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Athens: Federalist participation to the European social forum

Report and analysis

, by Nicola Vallinoto

From May 4th to 7th the 4th European social forum (ESF) was held in Athens. 35.000 people participated in more than 200 seminars and workshops. More East European and Turkish activists joined this event than any other previous ESF (Florence, Paris and London).

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The ESF was a great opportunity to meet people and to build networks: the Italian section of UEF (Mfe) coorganized the major event on the European Constitution. The seminar titled “Constitution building process in the EU” included speakers from Attac France and Germany, Cgil (Italy), Pour la République Sociale (France), MFE (Italy), Young Democrats/Young Left (Germany) and Mehr Demokratie (Germany). The seminar was divided in 3 parts: the 1st with representatives of civil society (Susan George, Miriam Bürger, Raquel Garrido, Gianfranco Benzi, Christoph Strawe, Nicola Vallinoto); the 2nd one with representatives of national parties (Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Franco Russo) and European parties (Vittorio Agnoletto, Dimitris Papadimoulis, Tobias Pflueger); the 3rd included a debate.

The seminar was held on Friday May 5th in the main building and had good public attendance. All the speakers affirmed the need to relaunch the European constituent process in a democratic way after the French No.

Susan George, vice president of Attac France, said that it’s not yet the time for a European Constitution since Europe has to work before on how to build a sustainable social model. Franco Russo, Italian senator, stated that we have to propose a constituent process from below instead of an intergovernmental Europe adding that the movements of social fora are the first expression of the European people and underlying the need to confront with European institutions.

Vittorio Agnoletto, Eurodeputy, urged to say “basta” to national vetoes and propose a federal Europe with a legislative Parliament. Nicola Vallinoto (MFE) underlined the social movements arrived late on the European issue but now there is a process to draft a Chart of the Principles for another Europe (a process already started in Florence 05 and will continue in Paris at the end of the year and in Germany in 2007). We need to oppose to the concept of IGCs and work on a constituent process with citizen participation through conventions and the collaboration of national and European Parliaments. We need a new convention and the final result should be submitted to the citizens through a European referendum.

Christoph Strawe, (Attac-Germany) said that a democratic constituent process needs considerable civil society participation starting from the very basis. The process can be legitimate if the citizens are able to determine the contents of the constitution and have a final say with a vote. Miriam Burger (Young Democrats/Young Left) underlined the need of a democratic way to draft a new constitution. She proposed a convention, democratically elected, with the participation of social forces to its works and the final decision given to the European people. Andrew Tompkins (Mehr Democratie) declared that his organization is working on a Campaign to ask for a new Convention directly elected by the citizens. The Convention’s meetings should be public and citizens and organizations can present proposals; the final results should be submitted to the European citizens through a European referendum in all countries.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon (French senator) supported a possible relaunch of the constituent process and proposed a calendar to come out of the reflection period. After national elections, France will have the authority to propose a new constitution through a constituent assembly.

Athens has been another step of the collective process to draft a “Charter of our principles for another Europe”. The federalist participation can be considered positive if we look at the different attitude of the social movement towards Europe respect to the first ESF (Florence, 2002). Europe is now considered a public space where to solve conflicts and guarantee human rights. There is much to do, instead, for federalism to be widely accepted as an instrument to democratize Europe.

Agnoletto affirmed that “the social movements are the natural ally of those people asking for a federal Europe based on social justice”. Federalists are waiting for them!

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Europea Social Forum in Athens (cc) Nikos Krikelis; source: Flickr

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