During Autumn Agora Cagliari, Policy Officers were established as a body of our Network. President Paul Smits and Secretary General Antonija Parat on behalf of the Comité Directeur presented a proposal to formally establish them in order to set some rules. The proposal was accepted with an overwhelming 94.49% of votes in favour.
The position of Policy Officers was launched in 2012 by the Comité Directeur 2012-2014 to to express the views and concerns of the Network and bring them up to the policy level. The Network has now four new Policy Officers who will work for one year on the Focus Areas of the Strategic Plan 2014-2017 (Youth Mobility, Youth Employment, Europtimism and Civic Education). But this is not all. The Comité Directeur (CD) 2014-2015 decided to also address two other topics this year, namely Education and Gender Equality. Six positions were created, but the CD strongly encouraged applicants to develop their ideas on a topic that was not mentioned, but could be important for the Network. A lot of applications suggested the topic of LGBT so the CD decided to appoint a Policy Officer to work on that topic too.
For the second year in a row Pablo Hernández Rodríguez willwork as a Policy Officer: “Last year I was Policy Officer on Youth Participation, something that helped me to develop skills to work better on Youth Employability now”, he says. Member of AEGEE-Alicante since 2010, he became active in AEGEE right after Agora Alicante 2011 “having strong references like Miguel”. Being a Policy Officer (PO) for the second year is a spur for Pablo: “I decided to continue as PO mainly because now I’m better prepared to work on this position being in the place where I can contribute the most”. As uncertain as it is nowadays, Employment is a big issue for youngsters and according to Pablo “AEGEE understood its responsibility and put this issue on the stage so, now, what we need to do is to give solutions and support initiatives that make us think positive in this field”. He continues: “I think that young people have to have proper internships and future perspectives in their labour live, something that I want to put a lot of effort into. It’s also very important to look for a solution for the lack of local job opportunities so young people don’t have to go to capital and big cities or abroad but also find job places in their home towns.”
Teo Šarić is the Policy Officer on LGBT. Member of AEGEE-Zadar, he got motivated to apply for the position of Policy Officer when he “was a member of the Y vote Bus tour in UK, a campaign to engage First Time Voters in the Elections of the European Parliament in May 2014. We were speaking a lot [about LGBT ed.] with people on the streets about this topic”. LGBT is the suggested topic and for Teo “very important to AEGEE because a lot of young people are feeling insecure and do their “coming out” when they are students. So it’s nice to see that there are people who are interested to help, advice and support you and who are working on the topic in your own association”. Teo has a lot of experience with the topic of LGBT issues, being one of the organisers of the Pride Parade in Split (his hometown) and in Zagreb. “The first gay pride in Split in 2011, where anti-gay protesters were throwing rocks, tin cans, tomatoes, tear gas and glass bottles at the LGBT activists, motivated me to be an activist. It was very sad and emotional to me to watch, sit and do nothing. I had to take actions”. For his work as Policy Officer Teo has a clear idea: “I want to make sure that no one is taken down by the actions, language and attitude of others. It is particularly important that everyone demonstrates mutual respect and avoids any attitude that would be hurtful or dismissive. It is important that we are aware of our own attitudes and actions, and that we are willing to challenge our own prejudices in a constructive and respectful manner”.
In the aftermath of the deletion of Visa Freedom Working Group, visa issues and youth mobility have never been so important. The Policy Officer on Youth Mobility is Alfredo Sellitti, member of AEGEE-Salerno since 2006. “Youth Mobility is a wide concept. If we want to bring it to our interest, I would say that youth mobility is a great (if not the first) engine to build up a real European civic sense, in the broadest possible meaning”, Alfredo says. “This tool is probably the most powerful to increase cross-border competencies that will influence, besides the natural effect on personal development, a civic development and boost the economy by bringing new experiences and know-how in the system”. When asked why he applied for such a position, he stated that he “has always been interested in the policy making field, and when I was in CD I realised how little support we had from the Network, as the organisation had plenty of great ideas but not a good structure to canalise them. Therefore, when I saw the open call, I thought it was a great opportunity to keep working on something I like and help AEGEE to improve its structure to better lobby for our interests”
Former president of AEGEE-Ankara, and member of the local since 2007, Turgut Tosun is the Policy Officer on Civic Education. “After spending years in AEGEE and gaining lots of experience, I decided to transfer what I learnt from my journey to other motivated AEGEE members”, he says. “It was my turn to help youth workers and activists with a subject that I trust myself. Then, I found myself writing my application for being a Policy Officer”. Even if we are living in democratic countries, there are many other theories that Europe is going through an anti-democratic process. “I believe that AEGEE will use civic education for strengthening and supporting members to be active citizens so that we can help Europe be more democratic and have young people who are aware of it”. Says Turgut, “In AEGEE, I think that we can integrate civic education in our local or regional training courses in order to raise the awareness of active citizenship and democracy among our members”.
One of the two girls elected, is Sofia Lobakina from AEGEE-Voronezh, who is Policy Officer on Education. Very active on the Local Level, this is her first experience on the European level, but she has “the motivation to contribute, a relevant experience to base my contribution on and an eagerness to learn more and develop the topic of Education in AEGEE”. Even if Sofia feels a huge responsibility in presenting the vision of the Network on the topic of Education, she finds that “AEGEE, one of the largest students’ organisation in Europe, is missing a clear basic position on the topic of Education, though we have some successful projects, like Higher Education Days (HED) and Europe in Exchange (EiE)”. She continues: “What is more important, is to advocate non-formal education and informal learning and their future recognition and quality assurance”. In fact, according to her vision, Education “is like a time bomb, the input you make now will be visible only in years. So the boldest experiments should be time-proved. However some things stay clear, high quality and equality are the basic points of it, and education is an always-going process and not just a place, list of courses or diploma”.
Student of European Studies in Ljubljana, but now living in Estonia for his Erasmus, Miha Ilc (AEGEE-Ljubljana) is the Policy Officer on Europtimism. Tightly connected with his field of study, Europtimism is a “wide field, so it is going to be a really challenging task for me, but I’ll do my best. I usually compare it with a mosaic. There are different pieces that compose the whole picture (politics, economy, welfare, taxes etc.). Currently this “whole” in Europe doesn’t have a nice look and we need to fix it in the interests of all of us. Europtimism is at this point on the lowest level since the establishment of the European Union and the beginning of European integration, which is definitely not good for the future of Europe”. The scepticism on an united Europe is high, but for Miha “just criticising and observing it passively won’t change anything. Therefore we need active debates and discourses about the future of European Union.We have the capabilities and knowledge to improve the general opinion of the EU, to promote Europtimism and shape our future in a positive way. The only thing that we need is will and a long-term strategy”.
Léa Charlet (AEGEE-Paris) is the Policy Officer on Gender Equality. Member of AEGEE-Paris since September 2011 she was the Project Manager of the Y Vote 2014. Always a strong supporter of the thematic work within the Association, she now works for the Association of the friends of Franck Biancheri, an organisation which aim to promote the idea of our founder. “Gender equality is a topic I am extremely interested in for some year now, and since Agora Zaragoza I am trying to find people interested in the subject to start a project after the end of Y Vote. A lot of people were interested, so when the open call arrived I was ready to go for it and become policy officer”. says Léa. Her idea about gender equality is to reach a perfect equality where “everything is in the nature, let’s just not put people into boxes and accept the combinations around us. When we are dividing the world into Men/women we are taking a lot of people out of the equation”. Regarding her work she see that the mail concern is the awareness. “I think both me and Teo (Policy officer on LGBT, ed) have this challenge to overcome as policy officer, that before being able to give AEGEE an official position, we need to make people aware of the subject, give the tool for people to think and then finally, ask for an opinion”. She concludes.
Written by Erika Bettin, AEGEE-Venezia.