Workshops Notes

 Presentations from and about Eastern Europe

author: Antti

Presentations from and about Eastern Europe, afternoon of Monday 2nd of September.

Discussion was popular, at least 30 persons came to listen and learn about what is going on in the Eastern Europe. Groups from East Europe present were Citizen’s environmental group from Poland, Green network of alternative groups Croatia, Rainbow Keepers and Autonomous action from the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakian Anarchist Federation among others. From West, people came at least from Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Leeds Earth First!, Abolition of the border from below-bulletin, No one is illegal of Germany, Energy project of the Transnational Institute and Osteuropa AG of Berlin among the others.

Preparation of the working group began in the Strasbourg camp. It seemed like it would be a very West-European conference coming up, and a group of people wanted to make it bit more European. Same group was trying to organise some financial help for East-Europeans travelling.

There was a preparatory meeting in the Saturday evening, where 3 topics were considered worth of a wider discussion. First one was EU expansion and campaigns related to that, then European social consulta impact and participation in the Eastern Europe and at last how western groups willing to help East European groups could do it in a constructive and useful way. These topics were not binding, and main working group could have changed them if another important topics were raised. However most of the discussion followed these streams. NATO campaigning was not chosen as one of the topics, since there was a separate presentation of the topic in the morning. However a person from Poland wanted to remind that decision about NATO attack to Iraq will not be made in Prague but in Warsaw in the middle of the September, and local anarchists from Anarchist Federation are organising against it.


However working group started with presentations of the East European groups, and moved to general topics only later on. First one to be presented was the Citizen’s environmental group from Poland. They are working a lot with motorway issues with theme “fair prices for the transport”, there is also a campaign on hypermarkets in the city. Another activities include film shows, solidarity actions with Argentina and linking the ecological problems with those of the globalisation. There are also cultural projects, group participated to Buy nothing day and TV turnout week. Group wants to cooperate with groups from other regions and Western Europe. Group exists only locally, but is networked with some 300 persons all around the country.

Next one to be presented was the energy project of the Transnational Institute based in Holland. Russian energy monopolies are currently expanding, taking over local corporations in the Eastern Europe. Energy is very crucial topic, expecially in Russia where many people live in remote areas.

Presentator of the Rainbow Keepers proposed to discuss the problem of expansion of the transnational corporations (TNC’s) to the Eastern Europe. For example Rainbow Keepers is having a conflict with the Lockheed Martin in the city of Votkinsk in Udmurtian republic. This is one of the first attempts of military TNC’s to move to the East. Rainbow Keepers uses means of the direct action, from blockades to connections with the local population. (Editor has contradicting information that Lockheed Martin has withdrew itself from the project, which was not clarified in the course of the discussion).

Czechoslovakian anarchist federation has two autonomous parts, Czech one and the Slovakian one. Both parts have common principles. Organisation has a paper in Czech language, the Existence. Organisation covers both practical projects such as mobilization to Prague in year 2000, as well as theoretical work on anarchism. Right now organisation is working against NATO meeting in Prague.

Both Czech and Slovak wings of the organisation were present in the conference. That from Bratislava noted that in Slovakia the situation is quite different from that of the Czech republic. Movement is concentrated to the western part of the country, the country has also huge internal differences between the regions. Group propagates direct action and does actions in the street.

Next project presented was Abolishing the Borders from Below-bulletin, which is based on Berlin but informs only about East European topics. Paper has been started some 6 months ago, it comes out every 2 months. In the beginning they had many contacts with East European activists, mostly Czech, some xUSSR countries, mostly in personal level only. Paper was meant to be a platform for the groups also in connection to West European and rest of the world. Group was launched by a few Polish comrades living in Berlin, now one person from Turkey will join as well as some Lithuanians have, we have also contacts in most of the Balkan countries. It is just a paper, not a group, we give help to some projects such as to person who was accused of having killed a nazi in the Eastern Europe and to a squat in Lithuania.

In the future group also wants to start a more theoretical newspaper which should include more longer articles and in depth analysis from Eastern European point of view. Paper is distributed to many countries, it has not a webpage and is not about to make one. In many East European countries only 1 or 2 persons are having internet access. And often people in internet are not passing on the information they have. Thus collective relies to the printed form. Group has decided to keep focusing to the non-EU countries. It has included Turkey to area, since the anarchist movement is in a similar with the movement of the former East bloc.

Green Network of alternative groups has a project "recycle the state" 20 kilometers south from Zagreb, it tries to develop sustainable way of living and to to connect all initiatives to one network with similar strategies.

Organisation for reproductive rights (from Netherlands?) tries to build a network to work in health issues, it has links to Croatia, where there is no cooperation between government and NGO's, maternal mortality is rising and privatization has big impact to peoples lives.

Next activist came from Bialystok of Poland, the group has worked with issues like bicycle transport and ecology, it has a problem with fascist skinheads, group has to protect itself and fight the skinheads in the streets. A few years ago it squatted a big old factory, and named it de Centrum. Meetings, concerts and a library takes place there. Group also does Food not Bombs. The biggest event which group has co-organised was the noborder-camp of Krynki organised in year 2001. This bordercamp was close to Belarussian border, 2002 camp was close to Kaliningrad and Lithuania.

Last group presented was the Autonomous Action of Moscow, part of the Autonomous Action federation. Small federation has some 9 groups in Russia and some supporters in Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia and Kazakhstan. It has born from a wider anarchist context by few peoples who wishes to have more organised and coordinated kind of activity. Group publishes paper Avtonom, and has organised around topics such as anti-war, S26 and anti-fascism.

Discussion about expansion of the capital

Some people proposed to discuss expansion of western capital in general, not only in context of the EU enlargement which was the original proposal, since these topics are so interconnected. And enlargement is not actual for half of the countries. There was agreement about this, and it was decided to have a discussion of some 40 minutes on this topic. Issue of the NGO’s was raised as well, sometimes they participate same kind of dominative schemes as the TNC’s.

People in Poland and Czech republic saw EU expansion as an unavoidable. Everything has already been strongly harmonized, most of the negative impacts area already there, and in Czech republic there is a general feeling that if actions on the topic are organised the main issue should not be opposition against the EU membership, because it is not really the main issue.

Polish enviromental activist said he is not interested about stopping the enlargement. He does not really see any good alternatives to EU in Poland, the anti-EU discourse is dominated by forces which want to see strong, catholic EU imposing domination in the East. The real issue is not the enlargement but the globalization. Some positive development was also expected, such as Natura 2000 being superior to Polish enviromental protection programs. In another hand people are very concerned about the economic problems, and some opposition against the European Union is rising.

Another Polish activist noted that Poland has been associated with the EU since 1992, since then most of the biggest factories have been privatized, now unemployment in Poland is something like 20%.because of the process of privatization. Privatization is strongly pushed by the EU.

Activist from ABB commented not seeing any positive things which could appear if Poland joined the EU, but he sees more and more people starting to doubt, but even if countries joined, all the citizens will have status of second class citizens in the countries. It is clear that EU is there not to help Poland, this winter was such a catastrophe in Poland, road cuts because of the snow and in the end help came from the Czech governement, not from the EU. But of course brave Poland sends soldiers to Germany to help with the flood.

An activist from Sweden commented that much of the momentum of the left was lost due to unsuccesfull campaign against membership around the referendum. It should be important to think about scenarios, when Mexico entered NAFTA all kinds of horrible things such as the expansion of the maquiladora took place.

There was a question about environmental situation and perspectives in the candidate countries. In Poland about half of the people live in the countryside, there is no such an intensive agriculture as in Europe. In Europe farms are huge, in Poland the farm might be like five hectares, family which owns the farms may feed itself, they may feed people in the local market. There are no much herbicides or pesticides, there are less chemicals than in the communist times. We have about two million small family farms, EU demands to leave only 600 000 or 800 000.
It is strange that EU does not change its policy, although it has been criticized so much after what happened in Spain and Portugal.

Czech republic, the situation will in another hand improve, in another hand get worse. For example in EU they must have cleaning stations (?)for the rivers. Also old refrigerators with CFC must be recycled. All of these are conditions to enter the EU, however these will hardly be realized because there are no time nor money. In another hand they are pushing for more highways, before it was only 3 highways, for example in Brno there was a conflict with a road project. Also we are getting much more cars.

In Croatia, EU is offering some defence against the USA. USA threated to sue Croatia to WTO due to anti GMO laws.
But it would also be stupid to be against the whole EU process, since many laws have been changed and more than 80% of Croatian banks are already owned by the EU banks.

Ireland used to be a poor country but 1973 when Ireland joined to EU it was a huge economical boom and roads built everywhere, but it was no sustainable, now there is a recession because of that boom economy.

It is a real shame that EU tries to enforce western kind of development to the Eastern Europe. They try to make it like a western European living.There is no true commitment to help peoples living and health.

It was made very clear from the beginning by EU who would be a potential member of the EU and who won't ever be, however it was clear that EU tries to impose certain kind of domination, to do certain kind of treaties. A very important topic is the membership of the WTO, it connects very different kinds of topics, like privatization and labour relations

Greek activists commented that even in case of defeats in referendums, it is very important to never finish trying to get our message through. Then there was just a small minority in Greece against the European Union, during years when Greece has participated to the European Union this movement has been growing. Sometimes there are battles which clearly may not be won, but you should have a right way to deal with them. There is a campaign in Greece against the EU, which will organise against the summit in Thessaloniki 2003 and against olympic games of 2004.

There was a concern that debate has been too much around EU enlargement, people wanted also to hear comments from Russia and other non-candidate countries.

An activist from Russia commented that they do not have really enough any information about TNC's, it is quite difficult in Russia to get true information. Activists in Russia need urgently cooperation with Western activists on these topics. There are lots of cases when only international cooperation may help in this kind of issues.

There was a question about activities against the Gazprom corporation. There are problems in the South of Russia with the gas pipeline projects pipeline projects in the Southern Russia. Rainbow Keepers has organised among others against the pipeline projects, one of them being the Blue Stream gas pipeline. This pipeline is planned to be built through a nature reserve. Local groups are active, doing radical actions on this topic.

There will be also a pipeline which is built through Poland, from Siberia through Poland to Netherlands.
For Polish activists it is very hard to get information about transnationals, we may use only western sources like Corporate Europe Observatory. Some people in Poland have a project to set up a Corporate Watch for Poland.

There is also a group or at least some individuals doing some research on the multinational corporations in Croatia.

Discussion about concrete proposals

In the beginning, there was an announcement about a bike tour connected to the Ecotopia festival going to be organised in Ukraine.

In the beginning there was the question are there any campaigns already on the topic of the EU in the candidate countries, apart from those of the far right.

There exists a coalition for the Polish countryside. They campaign against Common Agricultural Policy. There are some enviromental groups working on some enviromental aspects. We should also not forget the fact that may of the enviromentalists are sponsored by the EU. People from Poland thought that there are much other campaining except the far right.

Activist from the German No one is Illegal had something to say about migration. As it was already mentioned in the last issue of the Abolition of the Borders from Below in the report from the Polish bordercamp, there is sort of idea of having a conference in Poland around this bigger topic of abolition of the visa free travelling around 1st of July 2003. There is also a campaign against IOM, International Office on Migration, which has many offices in all of the East European countries. They for example support Baltic states in approving the Schengen conditions, they are all the time destroying the flight routes of illegal immigrants and they are going to recruit cheap labour force. Not only building the fortress Europe but migration management in a much more wider sense.

3 years international decentralized action days on the No border themes have been organised. This year in Lithuania, Warsaw and Helsinki groups are about to do small actions in the front of IOM offices, we have leaflets available in English. We are interested to do this link to migration and border management. It would be very nice to have some more information about these issues to the Noborder website from the candidate countries, if new groups are interested to work on these issues.

Concerning the EU summit in Thessaloniki the next year, this is is very important because this is the last rotating summit and since then there will be summits only in Brussels all the time, there are many people from East Europe travelling there and there is also a plan to have a camp in Timisoara, Romania on the way to Thessaloniki. Of course things chance since during the last weeks there has been a lot of repression against Romanian comrades and it is unclear will the event take place.

It was decided to talk final minutes of the discussion about East European dimension of the European Social Consulta and PGA.

In Florence, as part of the autonomous space in the European social consulta a working group with presentation from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine will take place.

A person from Autonomous Action of Moscow wanted to comment in context of ESC and PGA the way how international solidarity is organised in this scene in general, not only in connection with conferences but with summit protests in general. There seems to be much goodwill in the West about how to get East Europeans involved, for example he had not read a single strategy paper during the last years not wooing about low level of East European participation and concerns how to have some more of it. Usually this participation means paying someone to travel to somewhere. This financing for travels seems to be very easy to get at least to some people, but these experience are usually not shared or shared in a very small scale only, and almost nothing ever comes out from them. In the end a small group of people very aware about the things going on monopolizing all the contacts is created, and rest of the people have still a feeling of isolation. This way “solidarity without content” creates hierarchies in the Eastern movements.

In another hand, when there are some very concrete proposals of Eastern groups of cooperation, often nothing comes out from them. CSAF distributed months ago calls of cooperation with the enlargement issues, but seems like they found little support. Mobilization to Polish and (cancelled) Finnish bordercamps from the West has been a pain in the ass. There are plenty of anti-fascist prisoners in Poland, but a little of interest to help them in the West.

A person from Osteuropa AG saw this criticism as somewhat totalist and close, without much of optimism about better future in the East-West cooperation. Member of Autonomous Action agreed that we have a hard know here, if you are complete open in the involvement, you get all kinds of people such as complete racist and apolitical ones who come around to Ecotopia, but where you have selection it always creates elites. The main problem is the financial constraint of travelling, only way to get over it is to focus more to East. For example to Polish bordercamps it is much more easier to travel that to West. People should just focus more to events in the East, there is no other way around it.

A participator from Croatia commented that European social consulta is interesting, but in regards to the morning workshop he did not found any way in which it could be implemented in Croatia, it is still too abstract, something in the heights.

For another person PGA is maybe a different story, the structure and the decisionmaking and the goals are unclear, it is sort of loose network to which groups from the Eastern Europe could participate, there are these things against which PGA is organising, but these have not much reflection how these issues relate to issues in the East Europe. For example he does not really know how social consulta could work in his family town of Wroclaw, maybe it is also possible to learn some thing from Social consulta or PGA, but maybe it is not possible to implement it in some certain places.

A person from Sweden thought that as for the PGA perspectives go, we have seen for example the farmers coming from the South to PGA events, now we have a problem we want to wider this even further, we have a need of concrete plans how we may wider this, how we may get more people involved. What happens everywhere affects us, we must help people to work in the local level everywhere, for example the propositions of MRG today, to make regional conveyor, another proposition to have caravans, because it is also a very different situation than in other countries, in most of countries movements have resources but in Eastern Europe they have not.

It was commented that Social Consulta might be different in different places.

There was a wish to have more practical PGA projects in the East, for example if you look PGA history, countries where people started to participate to PGA were those with some PGA events, so I think there should be some PGA events in East.

A person from Poland was first time in the PGA process and I like this possibility and to him it was very important to meet people face to face. He thought it is very important to maintain this network and to keep people involved. He is not very much into debate about PGA process and politics. In Poland there are no any good events but in Poland people think they are nothing, there are poorer places where people have been able to organise.

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