(press release from student organisation AEGEE-Europe on its general assembly and me as new honorary member)


“Dear representatives of AEGEE antennas, dear friends from across Europe,

Sorry I cannot be with you for this historic 50th Agora. You know I am the Founder of EurActiv, the media network on EU policies. Right now, just like your own project Y Vote, we have to prepare the European elections.

I am delighted to be nominated as honorary member of AEGEE-Europe. Given your trust, I will provide some views on what AEGEE has done in the past and could do. However, my overall message is simple but challenging: please, you are student leaders, YOU DECIDE.

I’d like to address 5 topics, each linking the AEGEE past I know and the future you can shape. On 1. languages, 2. uniting greater Europe, 3. student exchanges, 4. Innovation in Europe. 5. impact of AEGEE itself.


1. Firstly, languages and my own AEGEE experience.

Vous savez que les racines d’AEGEE au plan européen sont multilingues. Je fais partie de la génération d’origine, dirigée par Frank Biancheri, que je connaissais depuis Sciences Po Paris. Frank, notre fondateur, est décédé en 2012; je pense à lui et à beaucoup d’amis de cette époque.

[ You know that AEGEE’s roots are multilingual. I am part of the original generation, led by Frank Biancheri, that I knew from Sciences Po Paris. Frank, our Founder, died in 2012, I’m thinking of him. And of many friends from this era]

Ich war Gründungsvorsitzender von AEGEE-Köln, in 1986. Dort wurde auch mein Projekt EuroManagers zum neuem Venture im Bereich Einstellungen.

[ I was founding President of AEGEE-Köln, in 1986? There I also launched my project EuroManagers, in the area of recruitment]

Some of you did not understand the last few sentences? But you get the message!… AEGEE was multilingual.

EurActiv itself manages to work in 12 languages, including three ‘core languages’, not just English. In my view, with current technologies, AEGEE could use more languages again. Although languages might seem less efficient. YOU DECIDE!

2. Secondly, uniting the whole of Europe.

AEGEE has always been more visionary than the EU itself, ahead of enlargements.

Already in the mid-80s, we were talking about joining up with the East. People thought we were crazy…until it happened! With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. AEGEE then expanded quickly in Central Europe, until the ‘big bang’ enlargement in 2004.

Conservatism still exists today, let me give a personal example. In March, I addressed a Berlin debate between top candidates for the European elections [und hier auf deutsch]. [Berlin debate coverage on EurActiv in German, in English, in French. There are other ‘presidential debates, some of which partnering with EurActiv]
Politicians responded well to ‘6 core issues’ that I provided. However, German politicians there did not provide all answers. They missedthe current crisis around Ukraine, and Europe’s future architecture. Are they cautious before the elections? Are we just dreaming about endless enlargement without updating our concepts?

One third of Europeans live outside the EU. Among them Ukrainians but also Turks and Russians. AEGEE and EurActiv know these regions through their respective networks.

[Which European “perspective” or which alternative “horizon” do we offer them? The concept which we are developing in 2014 should apply to the time after the Ukraine crisis. And even for the time after Putin…]

Rassia toje Evropa! Ukraïnskie ludi skazali ‘Ivan strachi brat’. Sivodnia da, no v budichie niet. U nas budit russki brat i ukraïnskaia sistra, i evropeiskoi mouj…Mieste!

[Russia is also Europe. Ukrainians were saying ‘Ivan is the big brother’. Today, yes; to-morrow not any more. Only a Russian brother, a Ukrainian sister and a European husband.Together!]

In other words, Russia is also Europe. It will not always be the big brother. Ukrainians should not have to choose between East and West.

So, let me summarise my own vision:

As an overarching concept, how about a pan-European market? Exchange of goods is fairly simple; freedom of movement for individuals would gradually follow.

Within this pan-Europe, we should think of Europe in three circles:

EU Treaties would be clarified around two circles: the Euroland and the single market.

Then, we should add this third circle: the pan-European market, to help integrate Ukraine & Turkey. While not excluding Russia forever. With the same countries as the Council of Europe, already doing human rights.

All this could be quite controversial… also among yourselves, I realise! Maybe you will find something better? AEGEE needs a vision for Europe, YOU DECIDE.

3. Thirdly, boosting visas, student exchanges, freedoms for the East:

Indeed, we should think about the people, not only the politicians and diplomats. I see three main measures there:

First, we need more visas for normal Russians. Regarding Ukrainians, even doing away with visas entirely.

[“Test the West”, as it was called around the Berlin Wall. So that even Russian speakers understand which passport is worth more. Turks would also benefit. Let’s remember that visas are not work permits.]

AEGEE has experience with lobbying against visas, so it could play a role again. YOU DECIDE.

Secondly, preparing the future, with more student exchanges.

AEGEE’s history talks about its major role to help pass ERASMUS. It’s true, I was there! Notably at that famous Elysée lunch with Président Mitterrand, in 1987.

[This really flabbergasted the European Commission, back in Brussels… So, don’t just follow eurocrats, address politicians and media directly!]

In principle, ERASMUS also deals with Eastern Europe, and even further, with ERASMUS Mundus. In fact, the numbers of students exchanged are very small. You, the next generation, will help design the continent.It’s important to strengthen mutual understanding between Western, Central, Eastern Europe and Russia. So, boosting ERASMUS would be the best investment in the future. You are the best possible association to ask for this. You are the Erasmus Generation. YOU DECIDE!

Last measure, a bit more general: promoting free media and civil society.

AEGEE also has great experience with moving, symbolic projects at critical times and across borders. For example, I was moved to hear about:
– the trips to East Berlin, before re-unification
– the events regarding Greece and Turkey, on the Cyprus border, and in Caucasus
– and especially the role of AEGEE members in the Belgrade and Kyiv revolutions.
I wonder what your next CD will initiate between Ukraine and Russia? And perhaps also within Ukraine and with Poland?

These projects are difficult, sensitive. But making history. YOU DECIDE!

4. Fourth, Innovating, on the economic & social agenda and in policy tools

For the mandate 2014-2019, after the elections, the EU will replace its ‘Agenda Europe 2020’. This comes after the financial crisis and while youth employment is awful, notably in Mediterranean countries.

To be short – we could talk separately – I recommend two main things:
– to bundle everything under “Innovation Europe 2019”
– to create a super Commissioner for youth employment, regrouping several policies.

My third point under innovation is about political tools in tune with the XXIst Century, the century of the internet and open communication.

It’s not enough to adapt the agenda, the EU policy-making processes should also be modernised.

[Within the current treaties. So that an EU democracy can be created, that not only attracts other countries, but also… our own citizens!

Social media and the internet could soon support the creation of EU policy. Key words here are: “Participative democracy” with citizens, “liquid democracy” with stakeholders, influence ranking, visualisation of procedures, etc. EurActiv has projects in these areas, Just ask us! ]


You are also the internet-enabled generation. AEGEE played an important role for the creation of the European Citizen Initiative, which has not worked well so far. What do you propose? YOU DECIDE.

5. Finally, the outward impact of AEGEE…

I meet all Comité Directeurs and many AEGEE delegations in Brussels, and hope to see you there, or at another Agora.

[By the way, there is a good content partnership with EurActiv, your antennas can contact the EurActiv affiliates when they have something important to say, and then they decide.]

Since the beginning of AEGEE, there has always been two main tendencies and one challenge.

The two tendencies: eithera student meeting association, or a pro-European political movement. So, many AEGEE members want to focus on getting to know new people and countries.While AEGEE leaders, like you, typically wish to make a difference for Europe, have an impact on policies. This is not incompatible; even some former ‘tourist’ members become good advocates later. [Some former leaders even went into real politics but that’s another story…]

As for the challenge, it is to bring exciting new projects, renewing teams, while also ensuring continuity. Like in any student association.

On both fronts, impact and continuity, AEGEE is making good progress. This is symbolized by the CD House in Brussels: it’s so great I’d like to call it the ‘AEGEE Embassy’. Thanks to their long commitment, I’d like to commend the outgoing Comité Directeur. They provide both an outward focus and also better core processes.

Should you go even further in the direction of professionalization? I really don’t know. YOU DECIDE!

Now, my very last point. Don’t listen too long to the oldies! 🙂 Those who deserve applauses are not outside advisers like me, but you, the real actors.


Congratulations to the current CD, Luis, Lucille and all the others! You should be applauded! Bravo!



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