Minutes of European Preparatory Assembly, Brussels 4-5 September
Saturday 4 September
Minutes of morning Assembly
Facilitators: Fabrice, Belgian Social Forum and Sophie Zafari, France
1. Introductory welcoming speeches from Belgian TUC and Social Forum, and John Monks, Secretary General of the European TUC. John Monks reported the decision of the ETUC to become more actively involved in the ESF and social forum movement.
2. Practicalities report
Kate Hudson (CND UK) reported good progress covering the following issues:
2.1 Dates and broad outline of Forum
The forum will run from Friday 15th-17th October. Plenaries seminars and workshops will take place all day on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday morning. The Assembly of Social Movements will take place on Sunday morning. The demonstration and rally will be on Sunday afternoon.
2.2 Transport: A free London travel card was announced for the first 20,000 people registering. The card is worth £19.70.
2.3 Registration and pass collection on arrival: Registration prices were confirmed as agreed at previous European Preparatory Assemblies: £30 waged, £20 concessions, £10 solidarity rate (Eastern Europe and Global South) £10 refugees who apply through the Refugee Network. Payment on arrival will cost £10 extra. Two centres and being organised for people to collect their ESF entry pass. Details will appear on the website when they are finalised.
2.4 Accommodation: Good progress is being made on securing cheap and free accommodation. One thousand dormitory room places have been pre-booked by the UK. Delegates can book them via the ESF once they have registered.
A 15% discount has been arranged on thousands of bed and breakfast, hostel and hotel rooms. Homestay accommodation is being organized for the Babels interpreters.
Cheap or free communal accommodation will be supplied through large delegations on first come first serve basis. Priority will be given to people in receipt of solidarity funds, then those from the global south and Eastern Europe paying the solidarity rate registration then people from outside the UK, then students and young people from the UK. The UK ESF office needs to know as soon as possible the accommodation requirements of groups, the key contact for groups and any particular requirements regarding accessibility.
2.5 Visas: The process is underway. The details are on the website and the visa working group were present to answer questions.
2.6 Solidarity fund: UK has been receiving detailed requests and needs any more urgently.
2.7 Stalls: Two sites are being investigated: Alexandra Palace and central London
2.8 Media centre: There will be a media centre at Alexandra Palace and range of centres organised by autonomous groups in central London.
2.9 Food: The aim is to provide a diversity of food within ethical guidelines at affordable prices.
2.10 Volunteers: Recruitment has begun for volunteers at the Forum. Details of how to apply are on the website.
2.11 Budget: The main items of expenditure are not final because they are still in negotiation. A detailed report of current expenditure and income was presented.
A small proportion of the income has been received. Cash flow is crucial so the financial approach is cautious and the UK Organising Committee strongly encourages everyone to register early to allow them to pay for priorities such as solidarity payments.
Facilitators of sessions will be responsible for compiling the background information on speakers including title, name of all organisations involved including acronyms, two sentences about the contribution the names of speakers, languages, key terms, dates, treaties and laws referred to and the full text of the speech if possible.
The following statement was circulated.
From Babels to all ESF Speakers and Organisers:
Advance Information Requested for a Better Level of Interpretation at the ESF.
Babels, the international network of volunteer interpreters and translators will be organising interpretation at the ESF in London.
Simultaneous interpretation is at the core of international Social Forums as it allows speakers and delegates from different linguistic backgrounds to understand each other. Babels volunteers at the ESF enable speakers to express themselves in the language of their choice and enable the audience to understand what the speakers are saying.
In order for Babels volunteers to deliver a good level of interpretation which will have a direct impact on the quality of the debates it is absolutely essential that the interpreters receive in advance some background information about the content of the speeches of all plenaries and seminars.
The vocabulary used by alter-globalisation activists is not the vocabulary of the everyday life. Interpreters (professionals and amateurs) will need to learn in advance the relevant vocabulary and key terms related to the sessions they will cover in their respective languages.
It is the responsibility of all speakers and organisations who are presenting seminars and plenaries to notify Babels of the necessary background information to Babels prior to the ESF.
If you want your speeches to be well interpreted by Babels volunteers and so better understood by the delegates, please follow the instructions below:
1. For Plenaries:
The chairs of plenaries are responsible for compiling background information from the speakers of their plenaries. They will then have to send the information to: email@example.com before the 25th of September.
2. For Seminars
The coordinator (ie the main contact person for the seminar) is responsible for compiling background information from all speakers of his/her seminar(s). S/he will then have to send the information to: firstname.lastname@example.org before the 5th of October.
The background information should include the following:
A/ General plenary/seminar information:
• Title of the plenary or seminar
• Name of all the organisations involved in the seminar or plenary (including the meaning of acronyms if any)
• 2 sentences on the topic of the plenary or seminar
B/ Speaker information:
• Name of the speaker, language s/he will speak in and organisations s/he belongs to
• A few sentences about the content of the speech
• Key terms and expressions and specialist vocabulary
• Figures and key dates
• Organisations and acronyms
• Names of treaties, laws and other regulations
• Full text of the speech if available
• Any other important information
More information, including a form to submit your information to Babels, will be available soon on the ESF website (www.fse-esf.org).
4. Programme group report
Anne Kane (Abortion Rights UK) reported on behalf of the programme group, that over 1300 proposals have been received for seminars and workshops from a wide range of organisations from across Europe on a very diverse range of issues.
The European programme group had spent two and a half days bringing together the seminar proposals within this to an agreed merger list. The group hopes to have satisfied the varied range of opinions.
Six written reports of the seminar mergers were presented and circulated. These should be considered and any differences, mistakes and proposals reported. The current list was 166 merged seminars, but only 150 translated spaces were available, and these had to accommodate such things as the assemblies. This meeting needed to discuss how to bring about some further mergers to reduce further the numbers of seminars.
Plenary speakers: International and European proposals on plenary speakers have been submitted. A decision was needed to be made on how to choose plenary speakers. Anne invited proposals on this.
A number of offers were made of possible help by delegations from Italy, Germany, France and the ETUC and it was agreed that these be explored and used as the basis of expanding the number of seminars available if necessary. Delegations were thanked for their assistance.
5. Assembly of social movements
There was a lengthy discussion on organising the Assembly of Social Movements meeting on the Sunday morning of the forum. The discussion was extended and was therefore not all interpreted.
• Organising preparatory meetings in the days prior to the Forum
• Organising preparatory meetings during the Forum.
• Establishing lasting networks to meet and discuss building European movements against war and movements for social justice and solidarity against the neo-liberal project.
Sunday 5 September
Report from Assembly of Social Movements by Pierre Khalfa. The meeting looked at function of Assembly, and practicalities. Proposals: encourage working groups on war, and on unified position on EU constitution, bearing in mind the discussion on this.
Social mobilisation: dates were put forward:
Mobilisation against G8 in Scotland (July)
European Summit (March) – discuss with ETUC, request a preparatory working group on 13 October which will need interpretation.
Proposed to have a meeting a couple of days before the ESF in London to further discuss.
Report from Belgian Social Forum – Belgian parliament had voted for the Tobin tax.
Report from Babels by Julie
The proposal on Saturday 4 to increase the number of seminars would mean an increase in the interpreters needed, so Babels needed an extra 48 interpreters, homestay accommodation for them, volunteers to help with this, and to develop software to help in this task. She also asked to reaffirm the decision that open source software to be used in media centres at the ESF.
Babels also needs to know what language plenary speakers will be speaking in.
Redmond O’Neill pointed out that Britain was at the limit of its budget, and would need help from other delegations to deliver this.
Josette Rome-Chastanet read out a statement on the massacre in Ossetia and asked for support. Jean-Pierre (CGT - France) pointed out that ESF cannot take positions, but Josette could circulate a statement for organisations to sign.
Report on autonomous spaces by Javier Ruiz, saying that activities in the autonomous space would be advertised in the programme and that there would be an information point in Alexandra Palace.
The Sans Papier movement in Europe addressed the ESF, calling for support for their struggle, and stressed the importance for the Sans Papier movement to participate in the ESF in London, calling on the ESF to support this involvement.
Memory project: an international working group, set up from the Berlin preparatory assembly, has met twice since, and met with the French memory project. A document has been produced outlining the remit of the group and asked the UK organising committee to support memory collection.
Plenary speakers: Anne Kane introduced and a paper with proposed plenary speakers was circulated. This contained international/out of Europe speakers agreed at a previous small programme group, and European national quota and pool speakers being proposed now.
Anne proposed the UK to get the same allocation as the host country last year: ie a speaker on every plenary in order to allow the UK to integrate the whole movement – including trade unions, NGOs, black and anti-racist organisations etc, plus a facilitator in each. This was a collective proposal by the whole UK delegation.
Anne Kane also pointed out that gender parity has to be achieved, that commitments in Berlin had to be met, e.g. to have a good proportion of black speakers, speakers from social movements on disability, lesbian and gay equality and from the global south, had to be met. She read out a few factual corrections to the printed list.
Pierro Bernocci agreed that Britain should have the same allocation of speakers as host countries have had previously. He proposed a further 2 plenaries: 1. movements on social questions; 2. Movement and parties – democracy and rights. If those 2 plenaries are agreed, the Italians will modify their proposals on their national quota.
Annick Coupe: French agree with the proposal from UK on allocation of speakers. She said that plenary speakers should not include speakers that had been elected, but could have 2 plenaries with political speakers. This needs to be decided.
It was agreed that Britain would be allocated a speaker on every plenary.
Dave Timms withdrew the nominations from the TNI for Hilary Wainwright; Asad Rehman; Barbara Stocking; Mark Curtis, and asked for clarification that the speaker proposed from Seattle to Brussels, who was resident in the UK but represented a European network, would not be counted as part of the UK quota.
Other points raised in the discussion:
• Austrian Social Forum were asking for Leo Gabriel to be speaker in either Axis 2.1 (For a democratic and social Europe); 2.3 (For a Europe of people’s rights and the question of citizenship); 2.4 (For a Europe of solidarity between the peoples)
• Romanian Social Forum proposed a speaker on 3.1 (Globalisation): either Samuel Ruiz/Gilberto Lopez y Rivas (Mexican Voices of Resistance and Global South – Zapatista speaker)
• Jonathan Neale proposed to add 2 meetings on political parties and social movements – dialogue on war, privatisation etc. and describe them as large meetings with interpretation. These would have a platform of 4 speakers from political parties, and 2-4 social movement speakers in each. He proposed that when the small programme group meets next week they agree titles and speakers.
• Plenary 1.1 (What future for Palestine) – Azmi Bishara has accepted the invitation; Hanan Ashrawi is still to confirm whether she can attend. Proposed additional speakers Fadwa Barghouti, Jamal Juma’a, Mustafa Barghouti, Jonathan Sapira. To ensure the voices of Palestinians were heard, the British would not be proposing a speaker on that plenary.
• Problems with Hungarian SF/Attac Hungary: Attac Hungary have proposed 3-4 speakers but they are not joint proposals with Hungarian SF. There are large problems at present in Hungary.
• moving Frances (not Francesca) Tubau from 1.3 to 1.5 (challenging US imperialism); Esther Viras to 4.3 (our world is not for sale)
• Hashuryia Mulish Hussein from 1.2 to 3.1
• Romanian SF involves 7 trade unions and 40 NGOs, pointed out that 2 speakers Attac Romania proposed were not proposed jointly with Romanian SF.
• Strong argument for speaker in 3.2 – Thomas Haschke Steffan
• Concern re Aleida Guevara (1.5) because of Cuba’s human rights record.
• Peter Weiss’s name should be on the list of speakers from France.
• Withdraw ARCI speaker from 2.4; a speaker had been left off 2.5: Lidia Nenapace (women’s convention against war); 2.5 Libera speaker was Fr Luigi Ciotti.
• Proposed increase to 2 speakers from Israel on 1.1: Jonathan Sapira and an Israeli woman.
• Claudia Heydt was in two plenaries: 5.1 and 5.4
• Maria Panagiotou (2.5) had not been nominated by a feminist organisation but by a mixed one.
• Subhi Al Mashadani was opposed as speaker for 1.2 and Alex Gordon called for the programme group to discuss this or what placement.
• Gender representation had been agreed at Berlin; also speakers from disability rights and LGB movements. These had to be met.
Further discussion to take place in European small programme working group – 11am Mon 13 September, Brussels.
Anne Kane responded to the discussion:
• We need to decide our attitude on inviting politicians and this must be consistent – some politicians had already been invited eg Azmi Bishara, Evo Morales
• Adding 2 more plenaries takes out seminar space so we have to remove 2 seminars e.g. if 2 plenaries on movements and parties, then the 4 spaces allocated to this should become 2, with rest to be large workshops.
• Programme group must check that national quotas are not being exceeded
• Gender parity must be achieved.
• lesbian and gay movement and disabled people movement European network speakers – only 2 have been proposed so they can be agreed
• agreement in group on Palestine plenary – no British speaker but a British chair
• Peter Weiss should be on list
• All UK-based speakers have been withdrawn and UK will come forward with proposals.
• Detailed agreements to be made at the small programme group meeting, this to include checking national quotas met, gender and other agreements, distribution allocation of speakers to different plenaries if needed.
Jonathan Neale reported
• 20 September – deadline to send in agreed merger via website. If there are any problems email email@example.com. 1 organisation to register the proposal on behalf of all the rest. Money for the seminars must be paid by 23 September – if the money is not paid, the seminar will not go in the programme and the slot will be given to someone else.
Chris Nineham reported: it will take place on Sunday at 1pm, going from Bloomsbury, past Downing Street to Trafalgar Square. He proposed the demo would be against war and Bush.
Points raised in the discussion:
• Bush is a rallying point and it will be taking place 2 weeks before the US election
• Basis of demo should be anti-war, anti-racism, another Europe/world of rights and against racism – should focus on this, not Bush
• Demo needs to refer to the spirit of the ESF eg for lasting peace and a Europe of progressive social development
• No counter position between Bush and neo-liberalism
Chris Nineham responded, proposing the demo slogans would be against social cuts and war and for a Europe of social justice; and that the ‘No to Bush’ slogan would be used as part of the British delegation only.
Next ESF: It was announced that Greek organisations including General Confederation of Trade Unions, public sector trade union, public employees trade union, school teachers trade union, private sector trade union, amnesty, greenpeace, world march of women, immigrant forum, trade union centre of Athens are all supporting the next ESF. Proposed date is November 2005. There was not consensus on this and it was agreed to come back to this matter just before the ESF in London.
Closing remarks by the Brussels Social Forum – 223 people had registered for the preparatory assembly and 4200 euros raised. 700 euros were left over and the Belgian SF would put this into the solidarity fund.