Share this

IATP's Alexandra Strickner is blogging from the fifth European Social Forum taking place in Malmö, Sweden, from September 17-21.

After a colorful march through the Southern Swedish city of Malmö on Saturday afternoon that included some 15,000 people from all over Europe, the 5th European Social Forum ended with the Assembly of Social Movements on Sunday morning. Compared to previous forums, this one has been rather small in the number of participants. Yet the debates and discussions--as well as the results and proposals that have been developed in over 250 seminars, workshops and assemblies--are promising.

One of the key issues debated during this forum has been the neoliberal policies of the European Union that attack labor and social rights, both for Europeans and migrants living in Europe. The EU Commission and EU governments plan to finalize two directives this year that would severely affect workers and migrant workers without legal status. The EU's Working time directive aims to increase the weekly working time of up to 65 hours for workers (currently in most countries the weekly working time is set between 35 and 40 hours) and to destroy the collective bargaining right of trade unions. The directive on the punishment of employers of "clandestine workers" proposes that one consequence for employers could be to pay the costs of returning these workers to their home countries. These two directives, plus a series of decisions of the European Court of Justice during the past months attacking workers and trade union rights (see the information on the European Trade Union Confederations Web site), have led to a strong call for mobilization against the destruction of labor and social rights at a European-wide level. A first mobilization will take place on December 6 in Paris, during the end of the French EU Presidency, followed by a European movements counter summit in March 2009, next to the EU governments' spring meeting, traditionally dedicated to social issues.

Another key issue at the European Social Forum has been climate change. Discussions have focused on climate's impact on people and the environment in the South and North, a critical assessment of proposed policies and solutions by governments, and the development of social movement strategies and alternatives. With two key moments of intergovernmental discussions and negotiations over this issue happening in Europe in 2008 and 2009, European Social movements are calling for mobilizations. A first key date is December 6, 2008, where besides a mobilization in Poznan, Poland, a Global Day of Action is proposed. The second key date is December 2009 in Copenhagen, where a post-Kyoto Protocol shall be agreed upon by UN members.

Additionally, two further calls for mobilization have been proposed by all European movements: an anti-war mobilization next to the 60th anniversary of NATO, which will be celebrated in Strasburg on April 4th and an anti-G8 mobilization in early summer in Italy.

Besides this, new important European-wide networks have been established, such as the European Water Network and the European Movement Towards Food Sovereignty. Both networks bring together activists and groups working on the respective issues at the European level, and are developing joint strategies in order to achieve food sovereignty. In addition, they seek clean water access to be defined as a public good (and hence, publicly managed). For the water network, an important moment of mobilization is happening soon, with the holding of the World Water Forum in Istanbul in March 2009. A broad mobilization is planned at this moment, also aiming to strengthen the links between water movements and food sovereignty movements, given the important link between agriculture and water use.

The full list of results, proposals and mobilizations planned in Europe in the coming months will soon be put up at the Web sites of the European Social Forum and 5th European Social Forum.