• Working towards the Social and Democratic Refoundation of Europe

  • By Elisabeth Gauthier , Walter Baier | 23 Apr 12
  • Brussels, March 2012: Towards an Alternative European Summit

    As a European network linked to other movements and networks as well as to the European Left Party, transform! europe has decided during its General Meeting in Prague, in September 2011, to strengthen its contribution to the drawing up of an alternative in Europe.

    This is why transform! fully participated in the annual conference of the Joint Social Conference (JSC) held in Brussels on 29-30 March. Simultaneously the European Left Party and transform! europe invited to take part in the setting up of a first Alternative European Summit on 30 and 31 March, to which many representatives and activists as well as networks, movements and trade unions contributed.

    Thus the JSC represents, at this moment, a valuable area for cooperation between European trade unionists and movements. Its annual conference in March 2012 was a great success with regard to attendance and drawing up of common stands (see the Final Declaration at www.jointsocialconference.eu). The discussion led, amongst other things, to the broadly shared conclusion that it is necessary to create a “common political area” at European level, so as to renew a working process that could lead to events such as a “European and Citizen Alternative Summit”.

    The tragic and dramatic character of the situation confronts us with the necessity of not only reacting more strongly but also of seeking a greater effectiveness of social and political struggles. This requires new alliances which connect national and European struggles. This also requires “politicising the issues”, that is to link more closely social struggles with the objective of changing the balance of power.

    The results of the various encounters at the end of March seem to open the way to an unprecedented process in which trade union organisations, movements and political forces and committed intellectuals could cooperate. Speaking now of “alternative summits” instead of “counter-summits” is the expression of this new ambition. This was the proposal that transform! europe had put forward at the end of 2011. The potentials for such a dynamic exist. Various areas of European cooperation exist, like the Forum Social Europe, a network of trade unionists, the EuroMemorandum that brings together more than 200 economists, but also ATTAC-Europe, the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM), the European Association for Human Rights, the EuroMarches, the Prague Spring II network which brings together networks mainly from EEC etc. Additionally the cooperation of the Left is increasing on the level of institutions, which is demonstrated by parallel initiatives of Die Linke in Germany and the Left Front in France in the respective parliaments as well as within the REALPE (progressive local elected representatives).

    Furthermore public appeals have recently been launched by experts and trade union leaders which address their home audience as well as the European public opinion demanding a political change in Europe (appeals see in this Newsletter).

    Towards an Alternative European Summit 

    Today, important struggles are coming up in all parts of Europe. However, despite their strength and determination, there has been a lack of success and progress so far. Everywhere, at national and European level, the main demands are clashing with the mainstream. The alternative has to be conceived in terms of rupture with this mainstream, at all levels, enterprise, locally, nationally and European.

    During the conference staged by the European Left Party and transform! europe on 30 and 31 March many people agreed that the “direction of the wind” can be turned, provided we jointly embark on taking up the enormous challenges of the crisis. It is necessary to fight the new “Merkozy” treaty and the Troika for preventing a democratic implosion of Europe. In addition to the mobilisations against austerity, the renegotiation of treaties and the defence of democracy, it is necessary to struggle, in the various countries, for new political majorities expressing the will to bring about political change. According to Felipe Van Keirsbilck, facilitator of the JSC, this is the context in which “all will work, not to achieve hegemony for themselves but to build hegemony against neoliberalism”. For his part, Pierre Laurent, President of the European Left Party, stated that “we need such an area, built by a process that allows us to work together for an alternative whose objective is a political swing in the European Union”, a process to which he committed himself.

    The first milestones of this route have been laid in a new convergence, not only in terms of content but also of action. The terms of the “building process”, of the “creation of a new area of joint work” show new concrete possibilities of overcoming the contradictions that, hitherto, have weighed down the progressive movement in Europe: the dichotomy between the national and European level; the separation between the spheres of social and political mobilisation; the still existing boundaries between actors with different characters and histories.

    Concretely, this open-ended process towards an Alternative European Summit could meet the needs for expressing a new ambition, aiming at rebuilding Europe on new foundations. Such a process would also encourage convergence and cooperation between many forces in all their diversity both within each country and in the European area.