The discussion was opened by a proposal made by the Italian Working Group for the ESF, established in the National Assembly of the Social Forum Movement, held in Bologna on 2nd and 3rd of March. The Italian Working Group is open to all the social movements which, according to the Porto Alegre principles, are willing to take part in the preparation of the ESF.
The Italian proposal was based on four key questions about the preparatory process.
The debate showed three kinds of contributions : a) agreements and emphasizing points ; b) new contributions in the spirit of the proposal and c) critical contributions (points of debate).
The report integrated the contributions a) and b) and proposed a new formulation of the contributions c).
The following text is based on the introduction and the report made in the meeting and it’s based on the method of the four key questions.
First question : what is the European Social Forum ?
The WSF International Council proposed to organise Continental or Regional Forum in the last part of 2002, before Porto Alegre 3.
The European Social Forum will be held in Italy, according to the decision taken in Porto Alegre by the European Social Movements. In the last weeks, three towns in Italy declared they will to host the event. A italian tecnical contact group is working on this issue and before the next european meeting a proposal will be formulated.
In its next meeting at the end of April, the International Council will produce a statement, with the official list of the Continental and Regional Forum and some general rules to be respected by all.
In Porto Alegre, the European Social Movements decided to organize a first meeting before the Intenational Council meeting. The decision came from two main reasons :
first of all, time is very short and we need to start working as soon as possible
secondly, we want to provide the International Council debate with our opinions
The ESF it’s not a conference and it is not a movement congress.
The ESF, which is part of the World Social Forum process, has to be a common public space of dialogue, discussion and contamination.
Different culture, languages, experiences have to meet together and express themselves, in a common framework provided by the Porto Alegre principles, aimed to include other experiences, which until now don’t have had a dialogue with the Porto Alegre process, even if they are part of the movement against neoliberism.
Like in Porto Alegre, the European Forum has to provide a real citizenship for different subjects (women, youth, workers, students, migrants....), with particular attention to the involvement of the subjects of social exclusion (sans-papiers, homeless, unemployed...), and for different languages (non only political debates but also cultural events, for example).
One of our priority has to be the inclusion of the eastern countries, as well as the dialogue with the other side of Mediterranean Sea, with particular attention to the palestinian people. These is the only way to have a real European Forum.
The general political framework of the ESF is the fight against war and neoliberism. At the European level the ESF will face three main aspects : a) the process toward a Social Charter of Rights and Citizenship ; b) the EU building process (European Convention and enlargement, European Costitutional Law, European legislation -with attention on the antiterrorism law as an instrument against the social movements and c) responsability of Europe toward the world.
Second question : who takes the responsabiliy to prepare the European Social Forum ?
This is a sensitive question. In this case, we can’t simply use the WSF example. We have, by force, to find another way.
Porto Alegre, until now, has been prepared by an International Council, formed by the ones who iniciated the process with the addition -in a cooptative way- of individuals, representatives of movements and networks, intellectuals.
Nobody can take this role in Europe, because the European Forum is not a beginning, is the result of an already existing process made by different elements.
Nevertheless, we need somebody take the responsability to organize the ESF : the European Social Movements, starting from the ones who signed the Social Movements Call of Porto Alegre 2002, have the responsability to start, to enlarge and to build up the preparatory process, in an inclusive and partecipatory way.
The preparatory process is opened to others forces or individuals if needed (intellectuals for example). And by sure, we need all the European members of the International Council.
Third question : how the Social Movements can organize themselves to preparare the ESF ?
Looking at the real reality, it’s impossible to establish an International Preparatory Committee formed by formal representatives of movements at the national level.
In many countries, there is not formal coordination between the social movements. And in any case, the movement is a net, and we have to respect it -more, we have to consider the net as a positive value.
An open European Working Group for the ESF, where any interested social movement can take part simply by partecipating in it, is established. This working group will work by general meetings, to be held regularly in different part of Europe, in order to involve as much as possible all the European regions.
The next meeting will be held in Wien (Austria) on 11th and 12th of May, with the special task to include as much as possible eastern movements in the process. If possible there will be a separate preparatory meeting of Eastern Europe movements on 10th of May.
The European Working Group has decided to create three specific working groups on specific tasks and they will work in an open and inclusive way : 1) Programme and structure of the ESF 2) Organization (communication, finance, logistic, travels, interpretation) 3) Building and enlarging the Net
The three working groups started their activity in the Bruxelles-
In the days following the Bruxelles meeting, a general mailing-list and specific mailing lists for the working groups will be established, as a first communication tool between Bruxelles and Wien. In the next meeting the specific working groups have to present proposals and projects.
In each country national working groups towards the ESF have to be created. They will bring their contributions and proposals for the european working groups in the Wien meeting.
Forth question : one Forum or three Forum ?
There is only one Forum and no separated Local Authorities Forum and Parlamentarian Forum.
In the Forum there will be spaces of debate on specific contents, as concrete occasion of discussion between social movement, local authorities representative, parlamentarians and institutional representatives.
Concerning the participation of political parties in the preparatory process there are different positions, proposals and opinions and there are different situations in different countries. It is necessary to open a debate on this matter at the national and European level, in order to come to a decision in the Wien meeting.
Report by Raffaella Bolini and Luciano Muhlbauer Italian Esf Working Group Bruxelles, 10th of March 2002