ESF European Preparatory Assembly (EPA) in Diyarbakir

Tord Björk | CEE,ESF | Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

European Preparatory Assembly (EPA) in Diyarbakir

As per the decision made in Vienna during the EPA (between June 19th and 21st) this EPA was held in Turkey in Diyarbakir on 25th and 26th September. The European Program and Structure Working Group  (EPSWG) with about 10 participants (including about 5 Turkish Social Forum organizers as well as Hermann Dworczak, Alexandra Mecozzi, Thierry De Coster and myself) met in Istanbul on 24th June and discussed about the axes proposals as follows:

1.Global Economic crises, resistance and alternatives

2.Social Rights for Social Europe, Public Services for all

3.Democratic and rights based Europe

4.National and minority rights

5.Discrimination and equality, against male domination and homophobia

6. A sustainable world – agriculture, water, food sovereignity, energy, enviromental and climate change

7.War and peace – against war, militarism, occupation

8.Youth: right to educaiton, work and future

9.Democratising knowledge, creating alternatives

10.Social Movements, the state and future of global justice movement

The participants of EPSWG meeting in Istanbul agreed on shortening the proposed titles of the axes and specifying the contents under subtitles. After having finished this work, the venues of the ESF-6, first of all the Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Taskisla Campus (TC) were visited. This will be the main meeting place, where the registration for the ESF-6 will take place.  The ITU TC is about 10 minutes walking distance from Taksim Square, one of the  most crowded area of Istanbul. The other places (about 30 other venues: movie theaters and cultural centers) are situated in Istiklal Street, close to Taksim.

On 25th September the EPA programme started with a big delay – as usual in the history of EPA- in Diyarbakir at about midday. After the opening speeches, the EPSWG continued its work under the intensive control of the so called „shadow government” of EPA.

The three network meetings (education, CEE and repression) were held after lunchbreak, while the EPSWG was working paralelly. Regretfully due to lack of time there was no possibility to report back to the EPA plenary the following day.

In the late afternoon a timeslot was dedicated to the crisis discussion.

On 26th September  in the morning the report of EPSWG was presented to the plenary session of EPA, followed by many interventions and debates. The discussions about the growing number of axes and subaxes continued the whole day  until 5 p.m., when the inauguration march of MSF started. The finally accepted  themes (axes and subtitles) will be sent to the ESF mailing list.  NO TIME remained for the discussions on the structure and future of ESF as well as for the reports of  the network meetings. NO DECISIONS were made on the exact place and timing of the next EPA either. The venue of the next EPA – as agreed in Vienna- will be in Germany most probably in January or February 2010.  Before the next EPA, the shadow government proposed  to have  an EPSWG meeting either in Paris or in Brussels next November.

General remarks on the Diyarbakir EPA

1.      Participation of CEE countries was the lowest ever, only Russia, Ukraine  and Hungary were present, even nobody from the previous ESF (Malmoe) organizers came to Turkey.

2.      Less and less people are interested in the EPAs, but more and more axes are proposed.

3.      With the exception of the Austrian Social Forum, no solidarity funding (reimbursement) was given to the CEE participants. The very limited EPA solidarity fund, collected in Diyarbakir was spent for the translation system. The participants from Ukraine and Russia had no money back to their homeland and only by the intervention of the Italian comrades (thanks to Raffella Bolini) MSF helped out them to get some financial support.

4.      Despite the positive rhetoric, ESF EPA organizers seem to be uninterested in the CEE region and we are treated unequally. There are three categories of ESF EPA participants: 1. the first class, i.e. mainly the members of the „shadow government” of ESF (the hidden leaders, e.g. especially from France and Italy); 2. the second class, i.e. the participants of the new EU member-states; 3. the third class, i.e. people from the non-EU countries (Ukraine, Russia, Belorus, etc.). There is a real danger that the EPAs will become a closed club of the rich Westerners and CEE will remain marginalized.

5.      Briefly: the Diyarbakir EPA of ESF-6 was a serious step back in the European social forum process..

6.      If the preparations for the ESF-6 in Istanbul in 2010 are not changed radically for the better, you can rely on very few CEE participants, which has no good political message at all!

7.      All previous EPA decisions should have ben respected and executed!

Report of the CEE Network meeting on 25th September

Participants: Igor Gotlib (Russia), Judith Dellheim (Germany), Hermann Dworczak (Austria) Monica Espinoza (Belgium), Matyas Benyik (Hungary)

Moderator: Matyas Benyik

Proposed agenda:

1. Update of the planned CEE Report on the crisis

2. Prepartaions for ESF-6 in Istanbul in 2010

a.)    Raising solidarity fund

b.)    Accomodation, travel, other logistical problems

3. Split in the social forum movements

At the beginning we were talking about the aims of the CEE Network. As it is well-known, this network is dealing with the special problems of the CEE region and with the enlargement of the ESF process towards the East. We share information and are trying to hammer out common proposals for promoting the ESF process.

After the short introduction of the participants we discussed about the planned report of CEE countries on the crisis. This project was initiated originally by Said Gafourov in Athens EPA last spring and was further worked out in Vieanna at the EPA. The revised Plan of Reports were written by Alexander Buzgalin and widely distributed to the Vienna EPA participants as well as sent on the esf mailing lists. The project is open for anybody and the idea is to map the crisis situation in the CEE. Those participating in this work wish to offer our analyses and stategical proposals for wide debate. This common CEE Report can be integrated into an Alternative ESF Strategy to be agreed in Istanbul ESF.

We reiterated our previous proposal, namely that an All European Assembly should be organized in Istanbul ESF on the crisis with 2 delegates of each West and East European country to have a better balance of voices of the ESF participants. At the end of this All European Assembly a common ESF strategy could be formulated.

Until now Russia, Poland, Czechia, Belarus and Hungary decided to prepare a national report. Ukraine has joined this working group during MSF, Romania is still hesitating to participate. Hungary has already elaborated several analyses, one of them was already circulated on the ceesfwg and the European Attac list. The Hungarian situation and an alternative program about the way out of the crisis has been published in Hungarian and will be translated into English. The deadline for the different national reports is end of this year.  The national reports can be further discussed at the next EPA to be held in Germany early next year and edited before Istanbul ESF date.

Solidarity funding for CEE people is an evergreen topic. We repeated our request towards the organisers of the ESF-6 to put much more emphasis on fundraising using up all possibilities, including contacting famous intellectuals, artists, celebrities to popularize  ESF and contribute with donations to the solidarity fund. The Austrian Social Forum showed good example for solidarity and supported the travel of the undersigned. We wish to ask the Turkish Organising Committe (TOC) as the main reponsibles for the ESF-6 to issue an official letter of request for fundraising. This letter can be used by the different ESF organisations to approach trade unions, municipalities, big NGOs to contribute to the solidarity fund. This task must be executed urgently, otherwise we can see no guarantee whatsoever for the massive participation of CEE countries in the Istanbul ESF in 2010. Anyway, the CEE involvement in the ESF is a politcal question, too and the TOC has got an outstanding  responsibility. So please rush launching a fund-raising campaign without any further delay. The question is clear: do you want CEE countries’ massive participation in Istanbul ESF? We need a clear answer from TOC.

Finally, the splits in some of the CEE social forum movements were also discussed. Trying to promote the ESF process in the CEE , Western comrades/organisations could help to organise  meetings on such issues which are commonly shared or seemingly attractive to different groups, for example on the rising fascism and the quick advance of far-right parties/forces in Hungary, Ukraina, Russia or in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands etc.

Running out of time we could not speak about logistical questions, but the question of a permanent solidarity fund is a precondition of massive CEE involvement.

Mesopotamia Social Forum (MSF) in Diyarbakir

In sharp contrast of the EPA, MSF was a great success with a massive participation of Kurdish people. During the 3 days of MSF about ten-thousand people visited the venue (Sümer Park). The inauguration demonstartion of MSF on 26th September, on Saturday from Park Orman to Sümer Park was a delightful, colorful and enthusiastic event with about 4 thousand people, followed by a rock concert . Some details of the march was already sent by Hermann Dworczak to the esf mailing list.

On the first day of MSF (Sunday 27th Sept.) big attendance could be seen. The debates on the youth, the energy wars, identity and culture, women, Palestine dominated the issues.Dilemma of imperialist globalisation and alternatives, ecology, peoples struggle in Latin America attracted many visitors.

The second day (Monday, 28th Sept.) was calm and much less participants I have seen. Personally I was interested in the anti-racist struggles and was surprised to see that only about 20 people were there, mainly the activists of International Amed Camp. Same little attendance I experienced in the Salon 5 (named Ferat) regarding  the labour movements and trade unions in Middle East. In the evening the women  march with torch was an interesting event. The Diyarbakir police stopped the demonstartors at halfway and was forced them to turn back to Sümer Park.

The last day (Tuesday) attracted more people than the previous one, but not so much as the first day. I was very interested in the atrenoon discussions of democratic solution in Kurdish question with the panel speakers of DTP (Emine Ayna) and the Greens ( Bilge Contepe) and a journalist-writer (Oral Calislar). The Salon 1 (Tigris) was almost full, a lot of media was present, too. Kurdish question has been a burning issue for years, or even decades and caused a lot of sufferings. This issue was mentioned not only in this  seminar, but others as well (e.g. ongoing violations of rights).

The three day MSF ended at 6,30 p.m. holding the Social Movements Assembly, where about 12 reports were read about the different networks (e.g. WOMEN, YOUTH, ANTI-WAR, etc.)

Budapest, 1st October, 2009.

Matyas Benyik,  Hungarian Social Forum Network Coordinator

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