Report on the ENAM Conference in Georgia

13/06/2017 / usalumni / Activities, News, Sharing

U.S. Government Exchange Program Alumni Association of Georgia (EPAG) hosted the 10th conference of the European Network of American Alumni Associations (ENAM) in Tbilisi, Georgia, on June 2-4, 2017. The ENAM conference brought together leaders of European associations of U.S. government-sponsored exchange program alumni, where 10 countries were represented by their alumni delegates, as follows:

  • Georgia: U.S. Government Exchange Program Alumni Association of Georgia (EPAG)

  • Azerbaijan: The US-Educated Azerbaijani Alumni Association

  • Greece: Hellenic US Alumni Association

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: US Alumni Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina, represented by Jasenka Orman-Komljenovic, Executive Board member

  • France: France Fulbright Association

  • Hungary: Hungarian Fulbright Alumni Association

  • Austria: Fubright Alumnus Austria

  • Russia: Muskie Club Russia

  • Italy: L’Associazione Amerigo

  • United States of America: US Embassy in Georgia

The topic of the conference was ‘the Brave New Europe’ aimed at finding innovative solutions to the challenges facing the region of Eastern Europe. The conference was divided into five main panels:

  1. US commitment to young democracies

  2. The role of propaganda in forming the New Reality

  3. Europe in Making

  4. Migration, Security and Human Rights

  5. ENAM internal session

Welcoming remarks were given by the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, H.E. Ian C. Kelly, stressing the importance of building likeminded networks, and support of United States of America in building a democratic society in Georgia.

Mr. Massimo Cugusi, ENAM Secretary General presented the one-year overview of ENAM and its activities, bringing together 56 alumni organizations of exchange programs funded by United States Government in 34 countries.

David Shervashidze, Chairman of the Board from the US Government Exchange Program Alumni Association of Georgia (EPAG), gave opening remarks as well, thanking all conference members for bringing their expertise to this gathering.

  • Panel: US commitment to young democracies

Moderator was David Shervashidze, Board Chair of EPAG, while guest speakers were: Courtney Austrian, Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Tbilisi; Ambassador Tedo Japaridze, Foreign Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister of Georgia, and David Usupashvili, Former Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Muskie alumnus.

Conclusion: We have to support work of independent institutions because they are hands of democracy in each country (we have good example in US).

  • Panel: The role of propaganda in forming the New Reality

Moderator was Nino Bolkvadze, Director of Information Center on NATO and EU, while guest speakers were: Natalia Antelava, CEO and Editor-in Chief at Disinformation Crisis; Tamar Kintsurashvili, Chair of Media Development Foundation (MDF) and Nodar Tangiashvili, Public Policy and Accountability Adviser, East-West Management Institute.

Conclusion: Good examples can be seen in propaganda messages during the conflict between Russia and Ukraine (what was reported vs. what was really happening). Propaganda is a soft power that can impose a real threat.

  • Panel: Europe in making

Moderator was Kornely Kakachia, PhD., Director of Georgian Institute of Politics, IREX contemporary issues program, while guest speakers were: Tamar Khulordava, Chair of the Committee On European Integration of the Parliament of Georgia, FLEX alumna; Julien Vick, Clean Water Act President, Fulbright Alumnus, France and Gyorgy Kovacs, Lecturer of EU LAW at CEU, Hungary.

Conclusion: Treaty of Rome just had its 60th anniversary. Benefits of EU are among many things its security and welfare. As population rises, its risks can be seen through politics. French elections are good example how independent candidates (as Macron) can win over traditional parties.

  • Panel: Migration, Security and Human Rights

Moderator was Vano Chkhikvadze, EU Integration Program Manager at Open Society Foundation (OSGF), while guest speakers were: Marc Hulst, Program Coordinator, IOM Mission to Georgia; Lothar Hoffman, Attorney at Law, Fulbright alumnus, Austria and Nino Ghvinadze, Data Analyst at the Secretariat of the State Commission on Migration Issues (SCMI), Public Service Development Agency (PSDA).

Conclusion: There is an open question what is the future for Syrian refugees in Turkey (will they return home or migrate to Europe further). Migrants are not the same as refugees, these two terms are quite different. Role of civil society is crucial in accepting refugees into each country.

  • Panel: ENAM internal session

Co-moderators were Massimo Cugusi and David Shervashidze. In this final panel ENAM delegates and the EPAG Board discussed organizational plans, shared most recent successes and regional project planning. Addressed topics were:

  • Membership fee: some countries decide to have no membership fee (Azerbaijan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), while following countries charge membership fee (Greece: 80 EUR, Italy: 50 EUR, France: 50 EUR). Countries that charge fee organize free events for their members that include dinner and drinks (such as Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinners, etc.). Decision on membership fee is up to each alumni society.

  • Membership in ENAM: US alumni is a member of ENAM, they just need to update our link on their official web page

  • Activity of alumni associations: all alumni organizations have problems to increase the alumni activity (the Greek alumni organization was inactive for 12 years, and 2 years ago with the help of Massimo Cugusi they elected a new Board and started with activities). Good example is the Italian alumni association “Amerigo” that has 10 years of history and over 400 members in 4 regional chapters (Web site) Advice was to look for people that are committed.

  • Hosting annual conferences: A conference can be hosted once or twice a year. Each conference has to have a topic (last conference in Budapest had a topic of academic mobility, while the conference in Baku had the topic on energy sources). I have emphasized the interest of the US Alumni and the US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina to host a conference soon, and ENAM is very happy and interested in partnering with us in organizing such an event. Funding for this event should come from the alumni organizations, the US Embassy, and also external sponsors (companies, banks etc).

  • Chair of ENAM: Massimo Cugusi is the chair of ENAM, but plans to retire after the next conference. He is the chair of Amerigo and that is very time consuming. He is looking for future leaders of ENAM.

  • Interesting projects:

    1. Media award: project that is successfully being implemented by Amerigo. They give a yearly award to the best journalist, which gives them visibility and is very cost effective for an alumni organization. Now they have opened an award for the best international journalist.

    2. American Chamber of Commerce in Brussels event: there will be one event soon with an interesting topic: EU/US Trade. We can use the knowledge and material from this event and copy it as event in our local alumni associations, as this event can be held in many countries.

    3. PDF magazine: Amerigo has a PDF magazine that is free of charge and easy to put together, this brings great visibility to association. We can do something like this in our alumni associations, to promote all our events and events from all alumni organizations around Europe.

    1. State alumni community: this can always can be a source of good projects from all around the world.

Whenever we organize a local event, we should share it with ENAM and they will promote it on their web site. ENAM is always ready to help and guide all alumni associations.

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Representatives of alumni organizations from Hungary, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and France

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