Presentation about the ESF
by Raffaella Bolini, Italian Social Forum
I’m sorry for all the people who already know the information I’m going to provide, but we decided to work in an inclusive way and that means the new arrived people have the right to be included in the discussion. This is the reason I will summarize the work this Working Group has already done.
First of all, what is this meeting ?
This is the European Working Group which has the responsibility to organize the European Social Forum.
The ESF will be, as well as other continental and regional Forums, part of the international process towards the Third World Social Forum which will be held in Porto Alegre, early 2003.
The decision to have continental forums comes from a decision of the International Council of the WSF - who lead the Porto Alegre process - as well as from the social movement, to strengthen their regional and continental relationships between those who are opposing neoliberalism and war.
This Working Group has been initiated by the European Social Movement Assembly held in Porto Alegre. In the same assembly, after a long debate and by consensus, Italy has been decided on as the hosting country for the first ESF to be held in the last months of this year.
In Porto Alegre, we set a first appointment in Brussels on the 9th and 10th of March, and in Brussels we decided to meet again here in Vienna.
At the Brussels meeting we were more than 100 people, representing many social movements, networks and organizations, mainly from Western Europe. For this reason, we decided to devote special attention to involvement of Eastern Europeans in this meeting in Vienna.
The report of yesterday’s meeting, attended by 40 people representing 12 Eastern European countries has already been presented. The enlargement of this network remains our main priority : our Europe is larger then the European Union countries.
Here in Vienna, we will decide the date and town for the next meeting, and everybody will have to do his or her best to involve others. There is a proposal, already discussed in Brussels, for the next meeting to be held in Thessalonica in July. We will take a decision on this proposal tomorrow. This is how we will build up, step by step, the European Social Forum.
The European Social Forum will not be a congress, nor a General Assembly of the movement. As in Porto Alegre, the ESF will not have a final document, even if specific documents, appeals, calls for mobilisation and campaigns will be of course circulated and will be welcomed.
The ESF will be an open and public space for debate, aimed to strengthen European alliances against neoliberalism and war, to help the growing up of mobilisation and action.
We mustn’t hide the differences and even the conflicts which exist between us, inside the common framework we share. We mustn’t fight against each other but discuss, and try to find more advanced points of consensus. Even the differences can be an asset, if we use them as a way to improve pluralism and unity at the same time.
I simply remember, at this point, that we decided not to have separate Forums like in Porto Alegre (the general one, the Local Authorities one, the Parliamentarian one) but to have only one Forum, where the social movements can find spaces for debating with institutions on specific subjects.
Of course, we will be permanently in touch with the International Council, which has overall responsibility for the WSF. At the last International Council meeting it was decided to have a special meeting devoted to the continental forum in Sao Paulo, on the 3rd and 4th of June. The European Working Group has to be there. A suggestion could be to form a delegation with Italians and other Europeans, in order to have a clear representation of the concrete work we are doing.
Who can join the European Working Group ?
We have to be very clear on this point : the process has been initiated by the social movements, but from the very beginning the European Working Group is open to everybody who has already signed or is ready to sign the Charter of Principles of the WSF.
None of the signatories can be excluded, on one hand. On the other hand, those who don’t agree with this Charter can come to Florence as observers - like in Porto Alegre - but cannot be part of the preparatory process.
We are part of the WSF process and we have to respect this very natural and general rule, which has again been confirmed at the last International Council Meeting in Barcelona at the end of April.
Of course, we have to make all our efforts in order to let new social movements in Europe, which until now were not part of the Porto Alegre process, enter the European process, by signing the Charter and joining us.
And of course, the European movements have their own history, identity and an already existing process of networking that we want to emphasize and to take into account : we were not born in Porto Alegre, we have very long experience of mobilisations and struggles : this is the reason why we decided together to put two fundamental elements at the base of the European Social Forum : the struggle against neoliberalism and the struggle against war.
Looking at the European situation, there is a proposal coming from the Net Enlargement Working Group in Italy, to add another fundamental element to the two other ones : the struggle against racism and intolerance. We don’t want to leave any space, in the European Social Forum, to forces of the extreme rights. It’s better to be clear about this. This is a proposal and it should be discussed.
Coming back to the question "who can join the preparatory process and the European Working Group" a last point remained open after the Brussels meeting : whether political parties can participate as such.
It’s a sensitive point : in Europe, some political parties in some countries are part of the movement. On the other side, as you know the International Council of the WSF from the very beginning decided to exclude political parties as signatories to the Charter of Principles.
They can participate in the WSF as observers, they can sign the Charter as individuals, or as members of organisation or networks but not as political parties.
This decision was confirmed at the last Barcelona International Council meeting, and they ask the Continental Social Forum to respect the same criteria.
What do we have to do, in order to find a solution ? We have to go on with this discussion here in order to find, if possible, a balance between the decision of the International Council and the European reality.
I’ll stop at this point.
Luciano will speak about how the European Working Group is organized, and will propose a way - on behalf of we Italians - to improve our organisations and coordination. Bruno will give you information about the situation we have in Florence, concerning logistics and organisational matters.
Let’s act quickly, all together, while there is still time, tomorrow might be too late.