Commentary by Bart Kruitwagen
President of Gefira
Probably few people heard about AEGEE, European students’ Forum. In 1985 it was founded by Franck Biancheri, who by the way is also the co-founder of GEFIRA. He had the brilliant idea to build a trans-European organization without national levels, thus students had to think and organize themselves in a total different way. AEGEE was from the beginning extremely successful and soon reached 10.000 members throughout Europe. I was proud to be a member of its Board of Directors alongside Franck, who became my good friend up until his death in 2012. We were and always would be strong believers in a united Europe but for sure were always very mistrustful of the EU.
In the first years we obtained the support of all great European leaders like President Mitterrand of France, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and many others. They listened to our suggestions and demands and so the Erasmus project came to life. A program that changed profoundly the way students looked at Europe and fellow Europeans and probably is the best program for European integration to date.
After we left the Board in 1988 things rapidly changed. The organization turned from an extrovert one with a lot of media coverage in important newspapers like ‘Le Monde’, ‘Volkskrant’, ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine’ and many others into a introvert organization, basically a student travel club with no content and no vision. The misconception was that AEGEE thought that they should be non-political and have no opinion whatsoever, That was never Biancheri’s intention. He wanted AEGEE to be political but just not affiliated to left or right. The result was that nobody cared about AEGEE anymore, accept the party animals.
A very important point that Franck made was never to move the headquarter to Brussels, because he feared that it would make it vulnerable to the EU tentacles. Well, guess what happened? Yes, they went to Brussels and ended up to be a de facto EU youth organization, dependent on its subventions and sponsorship of the Central European University financed by Soros.
If you go to the AEGEE website you will see the logo of the EU everywhere and it is states there that AEGEE helps the EU to communicate with the youth and so the EU can pretend to reckon with their opinion. So the EU pays them e.g. money for a survey to investigate among the students if the European Citizens Initiative would be a good idea. Well, the outcome is predictable, but interestingly you see the number of respondents in the survey is a mere 124 in a organization with supposedly 13.000 members!
From the feedback we obtained from insiders it seems that the number of members is much lower than they claim. Many Local AEGEE’s hardly function and others let people remain on membership lists although they never paid and no subsequent contributions were ever transferred to AEGEE-Europe in Brussels. We estimate the realistic membership number at around 7000. AEGEE uses the same rigged membership statistics for years in a row. We asked AEGEE-Europe for official figures, but they didn’t respond.
AEGEE receives subventions for their EuroArab cultural exchange program. You can hardly believe it but they actually fly in Arabs from Egypt and other places to learn from them. It seems that those naive students never go outdoors in Brussels, where they could work on mutual understanding all day.
So there are various EU programs that they have to get involved in in order to get enough subventions to keep their expensive office and paid advisers. The EU is happy with with such loyal groupies from which they can draw another generation of obedient civil servants. So the Brussels bubble stays alive, alienated from the rest of Europe.
We, as AEGEE Board, wished the internal borders within the EU would disappear but at the same time outside borders would remain strong. Nowadays the AEGEE vision of borders comes directly from the Soros Bible.
Gefira published a movie proving that there was human trafficking going on in the Mediterranean Sea. This video went viral.
AEGEE, now pushed by their benefactors published the following statement on their website:
Below the statement they sent us by e-mail:
Reaction from Gefira to AEGEE-Europe:
STATEMENT ON AEGEE
The Board of Gefira, the organization which played an important if not crucial role in the first years of the development of AEGEE (European Student’ Forum) announces herewith that it distances itself from present day AEGEE.
Franck Biancheri founded AEGEE in 1985 as an politically independent but engaged European student organization. From the start he defined a few issues that would be crucial for the further growth of the organization.
– Multi cultural in the sense that the particularities of the different European countries would be kept upright. For him it meant primarily to be multi-lingual. From the beginning French and English would be the official languages in the hope that technology would soon make the use of more languages affordable. For AEGEE-Europe events also the local language would be used. For that reason all conferences had to have simultaneous translations. Unfortunately, we see that in present day AEGEE an Anglo-Saxon mono-culture has emerged. As a consequence we see stagnation if not absence of AEGEE from different countries.
– Never move your headquarters to Brussels. Being so close to the power center would corrupt the organization and make it no longer independent. In fact that has happened nowadays. AEGEE has become nearly completely dependent on subventions from the EU. So, critical and academic thinking is out of the question, which is bizarre for a student organization and may explain the marginal role AEGEE plays nowadays among students and society. The AEGEE Board’s main ambition is to play the role of mini civil servants, looking up and panting toward their masters. The various antennae we spoke with see that the European Board is hardly interested in the locals and just focuses on promoting EU-programs.
– Being politically not affiliated but engaged. Franck’s idea was to create a large student organization which would also have political influence. In this way we pushed the Erasmus project further. Nowadays AEGEE sells its position to the highest bidder. At the moment this is the EU. Second sponsor we see on your website is the Central European University, which also follows a political agenda. This university pursues a clear political goal; Open Society. Its enemies are national borders! AEGEE doesn’t seem to understand it also means no borders around Europe. So basically NO Europe!
Around 2005 the Turkish government was the main sponsor of AEGEE. No wonder that although within AEGEE there was no discussion about Turkish EU-membership, the public statements of the Turkish president of AEGEE urged the politicians to quickly accept Turkey as EU member. Franck and I were witness to this during the 20th Anniversary of AEGEE in Prague.
All the aforementioned issues made AEGEE a marginal organization with a very disappointing number of members and an extremely slow growth. While the estimated number of members was about 10.000 in 1988, the present claimed number is 13.000. That means an annual growth of 100 members per year over 30 years!!
If we look at the number of academic students in Europe the number is about 19 million. So fewer than 0,07% is AEGEE member. A small investigation within the network revealed that nobody even believes that number of 13.000. After 30 years of existence 100.000 members would be the least we should expect. AEGEE seems a failed organization.