The AEGEEan starts a collaboration with the AEGEE Eastern Partnership Plus project. This year, the Eastern Partnership bloc celebrates its 10th anniversary. The six member countries plus Russia have been very active during the last decade, organizing and hosting a lot of events within AEGEE and raising awareness about the EU in their respective countries. In order to show what has been done so far and where our EaP+ antennas are heading to, we interviewed them on their activities and plans. Our first antennae will be AEGEE-Moskva.
Let’s get to know each other first. Can you tell us a bit about your local?
AEGEE-Moskva is the local of the Russian capital which is in the centre of the European part of Russia. We have about 180 members and we are growing bigger and bigger. This year we set the goal to concentrate on our members and develop their skills in any field that AEGEE provides. In this regard, each month we organise different workshops (on PR, Sustainability, Eco-friendly behaviour, AEGEE in your CV and so on), thematic LTCs, European Day of Languages, the best SU- Transsiberian Dream and also NYE Meanwhile in Siberia where we had an international ball for the first time in the history of our local! What is more, this year we’ve organised our brand new activity which is called ACE – language parties, where people can practice their languages in a nice informal atmosphere, play games in different languages, meet natives from all over Europe and get to know more about the different cultures. Also, we have an informal members’ meeting almost every week and co-operate with our nearest locals, e.g. in February, we spent a weekend with AEGEE Sankt-Peterburg in Tver sharing the best practice and experience within two boards.
Please tell us something about the history of your local. How did it develop?
AEGEE-Moskva was founded in 1991. It was mentioned as a contact, International Discussion Club. In 1992 they organized their first events: a congress, a Scientific Seminar, a Summer University and some local events. Later, in 1996 they hosted a Security Policy in Europe Forum at Moscow State University. After a decade-long break, the antenna revived its activity and has held numerous events since then. Here are some of them. 2009 was a year when members of AEGEE-Sankt-Peterburg and AEGEE-Moskva cooperated to organise their first-ever edition of Transsiberian DREAM Travelling Summer University. That was a daring move but they not only brought AEGEEans to Lake Baikal but also continued to work on this Summer University for the next 10 years. Their dedication was rewarded in 2018 when the 10th edition of Transsiberian Dream, travelling from Moscow to Vladivostok, won the best prize – taking the 1st place among more than 60 other SUs. AEGEE-Moskva has organised every edition until now in cooperation with different locals, such as AEGEE-Tyumen, AEGEE-Ryazan, AEGEE-Samara and AEGEE-Sankt-Peterburg, developing stronger bonds between the Russian antennas. In 2014, when the clouds over Russian-Ukrainian relations got darker, members of AEGEE-Moskva and AEGEE-Kyiv, who had been friends for quite some time, went against all odds to organise an event. They made a trip between two rivalling countries possible because of their strong spirit and a deep belief that the youth can achieve what they aspire to. The event was called Capital Cities and was held 3 times during 2014-2016 for New Year‘s and Orthodox Christmas Eves. When Autumn Agora Kyiv 2015 was about to take place, AEGEE-Moskva already knew what to do; to organise a pre-event (Moscow Tea Time, with a strong cultural topic) and show more Europeans what it feels like when you cross borders on a train. NetWork Meetings were not neglected either. In a period of 5 years, the antenna hosted it twice: in 2012 (Let’s do EAT Together) and 2016 – Deal with it! AEGEE-Moskva has had 3 twinning contracts with AEGEE-Valencia, AEGEE-Izmir and AEGEE-Bergamo. Among other highlights of their history are: 2009 – an international event to visit the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, 2016-2017 – New Year’s Event Meanwhile in Siberia in cooperation with AEGEE-Tyumen, 2017 – in cooperation with their twin-antenna AEGEE-Bergamo they organised a travelling pre-event for Autumn Agora Catania, it was called Transsitalian DREAM Also, despite all possible visa issues, AEGEE-Moskva has sent 3 of its members to Comite Directeur: – Marianna Kuperman, as VP/Network Director in 1996-1997, Denis Maksimov, as European Institutions Director in 2009-2010, Ksenia Lupanova as Communications Director in 2018
What do you consider your biggest achievement so far? In your viewpoint, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
As far as you might know, last year our Summer University “Transsiberian Dream. Vol.10” ranked number one among all 57 Summer Universities. It was a great reward for us and we have worked for 10 years to get it. Each year we transferred all knowledge from the previous generations of Transsib family to make it better, more meaningful and unique. Last year we also decided to extend the Transsiberian route and go to Vladivostok, that was the first time in Transsib history! What is more, to make Transsib more informative and substantial we decided to focus not only on the cultural part but also added ecological content, holding workshops on Sustainability and Eco-friendly Behaviour. Thus we can safely say that our Summer University was not just about having fun on the train or admiring Russian sights, it was also about education, awareness and mindfulness that each participant obtained after Transsib. Talking about the biggest challenge, we believe it was the decision to organise an Agora in Moscow to which we have prepared for, for the last 3 or 4 years. There were many discussions on this topic and we were always eager to hold it but only this year we have realised that we have all the potential, resources, strengths and power to make it real and possible! And even though we were rejected the last time when we applied for the host of Spring Agora 2020 we do not give up and right now we are investing all our energy and time to apply once again and make this Agora happen!
What are your plans for the future? Would you like to organise a big event? What activities do you have in mind?
First of all, right now we are working very hard on our Summer University “Transsiberian DREAM. Vol.11” which will be held in one month’s time. We do our best to make it legendary, unique and mind-blowing like previous years! Secondly, as we already mentioned our big goal and plan for the next several months is to apply for the next Agora Autumn 2020. We already chose our Coordinator Ekaterina Nemova, recruited the Working Group, distributed the responsibilities and duties and are working on the application together. Besides that, we still have some local meetings with members and develop new plans for the upcoming hot Autumn season! Stay tuned
This year the Eastern Partnership Project is celebrating its 10th year of existence. What did it change in your lives, personally and as an AEGEE local? What do you think about the partnership between your country and the EU in this context?
Since United Europe is one of the basic concepts of AEGEE we are directly influenced by relations between Russia and the EU. PCA helps us to develop Russian locals and to improve relations with locals from the EU providing better communication between countries in the different spheres. Unfortunately, the situation is strongly connected to political actions and there are no global changes at the moment. Before 2014 several steps were already made. For instance, the law on special regulation on visa issues is in force already, we actively use the provisions of the named act for youth projects and explain it to our members. The dialogue on visa-free regime between our country and Schengen area was started and we hope that we will see a positive result soon. Additionally, the closer cooperation between the EU and Russian government institutions will allow us to organise more international projects on a better level by institutional and financial support.
How would you improve the work of the EaP? Are there any needs that haven’t been addressed by the Project?
First of all, we find it crucial to mention the overall visa situation between the EU and Russia. Fortunately, it is to change dramatically within a couple of years in terms of the newly developed project which simplifies visiting Russia with electronic visas, yet the lack of general awareness about the visa procedures and difficulties tied up with this is still holding back the development of mobility for both sides. The second thing to mention would be a legendary Erasmus programme which has helped thousands of students and youngsters from pretty much all over the world to travel and study with minimal financial expenses. We are convinced this program should be constantly improved, extended and geographically broadened alongside with the budget being increased. This would help programme countries’ participants boost up their travelling experience.
In your opinion, what should EaP+ as an AEGEE project concentrate on? How can they help you grow and develop? How could it interact with you?
For a start, on the local level, it is necessary to raise the level of awareness among the youth and motivate them to become more active. We have strong relations on a human to human level thanks to the successful implementation of our organisation’s objectives, however, only a small percentage of the members could share their opinion about the situation on a global level in politics. Due to the fact that members’ generations are changing fast, it is important to provide workshops and activities in general on a regular basis. After, we will have a community to start the serious discussion. Secondly, EaP+ support would be helpful for the organisation of international projects with Russian locals’ participation. It is about a formal and informal level, providing the information about opportunities on the international scene, inspiring for participation in different projects, etc. More active members from Russian locals will lead and inspire more members by real example. Of course, we wish one-day EaP+ resources will allow AEGEE to share members’ opinion directly to decision-makers.