At our University, there are many active student organizations specializing in everything – from sports to social debates to religious communities. Today, our blogger Tristan sits down with Clara Bleileven, the President of the local chapter of the Young European Fereralists (otherwise known as JEF). The organization promotes the ideas of European integration and is active in almost all European countries. The Maastricht chapter is also active as a student organization. Clara and Tristan discuss the organization and the way students can be active in it.
When you first joined JEF Maastricht, what were your expectations? What surprised you the most?
I joined JEF Maastricht pretty recently, in May 2020. Before I moved to Maastricht in February 2020, I was engaged in the official campaigns of the European Parliament in Germany. The great thing about JEF is that you can quickly assume responsibility if you want to become actively engaged in shaping the European future in a cross-partisan democratic association.
JEF is obviously French for Young European Federalists. What is the main focus of JEF’s day-to-day activities in Maastricht?
We offer the perfect combination of social and political events where we discuss current subjects of European matter, inform about the European political structure and decisions, or just have game nights with drinks and pizza.
How does JEF Maastricht engage in the local community?
Mostly, we’re partnering with other local organisations and organise events or marches together. This is how we strive to make our voices heard more loudly in matters and movements that affect all of us, e.g. climate action, universal legal equality or women empowerment.
How does JEF Maastricht cooperate with some other local organizations?
We have a lot of common values with other Maastricht organisations and local groups of various international associations, especially in the field of democracy, freedom, and solidarity. Also, we love to cooperate with other JEF sections nationally (e.g. Enschede) and internationally (e.g. in Germany or Italy) to make our events even more interesting and diverse!
What is the kind of person/student that might be interested in joining JEF Maastricht?
JEF Maastricht is a place for diversity, discussion and fun. We are happy about members of any faculty/field of studies and are excited to get to know everyone’s perspectives and most urgent topics. Also, no previous political engagement or knowledge is needed. We look forward to enlightening ourselves together about the great European Union we live in!
Since JEF Maastricht is a student organization, is there any way for a local resident (who is not a student) also engage in your work?
We offer a variety of events, most of which are open to everyone, member or not, to participate and get to know JEF Maastricht better. We are always happy to welcome new people! Just follow our social media channels (IG: jefmaastricht and facebook: JEF Maastricht) where we keep you posted about all possibilities to get to know us!
How did the ongoing pandemic affect your organization’s plans?
Like many organisations, the pandemic has prompted us to find possibilities to engage with our members remotely. With the great support and understanding of our members, we were still able to socialise and discuss current political issues. Most worrying for us is that it is becoming more and more difficult to get our voices heard at real-life events like demonstrations, in order to emphasize the urgency of preparing our European way of life with and after the pandemic.
What are some of the events/activities that you are planning in the coming time?
For the beginning of the new semester we are planning several social events outdoors to make new friends, to get to know the association and its structure with political engagement and social aspects better and simply to have a good time. We’re excited to get to know everyone!