People Power Participation 2012: fundamental rights in Europe
Following the successful development of PPP 2011, which saw thousands of citizens and organisations around Europe working together on common issues related to Justice and Home Affairs, European Alternatives is happy to continue this democratic exercise through a follow-up of this project, People Power Participation 2012.
We propose to focus the attention of PPP 2012 on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, now legally binding as part of the Treaty of the European Union. The aim of the project is to raise awareness among European citizens about those rights they possess but may not be fully aware of, consulting them on how citizens' rights can become most relevant for them. The project also aims to create a coalition of citizens and organisations joining in to advocate for these rights to be implemented across the Union. From January to December 2012, EA and its partners will organise a series of participative consultations around Europe based on the “world cafè” methodology that has proved to be effective at creating dialogue among citizens in a structured manner. PPP 2012 will focus initially on six countries: Bulgaria, France, Italy, Romania, Spain and the UK. The UK, who has opted out of the Charter, has been included, with the aim of creating awareness among citizens of its importance. The project will be organised as a series of trans-national, national and regional forums.
a) Kick-off Transnational forum: at the beginning of the project, several of the actors involved in PPP 2011 and those who joined in the campaigns that have been kick-started will meet in Rome to organise action for the rest of the year.
b) National consultations: these forums, held in each of the six countries in the local language, will have the aim of “translating” each of the themes covered trans-nationally in a way which makes sense in the local culture. These forums bring together several national actors who can back up some of the campaigns that emerged from People Power Participation and eventually coordinate the national effort to collect some of the signatures necessary to submit one or more European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECIs).
c) Mid-term Transnational forum: at the beginning of June. Half-way through the project, those involved in national consultations (as well as others who became involved in the campaigns) will gather again in Rome to coordinate their actions and officially kick-start some of the campaigns. By this point, the ECI should be reality which is likely to change democracy in the European democracy.
d) Regional consultations: held in two cities per country, bringing together a diverse mix of citizens invited to discuss what the Charter of Fundamental Rights means for their lives. This will be organised as a series of multiple round-table discussions and will have at the same time the aim to gather local support for the signature-raising exercise which citizens around Europe have expressed the will to engage in.
e) Final forum: it will be organised in October in Romania and will bring together the results achieved throughout 2011 and possibly interim data on ECIs as well as the results of other trans-national campaigns.
f) Final presentation at the European Parliament: participants from the different countries and the different campaigns will engage in a dialogue with MEPs for their campaigns to gather momentum in Brussels.
The themes of the panels are structured around the key areas covered by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and connected with campaigns that were started as a result of PPP 2011.
Access and alternatives to detention centres
Article 1: Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected.
Article 11:Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
Article 18: The right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the status of refugees and in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community
Article 19: Collective expulsions are prohibited. No one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Continuing our work on migration and asylum in Europe, and following the 2011 consultations held in Marseille, Cardiff, Barcelona and Paris, European citizens and residents will reflect upon the practice of detention for illegal migrants and (often) for asylum seekers. In particular, access by journalist and members of civil society to detention centres will be sought. Public perception of the reality of detention centre is still unacceptably weak and this is partly due to the difficulties that journalists have in showing what happens inside detention centres.
The issue of precarity and the right to a basic income in Europe
Article 15: Everyone has the right to engage in work and to pursue a freely chosen or accepted occupation.Every citizen of the Union has the freedom to seek employment, to work, to exercise the right of establishment and to provide services in any Member State.
Article 31: Every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity.Every worker has the right to limitation of maximum working hours, to daily and weekly rest periods and to an annual period of paid leave.
Article 32: Young people admitted to work must have working conditions appropriate to their age and be protected against economic exploitation and any work likely to harm their safety, health or physical, mental, moral or social development or to interfere with their education.
Article 34:The Union recognises and respects the entitlement to social security benefits and social services providing protection in cases such as maternity, illness, industrial accidents, dependency or old age, and in the case of loss of employment, in accordance with the rules laid down by Community law and national laws and practices. In order to combat social exclusion and poverty, the Union recognises and respects the right to social and housing assistance so as to ensure a decent existence for all those who lack sufficient resources, in accordance with the rules laid down by Community law and national laws and practices.
The 2011 consultations dealing with labour and social rights yielded the same results across Europe: citizens and especially young people are worried about finding work, and when they have it about losing it. They are afraid of being the first generation in centuries in Europe to be worse-off than their parents. This is partly due to a hyper-flexible labour market that, while depriving workers of basic rights such as sick or maternity leave, puts them in a perennial state of precarious living conditions, known across the continent as precarity. It has been suggested that extending the practice of basic income across Europe, as suggested by the European Parliament, could bring increasing security and welfare despite working conditions.
The Commons in Europe: participation in management of collective goods
Article 36: The Union recognises and respects access to services of general economic interest as provided for in national laws and practices, in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community, in order to promote the social and territorial cohesion of the Union.
In the last twenty years European have been told that the state was not the best actor to manage services of general economic interests and that water, electricity and gas distribution, telecoms, health delivery services, higher and lower education, among other things, would be better off if managed by for-profit bodies. The European crisis has shown that this was not the case, but the idea that state centralisation is the answer does not resonate well, either, among citizens. Rather, common ownership and common management of the Commons should be discussed and sought. The results of the referendum on public management of water in Italy in 2011, the protests that brought down the Romanian government after it announced that healthcare would be further privatised, the shared interest among several Europeans that ACTA would reduce internet freedom, are all symptoms of a discourse emerging on common management of resources of general economic interest. The developments in ICT allow for a bigger role played by citizens in participative democratic exercises for management of the Commons.