Heading toward the European Social Forum in Athens

Simon Zhavoronkov and Peter Damo

X http://www.iprog.ru/en/articles/?id=438 (external link)

On September 23-25 the third preparatory assembly (EPA) to the fourth European Social Forum took place in Istanbul, Turkey. Probably, it was a penultimate meeting on the eve of the Forum. So the decisions reached during it have a considerable importance since the decisions are obligatory for the further implementation.

Actually this meeting was crucially important for all Eastern Europeans and what is more significant for Russia keen of coordination and assisting role for SEE part. We provide below key decisions that should be interesting and even guiding for the Russian and Eastern European organizations working on policy making within the ESF process.

Having in view the importance of the ESF Enlargement process, which involves inclusion and visibility of Eastern European and Russian participation in the process, it was agreed both at the meeting with the Babels Coordination and at the Enlargement Group meeting, that it is necessary to have in Athens one language booth for Eastern European languages.

This additional language booth should provide interpretation for Eastern European languages in each room. If we want an important participation from Eastern European countries, we need not only good seminars, but also appropriate interpretation provided.

Therefore, the Enlargement Group asked the EPA to agree on the proposal to have one language booth for interpretation for Eastern European countries. Of course, in view of multitude of Eastern European languages it won’t be possible to settle booth and interpreters inside, say in Russian or in Czech, in every room but the language in booth will depend on speakers at panel. So if there’s any panel speaker on the workshop his\her language will be in the booth and his/her nationals will be able to have a qualitative interpretation.

Also the EPA participants expressed their willingness to support Romanian Social Forum in the spirit of the ESF Enlargement process and the decisions in Prague, and as means of boosting the Social Forum process in Eastern and Balkan countries.

It was voiced the hope that the ESF-4 in Athens will be the first real ESF in the sense of a better balance in the participation and in the Program of Eastern Europeans.

Consequently it was agreed to extend the existing mailing lists of the Eastern ESF and to help Eastern Europeans organizing events in their countries by sharing contacts, and putting people into contact.

The important Western participation at this meeting of the Enlargement Group may reflect both a political intention, and a desire to discover Eastern Europe.

It was underlined that one of the most important problems people in Eastern Europe are confronted with is poverty that generates financial drawbacks. A solution of getting over this would involve not only sharing experience with Western camp, but also taking active part in the construction process of a New, Social, More Democratic, Ecological, Pacifist and Feminist Europe.

It was reported that at the Women’s Meeting there were proposes that 50% from the Solidarity Funding be directed to women in Eastern European countries, where poverty, social disruption and injustice leads to losing jobs, prostitution, and a new form of slavery for women.

The Greek Organizing Committee of the ESF-4 learnt about an Albanian Initiative for a Social Forum and decided to pay a visit there in December in order to support them building up.

The German representatives from ATTAC Germany and Friends of the Earth Network appreciated that besides the territorial Enlargement it is necessary to have an Enlargement in terms of Thinking and Understanding of the ESF.

It was pointed out by delegates from different countries that people in Eastern Europe could be better involved in the ESF process not only by employing a theoretical anti-Neo-Liberal political discourse – which, in fact may be meaningless for many of them – but rather by addressing their practical needs and problems.

The Greek representatives also agreed that there was a need to address real problems for people in Eastern Europe so as to get them involved, problems such as: working conditions, salaries, insurance policies, environment, corporation onslaught and so on and so forth.

In the end, at the plenary session, it was decided to organize next EPA meeting in Vienna on January 5-8, 2006. According to experience of previous EPA meetings it would lead to concrete decisions on program, participatory proportions and related issues for the upcoming ESF.