28.03.2011
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Speech ESC21 opening

Dear Mr Vice-Mayor of the city of Budapest,

Dear Mr President of the National Union of Students in Hungary,
Dear members and associates of the European Students’ Union,
Honourable speakers,
Dear friends,

 
On behalf of the elected representatives and staff of the European Students’ Union I wish you all a very warm welcome to Budapest.  It is in this city that on October 23rd 1956 thousands of students marched to the Parliament building and started the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It was the start of a savage and deadly fight against soviet troops, but also a first of many cracks to follow in the concrete walls of communism.  On that same day, 33 years later, the students that survived the uprising in 1956 were able to witness the declaration of their Republic of Hungary, which welcomes us today as host for this European Students’ Convention and as Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Students have been on the forefront in many revolutions worldwide, the latest example being Egypt and students will stay on the forefront in our societies. For they are the ones in society that have the purest voice, free from prejudice, free from corruption, full of honesty. This voice has also given us a place around the table in the Bologna Process and its Ministerial conferences and Follow-Up groups. This voice deserves a place in each and every national governing body for higher education and in each and every university and college.

As a final stage of our European Commission funded project ‘Enhancing the Students’ Contribution to the Bologna Process Implementation’, maybe better known by you as the ESCBI project, we are gathered here to assess the current status of our participation as students in governance of higher education.  We will discuss what the European Students’ Union is seeing and doing at the European level, but we also want to map how involved all of you are in your respective national and institutional context.

Although in the vast majority of our countries, our predecessors have established students’ participation in governance of higher education structures, we should never take this right for granted.  What we have witnessed in Romania and in Greece recently, but also with the recently proposed higher education law in Hungary, shows us that even in times of well-established rights for students’ participation, we need to defend our place around the table time after time.

It is therefore an opportunity, here, in Budapest, at a gathering of more than one hundred student representatives from 33 different countries, to send a strong signal to safeguard these rights to free and democratic student participation in national legislation, and to establish them when they do not yet exist.

A special welcome here today goes to our friends from Turkey, Armenia, Moldova and Belarus who were able to attend the convention as well.
We are first of all happy to see our friends from Turkey, Armenia and Moldova, three student movements interested in the European project, marked by their own national work for student participation, that will give us 3 totally different perspectives than the ones we know from the ESU membership.

And of course, on behalf of all of us here at the European Students’ Union, I want to welcome our friends from StudRada from what is often called “the last dictatorship of Europe”: Belarus.  On December 19th 2010 hundreds of students protested on the Independence Square in Minsk, among them also Dima and Liza who are here with us today.  Although the election of Lukashenko has been declared fraudulent by the OSCE-observers, the regime was not overthrown and all students that were protesting in Independence square that day, were followed and interrogated.

At the moment we know of 8 students that are expelled from their universities, because of their participation in the protests and despite the immediate action of the European Students’ Union, its member unions, and later on the Ministers of Higher Education of the European Higher Education Area.  Liza and Dima fled the country because of the pressure put on them by the regime.

The Belarus case has shown us that there have not been enough of these so-called colour revolutions yet to liberate all students from undemocratic oppression and to allow them to speak out loud for their rights as active citizens.  During the next days we get a chance to hear the story of Dima and Liza, a story that will motivate us to extend/ express? our most sincere solidarity to those students that are not yet fighting for equal participation in governance of higher education, but for their basic human freedoms of speech and association.

Their story should remind us very clearly of what our tasks are, this week and throughout the year: to promote and defend students’ rights, also and even more so where you are not allowed to do so.

And now it is time for me to stop talking about history; it is time for you to start making some new history yourselves.  But before I end I want to thank, on behalf of all of us here, our hospitable friends from the Hungarian National Union of Students, HÖOK, and more in particular its president David Nagy, and the hard working ESC21 organising team that kept all of us clustered to the ESC facebook page, with their daily updates and funny facts, and that has planned an unforgettable stay for us.

Furthermore we are very grateful for the support of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of tDear Mr Vice-Mayor of the city of Budapest,
Dear Mr President of the National Union of Students in Hungary,
Dear members and associates of the European Students’ Union,
Honourable speakers,
Dear friends,

On behalf of the elected representatives and staff of the European Students’ Union I wish you all a very warm welcome to Budapest.  It is in this city that on October 23rd 1956 thousands of students marched to the Parliament building and started the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It was the start of a savage and deadly fight against soviet troops, but also a first of many cracks to follow in the concrete walls of communism.  On that same day, 33 years later, the students that survived the uprising in 1956 were able to witness the declaration of their Republic of Hungary, which welcomes us today as host for this European Students’ Convention and as Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Students have been on the forefront in many revolutions worldwide, the latest example being Egypt and students will stay on the forefront in our societies. For they are the ones in society that have the purest voice, free from prejudice, free from corruption, full of honesty. This voice has also given us a place around the table in the Bologna Process and its Ministerial conferences and Follow-Up groups. This voice deserves a place in each and every national governing body for higher education and in each and every university and college.

As a final stage of our European Commission funded project ‘Enhancing the Students’ Contribution to the Bologna Process Implementation’, maybe better known by you as the ESCBI project, we are gathered here to assess the current status of our participation as students in governance of higher education.  We will discuss what the European Students’ Union is seeing and doing at the European level, but we also want to map how involved all of you are in your respective national and institutional context.

Although in the vast majority of our countries, our predecessors have established students’ participation in governance of higher education structures, we should never take this right for granted.  What we have witnessed in Romania and in Greece recently, but also with the recently proposed higher education law in Hungary, shows us that even in times of well-established rights for students’ participation, we need to defend our place around the table time after time.

It is therefore an opportunity, here, in Budapest, at a gathering of more than one hundred student representatives from 33 different countries, to send a strong signal to safeguard these rights to free and democratic student participation in national legislation, and to establish them when they do not yet exist.

A special welcome here today goes to our friends from Turkey, Armenia, Moldova and Belarus who were able to attend the convention as well.
We are first of all happy to see our friends from Turkey, Armenia and Moldova, three student movements interested in the European project, marked by their own national work for student participation, that will give us 3 totally different perspectives than the ones we know from the ESU membership.

And of course, on behalf of all of us here at the European Students’ Union, I want to welcome our friends from StudRada from what is often called “the last dictatorship of Europe”: Belarus.  On December 19th 2010 hundreds of students protested on the Independence Square in Minsk, among them also Dima and Liza who are here with us today.  Although the election of Lukashenko has been declared fraudulent by the OSCE-observers, the regime was not overthrown and all students that were protesting in Independence square that day, were followed and interrogated.

At the moment we know of 8 students that are expelled from their universities, because of their participation in the protests and despite the immediate action of the European Students’ Union, its member unions, and later on the Ministers of Higher Education of the European Higher Education Area.  Liza and Dima fled the country because of the pressure put on them by the regime.

The Belarus case has shown us that there have not been enough of these so-called colour revolutions yet to liberate all students from undemocratic oppression and to allow them to speak out loud for their rights as active citizens.  During the next days we get a chance to hear the story of Dima and Liza, a story that will motivate us to extend/ express? our most sincere solidarity to those students that are not yet fighting for equal participation in governance of higher education, but for their basic human freedoms of speech and association.

Their story should remind us very clearly of what our tasks are, this week and throughout the year: to promote and defend students’ rights, also and even more so where you are not allowed to do so.

And now it is time for me to stop talking about history; it is time for you to start making some new history yourselves.  But before I end I want to thank, on behalf of all of us here, our hospitable friends from the Hungarian National Union of Students, HÖOK, and more in particular its president David Nagy, and the hard working ESC21 organising team that kept all of us clustered to the ESC facebook page, with their daily updates and funny facts, and that has planned an unforgettable stay for us.

Furthermore we are very grateful for the support of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the patronage of this event by Mr Pál Schmitt, President of the Republic of Hungary. We would like to thank the city of Budapest for allowing us to open our European Students’ Convention here in the city hall, but also simply for being such a wonderful city that will charm all of us during the evenings we have planned.  Thank you also to the Corvinus University and the Budapest Technical University, that both offer their accommodation for the continuation of this event.

I want to end in my best Hungarian with the following local saying: “Minden csoda három napig tart”.  Although it probably has a deeper ground than the one I am using it for right now, it means “Every miracle lasts only three days”. A clear message to enjoy this 3-day miracle of hospitality and to go home afterwards and work hard for what is not a miracle, but a right, our right to democracy and students’ participation!

The European Union, and the patronage of this event by Mr Pál Schmitt, President of the Republic of Hungary. We would like to thank the city of Budapest for allowing us to open our European Students’ Convention here in the city hall, but also simply for being such a wonderful city that will charm all of us during the evenings we have planned.  Thank you also to the Corvinus University and the Budapest Technical University, that both offer their accommodation for the continuation of this event.

I want to end in my best Hungarian with the following local saying: “Minden csoda három napig tart”.  Although it probably has a deeper ground than the one I am using it for right now, it means “Every miracle lasts only three days”. A clear message to enjoy this 3-day miracle of hospitality and to go home afterwards and work hard for what is not a miracle, but a right, our right to democracy and students’ participation!

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