• Report Athens Conference, 18-20 March 2016
  • “Alliance for Democracy and against Austerity in Europe”

  • By Angelina Giannopoulou | 11 Apr 16
  • For three days comrades from the European left, the greens, and the left tendencies of the social democracy, from the European trade unions, as well as intellectuals and academics were discussing the great challenges that the progressive and radical voices in Europe are facing.

    On 18, 19 and 20 March, a European conference under the title “Alliance for democracy and against austerity in Europe” was hosted by SYRIZA, the party of the European Left, transform! europe and Nicos Poulantzas Institute. This conference part of transform’s European program “European integration and Left strategy perspectives” is integrated in the initiative for building an alternative and radical left strategy in Europe. The debates were organized under six thematic axes and two public events where 67 speakers (moderators included) – coming from a broad spectrum of political and social forces – delivered speeches or interventions. The audience reached approximately the number of 200 people in the various sessions and Saturday’s public event took place in a crowded hall with more than 600 people. Furthermore, 43.500 unique visitors watched the conference through live online streaming of which 36.000 watched Saturday’s public event, where A.Tsipras, Pierre Laurent, Declan Kearney, Ska Keller, Marisa Matias and Tania Gonzalez delivered their speeches.

    On behalf of SYRIZA, Panos Rigas, the secretary of the Central Committee and Athena Athanasiou, associate professor at Panteion University, on behalf of Nicos Poulantzas Institute, welcomed the guests. Panos Rigas highlighted the necessity of the dominant politics in Europe to be defeated: “The rhetoric of hate finds such a fertile soil in Europe because, for the last years, the austerity policies –which engender poverty and exclusion – have overruled. To change this reality, we have to change the balance of power”. Athena Athanasiou, referred on the refugees’ question, emphasized on the reclaim of democracy saying that “Towards the weakening condition of the agonistic democracy and its related values of freedom, equality and people’s sovereignty, for us it is imperatively needed to oppose another Europe”.

    For three days comrades from the European left, the greens, and the left tendencies of the social democracy, from the European trade unions, as well as intellectuals and academics were discussing the great challenges that the progressive and radical voices in Europe are facing. The organizing committee, as well as the speakers, evaluated the conference in a very positive way, not only due to the number of participants, but also concerning the very content of the debates which illustrated the urgency and their willingness for the creation of stable political and social alliances in Europe. These kinds of alliances aim to fight the institutionalization of the neoliberal doctrine in an authoritarian EU.

    The common ground for Politicians, trade unionists, intellectuals and social movements’ activists was that the course of the EU towards the consolidation of neoliberalism and securitization could not be intercepted, unless a strong alliance of political and social forces coming from the radical left to the social democracy and from the traditional trade unions to the new social movements will be motivated. Such an alliance should be developed in multiple levels, if we really want to involve the greatest possible of forces. In the institutional framework, initiatives in the national and in the European level are necessary to build alliances against the institutional reforms driven in order to override the very constitutional principles of the EU, as well as rights and obligations in the Member States. These institutional reforms, such as the Five Presidents’ Report, aiming at the establishment of the new economic governance must meet with strong democratic walls. We all have to build such walls on the institutional level (for example, initiatives within the European Parliament’s framework), and also on the level of the social movements.

    This was exactly the great objective of this conference for SYRIZA, the party of the European Left, transform! europe and Nicos Poulantzas Institute. A first meeting of all these political and social forces which aimed to trace the possibility of a broader and stable alliance, and also to challenge the European politics of austerity, totalitarianism, neoliberal demands, human rights abuses, growing inequalities and deepening exploitation. This possibility seems to exist, and the genuine political will as well.

    During these three days, comrades from all over Europe shared common understandings, analyses, ideas, experiences and proposals trying to put aside their differences in order to set the base for a political content and a strategy which will confront the policies of poverty and democracy’s restriction. The representatives from the parties of the European left – Bloco de Ezquerda from Portugal, Sinn Fein from Ireland, Isquierda Unida and Podemos from Spain, Die Linke from Germany, Sinistra Italiana and Rifondazione Comunista from Italy – not only carried their concerns about their political experiences in the national context, but also they tried to europeanize these experiences in order to draw up a pan-European left strategy.

    One of the most crucial political conclusions of this conference was the emergence of the political support towards SYRIZA and the Greek government that is provided by the majority of the progressive, democratic forces in Europe. Despite the thorny issues that the Greek government is forced to manage and despite the disappointments of the European left after the Greek experience, the participants did not address their censures to the Greek government. On the contrary, the critique was addressed towards the EU and its hegemonic strategy. This was mainly obvious in the panel “Refugees, war and peace” where all speakers expressed their criticism for the EU-Turkey agreement.

    Moreover, this conference provided the radical left with some concrete proposals. For example, during the panel for the collective agreements and the labor rights, one proposal was a solidarity initiative in favor of French workers’ struggle against the upcoming reform bill of labor law. Another proposal was the idea for launching of a European demonstration day in defense of collective agreements, an initiative which will also include the specific national agendas of demand. Furthermore, Pierre Laurent, president of the PCF and president of the E.L. referred in his speech to the necessity for the establishment of a European Forum for the systematic dialogue and cooperation between the radical left and other progressive forces in Europe in order to develop a strategy against the authoritarization of the EU.

    Finally, this conference was just the first step for those who worked for its actualization, those who participated in and those who attended to it. Our ultimate objective is to collaborate; having awareness of our weaknesses and our strengths for building a strong alliance that in each level will juxtapose an alternative, democratic, radical strategy for the future of the European people. The Greek experience of the first left government in EU revealed the great challenges the whole European left has to confront. However, we should all admit that the European left finds itself in much better position than ten years ago and, even in the middle of our disappointment tornados, this is a thesis that we must not underestimate. Another Europe is still possible, new alliances are possible and the political will for moving forward truly exists.



    For the Conference Programme please click here.

    Speech Walter Baier(co-ordinator of transform!): The Future of European Integration

    Speech Gabi Zimmer (Chair of GUE/NGL): A left-wing refugee policy for the EU

    See also selected speeches and interventions on the right (pdf).