expect that we will have to comply simply with many new perks to be in place. We will of course pay additional attention to the healthcare matters, and the safety of AEGEEans is and will always be our guiding priority. Other than that, AEGEE-Yerevan always has some surprises to show, but I would like in particular to stress out our intention to have an environmentally sustainable, completely digitalized and impactful Agora. AEGEE shall be back on tracks and we shall be back in style!

GT: How many people can you host next year?
Armenak: We expect to have a minimum of 600 participants, yet if there will be higher interest this number can grow to 800, not counting the international helpers.

GT: At Agora Salerno quite a lot of people were amazed when Kalipso Bznuni gave a preview on the Agora. For example about logistics. Will also next year everyone will sleep in hotels or hostels?
Armenak: The team is super proud of its fundraising strategies and established partnerships. I can tell you that the logistics will again include five days of accommodation at hostels and convenient youth hotels. They will provide boarding facilities, will be secure and equipped with all the necessary amenities to make our participants stay as remarkable as possible.

GT: Your antenna also announced short distances. What can you tell us about the Agora venues? And how much will people walk?
Armenak: Yerevan is in general a very compact and walkable city. It is worth saying that the average distances to be covered by walking will not exceed 2.5 kilometres, yet alongside the introduction of the completely new modern bus system in the city – envisaged for Autumn 2020 – we are also planning to make use of public transport in case of necessity. On the other hand, there is also a developed metro line in the city, with direct access to the host university. All our accommodation spots have been chosen with respect to the metro station location. The taxi services are super cheap in Yerevan – for example, you can get a 4 km ride on BOLT service only for 1.1 Euro – just imagine this sum being split among four passengers in one cab.

GT: What can we expect at the opening ceremony?
Armenak: The opening ceremony will be filled with a variety of digital solutions, musical performances and with the attendance of some high-level officials, including, hopefully, the Prime Minister of Armenia. We are still in the process of considering the final venue and if the weather allows we want to do an open-air ceremony!

GT: People were also amazed by the long list of confirmed partnerships: government, parliament, EU delegation and more. And has the list got longer since Agora Salerno?
Armenak: The team values strong partnerships and the Agora is a kind of a magnet project which attracts the interest of everyone. Among the new partners, I would like to mention the Friedrich Naumann Foundation – a very well-known German institution supporting liberalism and youth participation in the democratic processes. Furthermore, one of the leading Armenian PR agencies – DEEM Communications has been confirmed as media and digital partner for the last edition of the Agora, so we are hopeful to make this partnership for the next year. More notably, we are also super happy for our long-lasting institutional partnership with the American University of Armenia, which will be the host university for the Agora. By the way, you all can take a virtual tour at the host university and check before traveling the Agora sites:

GT: This year you had help from an International Core Team. Will you have it also next year? What do these members do?
Armenak: The International Core Team will be surely kept, as it has proved to be extremely productive and effective in real-time action. They work via personalized portfolios and they help basically on all possible aspects of preparatory – communication, content, HR and fundraising. I think most probably the team will go through some structural changes, and sadly some of the current members will have to step down due to their professional careers and studies. In general, the Agora International Core Team has proved to be one of the best and practical innovations I have ever introduced to the network during my entire AEGEE career. This concept can become a great role model for the future Agora hosts, as you can easily use our network’s human resources and our members’ big potential and capacity. The International Core Team brings not only additional skills and qualifications, but it most significantly improves the working standards, ethics, and the methodology of the entire organizational team and the team is developing its critical thinking and acts outside of the box.


GT: Agoras often try to pick up on the challenges of the country where the Agora takes place. Will you also incorporate elements like that?
Armenak: Spring Agora 2021 will most probably take place in the post-Covid-19 era, so like it or no, we will probably try to tackle the topics which are of European importance and relate to overcoming the virus. Among them, we see digitization and digital solutions for Europe, as the pandemic has shown the urgency not only to digitize our economies, but it also requires digital solutions for governance and public life, including education.

GT: There will also be a thematic focus related to information society and good governance. Can you tell us more?
Armenak: Yes, we are planning to have a thematic high-level pre-event before the Agora and in general we want to have a thematic Agora. The post-Covid-19 world will not be the same as before, and we all need to buckle ourselves and to adjust our behaviors. The society of informed and educated citizens is something we will need to advance in this era full of uncertainty, fake news and media manipulations.

GT: Agora is always a great chance to learn about the country. Armenia is beautiful and very rich in culture and history. How much time should the participants bring to visit Yerevan and Armenia?
Armenak: Yerevan and Armenia are just incredibly beautiful to visit in May: the weather is super sunny, on average we have 28 degrees in the daytime – and the city just blossoms. Even though the Agora will last five days, we encourage everyone to add up two or three additional days before or after the Agora, in order to discover the hidden and hipsterious parts our city – or to make some countryside life-changing trips. For example, you can try the longest cable cars in the world, do jumps on a zipline in the altitude of 2500 meters or mountain hiking tours.

GT: Your team provided a lot of help for traveling to Yerevan. Will you do it also next year?
Armenak: The team works on this 24/7 and the updated lists will be provided on an early note, as soon as the air companies start to operate normally. Since the launch of the regular flights via RyanAir and WizzAir – it has also become cheap to travel to Armenia. There are also no visa requirements for almost 90% of AEGEEans, so there will be no additional hardships over the visa.

GT: How can the members stay updated about the Agora?
Armenak: We are literally everywhere! So they can just stay tuned to updates and important news by following Agora on all social media:

And of course follow the AEGEE-Yerevan accounts: