BRUSSELS – Elisabeth Gehrke, Chairperson of the European Students’ Union (ESU), explains her priorities and upcoming work at the start of her mandate in a letter to all readers of the Student Voice.
I am very happy to be able to write to you directly. I know that there are thousands of you that read our newsletter and for that we are very grateful. I would like to especially thank those of you who reach to us about the topics we cover by calling, emailing or tweeting. We are big believers in having a dialogue with everyone in the sector and we are glad that our newsletter can play a role in that.
I want to take this opportunity to say a few words. At this time the future of higher education policy in Europe is in flux. The influence of the European Union over education policies is widening and the future of the Bologna Process is uncertain. This also brings new challenges for ESU as an organisation and the student movement as a whole. ESU’s growth and development has often matched that of the European policy structures, and I would say it is not a coincidence that our recent move to a new office has put us closer to the European institutions.
At the same time there are larger issues knocking on the door in Europe. We are facing the reality that the European Commission will be even less representative than the former constellation. This is to say the least unfortunate at a time when skepticism towards the European project is growing. All organisations, especially those of us operating at the European level, will have the responsibility to engage in this dialogue about the Europe we want.
I spent my first days in office on the Swedish island of Gotland for the political week Almedalen. The week-long event is a testament of democracy. It is amazing to be able to bring political parties, the media, NGOs, pr-firms and many others to the same place for those discussions. What was horrifying, however, was the presence of not only an every growing nationalist party as well as two neo-nazi organisations. Their presence was larger than ever and extremely threatening. Not just to the democratic nature of the meeting but to my colleagues and friends who are people of colour, especially if they speak out. This was not a unique incident, but more like a microcosm of the situation we are facing in Europe today. We cannot ignore this situation.
ESU will continue to be a strong voice for students and experts in the field of higher education. Our vision is for equal educational and social opportunities in an open and democratic Europe where students shape a sustainable future.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.