Anniversary Through History: a Look at the Past

In 1994 honorary member Michael Merker made a benediction for the future of AEGEE, saying that “hope is always on our side”. He made this statement, when he was writing about AEGEE’s first decennial anniversary that would take place one year later. When we look back on AEGEE’s history of its third decennial anniversary, it becomes interesting to see if and how this optimism was shared. How has hope always been on our side?

In 1995 a total of 170 antennae celebrated AEGEE’s first ten years of existence. Six of which: AEGEE-Aachen, AEGEE-Baja, AEGEE-Bucureşti, AEGEE-Sevilla, AEGEE-Stockholm and AEGEE-Utrecht had special celebrations somewhat comparable to the Night of the Seven Antennae in 2015. AEGEE-Istanbul celebrated AEGEE’s ten year anniversary with a large cultural festival, there was a cycling tour from Basel to Maastricht, and AEGEE-Brussels/Bruxelles organised a large reception inside the European parliament.

One reason the individual events during the ten year celebrations were a bit more modest, compared to the first Night of the Seven Antennae on AEGEE’s first anniversary in 1986, might be that AEGEE-Brussels/Bruxelles nearly bankrupted itself by organising that one.  As a possible consequence there was not to be another edition of the Night of the Seven Antennae until AEGEE’s thirty year anniversary in 2015.

If living through the first decade of the twenty-first century has taught us anything, however it is arguably that hope cannot be expressed or diminished by wealth. The twenty year anniversary edition of the Key to Europe with two hopeful benedictions by the then MEP and Patron of AEGEE-Europe, Bronisław Geremek, and then President of AEGEE-Europe, Silvia Baita, was therefor unsurprising.

Geremek praised the democratising of Europe, and AEGEE’s role in this, as he reflected how twenty years before, his native country of Poland was at best a de facto oligarchy under the Communist Party. Baita also reflected on therole of the past as a teacher, but furthermore stresses the solid basis it forms to continue to build a splendid future.

During AEGEE’s second decennial anniversary the network had expanded to 241 antennae all over Europe. The year was also largely shaped by the pro-European Orange Revolution in Ukraine, much like how 2015 is shaped by another pro- and contra-European conflict in the same country.

Aside from the hope for a greater democratisation in Europe, the twentieth anniversary was also characterised by and known for the largest ‘Gala Event’ the network had ever organised in Prague, and by a twenty minutes documentary on the history of AEGEE.

The third decennial celebration is arguably like all those before. There is a ritualization of the past, as a sense of belonging is created by a recreation of past events. There was another instalment of the Night of Seven Antennae, just so as it is liked to have been 29 years ago. There was a conference in Brussels, which mimicked those gatherings in ‘the Capitol’ of Europe before, and in the Ukraine a political conflict, somewhat similar like the one of 2005, uncannily erupted.

Yet, as the previous anniversaries can be seen to be reflected in the thirtieth, perhaps as a result of the spirit of AEGEE, or possibly as a side effect of the invention of tradition, there is another benediction. While the first decennial celebration spoke of a universal hope, and the second about a greater democratising of Europe, this celebratory year speaks of improvement.

There is no shortage of optimism in this generation, but a decade of an even starker economic recession, and the possibilities of an increased European diversity have created an eagerness to shape the future for the better. For this generation it could be said, that hope has not always been on their side, and that the past has not always been a solid basis for a splendid future. Yet we press on, gazing hopefully at the future, remembering a troubled, yet celebrated past.

Written by Willem Laurentzen, AEGEE-Nijmegen


If you want to know more about the first and second editions of the Night of the Seven Antennae, check out these two great articles by Gunnar Erth and Svenja van der Tol respectively in the links below.

The first Night of the Seven Antennae:

The 2015 edition of the Night of the Seven Antennae: