Author: Martin Valachovic
“Congratulations! It is our pleasure to inform you that your application for the European Forum of Students for Legality is accepted!”, was another one of the happy emails that can cheer you up and make your day all happy again.
But what is the forum really about? What are we going to do there besides spending (probably) some nice time together in Italy, networking and getting to know each other? Initial forum information mentioned something about the students declaration for legality or something like that (don’t worry, I wasn’t the only wondering what this exactly meant). One usually has this kind of doubts before forums of this kind.
That’s how our story begins.
Snowy morning, airport strikes, missed flights, changed airplanes, meeting strangers on the long bus journey, struggling through the streets of Turin. And here we are. Seeing a lot of young faces of different nationalities was a good sign. We made it! I mean, most of us made it till the first day and the rest arrived safely later.
Choosing Turin wasn’t a coincidence.
It was not neither because of the nice landscape, great football team, nor because of the largest square in Europe without any sculptures. Our meeting point had 2 other sides. Turin was 2010 European youth capital city, as well as the place where FLARE´s (Freedom, Legality and Rights in Europe) headquarters was sited.
FLARE is the first European network of civil society committed to the social struggle against transnational organized crime and the main organizer of this event.
Let me tell you now, what was going to happen there.
This small community of 30 young highly motivated and initiative students, all part of youth movements in their home countries, coming from 22 different European countries (please note that I am not referring to the European Union, but Europe as a continent) were brought to Turin for three days, with the aim of creating a strong community pursuing their student rights. This was supposed to be done at a later stage, as a follow-up, based on international tool for advocacy, which we were about to produce.
High expectations, doubts about the real results.
That’s what most of us claimed after the first day of introductions and presentations. Not a great mood to start off. Therefore there were these two wonderful , with energy loaded organizers from the FLARE network, Nina and Sarah, who I must say were the real engine pulling us away from negative thoughts.
The weather is how we create it.
– is one of my favorite life quotes proving to be right, especially in this case.
It all depends on you guys! If you want it, go and get it.
Together we are stronger!
-that was their slogan. They knew we wanted it.
And you wonder what the result was?
The three days were overfilled with really hard work full of discussions, sharing experiences from different countries we were representing (ranging from far east Georgia and Russia all the way to the UK and Spain), listening to and learning from brilliant speakers sharing their sometimes breath taking real-life experiences, such as Michele Curto (the president of FLARE), students from the students’ organizations at the University of Turin UniLIbera and Studenti Indipendenti about the current situation at their university, Milan Stefanovic and his participation in the student movement against Milosevic, and last but not least, Andrea Spagnolo regarding legality from the international criminal law point of view.
From all the activities you can say how full the schedule was, and of course don’t forget to add the Italian 30-minute coffee breaks (which even non-coffee drinkers always enjoy in some way), quick fun team activities to push the tiredness away, evening meeting and acknowledgement for the Mayor of Turin and the delicious Italian cuisine fully enjoyed during lunches and evenings’ aperitivos, as the Italians call it.
We took everything step by step, piece by piece, split into smaller groups to make the discussions more effective, put our brains together, argued and compromised, were serious and laughed, being critical and creative, finally we came up with lot of ideas in four different areas: Participation/Justice/Culture/Transparency. Final step was to put everything together, tighten what needed to be tightened and before we said our last words, there it was. We all could proudly say, that
We, students of the European Forum for Legality originating from all over Europe, collectively in one voice stand for respect, protection and fulfillment of the general principles of legality within Higher Education Institutions. Therefore with this declaration we state the following principals, demands and commitments for Participation, Justice, Transparency and Culture in the universities…
And that’s the day the declaration of European Students for Legality was born, all doubts were swept away and with the good feeling of hard work being done, we were finally ready for our last tasty aperitivo in Turin.
That wasn’t the end.
The next 2 days were planned for a trip to Brussels, “the capital” of the European Union, and see how FLARE operates on European level. As December 9 is the global Anti-Corruption Day and December 10, International Human Rights Day, we had the privilege to join the discussion and presentations in the European Parliament. The great success is that our declaration was mentioned there as well.
And what’s next?
Now we will all distribute the declaration at our universities, communities and student organizations, present it and let also YOU know, what the youth of 22 European countries stands for, demands and will fight for.
Lesson learned: We DO believe in change. That kept our minds focused and ready to make the first step. Let this article be a motivation for many others to participate and create our future.
Make the change happen! It is your time!