Tanja Masson-Zwaan participated in EGEE I – and became the first Secretary General of AEGEE-Europe. The former International Law student from Leiden now works at the same university, specialised in the field of space law. The Golden Times asked her about her time in (A)EGEE. 

Tanja about meeting Franck Biancheri…

Tanja Masson-Zwaan: “This photo is from EGEE 1, it shows Franck Biancheri with the organising committee”

Golden Times: How do you remember your first meeting with Franck Biancheri in Leiden? He once wrote that you requested to see him and you were the only EGEE I participant he visited before the event…
Tanja Masson-Zwaan: I was board member of an international law debating society and spoke French because of my boyfriend – now husband. The law school had received a request from Franck to meet students and so they asked the society and me to see him. He wanted me to assemble a group of students to go to the congress. We went with about ten international law students.

Tanja about EGEE I…

The Dutch group from Leiden at EGEE I

GT: How was the quality of the thematic sessions of EGEE I in general? And how were the parties?
Tanja: I don’t remember the sessions, but I remember a party at the conciergerie that was beautiful. It’s been a long time ago…

Tanja (middle) and some of her Dutch friends


GT: EGEE I took place in venues all over Paris. How was that logistically?
Tanja: The Paris metro works fine. I don’t recall any problem and it was nice to see Science Po and other schools.

Since the event lasted six days, there was also enough time for sightseeing and cafés – while reading the conference brochure of course…


GT: How much French and how much English was spoken at EGEE I and the following events?
Tanja: I recall that they were mostly in English, actually.


Tanja about the CD…

CD in England
Tanja: “The photo shows a meeting of one of the first CDs at Andrew Oldland’s parents’ house in the UK. I don’t remember all the names but Andrew is there, Rikstus Oosterhuis , Philippe ‘Mica’ Micaelli and many more.”


GT: What motivated you to become the first Secretary General?
Tanja: It went automatically. I was among that small group of the first to be involved. I spoke good English and French. And I got along well with Franck.
GT: How could you combine the CD work with your studies?
Tanja: I was at the end of my studies so I had time.

CD in England2
Franck Biancheri and other CD members at the meeting in England

GT: From where did you work? From Leiden or from the AEGEE-Europe office?
Tanja: We had no office! I continued my work for AEGEE for a while after I graduated. I recall that I was already working when the Mitterrand lunch took place and had to take time off.
GT: How did the practical work as Secretary General look like?
Tanja: It was mostly organising and making minutes of the meetings.

CD Meeting
Tanja: “This CD meeting took maybe place in Milano. I see counting from the back at the right, Giacomo Neri, JF, Bernard, Rikstus, Andrew. on the left, Bart, FB, Mica and Richard.”

GT: The network spread fast. How did people know about it? And how did the CD administration deal with the growth?
Tanja: I was really there only for around two years, because then I graduated and started to work, so I left the CD shortly after that because it became hard to combine it. In the beginning there were only those few. We were really an unorganised bunch of friends travelling around Europe trying to spread the European spirit.

Tanja about meeting Mitterand…

GT: How do you remember the famous lunch with Mitterand?
Tanja: The lunch with Mitterrand was an event not to forget. It was truly impressive. I was sitting next to him, because I spoke French. The discussion was central, around him. I recall he was very charismatic and made a huge impression on me. We were all amazed to be there. After lunch we met journalists, we were very proud and it was very stimulating.

Tanja: “The lunch with Mitterrand. I am sitting next to him. On the other side is Jean-Francois Monteil and Elena Drutskoy. Next to me is Bernard Establie. Next to him a counsellor, then Mica and Béatrice Anacker.”