The first online Spring Agora: a review

From the 5th – 7th of June the Spring Agora 2020 took place. This Agora was going to be a special one, not only for me, but also for everyone else. For me this was my first Agora as a delegate after becoming very enthusiastic about AEGEE-Europe at the Autumn Agora in Salerno. But for everyone this was also the first ever online Agora. Which of course – you might all understand – comes with a lot of preparations and technicalities. The Agora would have taken place in Yerevan (Armenia), but we had a great digital event instead. Good news for the ones who are still interested in going to Yerevan, they will be organising the Spring Agora next year, so stay tuned! And last but not least, Arend-Jan was applying for Network Commission during this Agora, interested to see if he got elected? Keep on reading!

Together with my fellow delegates Arend-Jan and Margriet we were there representing AEGEE-Groningen. We sat together during the online Agora to keep discussing important issues and ask questions where necessary and take some relaxing breaks in between. As a delegate you had access to the digital platform where the Agora took place. You could ask questions according to the finger rules in the chat. The entire event was also streamed for visitors in Discord. They were able to follow the Agora there and to chat with everyone else joining the stream.

Of course, the Agora is also well known for its great parties. So, after every meeting day there was also a social programme organised online. These were for example a Eurovision Night by AEGEE-Zagreb, a cocktail party by AEGEE-Madrid and the last day there was the AEGEE Online Music Festival with different people DJ’ing. 

Friday – 5th of June

We started on Friday the 5th of June with the Opening Plenary. During the Opening Plenary, several presentations were given. The Chair Team and the President of AEGEE-Europe welcomed us to the Agora. Daniël (President of AEGEE-Europe) gave an opening speech, which in my opinion was very well done. He said, among others, that we didn’t freely choose to organise the Agora in this way, but what we are doing here is still very important. He mentioned that right now the European Union is lacking cooperation and willingness to act and that has left citizens frustrated and people are abandoning their European spirit. So, your behaviour right now is so important, AEGEE is one of the ways to have impact. Quite a big speech I thought.

We also had the traditional ‘roll call’, where the Chair Team of the Agora goes by every antenna one by one. When you are called out you need to show that you are present in any way that you prefer. Even online, great singing was delivered… You can probably imagine that online not everything goes synchronic, so no this was actually not so great to hear. Unfortunately, we had some technical issues, so no singing ‘Het gras van het Noorderplantsoen’ this time..

Some last procedures about for example voting were explained, as everything needs to go as efficiently as possible online and then the Agora was officially opened! 

To start off easy, AEGEE-Amsterdam and AEGEE-Enschede came with an objection to the Pre-Agora voting, which was done earlier in the week to already pass some proposals to make the entire Agora go a bit faster. They wanted to vote on the validity of the Pre-Agora voting, because something went wrong with the majority counting of the proposals and so they wanted to see the Pre-Agora Voting Results not apply anymore. If this would pass, all the proposals would be subject to a new vote during the Agora. We voted against, as we already agreed with the proposals that were passed and luckily this motion wasn’t passed, so the communicated results were still valid. 

Then the first round of Prytania started, these are used to discuss proposals and other topics which need Agora approval. Usually there are three parallel prytania, so we mostly had to split up among the three different slots to ask questions where necessary. I went to the prytanium where they discussed the Action Agenda 2020-2021, which was very interesting, because this is now based on the new Strategic Plan for 2020-2023 and also had been worked on by some of our members during the EPM (European Planning Meeting) in Barcelona. There were a lot of amendments proposed by Laura who was elected the next day as Mental Health Working Group Coordinator. Unfortunately for her this was voted against by the Agora, so she will have to work with the action agenda as it is.

After a small break there was another parallel slot of Prytania. The most interesting one was the one Arend-Jan attended about the proposal to open up Summer Universities to externals. Together with a few other locals we made sure this proposal couldn’t be voted upon during the Pre-Agora Voting, because we thought it was quite controversial and should be discussed during the Agora itself and at that point we were against it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time during this slot and a lot of discussions were cut. So, some locals came with a motion to make sure there will be discussion moments after the Agora to include locals in the progress of this reform which was accepted. 

Saturday – 6th of June

Saturday was the only full day of content. First, it was time for the Morning Plenary. On the agenda were the presentations of candidates for the Comité Directeur (board of AEGEE-Europe) and for several Commissions. We started off with a motion by Hicham and way more locals including us to ask for an exception to the Working Format of the Agora. The working format of the Agora states that each candidate excluding President, Secretary General and Financial Director should receive an absolute majority. So, proposed was to have the same majority apply to them. Absolute majority requires 50% + 1 votes in favour, and abstentions are seen as a vote against. This motion was passed by the Agora as we wanted. Hereby we hoped that this will ensure that the CD provides quality work for the whole association.  

After this it was time to start with questions to the candidates. They all had 3 minutes of time answering quite some questions (for example Oguzhan even had 24 questions), so they picked the most important ones and afterwards people could still ask some questions on the spot. 

Side note, it was quite interesting to look at all the different home atmospheres of people. Some very boring white walls, but also people definitely spending time on their background with flags and other attributes. 

Then the final part of this morning plenary was the ratification of Spring Agora 2021, namely Agora Yerevan. According to Arend-Jan, a 50% popcorn forecast was expected, because last year people objected to ratifying Spring Agora Yerevan 2020, because of conflicts of the country resulting in people from Azerbaijan not being able to attend. There was a chance that we will have such a discussion again. Nothing happened, so the Agora Yerevan was ratified. For the people interested the Agora presentation looked great and their goal is also to have the most sustainable Agora, so that looks nice.

Then there was another round of Prytania. I went to the Network status update, which was way more drama than I thought it would be. First, we discussed some deletions and new locals. For example, AEGEE-Göteborg is now a local! But then Oksana (Network Director of the CD) presented some locals that were downgraded. This could for example mean that they didn’t pay membership fees. Downgrading means that you will for example go from being an Antenna (which we are) to a Contact Antenna, which gives you a little less rights and means you have to apply to less criteria. And very surprisingly AEGEE-Yerevan was on the list to be downgraded, which was weird to hear as they are organising an Agora. Conclusion of this update: we now have 118 antennae, 31 contact Antennae and 3 contacts. So, in total there are 152 locals in the network.

In the parallel slot of these prytania the financial report was also presented, but it had a lot of flaws. So it was voted upon to be postponed to Post-Agora voting, so hopefully it will be fixed then. 

During the Evening Plenary the voting results got presented. All the candidates we wanted got elected. Diederik was elected president and general CD-member and was asked to choose between them, but yes of course he wants to be president! Oguzhan, candidate for Financial Director, did not get elected. His application was not strong and he even planned on continuing his master study during the CD period. Also, Veronika got elected for Secretary General, so Elena did not get elected as we voted for as well. She afterwards did get elected as general CD member, so that was nice for her.

Then it was time for more candidates, namely several more commissions like the Network Commission Arend-Jan was candidate for and the working groups. Arend-Jan did a great job presenting himself and later that night the results came in and of course he got elected! Make sure to still congratulate him if you read this 😊. Everyone else also got elected as we wanted, so that was great!

Sunday – 7th of June

Sunday was a short day with only the Closing Plenary on the agenda. First the Network status update was presented to the plenary. And here it comes, there was an objection by AEGEE-Yerevan, because they didn’t agree with the downgrading of their antenna. Oksana explained that debts have been accumulated over the years, so it started long ago. There have been many things scheduled to pay the money, for example during Agora Salerno in cash, this didn’t happen. As this explains the situation quite well, we voted in favour of the downgrading, but we hope to see AEGEE-Yerevan upgraded next year again!

Then the hosting local of the European Planning Meeting (EPM) 2021 got presented, which will be AEGEE-Tartu! Very cool! The topic of the EPM was also voted upon and the one with the most votes was chosen: circular economy – from grassroots level to policy making. 

Then more results, the proposal to have SUs open to externals was rejected. In the end we voted in favour, because our motivations to vote against were actually not influencing us as much as we thought and for the entire network we believed the reform would be a good thing, it was a very close call, but it got rejected. 

Then it was almost the end, but during another plenary an agenda point had been added about proxy-voting, which could make it possible for locals that can’t attend an Agora (like Azerbaijanis at Agora Yerevan) to still have a vote. But weirdly the Chair Team stated that they didn’t have the logistical options for it and they will not discuss it anymore, so again this discussion is being delayed. Some people were not happy.

Finally, there was the CD end speech by Daniël. Things have definitely been different than they thought, digital and remote work have become the norm. The whole board has been together for only 8 days… , because of visa restrictions, but they definitely looked like a great team!

To conclude this very long article: the Agora is an amazing experience and I can really recommend joining one in the future. Of course, it was way different this time as we couldn’t meet old friends or make new ones, but let’s hope we all see each other in Moskva at Agora Moscow!! 

Want more information about the European level of AEGEE? Text Arend-Jan or send an email to europeanaffairs@aegee-groningen.nl.

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