At 16.00 today, a group of students will hold a demonstration by the statue of Minckeleers (holding a burning torch) at the Markt to call for a democratic and free Belarus. “It’s a country where you end up in prison because of such a demonstration”, says Vincent Venus (21), a second-year German student of European Studies. “Along with Maastricht, 70 cities will join the protest.”
So who organised it? ‘Jef’, also known as the Young European Federalists. The group is described on its website as “A pan-European network of enthusiastic and dynamic young people who profoundly believe that Europe is our future and who commit themselves to make it an even better place to live in”.
“The German Jef branch, of which I’m a board member, was founded after WWII to eradicate nationalism”, says Venus. “Since then, this non-profit organisation has spread all over Europe and counts 30,000 members in 30 countries.”
Including Kosovo and Albania, but not the Netherlands. Until two weeks ago, that is. On 4 December, Venus participated in the founding assembly of Jef Netherlands in The Hague. “We defend European values like freedom of speech and gender equality, and call for a strong and democratic Europe. We organise regular street actions but also international workshops on practical as well as theoretical topics, varying from campaigning with social media or the philosophy of federalism. Last week, there was a workshop in Frankfurt, on the future of the euro.”