European Civic Forum

From 30 April to 8 July – they will march for migrants !

An unprecedented initiative will kick-off in France on Monday, 30 April. Willing to gather together citizens and raise awareness about the situation of migrants coming to France, but also about the activists that give real substance to solidarity, l’Auberge des Migrants and Roya Citoyenne decided to organise a migrants’ march that will rock France from South to North.
A few days before starting this journey in the highly symbolic city of Vintimille, at the French-Italian border, Emilien and Anaïs agreed to answer a few questions for the MEGA campaign.

“How did this idea of crossing France come up? How many supports did you have at the beginning?”

François, the president of l’Auberge des Migrants, started to think about this a few months ago, as he wanted to raise awareness about the reception of migrants in France. In January we started contacting many organisations throughout the country, to know who would be on board in this journey. Indeed we were primarily looking for organisations working with migrants, but we also reached out at those which share our vision and help those in need. We now have several organisations that will help us alongside the march, but some of them unfortunately had to cancel their support, because of political pressures, especially in cities run by Front National mayors.

 “How do you see the march, a few days after the adoption by the National Assembly of a restrictive law on asylum and migration?”

We do not focus on the outcome of the vote, our idea is really to engage people into a dialogue, to reflect about the way migrants are treated when they arrive in France. We will bring together organisations, local representatives, citizens, everyone who wants basically. They are all invited to debate, whether they agree with us or not.

Our main point is to talk about the reception of migrants, but first and foremost about the criminalization of solidarity, which happens all over Europe and especially in France. From the French-Italian border to Calais, dozens of ordinary citizens are considered criminals because they help people who put their lives at risk to flee war and misery. We really need to raise awareness about the daily threats, intimidations and pressure from police authorities.

“Did you think of some concrete expectations from the March?”

We did not yet plan any solutions; they will be developed throughout the different stages. Though, we have already launched a petition, so that people can support us. Of course we set up a crowdfunding campaign to support those who will march and we will collect various items (shoes, clothes, cover decks…) during our journey. This action has a budget (60,000€) which is hardly covered by not-for-profit organisations, so any kind of support is more than welcome. Anyone can dedicate some time, some money to our cause.

Our biggest challenge will be to reassure those citizens who are afraid of welcoming migrants, because of the criminalization of solidarity. There are many people in this situation.

“Are you expecting some transnational support through the March?”

This would definitely be great if many organisations from other countries would join us. We understand that it is difficult to bring them to France, for several reasons. Some Italian organizations will join us for the first stage in Vintimille, but with the recent events in the region, it might be complicated to cross borders.

We should have around 15 to 20 people at each stage, but having some European back-up is a very good idea. That could also show that organisations can show solidarity among each other, because this is not an issue confined to the French boundaries. Together with citizens from across the continent, we can show that we are opposed to this unfair Dublin regulation and to the lack of cohesion among Member States on the question of migration.

“Speaking about organisations and solidarity: what kind of organisations will help or support you? How can others join the March?”

We clearly want to gather together individuals, activists and organisations, in order to work better collectively. There are not so many spaces for these different groups to speak and raise their voice together. This March will be one of them. We hope to see many groups of citizens on our way, not only in these places where migration is a burning question, but also in places which do not necessarily face the same situation. We want to involve the local organizations, regardless of their sector of activities.

We will have movies, debates, dinners, with locals at each stage, in order to get to know each other a bit better. Sharing of experience is essential in our approach. There are already several partner organisations for each stage, while we are closely working with La Roya Citoyenne on the overall event. Though, any organization can be helpful and it is up to them to determine how and when they want to help: this is the meaning of solidarity.

Complete information about the Marche Citoyenne can be found on the official website of the Auberge des Migrants: https://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/fr/la-marche-citoyenne/

More than 250 NGOs call for another vision of the Future of Europe

More than 250 non-government organisations from across Europe have today released an alternative vision for a more democratic, just and sustainable Europe.

Intended to influence the debate on the future direction of Europe, this alternative vision is endorsed by organisations representing a multitude of public interest issues, including democracy, labour rights, culture, development, environment, health, women’s rights, youth, and anti-discrimination groups.

It comes ahead of a summit of EU leaders this week with the key issues for Europe’s future on the agenda, including migration, security, jobs and Brexit. This week also marks the one year anniversary of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union (June 23) which propelled questions about the future of Europe up the political agenda.

The vision describes a future for Europe in which “sustainability sits firmly at the heart of the European project,” and the EU focuses on “democracy and participation, social and environmental justice, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law, and human rights both within Europe and around the globe”.

The organisations are putting this scenario for the future forward as an alternative to proposals from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, including five ‘Future of Europe’ scenarios which are currently being consulted on with member states with first conclusions due at the end of the year.

The European Civic Forum joined 250 other organisations in reclaiming another Future of Europe and invites its member organisations and affiliated partners to sign the call too. The full text can be found here.

2017 survey about Civic Space in Europe

Civil Society Europe and CIVICUS have re-launched their annual survey to map out key trends on civic space in Europe over the last year. This survey covers the European Union, the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), Switzerland, and the countries candidate to EU accession (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey).

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all people, everywhere in the world, have the right to speak out, to organise, and to take action. These rights – the freedoms of association, assembly and expression – give us the freedom to form and join groups, peacefully protest, and advocate for the things we want – and to counter the things we don’t. These freedoms are called `civic space’ and are an essential part of a vibrant democracy; where debate and discussion thrive, and where people are able to contribute to important decisions that affect them.

As a follow up of their first survey in 2016, CSE and CIVICUS want to assess how operating conditions for civil society have changed in Europe over the past 12 months. A better understanding of the trends will better equip us to work together by responding collectively to common challenges. Your participation ensures a diverse range of views is included and we guarantee that the findings will be made freely available for your information and use.

The survey runs until end of April 2017. We therefore invite all activists, citizens and NGOs to actively participate in and disseminate the survey to their respective networks, in order to have a broad overview of the ongoing developments throughout Europe.

Please access to the survey here.

For further information, please visit Civil Society Europe or CIVICUS website.

EUROPEAN MEETING IN THESSALONIKI “SOLIDARITY BEYOND BORDERS”

Report of the decisions and synthesis of the discussion by Raffaella Bolini – Arci

In Thessaloniki, on November 21st and 22nd, volunteers of the countries involved in the Balkan route of the migrants met with activists involved on the Mediterranean and Northern routes, and European networks committed for migrants rights.

Delegations were present from: Greece (included Leros island), Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Ceuta and Melilla, Calais, Finland, France, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Germany and Migreurop, Blockupy, Euromediterranean Human Rights Network, European Civic Forum, Transform , European Alternatives, Solidar. Before the beginning of the meeting, a visit to Idomeni, to Macedonian-Greek border took place.

THE ROUTE IS CLOSING.

The meeting, self-organised and self-funded, was planned in October in Belgrade, during the Transeuropa Festival. And it took place in the days when the Balkans routes has been closed for many migrants. Everything happened in few hours, with a domino effect which shows how big is the lack of coordination on the field between European countries. The attack to Paris gave the opportunity to European Union to put in practice decisions already taken in the European Council of October 15th, and to close the Balkans exception. The most dramatical situation, for now, is Eidomeni at the border between Greece and Macedonia. Since some days only the persons of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani nationalities can cross the Macedonian border and to go on. The others thousands are blocked in front of the border. The selection is done according to nationality, despite all the international legislation on asylum. The same is already happening on the other routes, Italy included. It is not clear what will happen to the blocked migrants. which are demonstrating in Eidomeni.

The Iranian are in hunger strike and they sewed their lips. Rumors are saying that in the next time also to the Afghans will be forbidden to cross the borders. Smugglers are coming back again. And the volunteers are very worried – they already have found whole families left in front of the mountains at the borders with Serbia which they have tried to cross alone in the woods. In winter it can be really dangerous.

The Greeks also are very worried – they are afraid that thousands and thousands of migrants will remain blocked in Greece for a long time. It is non clear what will happen, and rumors says that migrants will be bring back from Eidomeni to Thessaloniki and Athens. Many are the stories about violations and violence against migrants in many countries of the Balkans route (Macedonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic in particular). In some countries volunteers cannot anymore arrive to the borders and to enter the camps where refugees are, and without witnesses the situation can become worst. Not to speak about the migrants condition in Turkey, which very heavy – Turkey is not the safe country like UE declare, in order to send back migrants there and to prevented them to leave.

 

NETWORKING TO FACE THE EMERGENCY

Balkans route volunteers go on working hard, nevertheless it is clear that they are exhausted, and they have to follow a situation which changes continuously. Borders which in the last week the migrants crossed rapidly, now are becoming place where they have to stay (in Eidomeni now around 5000 migrants are stopped), and some places are not equipped to assure the possibility to live with minimum standards of dignity.

 During the meeting it has been decided:

  1. To consolidate and make easier (by connecting the numerous channels of information already existing) the emergency communication network between the organizations working on the fields to exchange useful info and updates, to manage arrivals and departures, and to provide migrants with info.
  1. To enlarge the real-time communication network to other countries and networks, in order to use the info for advocacy, campaigns, awareness raising, and to make political pressure in all the institutions in case of emergency.
  1. To connect the info concerning the Balkans route to the ones related to other places of arrivals and to other European routes – also to monitor and to denounce the selection according nationality, the forced identification, the prohibitions to civil society to access the places, and the repatriations.
  1. To start a first special emergency campaign, in the next days, on Eidomeni, which is the first big stop along the route inside Europe.
  1. To connect the issues related to emergency on arrival to the issue of hosting and integration, which is a disaster in many European countries and everywhere is a complex issue.

 

IT’S NOT ONLY ABOUT MIGRANTS, IT’S ABOUT THE EUROPEAN FUTURE

In Madrid some years ago, democratic Spain, after a big terroristic attack, took the streets some hours later calling for peace and democracy. We should need something similar today in Europe. Official Europe is following the socialist French government and its reaction made by war, democratic and individual freedom limitation. The immediate link between Balkans migrants route and terrorism has been use to close the European borders for many migrants – decision which in effect was decided before the attack in Paris – without having strong protests from politics and public opinion.

Hopefully, a social movements reaction can come in the framework of the many mobilizations for climate justice in Europe during COP21 – despite the prohibition to demonstrate in Paris. In some countries the demos now add also peace and migrants rights to their platform, like in Italy. In London there will be a demo against the bombing. Nevertheless, we should need more. The securitarian and war climate in Europe risk also give a big gift to extreme right and to racist forces everywhere, while in some European countries every night migrants shelters are burnt. In order to delegitimate this policies, we have to be inflexible in contesting all policies in Europe which use the need to fight terrorism to violate human rights and international laws. And, overall, we need to produce a reaction from the good side of Europe, which is a big part of the European population – we have seen it in the last months in many countries, in the popular solidarity to the Balkans route migrants – by offering them positive messages and reference points.

We have to avoid to speak with ideological or political language and to speak a popular one, capable to touch the heart and the mind of normal people. We have not to avoid the issue of fear, which is so spread nowadays. We have to face it, trying to connect our insecurity to the bigger one from which migrants try to escape – in order to create even a sentimental connection with them.

To work on these issues, in Thessaloniki we decided:

  1. To build up a permanent working group to develop popular awareness campaigns, aiming to involve also professionals people willing to provide some volunteering work -the first one in occasion of Christmas
  1. To spread in the European activists networks and in the social media strong news “in pills”, easy to be used, to provide info on the dramatical situation from which migrants come, linking migration and peace issue.
  1. To provide info to be spread about what migrants are risking if they are sent be back home or in the transit countries
  1. To use international networks of jurists to list all the legislation and international laws which are being violated by the selection of migrants according to nationality – to be used for raising awareness, for advocacy and also to take legal actions.

 

PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN DAY OF ACTION ON DECEMBER 18TH

Especially after Paris, we have absolutely to overcome social movements fragmentation. The migrants rights movements cannot remain close in its border, as well as the others. The use of fear for reactionary purpose has to be fought together, by all movements and the whole democratic civil society and actors: it will not hit only migrants, it hits everybody, and it risks to prepare for allover Europe a dark future. And we will not be able to fight the spread of racism and of fear against migrants if we will not be able to bring the public discussion on social rights, on work, on rights and democracy in our community. The issues have to be connected. The struggles have to be connected. It is not easy, we leave a period of big fragmentation. Everybody should try to do everything we can.

The Thessaloniki meeting contribution to this purpose is the proposal to build up a day of European action on December 18th, to build together with the movements for peace, for rights, against austerity.

It could be a day to propose together another way to defeat fear: open the doos, no to walls. Open the doors at the borders, in the communities, in our mind. Like the Paris citizens full of fear have done in the night of the attack. Like many Europeans have done during summers, opening their homes and cars to migrants. In Thessaloniki a short call has been agreed, which will be proposed all over Europe as common base for mobilization. In each country it will be very important to involve as much as possible social organizations and citizens. Forms of mobilization will be decided on the base of the different national situation – but we will have common signs and symbols which will be agreed in the next days. There will be a common communication, to inform and to link all the initiatives, in order to provide them with more strength.

 Because December 18th is the International Day of Migrants, which already involve many social organizations in many countries all over the world, we hope that also Mediterranean countries and civil society in other continents would decide to put their actions inside this convergency.

This is the text of the call:

PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN DAY OF ACTION

 

Activists from Greece, the Western Balkans and the rest of Europe that work with people on the move met in Thessaloniki. They propose to everyone – individuals, movements, social organizations, trade unions – which don’t want to live in a dark, unjust and undemocratic Europe and world to mobilize and take action on December 18th.

 

NO TO WALLS, OPEN THE DOORS!

 

Peace, democracy, social justice, dignity for all. 

MAJOR EUROPEAN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS GATHERED IN ROME FOR SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH OF CIVIL SOCIETY EUROPE

The creation of Civil Society Europe

Major European Civil Society Organisations joined in Rome on 16th December 2014 for the creation of Civil Society Europe. Thirty European Networks1 establish a permanent coordination of the organised civil society at EU-level, a place for horizontal dialogue and a strong voice for effective advocacy in favour of policy changes that address the transversal issues of Equality, Solidarity, Inclusiveness & Democracy which should be at the heart of the European project.

Objective is to create an enabling environment for horizontal exchanges between civil society organisations and movements

Civil Society Europe’s objective is to create an enabling environment for horizontal exchanges between civil society organisations and movements across Europe. It aims to provide a common and permanent space to share experience and knowledge, scale up campaigns and other forms of collective action and strengthen the capacity of its members to connect people in the diversity of their democratic forms of expression to act for change around our shared values.

Civil Society Europe aims to be influential in building a real civil dialogue at EU level

Civil Society Organisations and Movements are catalyst of citizens’ aspirations for change, first and foremost change in the content of the European policies which do not deliver along expectations and needs in terms of social justice and universal access to fundamental rights. From this perspective, Civil Society Europe aims to be influential in building a real civil dialogue at EU level, in shaping the agenda on transversal issues of common interest for civil society across Europe. Civil Society Europe has now been created in the eternal city of Rome, home of the European Treaties. A small step for those involved, a huge step for organised civil society at EU-level that wantsto be part of the dialogue, debate, consultation and policy making!