The European Social Forum (ESF) is a great opportunity to meet people and to build networks. For Thomas Deterding and I, this process began even before we arrived in Athens for the 4th ESF. As we were discussing plans for the Forum on the plane from Berlin, a student activist in the seat in front of us overheard our conversation and started asking us questions about democracy in the EU. We spent an hour chatting with him about what should and should not be included in a “constitution” before we landed in Athens.
When we got to the ESF site, Thomas and I needed to print new copies of our speech, which we had revised on the way to Athens. Because everything at the seminar was to be translated into 5 different languages, the interpreters asked us to give them printed copies of the speeches if possible. This made it easier for them to do the translation, which was broadcast live over FM radio within the building. Audience members could then follow everything that was said by tuning in to the translation they understood best. While trying to print in the Media Centre, we met an Irish photographer who was having computer problems. After we helped her, she promised to come to our seminar the following morning and take pictures (some of which you can see on this page).
The next day, I delivered the speech at the seminar on "Constitution Building in the EU". The panel for our seminar included speakers from ATTAC France, ATTAC Germany, CGIL (Italy), Forum per la democrazia constituzionale europea (Italy), Pour la République Sociale (France), Movimento Federalista Europeo (Italy), Young Democrats/Young Left (Germany), and Mehr Demokratie (Germany). A second set of speakers included MEPs from France, Germany, and Greece, as well as a French senator. Our speech, which offered a democratic critique of the EU and the previous Constitutional Treaty, was well-received by both the audience and the other panelists. People seemed interested in Democracy International’s campaigns for a new convention and for the ECI. Clearly, the desire to democratize the EU is one which is shared by many organizations and individuals throughout Europe
(download the speech, pdf, en, 30 kB).
The ESF in Athens was a huge event. Even though this ESF was smaller than previous ones, it still attracted an estimated 30,000 participants. Hundreds of workshops and seminars were held on dozens of topics. Our own seminar was well-attended—in spite of the fact that 41 other workshops and seminars took place at the same time. During the entire Forum, there were approximately 10 different meetings that discussed democracy in the EU, the Constitution, or related aspects of European construction. Thomas and I went to some of them, but we couldn’t make it to every one. However, it was encouraging to see how many people were interested in the topics and it was helpful to learn about other organizations working on similar projects.
The slogan of the ESF is “Another Europe is possible!” Hopefully, through the work of the people and organisations that took part in the ESF, a better, more democratic Europe will become reality. See also a report on report on taurillon.org.