My Autumn Agora Catania

Last September, the Autumn Agora took place in the majestic city of Catania. The Agora is the General Members Assembly of AEGEE-Europe during which about 800 members from all locals throughout Europe gather in one city to debate on thematic topics, discuss in which direction AEGEE should head and party like there’s no tomorrow.

This was my second Agora after Agora Enschede and well, it blew my mind away. So, you know I’ll be first in line to visit the Spring Agora in Krakow from the 24th of April to the 29th. This was also my second time as a delegate as wel.

Since I was a delegate, the Agora began two weeks earlier for me. Various documents such as candidatures for commissions and committees, proposals, motions and Activity plans are published beforehand. These documents are discussed during the Pre-agora evening in Groningen where all members of our association can convey their opinion to the delegates to make sure that their opinion is taken into account of when voting. This is done so that delegates can make an educated decision while voting and vote on behalf of the AEGEE-Groningen.

I consider representing our local as a delegate on a stage as large as the Agora a great honour, opportunity and challenge. A great honour because whenever I spoke, I made sure to uphold the best interests of our local. A great opportunity because it helped me step out of my comfort zone, to ask proposal makers and candidates for important positions the tough questions, to hold them responsible. A great challenge because I not only defeated my stage fright but also learned to critically evaluate proposals and hold candidates accountable after nights of heavy partying with about 800 Europeans. Above all it’s interesting and fun because I came in contact with other delegates during sessions, which is awesome!

Being a delegate guarantees your spot to go to the Agora and gets you exclusive privilege above visitors. You get to ask questions and vote on candidates and proposals on behalf of our association. Furthermore, you are guaranteed a seat in the plenary room while the sacred voting procedures take place. Moreover, being a delegate also means that you must be present during all sessions.

Day 1: Arrival
The first day is usually the arrival day. Once we arrived in Catania at our sleeping quarters (which was a large building where everyone slept together with sleeping bags and air mattresses), we quickly had to get dressed to look our finest as the opening ceremony would take place later during the night. We were treated to an amazing opening ceremony filled with great cultural music, opera and dances. At a certain point most participants, including myself and loads from Groningen as well,

joined the performers on stage to dance along while chants of “we want more!” echoed in the background.
After the opening ceremony, it was time for the first party of this Agora; the fancy date party. Loads of people either had the guts to ask someone from another local to be their date for this night or applied via the dating platform set up by AEGEE-Catania for a random date. Well, suffice to say that various European friends were made this night.

Day 2: The Excitement
Be prepared because early days and late nights are very typical for Agorae. The day started with the opening plenary where the President of AEGEE-Europe took to the stage to welcome us to the Agora. This was followed by the infamous roll call, where every local present during the Agora gets a chance to shine (AEGEE-Groningen chose to sing ‘Gras van het Noorderplantsoen’). Besides, various candidates, procedures for voting and the general procedures of the Agora were also presented.
Afterwards, it was time for Workshops like Agora for newbies amongst others and Progress meetings. I visited a progress meeting on the Y Vote 2019 project. This was an interesting and insightful session on the Y Vote 2019 project. In 2014, under 30% of voters under 25 showed up to cast their vote for the European Parliament Elections. This project will try to aim to reverse this trend by encouraging young people to get involved and to turn them into informed actors of the upcoming European Parliament Elections.

During the afternoon, it was time for me to visit various parallel slotted prytanium. These are sessions during which various proposals, activity reports and plans are discussed and questioned. Being a delegate guaranteed me speaking rights which I gladly used when questioning the merit of proposals and assessing important motions. Besides, there were also multiple interesting sessions on discovering the magic of AEGEE, time management and conflicting interests vs. conflict of interest.
After a coffee break, it was time for the main event of Day 2: the Evening plenary! During this plenary the candidates for the Chair and Vice-Chairperson, Audit Commission, SUCT (Summer University Coordination Team), Network Commission and the Mediation Commission would have to present themselves, their qualifications and experience in front of the Agora. Being a delegate, I live for moments like these. This is the moment to ask critical questions towards candidates

. It was also a quite tense situation for me as well. Because the time during which delegates can walk towards the stage is limited to a few seconds, all delegates run towards the stage at once when the question time opens. This usually results in loads of delegates running frantically to the stage in fear of losing their opportunity to question their desired candidate.

One of our very own members was up on that stage! Suzan Tokac took to the stage to present and defend her candidature for being a member of the Mediation Commission. She held her ground with gravitas and grace. All in all, it was a great plenary during which candidates were asked the hard-hitting questions and were really tested.

That night it was time for the famous Traffic Light Party! The colours red (unavailable), yellow (try me), green (available), blue (spank me) and purple (threesome) were all well represented that night. Needless to say, it was a night of heavy partying and making long-lasting bonds throughout Europe.

 

Day 3: The Thematic Discussions
After having breakfast at around 8:30 in the morning while fighting back tiredness and a heavy hangover, I headed towards the morning plenary along with the rest of the die hards from Groningen. The highlight of this plenary was the presentation on EU careers, done by representatives who were flown in to introduce us to the world of starting a career in the European Union and the numerous possibilities the EU has to offer in almost every field.

Following the coffee break, there were multiple prytania and workshops to choose from. The workshop on LGBTQ+ realities in Europe was really captivating and relevant. While three prytania each focussed on a variety of topics. From Activity report of the previous Comite Directeur (CD; the board of AEGEE-Europe) to the Activity plan of the current CD to the financial reports, all topics were discussed. A quite thought-provoking prytanium was the one where the topic for the EPM was discussed. The current EPM topic is ‘Borderless Europe: Can we even dream that big?’ During the discussion it became quite clear that participants would like more thematic and current discussions incorporated into the EPM given the broadness of this topic. Given that the EPM is the second largest event within AEGEE, I recommend you to visit the EPM even as a helper during the event. Click on this link to be an helper during the EPM in Yerevan:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeKu8tl_zezGTdOZUwR6CftQgrcM2QUqaT92O9XUuyl4hELxA/viewform

Before the evening plenary it was time for the AEGEE-fair where a large amount of AEGEE-bodies had their own stand to present themselves. It was the ideal weather for the fair as it was sunny and warm. This is the place where we shot the Agora vlog (which can be found on our Facebook page). During the evening plenary all the results of the prytania were presented. The presentations included the indicative votes taken during the session. Afterwards, it was time for everyone to leave the great plenary room except for the delegates….. It was time to VOTE!

Indeed! Sabine, Wietske and myself sat back and relaxed as we watched everyone else leave the room. Rules specify that only delegates are allowed in the room while voting takes place. Then, we voted for all positions and all documents.

Once I had fulfilled my duties, it was time for the third party of the Agora: The Shuffle Party! This party was all about wearing your worst and most mismatched clothes ever. It was about trying new combinations and wearing something you never had a chance to wear before given its appearance. This party was really cool because not only were the bartenders quite easy going with the hard liquor when it came to surprise cocktails but it was also really close to the beach.

Day 4: The last day
Alright! Waking up this morning was really difficult! Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one having trouble fighting off a hefty hangover as most of the crew from Groningen and almost everybody participating, organizing and helping had the very same issue.
The day kicked off with a variety of workshops amongst which a workshop from the Language Interest Group on minority languages in Europe, another on improvisation and a session called ‘The godfather is just a movie’. Besides, there was also a session called ‘Agora Inspire’ during which various participants from the crowd voluntarily stepped forward to share their AEGEE-story and how AEGEE shaped their world view and their personal development. One of those speakers on stage was our very own Mark Pasma!
That afternoon during lunch we met with our Network Commissioner Maria Zwartkruis and all other locals in the Nedertop. The Nedertop is a combination of AEGEE locals within and outside the Netherlands comprising of Amsterdam, Delft, Eindhoven, Enschede, Groningen, Leiden, Nijmegen, Tilburg, Utrecht, Maastricht, Manchester, London and Sheffield. During this get-together we met again with other members of the Nedertop area and talked about upcoming activities in each local. This is one of the ideal places to meet and get to know other Nedertop members, board members and sub-commissioners. This is also accessible for members. So, do take advantage of this opportunity in getting to know other members in the network.

Then it was time for the very last plenary, the closing plenary. First the top 5 Summer Universities were called upon the stage and the rest of the SU’s were ranked. Following that, AEGEE-Antalya signed the contract with AEGEE-Europe to be upgraded from a contact to become a local. Afterwards, AEGEE-Lviv & AEGEE-Aachen, AEGEE-Kyiv & AEGEE-Heidelberg and AEGEE-Genova & AEGEE-Zaragoza signed their Twin Local Agreements. A Twin Local Agreement is signed when two locals agree to partner with each other more often and plan on cooperating much more with each other by organizing exchanges and activities with each other. The main aim of a Twin Local is to create a greater sense of friendship and cultural exchange between two Locals. Usually before and after the signing of the agreement, the members of both locals showcase their mutual bond and friendship by singing, dancing and celebrating together on stage.

Once all the singing and dancing from the signing of the Twin Local Agreements had stopped, the contracts for the EPM in Yerevan and the Agora in Krakow were signed. Much to my delight, AEGEE-Krakow gathered on stage to showcase their promo video for the Agora in Krakow! That was dope! We then moved on to the voting results presented by the Juridical Commission on the big screen which led to gasps from the crowd. Have a look at the European News Flash mail for a more detailed account on which proposals and candidates made it through. Just to add some last minute drama, it was discovered that some plans were not voted on or the results had vanished! This led to a huge commotion on stage, confusion amongst participants and representatives walking to the stage. After about 5 minutes, this issue was solved by ratifying the documents by acclamation. With those last minutes of drama out of the way, the Agora was closed.

Just as I was about to leave the room all the organizers of AEGEE-Catania and all the helpers stormed the stage to have a final say and give us a parting gift. This gift was an amazingly edited aftermovie of this awesome Agora. I highly recommend watching this after movie. Its dope as hell! Plus a great amount of Groningers are featured in it! Check it out right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkMwafdNc8A

It was time…. It was time for the wildest night of them all! The European Night! With about 800 participants bringing their traditional food and drinks, it was going to be lit! Once I had tasted almost every food on the tables, drank almost every drink (some of which were quite difficult to drink) and danced until I was tired, I arrived at one sobering realization: I had to leave at 5 in the morning to catch my flight back….

Thankfully, I made it! It was while boarding when it truly hit me, the Agora was over… Just like that. And all I was left with were new friends, great experiences and the promise of doing it all again in Agora Krakow! So join me! Join me at the next Agora from the 24th to the 29th of April 2018 in Krakow!

Click here to apply for the Sping Agora Krakow: https://www.zeus.aegee.org/statutory/ag1804/