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The Alter Summit
The European Anti-Poverty Network in the Alter Summit
EAPN’s statement for the 2013 Alter Summit
Maria Jeliazkova, EAPN Executive committee member from Bulgaria, speaker in Opening Plenary
This event was organized with the Greek social movement with the support of civil society organizations, trade unions, NGOs, political and cultural personalities from all around Europe.
The Alter Summit in Athens is a step forward in the building of more convergence between movements opposed to the current anti-social and anti-ecological policies promoted by European governments and institutions.
It is a highly symbolic gathering, since Greece has been the laboratory of the destructive austerity and so-called competitiveness policies, but can also become the laboratory of the resistance against austerity.
EAPN was very active at this Alter Summit 2013, which was also a key event for EAPN Greece. The Greek network of EAPN invested a lot of its financial and human resources in it.
The event was divided into 3 main parts:
- The Opening Plenary
Maria Jeliazkova, from EAPN Bulgaria, was one of the key speakers of the Alter Summit’s opening plenary (click on her name to read her speech below on this page).
- The Social Rights and Poverty Assembly
The event was followed by 13 assemblies. EAPN organised the “Social Rights and Poverty” assembly, which brought together over 100 participants.
This assembly was chaired by Katerina Poutou, President of EAPN Greece. The following debate and conclusions were moderated by Maria Marinakou, EAPN Executive Committee member from EAPN Greece.
Sonja Leemkuil, from EAPN Netherlands, also spoke on behalf of EAPN (click on her name to read her speech below on this page).
Several members of EAPN made presentations in this assembly, including Maria Jeliazkova, from EAPN Bulgaria, Spanish Social Workers (members of the INternational Federation of Social Workers, member of EAPN, Amana Ferro from the EAPN Brussels Secretariat …
See here the programme of the Social Rights and Poverty Assembly: http://www.altersummit.eu/athenes/article/social-rights
- The street demonstration – EAPN members participate actively with EAPN Greece
The economic and financial crisis has proven that the model that we are following is wrong, as it benefits the few while impoverishing the many. Growing inequalities in our societies, and an ever-widening gap between those who have and those who do not, have had disastrous social and economic consequences in many countries, and present a real threat to our democracies. The so-called “solutions”, in the form of harsh austerity packages, have only reinforced the problem. Savage cuts in public budgets have hit much-needed social protection systems, which acted as automatic stabilizers, as well as key social services, thus condemning more people into poverty and exclusion, and pushing those already experiencing hardship even farther towards the margins.
This is an unprecedented attack on the European Social Model, and a harbinger of the progressive dismantling of our welfare states. EAPN believes that there is an inextricable link between the increasing lack of democracy in European societies and the rise in poverty and inequality. We believe than an alternative way is possible, by an equal distribution of resources through fair taxation, and investing in people and in strategies to both prevent and alleviate poverty. We believe in an Active Inclusionapproach, which supports those who can work to access quality, stable jobs and provides broader social participation to all, through adequate income support and quality social services. We believe that the European Union must find a new path, where Member States cooperate to ensure access to rights, resources and opportunities for all.
The Alter Summit is a pan-European initiative, bringing together a wide range of actors from different organizations, committed to a better, more democratic and more equal Europe. We are here to make a difference, to stand up for a new, sustainable and inclusive development paradigm, that puts people and planet before profit. To reclaim back democracy for the people, and to build together a social Europe, one which we can learn to trust again.
Save Our Societies! We need them!
Our concerns are growing – all over the EU we are witnessing a deep and multilayer transformation of societies:
We see blocked growth, lack of positive social and economic changes; odious and illegitimate debts to be paid by future generations; multiple traps for people to be dependent, controlled and disciplined. After 1975 a radical change in income distribution and permanent growth of inequalities increase poverty. This is parallel to crisis of democracy, declineofmoralvalues, crisis ofsocialknowledge & rationality, criminalization of economic activities, corruption.
The future of this spiral of regression is predictable: further increase of inequalities, economic, social and humanitarian crises, manipulated strengthening of cultural prejudices, search for scapegoats, conflicts and wars… Howfar can we go by repeating the history of the 30s of last century? Quo vadis Europe?
The main victim sofall this are not only individuals, the main victims are theEuropeancivilizationandEuropeansocieties, their humanistic traditions.
These processes are neither natural nor spontaneous. They are socially generated by deliberately chosen social and economic policies.
We need a turning point. It is high time European institutions to clearly recognize that the policies labeled ‘neoliberalism’ are completely compromised. They deliberately created crises & inequalities, dismantled the main post war achievement: the European social model, and failed.
The turning point means deep reconstruction of policies -torestore the true meaning o fsocial and economic rights enshrined in a series of international and European documents.
We need to re-introduce adequate social standards and guarantee adequate income for all.
The resources are enough. Neither the world nor Europe ever in history were richer. Only ideological fog and propaganda clichés blur the focus and prevent seeing available resources. To use the resources adequately it is necessary to change:
1. The income policies – to restore the just and fair incomes for all and over come the gap between austerity for some and huge profits for a self-selected minority.
2. To enhance policies aimed at inclusive growth where people are resource and asset for development not a liability and obstacle. Economic development should be subjected to the well-being of people, not vice versa.
3. To change the policies that now turn into waste all types of resources: human, material, financial and cognitive. Just think about the redundant people, uncultivated land, abandoned buildings and ghost towns, waste of money in offshore zones, squandered money (including EU Structural funds), rejected knowledge, while meaningless ideas receive a warm political reception.
As a project of the Council of Europe asks: “How is this paradox possible: to generate superfluous resources when poverty rates are increasing everywhere?”
The reason is that high and distant from people decision making centers always and everywhere transform common wealth into private benefits, destroy resources they can’t control and generate lose-lose situation for all.
The good news is that people and societies are waking up. This Forum and the Manifesto are proof of this.
In all member states numerous and still fragmented fireplaces of resistance search opportunities to restore the meaning of development. Bringingthemtogetherwill:
– enforce thedriving potential ofvalues(of social justice) andknowledgeondecision-makingprocesses;
– increasethenegotiatingimpact of different social groups, including the most vulnerable
Citizens’ participation in decision making is fundamental axis to build a different EU that we need.
European citizenship has a long road ahead to enhance efficient public participation through enlightened technologies and instruments of direct democracy.
The future should not be a nightmare!
People have intrinsic needs to build not to destroy, to cooperate not to compete, to share not to alienate, to love not to hate.
The future could be closer to these needs! Closer to our dreams!
Sonja Leemkuil, EUISG steering group member from NL, speaker in the Social Rights and Poverty Assembly
I am Sonja Leemkuil. I am here to give the voice of People Experiencing Poverty from the ground!
A lot of people live in poverty, are social excluded, have no job, no food, no housing, no water, no sanitation etc. Poverty is in the country where you live! You are poor in the country where you live.
We, People experiencing Poverty and social exclusion, are involved in the European Meetings of people experiencing poverty and social exclusion.
This meetings are once a year in Brussels and PEP from the 29 countries and 18 organizations get a voice in this EAPN PEP Meetings.
We give key messages. Last year we had the red card action before the building of the European Parliament, where people in poverty told directly to the representatives of the EU Institutions what the reality on the floor is and how People in poverty are paying the price for the crisis. As People experiencing Poverty WE GET A VOICE!
I give you a section of the statement that was made:
- Ever greater numbers of people are homeless and living in precarious conditions.
- There is no need to cite “official statistics. just look around – just ask the staff in the shelters
- Ever greater numbers are losing their home because they cannot afford to pay their rent or their mortgage
- ever greater numbers are without a home because they are discriminated against
- Everywhere unemployment is mounting, workers are increasingly insecure, young people cannot imagine a future.
As a 17‐ year‐old girl has said, “Right now I have no dreams”. Can there be anything worse than not having a dream when you are 17 years old?
• Poverty and homelessness can happen to anyone: Causes of poverty and homelessness can affect anyone; from losing your job to physical or mental health problems, and from relationship breakdowns to the consequences of unregulated landlords and banks. Good Social Protection systems protect people from such risks but now social protection systems are presented as a burden rather that a protection for our societies. They are presented as ‘money for nothing’ rather than a protection for people’s rights when they meet unavoidable risks.
• Discrimination is a major problem:
This discrimination is redoubled for groups such as: people with disabilities; Roma; Immigrants, single parents; and ethnic minorities.
• The crisis and the response to the crisis has driven people in poverty deeper in poverty and people who never though they would be poor are now facing that reality. This is creating fear in large section of our societies:
Young people struggling to find employment, older people seeing the value of their pensions and savings eroded, and increasing numbers of ‘middle-class’ people facing over indebtedness and mortgage defaults demonstrate a worrying new profile of people at risk of homelessness and housing exclusion. This is creating fear and fear is what worrying elements in our societies use to push messages of hate.
• Authorities should start fighting poverty and stop fighting the poor: Too often, the authorities seem more intent on hiding or fighting people experiencing poverty and homelessness e.g. criminalising use of public spaces, destroying rough-sleeping communities, evicting squatters etc. than on ensuring alternative solutions exist. People should not be criminalised for being poor.
EAPN wants a different response to the Crisis:
- We want to put a stop to growing inequalities. To stop tax havens, to have fair tax systems, to ensure living wages and to end the scandal of working poor.
- We want that social protection systems be seen as good for the whole of the society and that EU member states must coöperate on social policy and not compete.
- A directive where every country would work together – to improve their Minimum Income schemes would be an crucial first step in this direction.
We are here in the Olympic Stadion. Not to play a game or to win a medal.
We are here to let hear our voice!
The relevance of so many organizations getting together in the Alter Summit is to demand a different response to the crisis and to demand a response based on solidarity that recognizes the dignity of everybody.
We wish to struggle, get organized en pressure groups, develop transnational collaboration, in order to strengthen our interventions and demand policies and measures here and now.
We all need to participate to build a better future.
We demand a decent social life in dignity and a life with a family-life-work balance in our Europe.