Every year a young European, between the ages of 18 and 28, is awarded with the prestigious title of Young European of the Year by Schwarzkopf-Stiftung Junges Europa. On June the 5th our current President Luis Alvarado Martinez was announced as this year’s winner for his engagement and contribution to building a different Europe and for being “a true European by heart and by mind. He is profoundly convinced that his generation, – the only true “European-born”, as he says – has to convince the elder about the need to continue striving for a better Europe.”
The AEGEEan: First of all congratulations with the Award. What was the first thing that crossed your mind when they announced you as the winner?
Luis: Well, you can imagine probably. I was very very happy, thankful for such a recognition on a personal basis, but also a recognition of AEGEE’s work building a better Europe from the young generations.
The AEGEEan: Burcu Becermen, Tamuna Kekenadze, Anar Jahangirli, Daciana Oana Mailatescu and David Stulik, all AEGEEans who were awarded this prize in the past. Do you think AEGEE has a plus in forming young Europeans?
Luis: Absolutely yes! AEGEE is the ideal platform and space for one to develop personally into the best version of yourself, get inspired by others, and find the resources and people necessary to make your ideas into real projects with impact in society. The long presence which we have in the hall of fame of the Schwarzkopf foundation is the clear evidence of it. Many of our members are instrumental in many of the processes which Europe is going through.
The AEGEEan: Your motto is “ We – the young generation – are no longer the future, we are the present and we are here to influence”. Do you think that young people have enough space to influence politics and society?
Luis: Unfortunately not. Especially on national, regional and local levels. On a European level the situation is improving quite a lot and we see how institutions such as the European Union, the Council of Europe or even the United Nations are opening more and more spaces to young people.
Politics need the idealism, freshness and energy of young people. So young people themselves must be present in political processes and push for what they believe. If no noise is made, young people will simply be ignored. The fact that young people are the ones with the lowest turn out in elections (because of lack of information, lack of knowledge, not feeling represented, etc.) results in political leaders not including proposals for youth in the agendas, but rather for the people who actually vote for them.
So yes, politics needs to open much more, but young people must take full ownership and responsibility of the processes.
The AEGEEan: You have been President of AEGEE-Europe for two years now, what do you think is your major achievement?
Luis: There are no personal achievements. All of the achievements required strong teams behind each one of them. But some examples that come to my mind are: putting AEGEE strongly on the external world, the whole identity process (which still needs a lot of work), the political awakening of many of our members across the continent, an increase in thematic activities with lots of new projects, a coherent visual identity, professionalization and improvements inside the platfrom (Secretariat, Policy Officers and Policy Papers, Impact Measurement).
I could go on forever. I’m proud of my and my teams’ work, but also proud to see how our Network has grown a little older and improved these past two years.
AEGEEan: Tell us something about you that we may not know.
Luis: I have started writing a book about my experiences, but also about youth empowerment and their role in the construction of the new Europe, with a special focus on Spain and Canary Islands.
The AEGEEan: How do you picture yourself in five years from now?
Luis: I have no clue. From September on I will study in the College of Europe in Brugges. After that, who knows? Endless and limitless possibilities…
Written by Erika Bettin, AEGEE-Venezia