On 25th and 26th of May DiEM25 members from all over Europe came together in Berlin to exchange their work and ideas on democratising the EU. People from countries like Finland, Serbia, Ireland, Spain, Romania, Poland, Norway, France, Italy, Austria and Germany discussed how to build a solidly united system in Europe that offers equal rights and opportunities for everybody living on the continent.
The Democracy in DiEM25 (DiD) group shared their ideas on Distributed Network Collectives and Grassroots Democracy. We think internal democracy is crucial and communication and transparency are the key elements. DiEM25’s European Gender group pointed out that gender equality and diversity are everyday practices and should be embraced to foster our democratic discourse in including and representing as much perspectives as possible.
The DiEM25 Spontaneous Collective (DSC) Berlin provided an input on the topic of Multiparty Politics. The debate will go on: Should we found the first exclusively pan European Party? This question is crucial when thinking about strategies to put our agenda to the ballot boxes at the European elections of 2019! Of course endorsing candidates or parties in the elections are the other possibilities, as we recently did in the French and English elections. It’s clear for us that we will put an end to the politics of “There Is No Alternative” (TINA) and challenge the national phlegmatism of Lexiteers. We therefore say “TATIANA” (That Astonishingly There Is AN Alternative!) to Angela Merkel, Wolfgang Schäuble, Jean-Claude Juncker and everybody else: The European New Deal!
The DSC Belgrade later asked: How to deal with the European New Deal? And presented answers like “With the European New Deal paper we are able to embrace the robot army appearing on the horizon and let them work for us.” We are going to put forth green investments and finally regulate the banking sector. We are going to provide a job guarantee, basic goods and social housing for everybody.
In other workshops we pointed out that art should question the morality of the public and shift the thinking of people. Art as a fundamental form of societal and political expression will be at the heart of DiEM25 (DiEM25 Voice). Furthermore we learned about the peculiarities of the French elections from DSC Lyon and the history of the disintegration of Yugoslavia through an economic crisis from DSCs Ljubljana and Belgrade.
We also exchanged our ideas for a European Constitution after an input from DSC Asturias and elaborated on: “Let’s democratise Innovation and Production!” With a political framework for the encouragement of free and open source products that will empower us to become smart citizens instead of being controlled by overbearing smart cities. During the last panel we concluded that it’s about time to form a truly democratic European demos and put our ideas into practice.
We closed these incredible two days and twelve hours of workshops with a dinner at a Croatian Restaurant in Berlin. We thank all participants for the sparkling atmosphere, splendid talks and valuable inputs. We will very eagerly work on our policies and ideas, together with our new friends from all over Europe.
Some more impressions about the whole event are provided in this Video:
Since 2008 more people on earth are living in cities than in the country. Until 2030 there will be 5 billion people in cities. Therefor urbanisation is a planned development. In which direction this plan will develop and who is going to have the right to a say in the matter will be another question. For this reason the activist group of DiEM25 Berlin dedicated the first ‘DiEM-Lab’ to the topic ‘Building Rebel Cities’.
Building Rebel Cities
The theoretical concept of ‘Rebel Cities’ is going back on the book ‘Right to the city’ of french philosopher Henri Lefebvre from 1968. The name ‘Rebel Cities’ is due to the social theorist David Harvey. He traced urban development back to global monetary flow. Large scale projects like the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg or the airport Berlin-Brandenburg, for example, are built in big cities because international money is searching for profitable investment. In accordance with Harvey such investments are indication of housing bubbles and economic crisis.
Furthermore the book ‘Rebel Cities’ points out the social aspects of urban communities. City researchers like Andrej Holm and Dirk Gebhardt show that it is about “concrete use of urban spaces … and access to political and strategic debates about future development paths”. At the beginning of the ‘DiEM-Lab’ Martin Pairet, activist of DiEM25 and member of the organisation ‘European Alternatives’, called attention to how promising the concept of ‘Rebel Cities’ could proof. There are several possibilities to make it a reality. For example Barcelona and Naples have the shape of a rebel city. Both municipalities form there own “Lab” with their own history, experience and above all their specific population. What about Berlin?
Whereas water privatisation was stopped in Naples and the municipality is organising water supply itself, also people in Berlin call for a different development. Lisa Vollmer researches housing protests in Berlin and New York and represented the alliance “City from Below” at the ‘DiEM-Lab’. The alliance is communally and self-governed. Lisa gave a very informative talk about recent political events and the everyday struggles around the topics of rising rents, public property and eviction.
City from below
Currently the alliance is mainly dealing with the so called ‘Dragoner-Areal’ a former army compound in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. It demands, that the area as “inner-city open area is developed along the interests of local users”. But the 4.7 hectare big area was already sold in 2012 with highest-bidding of about 21 million Euro from the Institute for Federal Real Estate to the investor ABR German Real Estate. The investor was planning upscale owner-occupied flats, cooperative buildings and new constructions. According to the building law the development plan has to take regard to the thorough collection of all interests and their fair consideration. Above all a comprehensive participation of the public and all parties involved. But the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg didn’t want to have that, which let to a withdrawal of German Real Estate to buy the area.
Therefor residents expressed “massive doubts about the promise of ‘affordable’ flats by a private investor” through a participation procedure. As a result the Institute for Federal Real Estate has again invited tenders through a highest-bidding contest. Within the rent city of Berlin (60 % of residents have right for social housing) is another group whose housing conditions are precarious: migrants.
Max Hoßfeldt of the initiative ‘Give Something Back To Berlin’ (GSBTB) presented the work of his organisation at the ‘DiEM-Lab’. Just five years after its creation GSBTB is the biggest platform for neighbour initiatives and social employment in Berlin. It is dedicated to bring the big migrant community in Berlin to work together. GSBTB has hundreds of volunteers from over 60 countries. They differ from jetsetters to refugees and demand to “get involved”. This is an appeal to all people living in Berlin to build up communities and develop social projects. Already there are over 60 projects regarding different topics like centers for homeless people, mentor programs or creative children work. Today GSBTB can reach over 14.000 participants a year for their own refugee projects.
Christoph Wiedemann gave a different perspective on the topic escape and migration. He was in charge of an emergency accommodation for about 180 male refugees in Berlin. He reported about self organisation and self administration in that shelter. Some inhabitants argued to give rules to themselves and also to imply them whereas others had the opinion, with regard to the autocratic systems in their countries of origin, that the management of the shelter should give and imply the rules. Christoph pointed out that refugees are not a homogenous group and bring very different political opinions. Therefore alliances between democratic and progressive people with and without migration background are important.
Building Rebel Cities?
The organisators of ‘DiEM-Lab’ were excited about the event. Johannes Fehr, coordinator of the DiEM25 Spontaneous Collective (DSC) 1 in Berlin, said that it was a very convenient event. He learned how ‘City from Below’ is working and how it is challenging the municipal institutions. Johannes underlined the aspect of working together and above all, that “refugees should have the right to vote” and the “institutions involved in municipal politics should become more democratic”. Also another activist for DiEM25 in Berlin praised the “mix” of the inputs as well as the atmosphere of the get-together. All participants could conclude that more participatory rights for refugees are needed and many urban initiatives need political representation. For the future DiEM25 can learn that the specific European character of the movement is a main advantage. Urban problems are present in all European, yet all cities worldwide. To gather these problems and coordinate solutions will be a massive task for our future.