The “Local of the Month” for June is finally here! Even during a month in which many locals are immersed in exams mayhem and preparations for SUs, there are still great achievements taking place, like the event that AEGEE-Brussels/Bruxelles organized in the European Parliament: “A co-management structure for young people”. That is why they are selected as Local of the Month of June even though it is some months ago. The AEGEEan interview Mathieu Enza from AEGEE-Brussels/Bruxelles
How has the local received the news of the nomination as Local of the Month of June? Have you had time to celebrate it yet?
To be honest, the local has no clue about it, and neither do most of our board members! I myself was really surprised when I received a text to ask me whether I could answer questions for the AEGEEan. Actually, some of our board members have heard some rumors last week… because apart from SUs, the Network seemed to give AEGEE a break to “enjoy” the examination period.
Celebrating… Not a bad idea ! We still need to discuss with all the board members and then make a decision on how we should celebrate it. I’ll think about it and might throw a party in my flat inviting the whole nNtwork (you better not spread my address or I’ll personally make sure that you’re not in a position to write interview questions anymore!
Let’s go back in time to the event you organized. Can you explain easily for all AEGEE members what was it exactly about?
A co-management structure for young people aimed at discussing one way (among others) how to reinforce the involvement of young people in the decisions that are taken in the European Union. More precisely, it intended to discuss on the best way to make the voice of young people be heard in the policies related to youth, that are initiated by the European institutions. We are among the most affected by the so-called economic, social, cultural crisis. Everybody agrees on that. But when it comes to giving us a say about the decisions that are made in order to tackle the issue of youth unemployment, education, mobility … this is another story.
Hence, a co-management structure is a system in which young people are associated with the decision-making process within a structure, in which young people are on equal-footing with other representatives. This concept has not come out of the blue, as it already exists in the Council of Europe. Then, little by little, and in cooperation with many other Youth NGOs who were invited, we tried to develop the content and the conditions of this structure to function, so that our input does not remain abstract and therefore remote. Rather, we did our best to keep a concrete and practical approach, bearing in mind that we addressed officials and decision-makers who were also present at our event.
What were the biggest challenges of organizing such a project?
We faced mainly two kind of challenges: one linked to the topic and the other to our location.
On the one hand, this topic leads to rather technical discussions and therefore, you can’t throw ideas out there and hope the decision-makers or even the MEPs will grab onto something because it sounds nice. If AEGEE wants to be credible, we have to be on the same page with all other youth organizations and get some expertise on these topics. There were a lot of ideas, but not all of them would fit the European Union architecture.
On the other hand, the involvement of youth organizations from Belgium was not easy to reach to. In Brussels, Europe is both everywhere and nowhere. You certainly have the so-called “Eurobubble”, the area that has grown around the European institutions, with its own codes, customs, dynamics and “fauna”. But you also have all these very Bruxellois communes like Saint-Gilles or Ixelles that remain very Belgian, even provincial as it were. Young people getting involved rather turn to the local or national levels and tend to show disdain towards the European integration they consider too bureaucratic and disconnected from the reality.
Apart from being the main responsible from AEGEE-Brussels for the event, you were also involved in the discussions. What was your contribution? Are you satisfied with the results of the conference?
I can’t really assess what my contribution was, but my input consisted mostly in putting limits in what we could do and what we couldn’t claim. For instance, if you, as a youth organization, ask to have a say in issues related to the defense or to the creation of a European army within the EU institutions, you will not be taken seriously as this is not even a European competence… That’s an example to show that since the EU is a complicated political and administrative “animal”, resulting from a chaotic history, you need some knowledge before standing up before the representatives of the Commission or else nobody will listen to you. The question is never in terms of quantity but in quality: not more or less Europe, but how and where.
AEGEE-Brussels was probably also very busy in June preparing the TSU with AEGEE-Paris, and members were also finishing the terms and having exams. How did you manage to do everything? How was the TSU?
The TSU was great fun and I must say that we were very lucky with the participants. From the beginning we didn’t have a group but a bunch of friends. I must say that the majority of our forces and energy was focused on the organization of the SU, especially because we were running out of human resources. We could organize this event (the co-management discussion) because we collaborated with the Comité Directeur in the writing of the Youth in Action project, in some logistics related with the European Parliament and with most of the content.
What are now the new challenges of AEGEE-Brussels?
The recruitment of active and motivated students ! The problem in Brussels is that plenty of people are here for one, two or three years at most. And since our local hasn’t been linked to any university, it’s getting harder and harder to foster your links with a target group whom your local doesn’t really belong to anymore. How can you recruit students when most of your members are not students anymore…?
But in September, our board has been pro-active and creative and organized a lot of diverse and regular activities. I must say that it seems promising and successful, as we have quite a bunch of new members willing to learn more and get involved at both local and European level. We’ll see, but I’m much more enthusiastic than I was a few months ago.
What about your personal challenges for the new year?
Time, without any doubt. I’m doing a full-time traineeship and starting with March I’ll be looking for a job. So AEGEE will not be on the front-line. On the other hand, my first term as board member has tought me a lot and if I step back, I would feel there is something underachieved there. Plus, as Ann-Katrin (our secretary) said when she applied for her position: after all these years, I feel it’s time to give back to AEGEE.
I keep blaming myself for not getting to know AEGEE earlier… but on the other hand I didn’t need this 1 (up to 2) year(s) to deepen my knowledge of AEGEE before getting active. So I don’t know, I’m thinking about getting involved at the European level because I think that this is where I can help the most, yet I’m still rather inexperienced. I’m currently discussing with experienced members to find out what they think, and will take a decisions in the coming weeks.
We’ll see what my personal challenges in AEGEE are!
Written by Miguel Gallardo, Comité Directeur