[Marko Ulvila] Popular movements gathering in Gothenburg
Friends of the Earth Sweden together with several like-minded organisations gathered popular movement activist for an alternative EU summit in Gothenburg on 18 November. The meeting was attended by more than hundred committed activists under the broad social forum slogan ”Another Europe is Possible”.
On the day before, the EU leaders met in the same town for the “Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth”. The choice of the slogan is telling: socially positive policies such as fair jobs can be advanced - but only if the contribute to economic growth. The European Pillar of Social Rights (pdf) that was signed at the end of the summit documents nicely the minimum level of social justice EU is committed to. However, the pillar is firmly put in a context for building a growth model, with the attributes inclusive and sustainable.
The alternative summit took a different view. Societies have to become socially and ecologically just and sustainable, and economy needs to be put in the service of these goals. The gathering discussed several aspects of economy, including the role of transnational corporations, basic income, alternatives to austerity and local transitions.
Lora Verhecke from the Corporate Europe Observatory and Maruska Mileta from Friends of the Earth Croatia kicked of the discussion on democratisation of economic policies and international agreements. The case in point was the EU-Canada CETA-Agreement that would introduce unacceptable privileges for international investors over the rights of states to regulate. At the same time the EU has proposed a Multilateral Investment Court to institutionalise such privileges globally, in a similar line to the defeated MAI treaty of the 1990s. The meeting affirmed the movement representatives' intention to block such agreements. Also, there was commitment to advance at the UN human rights regime the binding treaty to prevent and compensate violations by transnational corporations.
Other sessions of the seminar dealt with climate justice and the situation of asylum seekers. One strong theme thought the gathering was peace. Senior peace movement leader Dave Webb from the International Peace Bureau highlighted how military spending is breaking records and tensions are building up. Therefore the need for active peace movement is greater than ever. A reference was made to the 2016 conference Disarm! For a Climate of Peace that built convergence among peace and environmental movements.
During the gathering a common future agenda was also discussed. This discussion included sharing information about events that bring together in a similar way people from diverse movements. The list for year 2018 includes:
- February, the Assembly for Resistance in Budapest, Hungary (an initiative from the WSF process)
- March 21-25 the World Social Forum, Salvador (Bahia), Brazil
- April 21-22, the Finnish Social Forum, Helsinki, Finland
- August 21-25, the International Degrowth Conference, Malmö, Sweden
- September 21-23, the Norwegian Social Forum, Oslo, Norway
To conclude, the Gothenburg alternative EU summit was an energising and well informed get-together. Its range of movements and perspectives was wide, yet the agenda and discussions were focused and built a common agenda.
Key organiser of the event, Tord Björk, stated in the end that peasant movements and trade unions, refugee and peace movements, rural and urban, antiracist and feminist, social and ecological movements have to unite in a common struggle. They need to work against the false and for the constructive solutions. A just transition where social justice is obtained within a fair share of the natural resources on Earth is one way to frame the common goal.
Marko Ulvila, 4.12.2017
Kirjoittaja on Siemenpuu-säätiön puheenjohtaja