Eastern Partnership’s 10th anniversary: AEGEE-Voronezh

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 next antennae is AEGEE-Voronezh.

Let’s get to know each other first: Tell us a bit about your local?

For now, we have 5 active members on our board. Our guys are taking part in improving AEGEE, for instance, our member Sergey Peshkov is one of the developers of new OMS system and another member Margarita Semchenko became the new Netcom of our area. This year we could successfully organize an NWM for 15 members, it was in a great place in a private house by the shore of the river, everybody was super satisfied. This year we are not going to organize a SU, but next year we will do something interesting. 

Please tell us something about the history of your local. How did it develop?

Our local was born on the 14th of February 2009 so this year we celebrated our 10th birthday. We organized 10 SUs and many other international and local events including those in cooperation with other AEGEE locals. We can say that during these years AEGEE-Voronezh was very present in AEGEE life and we are not going to stop.

What do you consider your biggest achievement so far? In your viewpoint, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Last year we organized the great summer university: “Slavic Force” between 4 locals: Rostov, Voronezh, Kharkiv and Odesa. Of course, we had problems before and during the SU, for instance – it’s not so easy to find transport between our cities (500 kilometres) for more than 20 people, but we solved this problem successfully. In spite of relationships between Russia and Ukraine, we think we realized a successful project and we will repeat it in future. 

What are your plans for the future? Would you like to organise a big event? What activities do you have in mind? 

Well, for now, we need more people in our antenna to organise big events. Maybe, we would love to organize an Agora or an EPM someday, but for that, we need a strong partnership with at least with the Voronezh State University which can provide enough space for such an event. We are trying to establish relationships with the faculty of international relations in VSU and we hope that we will find people who are interested in AEGEE in a professional way.

This year the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) is in force since 1997. How does it affect you personally or as an AEGEE local? What do you think about the partnership between your country and the EU in this context?

Let’s be honest, the Ukrainian crisis has frozen many links of Russian and EU relations for now. And, we don’t know how long it’s going to continue, but we hope it gets better soon. As normal citizens, we don’t feel any effects on our daily lives, maybe we just have fewer products from the EU in our shops. And, with today’s economic crisis we have less money for travelling in the EU. We would love to spend at least less money for VISA, but a free visa regime is just a dream for now.

How would you improve the work between the EU and Russia? Are there any specific points/needs which should be addressed by both parties?

Yes, the most obvious being academic exchanges with Russian big cities. For instance, Voronezh State University has Erasmus programs, but very few students really know about it. The EU can offer more opportunities at our universities in terms of grants. Secondly – tourism, we suppose that Russia has always attracted people from the west and our country can create more offers in tourism, for example, hiking in Caucasus or Siberia (Transsib hello).

In your opinion, what should EaP+ as an AEGEE project concentrate on? How can they help you to grow and develop? How could it interact with you?

Well, first of all – provide a platform for dialogue. We have a lot of problem with dialogue e.g. Russia-Ukraine, Russia-Georgia and Russia-EU. Youth should interact more if we want to break barriers in Europe. How it can interact with us, for example, we have a lot of Armenian and Azerbaijan youth in Voronezh, maybe EaP can organize workshops in our city to discuss their problems and bring them closer. Also, we could organise workshops for international relations students and discuss our problems in a professional way.