Notes from the meeting of the European part of the EU-LA network, Brussels, July 7-8, 2006.
1- EVALUATION OF LINKING ALTERNATIVES 2 (EA2)
There was consensus that the event in Vienna was a success that exceeded expectations in various areas :
Logistics and mobilisation
In terms of numbers, it exceeded the initial estimate of 800 people, and it is estimated that at least 1,500 came through during the activities in Vienna. There was good participation in all of the main events and panels, the Tribunal sessions and the closing session.
There was broad, varied representation of NGOs, grassroots movements and political forces.
Particularly noteworthy was the good approach to the development and trade agenda and the subject of transnational companies.
Cooperation between NGOs and grassroots movements made it possible to mobilise many diverse organisations from many regions.
The internal methodology of working groups on different areas - media, finance, and each of the central panels - was judged appropriate and functional.
Political and media impact
EA2 received significant media coverage. This was due to several factors : a) having organised a press conference in Brussels a week before the event, which caught the attention of the official press ; b) having begun the event a few days before the official summit, which led international journalists to cover EA2 before the official Summit begin ; c) the presence of Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales. Another factor in the event’s high profile was the inclusion of innovative elements such as the Tribunal.
The political dialogue between civil society and government was a milestone, as it marked a first for this format for meeting and discussion between governments and civil society. EA2 can therefore be considered a step forward in the relationship between grassroots movements and governments.
EA2 was a political success, since the official Summit did not achieve the anticipated result of establishing concrete economic agreements with LA. This was due not only to resistance from LA, but also to the inability of the European countries to follow their national interests and those of their TNCs.
The event in general and the final declaration in particular are steps forward in denouncing the EU. The goal of clearly reflecting discontent with EU policy toward Latin America was achieved ; this was clear both in the official press and in the various circles of debate at the national level.
The last stage of pre-Vienna preparation sparked interest in Latin America about relations with Europe, an issue that generally was not as prominent as other issues. While mobilisation from Latin America to Vienna was not massive, the impact in LA was greater and will mark future work related to Europe and transnationals, since it helped place these issues on the agenda of grassroots movements.
The innovative element in Vienna was the Tribunal. The Tribunal was a methodological innovation that illustrated the relationship between trade agreements and the relocalisation of transnational companies.
The networking methodology is an innovation with respect to the ESF.
In the Tribunal’s work, the methodology of working by thematic area got high marks, since this helped facilitated coordination among organisations that are working on similar issues but did not know each other.
Support for the creation and reinforcement of new networks
Participants had a positive response to opportunities to discuss struggles and alternatives, especially to strengthen regional networks on specific issues.
Vienna helped facilitate the joint work dynamic of European organisations.
2- CHALLENGES FOR THE NETWORK
Strategies and organisation
It is important to see EA2 as part of the process of creation and reinforcement of the network, not as an end in itself. It is important that the network not become a network that organises events. Several other projects have already resulted, such as the Tribunal. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that there are key moments when it is important to have a presence, such as the Summit of EU-LAC presidents.
The greatest challenge that we face in Europe especially is how to build and strengthen the European part of the bi-regional network. Unlike LA, where the organisations are grouped under the umbrella of the HSA, in Europe there is no alliance of this sort. It is necessary to work to build a stronger European network that is unified in fighting on specific issues. It is important to implement strategies at the European and national levels that link with existing networks in Europe that are working on issues such as debt, public services, etc., to avoid duplicating efforts in the same campaigns. If we want to work on the five points of the final declaration, the European network must arrive at a strategy and structure that enable it to speak with a European voice.
The challenge of bringing LA movements closer to European movements was met successfully, but there was a need to reinforce key issues that arose during the event, which would have strengthened thematic networks. The challenge is how to support the strengthening of bi-regional thematic networks and offer, within the bi-regional network, an opportunity for these networks to work together.
In the wake of Vienna, there is a significant, consolidated agenda : working on the issue of migration, which is important for both regions. The issue of transnationals, if the network takes it up as a theme, will also allow for joint work that will spread throughout the world. This is also an issue that links struggles that are already under way and movements that are resisting free trade. Another issue on the agenda is negotiation between the EU and LA over association agreements ; in this area there is the possibility of working on the issue of alternative integration. If the network takes Evo’s proposal as a starting point, there will be a good opportunity to work on an alternative paradigm for association agreements.
Internal debate on specific issues for the network’s work is also important, since the organisations involved in it come from different worlds, and it is important to begin to come to agreement on positions and alternatives.
It is necessary to establish more formal, democratic mechanisms for internal decision making.
It is also important to work on the network’s visibility ; resources are needed for this.
In contributing to the development of a project such as EA2, it is important to bring the analytical approach down to earth. This means synthesising the political and economic analysis from the forums. The document to be drafted should be not so much a work plan as a document reflecting the objectives of EA2, which can serve for future mobilisation.
It is necessary to work on the basis of the demands expressed in the final declaration. For example, there could be a campaign on external debt between the two regions, ensuring that links are established with networks working on this issue, such as Jubilee South.
Follow-up of the Tribunal’s next session is a key issue, but we must also reinforce work on TNCs in general.
It is important to engage in campaigns in which specific messages or a clear slogan, such as “Stop EPAs,” can also be used.
In preparation for the next stage of work on the development of the EU-LAC network in Europe, it is necessary to do a review/mapping of European networks and campaigns, such as the ones related to the European Constitution, trade and transnationals, migration, debt, and peace and militarisation, where there is common ground in issues that are a priority for the bi-regional EU-LAC network. TNI will take responsibility for this task.
Openness of the network
Another important issue is to open ourselves up as a network to other groups, both networks and organisations. In terms of relating with other networks, such as S2B, the agriculture network, etc., we must analyse how to organise the interaction, since there is much overlap and resources are scarce. We need to establish guidelines as a network for entering into contact with other players.
It is important to bring the network closer to sectors that are still absent, such as migrants, trade unions, etc.
3- REPORT ON NATIONAL PROPOSALS
AUSTRIA : The idea of forming a national organisation will be discussed at a meeting of the Austrian committee in September. This is a proposal about how to continue working in the wake of the May event. They believe that because they are farther east, they have greater possibilities for strengthening ties with organisations in Eastern Europe.
FRANCE : FAL is considering several actions, including :
Making a movie to spark debate. By December, organise debates to publicise the Vienna dynamic, focusing on the questioning of Suez, which is particularly important in France.
4- PROPOSALS BY THE NETWORK IN RESPONSE TO THOSE EMERGING FROM THE BOLIVIAN GOVERNMENT : TRADE AGREEMENT OF THE PEOPLES AND BASIS FOR CAN-EU RELATIONS
After the presentation by Nick Buxton (representative of the Solon Foundation of Bolivia), who explained the proposals emerging from the Bolivian government regarding a Trade Agreement of the Peoples (Tratado de Comercio de los Pueblos, TCP) and a foundation for CAN-EU relations, the following general comments and specific proposals were offered as a response from the network :
Grassroots movements and organisations in the two regions should take ownership of the proposal.
It is important to promote the concepts and principles that Bolivia has developed in other regions where the EU is negotiating association agreements, such as Central America.
The proposal can be introduced in the conference on South America that the Socialist Party is organising in the European Parliament.
It is important to reflect and draw on Bolivia’s experience of what democracy, growth and development mean in a post-neoliberal context.
It is important to promote, in the short term, concrete manifestations of the TCP with cities.
There are organisations that want to establish a difference between the TCP and ALBA as a long-term process. It is important to analyse the difference.
In the case of both the CAN and Central America, the EU is in a reframing stage ; it is important to study what position to take in that context.
If Bolivia is going to suffer any reprisal for its proposals, it will be from the US, through non-renewal of the ATPDEA. Although it is likely that this reprisal will not come for another year or two, it is important to support Bolivia, which has already begun to seek alternative markets for products that would be affected by such measures.
The proposal is also important for Africa, as Europe is using the same mechanisms there as in LA.
Even if the EU-CAN negotiations do not occur, the important thing is to see Bolivia’s proposal as a pedagogical objective, because it shows that there are alternatives and it offers models to be followed.
A representative of Bolivia should be present at the next WTO meeting in Geneva to promote Bolivia’s proposal and principles.
We are at a moment in history at which proposals such as these, which offer alternatives and come from friendly governments, must be supported. This does not mean that such support cannot be critical, or that we do not continue developing our own alternatives as social movements.
Specific actions to be carried out by the network
As a bi-regional network, it is crucial that we take the initiative to disseminate the proposal and get it onto the agenda. We should take 20 July, the deadline by which the EU expects proposals from the CAN, as a date for organising a press conference to call attention to the issue. To publicise the proposal, we should also translate it into as many languages as possible. Gerard will translate the proposal into French.
During the Festival of Humanity in France, one of the topics will be proposals from Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba, and it will be important to present the proposal there. FAL will be responsible for this.
A supporting document for the Bolivia proposal will be drafted based on the CAN-EU negotiation. Leo will send a draft text to those present at the meeting in Brussels, with a deadline for making comments. The text will express the idea that the signatory organisations are part of a bi-regional network, but it will not say that they are signing as the bi-regional network, since that would involve organisations that are not in agreement. Because it is impossible to obtain rapid consensus in situations requiring it, this approach was chosen as a practice that is common in other networks.
5 - WHAT SHOULD THE NETWORK’S FUNCTION BE, AND WHAT IS ITS ADDED VALUE ?
Functions and objectives of the network :
The network should provide an opportunity for thematic networks that are already organised to reflect and find common ground for discussing and thinking about their issues in relation to Latin America and the Caribbean. The idea is not to subsume existing thematic networks, but simply to facilitate convergence.
The network should also provide an opportunity to introduce alternative experiences under way in LAC, such as participatory democracy, into the debate in Europe (e.g., as part of the debate over another model of European integration).
One of the network’s roles should be to get issues onto the agendas of social movements and other networks and alert these groups about issues considered to be of bi-regional importance.
Some specific campaigns are already under way, and we need to develop a strategy regarding them, not to undertake our own campaigns, but to provide political support.
The network’s specific contribution and added value is that it works on issues from a bi-regional perspective. One issue on which we are working in an unprecedented manner is that of transnationals, using the Tribunal methodology. This involves the issue of LA-EU agreements, which is also a key topic for us.
Do we want to be a political player ?
The network’s effort must be directed at struggle and activities, and this will eventually lead the network to act as a political player. This will eventually happen. It is not a matter of establishing an organisation with official representatives and spokespersons. Each organisation belonging to the network has to speak in its own name, mentioning that it is a member of the network and promoting the network and its work.
At this point, it is necessary to define consensus-based positions on the various work areas and organise our work at the national, regional and bi-regional levels.
We must continue networking, since this enables more groups to join in. There is acceptance of the importance of creating certain mechanisms so the network can function better in terms of information flow and decision making. We must therefore concentrate on strengthening the network.
6 - THE NETWORK’S BASIC DOCUMENTS
It is proposed that there be a “charter” from the network that includes a preamble describing the situation, followed by the principles that we defend and a series of actions that we propose. The network has already produced various documents that can serve as a reference for developing this letter.
The new document to be created will have a dual function : a) to clearly explain what the network is and what we defend to new organisations that join, and b) to serve as a guide for the network itself.
It is proposed that the process used to develop this charter be used to mobilise European organisations and encourage them to join the network, as well as to reinforce national groups already participating in the network.
Methodology for preparation of the letter :
1-The HSA secretary will take the proposal for a letter from the network to be discussed among the Alliance, probably July 20 in Argentina.
2-If the HSA accepts, a small bi-regional working group (maximum four to six people) will be formed to prepare the draft.
3-Once the draft is ready, a larger working group, including representatives of all the European countries, will take discussion of the draft to the national level. This process should be used to involve new organisations in the network.
4-The small working group will revise the draft in light of all the comments that come out of the national discussions.
5-The final draft will be circulated on all communication lists.
If the proposal is accepted by our counterparts in Latin America, the following people are proposed by the European network to be members of the working group : Brid, Leo, Carmen, Kristine, Contanstino, Helia Caceres.
Conceptual documents on issues of interest to the network
and Thematic Action Plan
It is also proposed that a conceptual document be drawn up for the network that specifies the issues on which we will work and how the EU-LAC thematic areas relate to these issues. It is important to differentiate between thematic areas and important issues. We must define the issues on which we will simply offer opportunities to other networks to reinforce their work and the ones on which we will play a more active role.
It was decided that the two main thematic areas, which were addressed at the event in Vienna, are TNCs and regional and bi-regional integration. A document will be drawn up for each of the two areas (TNCs and regional integration) to connect the main issues related to each area (for example, militarisation and human rights, cooperation for development, debt, migration, public services, etc.) and our views and proposals on the issue.
This document should also help show how the network’s work could be structured. Because it is important that the network offer an opportunity to link with other groups working in these thematic areas, this document will also mention work and campaigns already under way.
We must ensure that both the Latin American situation and the situation in Europe are taken into consideration on all the issues.
Structure of the document :
The main thematic areas will be :
TNCs behaviour. How they impose their agenda on the development model for LAC
Alternative models of regional integration
What type of regional integration models do we want, both within Europe and within LAC, as well as bi-regionally, in the case of agreements between the EU and LAC ?
The working issues, which are linked to the thematic issues, will be (this is not an exhaustive list) :
EU-Central America relations.
Natural resources/ sustainable development and biodiversity.
Development of alternative energy sources.
Cooperation / debt
Militarization / human rights and drugs
There are also two issues that cut across all thematic areas :
Migration. For example : relationship between free trade and employment as a context for working on the issue of migration.
A working team was formed (Irene, Alexandra, Gerard, Cecilia, Federico, Tom, Constantino, Helia Caceres). This team will develop a document that will include :
Analysis of the EU-LA situation.
How each of the thematic areas is related to the issues mentioned.
Mention of the networks working on the issue.
Proposals for action.
The first draft of the action plan should be ready by the end of September.
It was decided that the effort to develop an action plan based on a theoretical conceptualisation does not mean paralysing projects that are already under way within the network.