Since September 2010 Manos Valasis is President of AEGEE-Europe. Manos made an extremely quick AEGEE career, in just three years he was Network Commissioner, ITWG speaker and CD member for a whole year, before he was elected in his current job. The Golden Oldie asked him about his AEGEE career, life in Brussels and the economic crisis of his homeland Greece.

Golden Oldie: Manos, tell us a few words about yourself. How old are you, where do you come from, what do/did you study?

Manos Valasis: My family comes originally from the North of Greece, Veria. Later on they immigrated to Izmir and later were forced to come back to Greece. I was born and raised in Nea Smirni, New Izmir, which is a suburb of Athina and Peiraias. I was studying at the University of Peiraias and this is how I got to know AEGEE. The faculty is called Educational Technology and Digital Systems. I’ll turn 26 in March – in fact 10 days before Back2Brussels, so I’m expecting a present!

Golden Oldie: How did you join AEGEE?

Manos Valasis: That’s a funny story. I used to play football at that time and once, one of my friends, Yannis Tsatsakis, invited me to play against some Spanish people. It was 2004 during an exchange between AEGEE-Alicante and AEGEE-Peiraias. After that, Yannis was trying for more than three years to convince me to join AEGEE, but I only joined in 2007, after he stopped trying.

Golden Oldie: You have been president of AEGEE-Europe now since September. What are your biggest achievements so far, in which fields did you expect better results?

Manos Valasis: It’s a tricky question. The current Comité Directeur is trying to add quality in everything. Human resources, planning, projects and in general, we are trying to make our existence as an organisation more coherent at every level. Maybe I would expect us to have achieved more so far when it comes to our Activity Plan, but we still have a lot of time and the network is welcoming all changes so far. Until now!, I would consider as biggest achievement the fact that AEGEE has again a face, a prestige in the external world.

Golden Oldie: Do you and your team have a motto for your year as president?

Manos Valasis: Motto? Many of them, but nothing official. But like every CD, we started wanting to change the world!

Golden Oldie: You’ve been around on European level for a while. First as CD assistant in IT matters, then CD member, now President.

Manos Valasis: And you’re still forgetting Network Commissioner, Speaker of NetCom, Speaker of ITWG, Treasurer of BoBiGoSa! When I moved to the CD house, the plan was to stay for six months up to one year as CD assistant and to work on intranet. Unfortunately, the intranet is so bad that after three months any motivation of mine to work on it was gone. Fortunately, there was the opportunity of becoming Projects Director at that time – and I grabbed it!

Golden Oldie: So there was no long-term plan to become president?

Manos Valasis: I never had the ambition to become President. It was the circumstances that lead me there – the first time I thought of it was in January 2010!

Golden Oldie: In case you need advice in AEGEE-Europe matters, is there someone outside your CD you turn too?

Manos Valasis: Actually yes. And they are quite some! Philipp von Klitzing is always there to give me a deep insight of the past, Mirjam Dickmeis is constantly helping me when it comes to the Corpus Iuridicum, whereas nowadays I ask for advice from Alexianne Galea more and more often.

Golden Oldie: Do you manage a good work-life balance in the CD?

Manos Valasis: It’s hard to keep a balance. On weekdays we work from the moment we wake up till dinner – around 8 or 9pm or even later. We are, however, trying to do a lot more things apart from working, in order to get out of the so-called “CD bubble” and make the balance more equal. However, I doubt it will ever become equal. I started playing football every Sunday though!

Golden Oldie: What do you see as biggest challenges for AEGEE as an international students NGO?

Manos Valasis: First of all, AEGEE has to fine-tune its position and mission for Europe. This is what we are trying to do at the moment. The biggest challenge I see is working more in Eastern Europe, assuring that the people living there will have the necessary supplies to start working on improving their societies, to enable them to travel easier around Europe and to offer them the Educational Mobility Programs that others Europeans already enjoy for several years.

Golden Oldie: You are from Greece, a country that got in deep economic problems. What should Greece do to overcome the crisis?

Manos Valasis: No matter if Greece manages to get out of the crisis or not, it will not overcome it once and for all. The problem is in the mentality of people and that can only change by reforming education, which is, in my opinion, badly needed at this moment in Greece.

Golden Oldie: Are the European Commission and the member states doing enough to support Greece?

Manos Valasis: They have to. It’s not that they were so kind to help Greece, it’s that they were forced to help in order to save the Euro. Yes, Greece should definitely be thankful for the financial support, but it’s a lot more needed. The support from countries like Germany and France is rather hypocritical, because on one hand the loan has huge interest, and on the other hand, the money is being spent on buying military equipment from the very same countries. A simpler solution would be to facilitate between Greece and Turkey and force both countries to reduce their army and accordingly spend less on that direction. That would change a lot. In a nutshell: no, I don’t believe that they are doing enough, because money is never enough on its own, especially under the particular conditions.

Golden Oldie: Are you already searching as a successor as president?

Manos Valasis: I am not proactively searching. However, I have my ears open and I am already talking with some interested people! Who they are? Sorry, I cannot give such kind of information for free!

Golden Oldie: What will you do after your term ends this summer? Will you look for a job or study? Or go on a long vacation?

Manos Valasis: Vacation? What is vacation? I would like to study, but I think it is not the right moment – maybe in one year, because I’m quite sure in September I will need a year off from very hard working and studying.

Golden Oldie: Can you image a future for you in Brussels?

Manos Valasis: I don’t really see myself fitting in the job market of Brussels – however, I would love to work for an European or other international NGO that is somehow realistically trying to improve the world around us. But before that, I fear that I will have to serve my country and spend some time in the army!