• The First European Attac Summer University (ESU)

  • Por Sabine Leidig | 25 May 09
  • With its ESU, Attac Europe wanted to achieve a milestone in the capacity for joint action – an offer to activists for participation.

    Under the slogan “Another Europe for Another World!” the first European Attac Summer University took place in Saarbrücken from August 1-6 this year. There were nearly 800 participants from over 20 countries. Among others, guests from Morocco, Brazil and Costa Rica contributed their particular perspectives to the debates.

    A Gorgeous Baby

    The list of topics included the following: the players on the financial markets, climate and energy politics, public goods vs. privatisation, globalisation and transport, the labour market and casualisation, migration, tax-justice, democratic control and economic participation, social rights and democracy, processes concerning the European Treaty and alternatives, the European trade policy, war and imperial strategy.

    Besides large plenary discussions, the programme provided a number of workshops / seminars, which were prepared bi- or multi-nationally – characterised by a mix of popular education and networking. In addition to this, there was much space for meetings – especially “getting to know each other” sessions” in the morning and in the Attac-Cafeteria.

    Beyond this, a common strategy process of the Attac-groups from different countries was organised. It comprised the respective executive boards, a seminar in Morocco and a two-day workshop during the ESU. About 70 activists from almost all European Attac-groups took part in it. As a result, it was agreed that two joint campaigns should be carried out: one on the crisis of the financial markets and the second on a “democratic and social re-foundation of the EU”.

    A declaration of the European Attac groups under the title “Put an End to the Casino Economy – Let’s Disarm the Markets!” has since been issued.

    Moreover, a number of networks have been initiated such as “AquAttac” against the privatisation of water, the working process on the expansion of the “10 Principles for a Democratic EU-Treaty”, the European Attac Youth Network or the Cooperation for a Public Rail System.

    An excellent culture programme with bands from France, Poland and Berlin and interesting exhibitions – among others of Belgian cartoons – was not only great fun but reflected the vibrancy of the ESU.

    There was great excitement around a “Europeanisation of Attacs from Below” and everybody present could feel the magic that attaches to every new beginning.

    But It Was Not an Easy Delivery

    The entire organisation and programme planning were supported by salaried persons but carried out by about two dozen volunteers, who co-operated on different levels for more than a year. The European preparation group had to overcome language barriers, identify different political cultures, find rules for binding agreements and prepare the programme with as broad a level of participation as possible – all this was done mostly in the virtual space of telephone conferences and the internet.

    We had to learn that it is not enough to find sharp “speakers” but that we need more competent people who can shape the discussions and get processes moving; otherwise, we tend to give away our energy and ideas.

    We had a budget to manage which was clearly beyond the financial level familiar to most Attacs. Since participation fees were to be low and sources of grants for politically independent organisations are few, a ? 50,000 gap had to be filled by an act of solidarity on the part of local Attac-groups and committed donors. And finally, we had to get through mountains of organisational work to be able to provide translation, technical equipment, accommodation and all this at as low a cost as possible – something we were all doing for the first time.

    Yet …

    … the efforts were worth the trouble, and we would do it all over again (however, not too soon). We hope that in the different countries there will be people who keep the threads in their hands which were woven so that we can succeed in establishing durable impulses for an emancipatory Europe.