Bringing the East closer

People do not have equal opportunities in Europe. Young people cannot participate in the European events simply because of the visa border, resulting in frequent rejections. They cannot take part in European educational programmes because of limited places and there are still frozen conflicts and closed borders…

Some areas in Europe still suffer from exclusion in many different aspects and this impedes the creation of a common, European-wide society in which borders are not barriers.

The Eastern Partnership (EAP) is a project initiated by the European Union to strengthen relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Among the main fields of cooperation are the reinforcement of common values (human rights, democracy, rule of law), the improvement of economic relations, and the perspective of creating a visa-free area in the future. The Eastern Partnership was inaugurated in Prague on 7 May, 2009.

Taking into account the limited opportunities of young people in the mentioned countries and considering that the efforts of the European Union do not sufficiently target these limitations of young people, we think that AEGEE-Europe as the European Students’ Forum should make a case for the inclusion of young people from the East – especially since they are already part of the AEGEE network.

So the objectives of the programme are to raise awareness, in both EU member states and in EAP countries, on the limitations and problems young people have, prepare position

papers proposing concrete solutions for the future, promote active participation of young people, and encourage them to take action.

The activities will be structured according to three main pillars which are identified to be among the most important issues for young people in EAP countries:

Education – Education is a national competence of each country. The Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area in which students can choose from a wide and transparent range of high quality courses and benefit from smooth recognition

procedures. The Bologna Process is already being implemented in EAP countries, but is the current status of implementation satisfactory? Does this give an opportunity for students from EAP countries to participate in European Student Exchange Programs without any problem? On the other hand, are European Exchange Programs visible and accessible enough for students from EAP countries? What about the powerful tool called non-formal education? Is it recognised in these countries? This is a row of questions which this pillar will be addressing and, together with the stakeholders, this project tries to find possible solutions.

Active Citizenship – 
The state of development of the Civil Society in each country seems to be directly interconnected with the level of freedom in each country. Some of the EAP countries have already made a significant step forward. Nevertheless, there is still a huge margin for improvement. We want to promote the idea of active citizenship and the responsibility of youth towards society, promoting cooperation in this field and stimulating visa facilitation for active youth, resulting in following objectives:Conflict Resolution – There are still frozen conflicts in the Caucasus region. Furthermore, the interaction stage between young people from conflicting countries is very low. The aim of this pillar is to bringing young people from conflict zones together and try to understand the other side. That is why several actions, such as cultural exchange projects, are planned in order to promote mutual understanding and peace. Multiplying the results of such meetings will allow the growing generation to influence the society in the near future and prevent further conflicts with an ethnical background from rising.

The row of the objectives already shows how much work is to be done. A big team of enthusiastic and motivated members was recently formed who are ready to welcome these challenges. After long online meetings the concept of the project is finally developed and the project will have its first outcomes soon.

We should strive for eliminating obstacles, involving every young person in Europe on equal terms, but also in a wider perspective, building a common Europe.

Written by Shushan Khachatryan, AEGEE Yerevan

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