Spring Agora București 2019: It was up to us

From the 8th of May to the 13th of May, the Spring Agora București took place in the beautiful city of București. At this Agora – which is the bi-yearly General Assembly of AEGEE-Europe – a lot of important topics were discussed for the future of our association and there were elections for several vacant positions. And of course what should not be left out of an Agora, are fantastic parties with fellow AEGEE members from all over Europe!

The Spring Agora București was my second Agora. After going to the Spring Agora Kraków as a visitor last year, I decided that I wanted to get more involved and I decided to go as a delegate to Agora Bucharest . This means that I represented AEGEE-Groningen, together with my fellow delegates Annelies and Charley, our famous boardmembers.

A few weeks before the Agora, the preparations started. We had to dig into all the documents that were submitted.These documents contain all the proposals that have been made to change the statutes of AEGEE-Europe and the motivations and programs of all candidates for the vacant positions. These candidates were for example applying for the Comité Directeur (the board of AEGEE-Europe), the Network Commission or to be the coordinator of a Working Group. During  these preparations we determined whether we were in favour or against proposals and candidates, looking at what would be in the best interest of AEGEE-Groningen. We presented our opinions to the Agora Input evening and attending members gave their input as well.

Wednesday: day 1

About a week later, we arrived in Bucharest. After some good sightseeing – during the Agora there would not be any time – we went to the gym we would sleep in and the Agora finally started at the 8th of May. That evening, we had the opening plenary.  Here the Chairperson of the Agora and President of AEGEE-Europe welcomed us to the Agora. Then a great tradition of the Agora started, the roll call. Every antenna is named and has to show their presence at the Agora. To show AEGEE-Groningen was present, we sang the beautiful song ‘Gras van het Noorderplantsoen’. At this plenary, Charley had to ask the Agora for permission to be a delegate. This had to be done as she had to replace Kaylie Yan, who would originally represent AEGEE-Groningen as well. She couldn’t be there due to personal circumstances. Luckily, the Agora granted Charley permission to be a delegate and so we could be fully represented for the duration of at the whole agora. We also got presentations of several projects, like Gender Watch and the Safe person project. When the opening plenary was finished, the opening ceremony started, for which everyone dressed in their most fancy clothes. We saw some beautiful traditional Romanian dances and there was a Romanian singer who sang for us. At last, we enjoyed a performance by the one and only AEGEE band. Afterwards, at the James Bond party, we could let our inner James Bond’s and Bond girls out.

Thursday: day 2

This morning, we had our typical Agora morning: the organizers woke us up at 7am after a long night out. However, the beautiful sight of Mark running after people trying to wake him up, while still being in his sleeping bag, definitely wakes you up. It gives you great mood for the rest of the day, so we were ready to go! The morning plenary started at 9 o’clock, which was directly one of the most interesting ones. All candidates for positions of the Comité Directeur presented themselves and we as delegates had the opportunity to ask them questions. First of all there should have been presentations of candidates for Secretary General, but as there were no candidates, this was left for an Open Call. Then, one candidate for Financial Director gave his presentation, Refik. There were five candidates to be a member of the Comité Directeur who didn’t apply for one of the core positions. They were Alvaro, Batuhan, Hanna, Oksana and a second Oksana. At last, there were the presentations of the candidates for President of AEGEE-Europe. They were Daniël from AEGEE-Leiden, Evrim (who is already in the Comité Directeur), and Roberto (AEGEE-Napoli).

After a short coffee break, there were parallel slots of prytania. These are the smaller meetings where usually proposals and activity reports are discussed. As delegates we always had to split up, in order to be able to ask questions at every prytanium. For visitors, there were also some interesting workshops to attend. After the lunch, there was another parallel slot. I went to a parallel slot where some financials were discussed. Even more interesting, we discussed a proposal to increase the reimbursement of the Comité Directeur. At first we were against this proposal, but the explanation that Financial Director Matis gave was reason enough for us to change our opinion on this matter.

After another coffee break, we had the evening plenary. Again, a lot of candidates were presented during this plenary. These were for positions in the Summer University Coordination Team, the Audit Commission and a lot of temporary positions to fill up vacant spots when members dropped out during their term. Then all people who were not a delegate had to leave the room, as it was time to vote on the candidates. Of course, voting is not the most exciting matter. It is a lot of waiting and we had to fill in a lot of forms. Gladly, Annelies came to the rescue! She brought us some gin tonic, so it turned out that voting can be exciting after all.

Then after dinner, we had time to let our inner party animals out again, as the Glow Party was organized! We all dressed up in beautiful white and neon coloured clothes and we danced through the night – of course to regret it again the next morning…

Friday: day 3

The next morning I had a fantastic wake-up call. My friends put a Smirnoff Ice next to my bed and of course Annelies was very happy to point that out to me. Still in my pyjamas, after only a short night of sleep, I had to down it and so I was ready to head to the plenary!

During this plenary, the candidates for the Network Commission and the Juridical Commission presented themselves. Then there was the presentation of Europe on Track. This is a very interesting project in which AEGEEans travelled through Europe on Interrail tickets to raise awareness for important topics within AEGEE and to create a platform for discussion among youth. After this plenary, there were parallel slots again. I went to the prytanium where anonymous voting on a Vote of Confidence and two corrections in the CIA (the statutes of AEGEE-Europe) were discussed. The second correction of the CIA was about the deadline for the acceptance of candidates. Here I asked a question that was raised during the Agora Input Evening: if rival candidaturing was possible during the Agora. The response was that nothing would change about that, which was an answer we liked.

The second session of parallel slots had some very interesting proposals, of which the Antenna Criteria Proposal was the most interesting. This proposal was made to change the conditions that AEGEE antenna have to satisfy in order to stay part of the network. This was done to decrease the amount of exceptions and an alternative system which uses health indicators was proposed. Charley went to this session and Annelies and I went there after our session was finished. A lot of good questions were asked, and (especially the Dutch) locals had objections against the proposal. We also voted against the proposal in the voting round that evening, but in the end the proposal did pass.

That evening, there were more candidates who presented themselves during the evening plenary. These were the candidates who wanted to be coordinator of a working group. Then the results of all prytania were presented, as prytania only give their advice to the Agora. When this  was done, the delegates were, again, the only ones to stay for another round of voting. Unfortunately, Annelies let us down that time, as she didn’t bring gin. But as this was the second round of voting, it was over more quickly, and we were well in time for the scary Dracula Party!

Saturday: day 4

On Saturday morning, the plenary consisted of a lot of presentations. A lot of projects presented themselves and some strategies were presented. Then the prytania consisted of a few activity reports and the Network Status Update.

Then one of the most fun plenaries took place: the closing plenary. This is a way more ceremonial session. First of all, twin contracts were signed. This means that two locals start a formal ‘friendship’, they will travel to each other and have common activities once in a while. A really fun moment in the closing plenary is when the Convention d’Adhésion is signed. This contract allows an antenna to officially call themselves an AEGEE local. However, the signing of the contract has a special tradition. As there was once a spelling mistake in the minutes, saying ‘singing’ the Convention d’Adhésion instead of signing, they now sing when it is signed! To the melody of ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon’, we now sing ‘Convention d’Adhésion, on la signe, on la signe, Convention d’Adhésion, on la signe, tout les temps’, a fantastic moment which is very confusing for people who visit the agora for the first time.

The most interesting, as well as confusing, moment of the Agora came at the end of the closing plenary. At the end, the location of the EPM 2020 and the Spring Agora 2020 were presented. The EPM will go to Barcelona, as this was ratified by acclamation. Then the location for the Spring Agora was presented. It was going to be held in Yerevan. At the moment the Chair team spoke the words “If there are no objections, we are going to ratify this by acclamation.” someone raised his hand. Because of the political situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, people from Azerbaijan were worried whether they would be able to enter, whether they would be safe in Armenia and whether they would be able to return to their home country. And when the discussion was already very heated, AEGEE-Moskva came to the stage. They said that they were the other antenna that had applied for the Agora and they said that the main organizer of the Spring Agora Yerevan had been in their core team. They said that this was a form of espionage, making the situation even more complicated. As it was too hard to make a well-informed decision at that moment and because we had to leave the plenary hall, they moved the discussion and the closure of the Agora to the morning after. Even though there was a European Night that night, we had to go to another plenary, this time at 8am instead of 9am…

But yes, the European Night! The night that everyone looks forward too. Getting to try lots of food from different countries and, maybe even more important, lots of drinks! Unfortunately I cannot write a lot here. I asked other members of AEGEE-Groningen, but for some reason we all hardly remember anything of the night. We do recall the Goldstrike on the Dutch table being finished in a matter of minutes. Also, the Italians were back with their drink ‘Il Fuoco Dell’Etna’, which translates to The Fire of the Etna. It is a 70% strong liquor, they pour it in your mouth after you kneel and right before you can swallow, they light it on fire! Scary at first, but as they told me in their legend: “You kneel as a boy, but you will rise as a man!” These are the last words everyone of us remembers from that night…

Sunday: day 5

“Wake up! Are you a delegate?!” is how this morning started. The local organizers woke up everyone individually, asking them whether they are a delegate. As we had the morning plenary at 8am, this was the hardest morning to wake up. But delegates had to be there, so there was no escaping.

We continued the discussion from yesterday and things started to become clear, as the discussion was more controlled. Every side had their say and then we could vote about having the Spring Agora in Yerevan using a roll call. Charley had to yell out loud “8 votes, 8 votes in favour”. In the end, the voting passed and the Spring Agora 2020 will indeed be held in Yerevan. Then, the results of the other vote  were announced, all proposals had passed. If you want a more detailed description about all the votes , you can have a look at the European News Flash. This was sent to all members of AEGEE-Groningen through email. In the end, the Agora was officially closed.

There were a few more meetings. First a meeting about strategic planning, which discussed topics for the Strategic Planning Meeting this month in Cologne, hosted by AEGEE-Köln. There was also a meeting between members of the Network Commission with the locals. I did not get to go there, as I was representing AEGEE-Groningen and our Summer University at the AEGEE Fair to do some promotion.

Then there was the the chance to let our inner superheroes out during the Superhero Party! As I had my flight early next morning, I kept on partying until I had to catch my plane. Although I was very tired from the Agora, it was a fantastic week of meeting old and new friends, with lots of interesting contents as well. I cannot wait until the next Agora, see you at Autumn Agora Salerno!

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