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Friday, 05 April 2013 20:42

“Together for Europe” ... in Mannheim

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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 AEGEE-Europe event  - Agora Rhein-Neckar - 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.

There is nothing I find more exciting than the practice of democracy together with young and excited volunteers, driven by their desire to make a change in their community or society as a whole. They travel for hundreds of kilometres twice every year to meet up with their friends and colleagues during the Agora, to discuss issues that affect the organisation, and through it their lives as volunteers and members. The Agora is basically an event similar to general meetings of EU summits: insert national parliaments, add more young people and let your imagination go wild.

Attending an event like Model EU, Model UN and any kind simulation can only go so far; during the agora you get to experience democracy at first hand, with very real consequences to your decisions and actions. There are visions, strategies, candidatures and internal politics, a very thick constitution-like rule book that you never get tired of talking about, budgets and financial reports, identity issues, questions of accountability and more.

As a Europe-wide organisation with an incredibly diverse cultural group of people, AEGEE offers the perfect chance to practise democracy. It is a lovely spectacle to witness the agora: take yourself and your peers seriously, develop your critical sharpness and learn how to take some heat. An agora is indeed a world unto itself and I now find myself thinking: what would Europe look like if organisations like AEGEE governed it and young people ruled the world?

Last modified on Sunday, 07 April 2013 09:15

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