< SWITCH ME >
Remember the "Agora" that took place about a month ago in Mannheim? Let us show you some of the fun, interesting and diverse topics which were covered during the event – from healthy eating habits to fighting xenophobia, from entrepreneurship and start-ups to nationalism in school books, the Agora covered a diverse range of subjects through workshops and actions. Have a look at some of them below.
I believe it was Socrates who said, "I am not an Athenian nor a Greek, but a citizen of the world." This idea never seemed as true as it does today, in a globalised world and even more so living in a Europe where the different nations, citizens and states seem to be more intertwined than anywhere else in the world.
So what does it mean to be a citizen in today's Europe? What kind of actions, attitudes, attributes can you find behind such dense concepts? These are the questions which 21 young Europeans from across the continent tried to answer at the week-long seminar "Promoting Citizenship", organised by the Berlin based NGO Citizens of Europe. Germans, Romanians, Lithuanians, Georgians, Armenians and Belarusians – you couldn't find a more diverse group if you tried – attempted to come up with a definition of citizenship that fits one and all. Needless to say this proved to be an almost impossible task.
You may be looking for Europe in many cities, but right now I’m reporting from the heart of Europe, currently assigned to Mannheim, from the event - - taking place between 2.-7. of April.
What is this thing called "agora"? A meeting of roughly 600-800 students from all over Europe coming together for the general assembly of the European Students’ Forum (AEGEE). Besides the internal matters included in the programme of every general assembly of any registered organization, the event includes a variety of workshop topics ranging from the origin of homophobia in sports to nationalism in Europe and living healthy. Check the blog every other day for updates.
The Agora takes place twice a year, every time in a different city, hosted by one or more local AEGEE groups. This year it is organised by the seven local groups that reside along the Rhein and Neckar rivers and takes place in Mannheim. The name of the event comes from the Greek "agora" (literally translated as "market"), where ancient Greek philosophers and proto-politicians would make their voices heard and where most of the important decisions concerning the polis were taken.
Imagine travelling across Europe for one month by train to talk to people, and find out young people’s vision of Europe. It's not as impossible as it sounds. Last December six people travelled the old continent to meet students and young people and discuss their thoughts on the future of Europe, on topics such as politics, education and sustainability. The project Europe on Track was created by AEGEE-Europe (European Students' Forum) and sent out two teams of young people (the Red Team and the Blue team) to travel over 9000km in 27 days. The Red Team was travelling mostly through Western Europe, while the Blue Team was travelling towards the East all the way from Brussels to Istanbul. E&M interviewed Mathieu Soete, member of the Blue Team and experienced youth activist in AEGEE, to get an insider view of this adventure.
|Photo: AEGEE Europe|
|Mathieu Soete, 26, tells us about his adventure|
E&M: Mathieu, what motivated you to spend one month travelling across Europe by train?
MS: There are a lot of moments where you can talk with people in certain environments like the one that exists in a European youth organisation such as AEGEE, but there's never enough time and you're always in a sort of "European bubble", where you don't meet with people in their own realities. You get to learn much more about people when you go out to meet them. This project had two aspects: travelling and discussing. For me it was not the travelling that attracted me, it was not to see that part of Europe that I decided to go to, but it was because I thought with my prior experience I really had an idea of the topics discussed and could get into some great discussions. Visiting people, finding people, and giving them the opportunity to talk, not only to us but to everyone who is listening – this was my main motivation.
E&M: What was the main idea behind the Europe on Track project? And by the end of it all, do you feel that you've reached your goal?
MS: The main idea of the project was to link young people in Europe with European policy-makers in Brussels, to give them the possibility to speak up and reach "Brussels". We'll see how many policy-makers we can reach in the end. There is a real need for them to get to know the opinions of young people, more than they can learn from surveys or opinion polls. In that respect we have succeeded in collecting a good number of stories of people on their experience with (non-formal) education, politics and sustainability, what is working, what is not working. What I really wanted to do was to go ahead with an open mind and gather the real impressions of people, not just steer them towards what we already believe in, but rather record what people are really thinking. I think we've managed to do this.