Ten years almost to the day after the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty by referenda in France and the Netherlands, progressive forces across Europe gathered in Paris last weekend. And, this time, to say “yes” together with the Greeks: “yes to another Europe, a Europe of cooperation and solidarity” as stated by the chairman of the Party of the European Left (EL) Pierre Laurent, and to show that alternatives to austerity and generalised competition do indeed exist.
The decision to hold the first European Forum for Alternatives was made at the last Congress of the EL (Madrid, December 2013). The programme was designed and implemented in partnership with transform! The fundamental objective was to bring together all the components of the European Left, as well as activists from the social movements and trade unionists – in order to discuss concrete alternatives to current EU policies.
A great many topics were addressed in more than thirty workshops and three plenaries: human development in Europe, social and ecological productive transformation, regulation of finance and banking sectors, social economy, migration policy, higher education and research policy, the articulation of social and ecological struggles, precariousness and labour, etc. The list is long, and demonstrates the eagerness of the progressive forces involved in the Forum to pave the way for another Europe.
Beyond this rich diversity, the new political sequence opened up by SYRIZA victory on 25 January was at the core of the discussions. Against the background of the harsh on-going negotiations with the institutions and Greece’s European partners, the issue of European solidarity with the Greek people and its democratic choice to put and end to years of austerity is of utmost importance – and played therefore a central role in the Forum. Many participants from Greece, as well as activists facilitating the mobilisation of the European week of action “Solidarity to Greece – Change Europe” scheduled from 20 to 26 June, took the floor to point out that the so-called Greek question concerns us all. As the Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou put it at the closing plenary, “Europe can either become a Europe of prosperity and a Europe of the peoples, or a Europe of economic totalitarianism that solely believes in economic neo-colonialism”.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that Europe is at a crossroads: either the Institutions and the European partners begin to answer positively to the Greek government’s proposals to come out of the crisis on top – hence breaking the deadlock –, or the EU as whole will face disintegration. “The crux of the matter is that the negotiations are in fact a political confrontation over whether or not it is possible to change the European course”, as Haris Golemis, Legal Representative of transform!, pointed out.
The European Forum for Alternatives achieved its goals – particularly in terms of attendance, with several thousands participants over the weekend, many of whom indicated to be encouraged by the fruitful discussions and ready to take initiatives. It succeeded in creating a space for discussion between progressive political forces from across Europe – including representatives from the Greens (notably with the leader of the French Greens Emmanuelle Cosse), and critical social-democrats –, activists from numerous social movements and citizen initiatives, as well as trade unionists.Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, supported the initiative and the effort to unite forces of different political culture for a better, fairer Europe.
The Forum was an important step towards a more inclusive dialogue between left parties, social movements and trade unions, and was somewhat echoing with the success of citizen platforms at the recent Spanish local elections. Building on that success, the EL and transform! intend of making the Forum a yearly event.
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