YAGE Team at UNESCO
The Youth Association for a Greater Europe (YAGE) is an organisation created in 2012 to foster relations between youth from the EU, CIS countries and the Balkans in the context of cultural exchange. This initiative is the first of its kind in the European context. Headed by Lara Kaute, the association supports projects where youth from the region work and collaborate together. It counts more than 30 full-time members based in France, Germany, Russia, Moldova, the United Kingdom and more.
In addition to organising conferences throughout the year and inviting researchers and speakers from a large spectrum of areas of study, the Association organises a week-long Forum between the 28th of July and the 3rd of August. This year, we are having more than 200 participants that are looking on ways to resolve the issues affecting the youth of the EU, CIS and the Balkans. This forum represents an unique opportunity for networking and creating projects together. These projects can take various forms, such as the Think Tank of the Youth Association for a Greater Europe, which aims to inform youth and to provide answers to the continental challenges that we all face. Culture is also represented by the project “The Journey of a Book” which proposes youth from across the continent to contribute with short-stories about their countries to a book which will later be transformed into a short-film.
Noticing that there are not enough programs to help youth from the EU, CIS and the Balkans to meet up, the Youth Association for a Greater Europe decided to take action. With the support of international and institutional organisations such as the Council of Europe, the French National Assembly and Senate, the Embassy of the Russian Federation and the private sector (“Dialogue Franco-Russe”), it was possible to create such an opportunity.
This initiative is taking place as a vanguard of the potential future policies that the countries of the EU and CIS could develop in particular in regard to higher education. The EU has created an amazing project with the Erasmus program for its member states. It also created a comparable project for the countries which are outside of the Erasmus space with the Erasmus Mundus Program. However, this program often puts a strong financial pressure on the students that wish to participate. The Erasmus Mundus program is also designed to bring students to the EU and offers less possibilities for EU students to study outside of the Erasmus Space. An extension of Erasmus to the countries members of the Council of Europe and the CIS would have the effect of encouraging youth from across the continent to travel beyond the scope of the EU. The EU is arriving to the limits of its enlargement. It is high time we decided to create programs which provide the advantages of a Common Higher Education Area with countries which are not destined to join the EU. This potential program created by the members states of the EU and the CIS will require the cooperation of governments through international organisations. The Council of Europe worked to create and develop common educational areas in the regions it covers. However, the Council of Europe is also an organisation working on political relations between states. Due to this, the role of the Council of Europe on education and culture can be disturbed by political tensions in the organisation, like the recent events which took place in Ukraine.
This could open the way for UNESCO as an International Organization working on Culture and Education, however there were also restrictions in UNESCO after it recognized the Palestinian Authority as a member of the organisation. Too often, education and culture are victims of the conflictual politics of states.
A common approach to the development of common area of higher education should also be represented by the opportunity to give the means to education to not be dependent on tuition fees paid by students alone. The development of Massive Open Online Courses is presented as a cheap alternative to courses carried out in the classroom. However, they do not provide the opportunity to exchange ideas and so not include the common development that a classroom with students can. Often, new ideas are the result of the meetings of individuals with different ideas and backgrounds. The current policy of introducing high tuition fees and to cut financial support for students is affecting the opportunities of such exchange. In the EU, there is a huge gap between tuition fees paid by university students. Countries, such as the United Kingdom, rely on their international reputation to attract students, despite the highest tuition fees in the EU. Emerging countries have well understood that by attracting foreign students to their universities will allow them to shape future international relations. When, their courses will be comparable to the ones in the European continent and if they maintain low tuition fees, students from across the world will move to these emerging countries to enjoy a good education in an economically growing state.
The countries of the EU, CIS and the Balkans need to work together to create a common higher education area which will be able to provide education without high tuition fees to the youth of the world. This common project is of utmost necessity in order to unite youth in these times of tension on the European continent. This is a common project the Youth Association for a Greater Europe aims to make real.
Article written by Alejandro Marx, Public Relations Coordinator of the Youth Association for a Greater Europe. Alejandro Marx previously lived in Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Denmark and France while working for agencies of the OSCE and the EU.