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Report on the EPA of ESF-4 held in Prague 20-22 May 2005

Matyas Benyik | 28.05.2005 23:10 | Globalisation | London

Despite the fact that almost one third of the participants were Central and Eastern Europeans, the Prague EPA also was dominated – as usual - by the Westerners (i.e. the organisers of the previous ESFs). The agenda as well as the content of the Assembly meetings were strictly controlled and manipulated by the invisible „Leadership”.



As we can see from the list of participants, at the Prague EPA 178 persons were registered inlcluding 14 interpreters. Majority of the participants came from Greece (29), the Czech Republic (22), France (19), Germany (16), United Kingdom (11) and Italy (10). From the former socialist countries (besides Czechia) delegates of Albania (5), Hungary (4), Romania(5), Latvia (2), Poland (2), Russia (1), Slovakia (3), Ukraine (4) were also present.

Despite the fact that almost one third of the participants were Central and Eastern Europeans, the Prague EPA also was dominated – as usual - by the Westerners (i.e. the organisers of the previous ESFs). The agenda as well as the content of the Assembly meetings were strictly controlled and manipulated by the invisible „Leadership”. Such important issues like the role of the Assemblies at the ESF as well as creating a permanent coordinating structure for the ESF and EPA between EPA meetings, transparency and accountability -which were on the written agenda - were not discusssed at all, both on Saturday 21st May and Sunday 22nd May the plenary meetings started only one-two hours later than they were scheduled.

Working Group meetings

Local and National Social Forums WG on 20th and 21st May

The discussions focussed on the role of the local social forums (LSFs) and their relations to the regional, continental (e.g. European) and world social forums. It was emphasized that the local/regional/national forums are key players (i.e. the future, the base) it is of vital importance to spread the concept, one of the main goals of the LSF network is „to build locally and think globally”, i.e. to popularize the Social Forums in the most diverse regions and with the most different debates. In this sense to promote mushrooming of the different social forum movements is an imminent task. We agreed to continue and to enlarge our networking activity by mapping up the new LSFs. A meeting of LSFs also at the next ESF in Athens is considered as a good idea to exchange experiences, to learn from each other and possibly to work out common thematic proposals and/or campaigns. There were sharp criticism on the undemocratic, intransparent, unaccountable nature of the ESF process („Leadership”!?) and a draft proposal for changing the methodology (preparations, minutes, decision making, etc.) of future EPAs was made by Lars Bohn (Attac Denmark).

European ATTAC Network WG on Friday 20th May 2005

Hugo Braun (Germany) facilitated the Attac-meeting on Friday afternoon, which was held paralelly with the WG on Central and Eastern Europe- Enlargement. Other representatives participated at the meeting were: Regine Tassi (France), Sara Andersson and Sofia Kjellén (Sweden), Claudio Meloni (Italy), Tito de Morais N. (Portugal), Lars Bohn (Denmark), Matyas Benyik (Hungary).

On the agenda there was a discussion about the Oslo meeting, special attention paid to the ESF/CEESF, European Attac thematic proposals , French referendum of EU-Constitution (Oslo Declaration), campaigns (Bolkestein directives, G8, WTO Ministerial in Geneva etc.)
Firstly Matyas Benyik informed the participants about the response letter of CEEC Attacs (i.e Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary) addressed to Attac France as well as about the letter sent by CEEC Attacs to the WSF Seretariat. The focal points of the letters can be summarized as follows:

1. Initiative for a Central and Eastern European Social Forum (CEESF) is an appropriate and constructive response to the specific issues in CEE countries, similarly to the other regional social forums, e.g. the Mediterranian Social Forum.

2. Appreciated the recognition of the fact that the specificities of Central and Eastern Europe has not been properly taken into consideration within the ESF process. Therefore expressed a great concern that a permanent extended and transparent participation of the altermondialist organisations from this part of the continent at the next ESF will be really feasible.

3. Rejected the opinion that the Initiative for CEESF would divide Europe and does not represent any positive addition to the global process of social forums. Disagreeing with the strong reservations of the French Attac, CEEC Attacs decided to organize an International Conference about the specificities of this region in the middle of October 2005, which could be a complementary contribution to the ESF process and fully integrating into the WSF process, too.

4. Pointed out that some people tried and still trying to privatize the ESF concept for their own political and personal interests or advantages. To find a fair and acceptable „modus vivendi” in the spirit of the Porto Alegre Charter of Principles CEEC Attacs proposed to invite all people involved for a constructive and democratic dialogue, i.e. to form a European Working Group dealing with this special question.

Attac Europe meeting in Norway accepted and mandated Attac France to discuss, to
negotiate, to table poposals as a group within the program process. It has also been said that these proposals are not a limitation for Attac(s) . It means that everybody can obviously organise others activities in the ESF (on other issues etc.) Here is our common area to appear as a network:

1. Global taxes and financial markets
2. Food issues and agriculture (with particular respect to the implications for Eastern
3. Liberalisation and privatization in public services, Public/Common Goods
4. Trade (WTO, EU policies)
5. Employment
6. War/Peace issues
7. EU Constitution , How build a better Europe?
8. Environment

Assembly Meeting on Saturday 21st May 2005

As already said before the assembly meeting started with a big delay. There were fierce debate, even outcry about the agenda.
First speaker was Sophie Zafari (FSU-France), who reported back about the thematic consultation (.i.e. program proposals WG) as follows:

1. War and peace – Europe in the world - Conflicts
2. Global justice –Europe position in global institutions (e.g. WTO)
3. Migration- immigration in Europe
4. Racism, discrimination, extreme right
5. Social rights, public services
6. Poverty, exclusion
7. Emloyment and unemployment, workers’ right
8. Environment, sustainable development
9. What democracy in Europe. Citizenship, federalism, EU intituions
10. Economic policies, EU stability Pact
11. Education, training, media, culture
12. Feminist alternatives, equal rights of women
13. Startegy of the movements , prospects (from Seattle till now)
14. Where Europe is going to ? Constitution, Lisbon agenda

Next stage is to continue the consultation and to give an answer to the following questions:
· How to integrate these proposals, how to structure them?
· How to adapt new proposals in the open consultation process?
· Establishing networks what seminars, workgroups will be created ?

Out of the several interventions concerning the consulta and program proposals I wish
to highlight some important remarks:

Piero Bernocchi (Italy-COBAS): The themes are too much, even there are a lot of
people who want to make further proposals. He considers War and peace as the most
important issue, followed by the social rights and solidarity.

Rahul Patel (UK- UNISON) is on the opinion that there was not enough time for the
consultation. The main discussion points in the movement are: 1. EU Constitution and
2. War in Iraq

Jean-Michel Joubier (France-CGT) confessed that in the Program WG there was a
conflict with the Greek organisers of ESF-4.

Chris Nineham (UK – Globalize Resistance) thinks that the movement is fragmented
and we have to find key issues to make big mobilisations, similarly to February 2003.
This time such opportunity can be the EU Constitution.

Rudi Rinaldi (Greece- Greek SF) pointed out the anti-imperialist character of the
Athens ESF, he considered the identity and visibility as very important. The Greek
Committee suggested to include „Testimony of social struggles” in the ESF program.

Leo Gabriel (Austria- ASF) believed that the structure of the themes could lead to split
it would be necessary to merge the topics with the movement

Erkin Erdogan (Turkish SF) considers war and peace, fundamental and social rights ,
democracy as the most important issues.

Jonathan Neale (UK-Globalise Resistance) also beleives that war and peace is an
important issue, but global climatic change is a burning question, too.

Francois Simonnet (France – Liberty for the Languages) drew the attention to the
diversity of languages and emphasized the need for the linguistic equality/democracy.
He is on the opinion that at the EPAs/ESFs only English and French are used, which
excludes quite a lot of people, mainly the small nations.

Enlargement Working Group meeting on 21st May 2005.

The ESF Greek organisers want to promote the enlargement both geographically and
on social level, too. In order to realize these aims two regional/international meetings
will be organised: one in the Balkan (in Belgrade ) and one in Budapest/Bucharest) to
involve CEE trade unionist, NGOs, civil movements. Common campaigns are to be
organised against poverty and exclusion. During the next EPA in Istanbul in
September an Assembly will be dedicated to the enlargement (i.e. the CEEC’ special

Several interesting interventions /contributions were made, e.g. how to involve young
people (Czechia- Anti-war movement), what consultations, conferences to be
organised (e.g. on poverty, unemployment, social rights, immigrants, romas, climate
change etc.).

Conclusions and final remarks

1. The Czech organisers (and personally Miroslav Prokes himself) did their utmost for the smooth and successful execution of the European Preparatory Assembly , which is highly appreciated.
2. The thematic consultation process has practically just started and finishes next September at the Istanbul EPA (22-25. Sept. 2005.)
3. The Initiative for a Central and Eastern European Social Forum next year or two years later is getting more and more support, especially from the Nordic countries as well as from Bulgaria, Chechia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Moldavia and Turkey.
4. „Leadership” of the ESF is still opaque, invisible, unaccountable, undemocratic and
it would be high time to make a „Code of Conduct”, to democratize the ESF process.
5. Last but not least: still there are people in certain CEE countries who wants to
expropriate (i.e. privatize) the national social forums, thus violating the WSF Charter of Principles.

Budapest, 28th May 2005.
Matyas Benyik
President of Attac Hungary
Hungarian SF Foundation
Initiative for CEESF
Phone/Fax: +36 1 282 70 92
Mobile:+36 30 252 43 26

Matyas Benyik
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Hide the following comment

what do you expect

29.05.2005 11:22

what a suprise - Nineham and Neale, Attac - Social Forum my arse. Out of touch policos building a power base. What do you expect. Fucking eurotrash managment tossers.