AEGEEans are running for European Parliament – Part I

Do you remember the recent European Parliament (EP) elections, where other citizens of the European Union and, hopefully, also you, voted for your chosen future Members of the European Parliament (MEPs)? While preparing the latest Key To Europe issue, the annual publication of AEGEE-Europe, we had a chance to ask some questions to those former and current AEGEE members who submitted their candidatures for MEPs. See what they have to say! The same questions – different answers.


Gerard Vidal Pallarès

The AEGEEan: Please, introduce yourself!

Gerard Vidal Pallares: My first AEGEE event was the European School 2 in Poznań, the most inspiring week of my life. I shared this amazing experience with such people as Luis Alvarado, Lucille Rieux and Lucia Sobík. We also had great trainers: Arne Reis, Federico Pisanu and Virginia Pañeda. I regret having joined AEGEE only when I turned 25.  Now, I am 28 years old. I live, work and am AEGEEan in Barcelona. Even though I studied Telecomunicacions Engineering and have a masters degree in Management, I have been involved in politics since I was a teenager.

Manos Valasis (AEGEE-Peiraias): I was born in sunny Peiraias (Greece) and studied at the faculty of Digital Systems at the University of Pireus, while I held diplomas in Economics and Counter Terrorism. Among other, I have been the Projects Director and the President of AEGEE-Europe (the latter in 2010-2011). During that time I had the pleasure to found a project to fight Youth Unemployment, which fueled a lot more of them, such as ones’ trying to improve non-formal and formal education and to bridge the East & West of Europe. Nowadays, Digital Advertising is taking my time, as I work as an Analyst Programmer. In my free time I try to motivate young people to take over their own lives, to become active citizens and to work for a better world.


Manos Valasis

The AEGEEan: Which party & country did you represent for the elections?

G. Vidal Pallares: I have been the candidate from Unió de Joves, a youth branch from Unió Democràtica de Catalunya. It is a Christian Democrat party that belongs to the European Peoples Party.


M. Valasis: I represented the Greek Greens, part of the European Greens, a rather idealistic party, formed by active citizens. In Greece and many other countries in Europe people do not like politicians and politics. Politics is by many considered an attempt to manipulate the masses, while in many cases politicians are involved in corruption and in abuse of power scandals.

The AEGEEan:  Why did you decide to run for MEPs and did your AEGEE experience influence it in any way?

G. Vidal Pallares: During the last EP mandate I had the opportunity of coordinating the team from MEP Salvador Sedó and I was working in his headoffice. Indeed, AEGEE was a positive impulse for running as a MEP and my AEGEE experience also helped me to get the job. By volunteering in AEGEE you grow both personally and professionally. We need to be able to prove it, to persuade employers of how enriching volunteering is. Politics is an expression of active citizenship, and active citizenship is one of the four AEGEE pillars. In my opinion, it is the most relevant one for making a change in our society. In these difficult times, where we have the need for changing many conventional standards and institutions, we can ONLY properly impulse the changes that are needed with YOUNG people.

M. Valasis: While in the past I was wondering “Why do we actually have politicians and politics, if nothing good comes out of it?”, AEGEE taught me that politics is something beautiful. It starts with the phrase “I want to make the world a better place” – there cannot be any line more political than this one. When I was approached by a political party that had the same beliefs as I, regarding the role of politicians and politics that consisted of active citizens and not „professional politicians“, then it simply made sense to join forces with them and work for our Europe!

The AEGEEan: What was the result of your candidature?

G. Vidal Pallares: Voter turnout increased by almost 11% in Catalonia – this result makes me feel happier that I was an active contributor. Catalan people showed their European will for continuing to be a part of the European project and to be united in diversity. My party got 3 MEP seats, the same amount as in 2009. Our party got 100.000+ votes more than in the last EP elections. It is quite remarkable, considering we have been in government during the last 3.5 years, high painful times of austerity in southern Europe. Although I didn’t get elected, the personal output is a life changing experience, where you can learn and grow. I encourage every single AEGEE member to go for it! Europe urges innovative, passionate and radically pro-European young people to be in strategic positions.

M. Valasis: Break-even can be a fair description. I didn’t get elected, but that was never my aim. My aim was to show to young people that they should take politics seriously, they should engage with it and participate in their local communities more, that the EP is something tangible – not distant – and that becoming a politician themselves is one of the many ways to contribute in making their societies better, which was achieved, while I enjoyed the journey and the experience which certainly was unique.


Written by Anita Kalmane, Foundation AEGEE Trust Fund (FATF)