Imagine you live in an EU country, yet far far away from the heart of the continent – say, on remote Canary islands. How can you foster the sense of belonging to Europe and to Brussels, where decision directly concerning your life are made every day? AEGEE-Las Palmas knows the answer. Natalia Klimenko spoke to Isabel Romay, the vice-President of AEGEE-Las Palmas, to find out more.
Isabel: Purest AEGEE-event!
What has helped you with the organisation? Has the booklet “All Roads lead to Brussels” issued by European Citizenship Working Group provided some useful information?
I wasn’t aware of this booklet during the preparation [she laughs, ed], good title by the way! Actually this goes back to my internship at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, two years ago, in 2016. It was one of the best experience in my life and I met a lot of interesting people. So, last summer, during a Team Building, our lovely president, Silvia Herrera, asked me: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could arrange a visit to the Parliament for our members?”. She didn’t have to say it twice, so I contacted Beatriz Becerra, an MEP of ALDE who I had the pleasure to meet not only during my intern, but also here in Gran Canaria during the Day of Europe three years ago during a local event from AEGEE Las Palmas.
How many organisers and participants did you have? Were any non-AEGEEans on board as well?
We were a group of 30 people, 28 members from AEGEE Las Palmas, the president of AEGEE-Pisa and one participant from AEGEE-Chisinau. It was important for us that is event was limited to AEGEEan. The month before the visit, suddenly we started having lots of new members [she laughs, ed], which was awesome because most of them are now active and really motivated.
What were the main challenges you faced before and during the trip? How did you solve them?
It would have been literally impossible for me to coordinate it by myself: I had to defend the final paper of my master and I had my final exam three days before the visit in Madrid. I am very grateful to my dear friend, Daniel Cervera. He coordinated the group from the beginning, the flights, the hostel, and helped me with all the documents we had to sent before the visit. After the visit, you also have to justify all the expenses, which is not easy with a group of 30 people, but our awesome treasurer, Raúl Hernández, did his little magic with the Excel [she laughs, ed].
What institutions did you visit? Did you have a chance to meet any EU decision-makers?
We visited the European Parliament in Brussels with Beatriz Becerra, MEP from ALDE, one of the political group representing the Parliament. I hope next time we can also visit the Parliament in Strasbourg during the plenary session!
What did participants like most about this trip?
Hard to tell, they should answer this themselves [she laughs, ed]. I hope they liked everything! The guided visit, the presentation of the book we were invited to after the visit, the city and of course the Belgian beer [she laughs, ed].
As far as we know, you managed to get your expenses fully covered by the EU – this is a big achievement, congratulations! How long did it take you to prepare the application for the grant and what tips could you give those who will apply for EU funding?
Thank you! We are so glad we did it. Well, the trip was not fully covered, but of course it was a huge help. Actually, the political groups have a specific amount of funds to encourage group visits by covering part of the expenses, allowing citizens to get closer to one of the most important European institutions of our democracy. All you have to do is establish contact with an MEP’s and have a little luck!
AEGEE is always trying to promote active citizenship and democracy, but how can we do that, when especially we here in the Canaries, feel so far away from Europe and our representatives? And then, how should one do that when most of us don’t even really know how the EU-institutions work? How do our representatives make important decisions that concern us and our everyday life? The aim of this trip was to show that it is actually possible and not difficult to feel like a real European citizen, interacting with MEPs about or concerns and their work. This is a must-do event. I hope we can organise it next year again.
European Citizenship Working Group seeks to foster “Europeanness” across the young people from the whole continent, including non-EU citizens. One means to promote awareness of what Europe does is to visit EU institutions and museums in Brussels, EU’s de-facto capital city. In December, ECWG offered the network the amazing booklet “All Roads Lead to Brussels” where your antenna can find useful tips for a study trip to Brussels. We hope there will be more and more trips like the one AEGEE-Las Palmas organized! You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and ideas.
Written by Natalia Klimenko, AEGEE-Moskva on behalf of European Citizenship Working Group 2017/18