Conference on “25 Years European Forum: Impenetrating New Strategy” organized by the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity and supported by Labor Party UK, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 6 April 2019.
The conference focused on the role of progressive foundations and social democratic parties that should play against growing non-liberal democracies in last years in Europe. The purpose of the conference was to draw up by the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity a strategy and a work plan for the coming years in co-operation with European Union and neighboring countries.
The conference was opened by Jean Marinus Wiersma, Vice President of European Forum who initially commemorated the jubilee celebration of the 25th anniversary of the European Forum in support of social democracy, after the collapse of communism. Mr. Wiersma introduced the recently published book “An Inheritage of Willy Brandt” showing how the forum contributed to social democracy, initial discussions on co-operation or not with the communist parties that were transformed into Social Democrats and how it has concretely collaborated over the years with political forums and relevant foundations. The book contains a guide of support given to the integration processes for aspirant countries in the EU, the rule of law, freedom of the media etc.
Tanja Fajon, Vice-Chair of the S & D Group thanked the participants in the conference, delivered the greeting of Udo Bullmann, President of S & D Group, and presented the book of the Social Democratic Manifest “Sustainable Equality”, which is adapted to the challenges of the Nations United Global Goals.
Fajon speech was in four essential points:
- To bring citizens to politics.
- The risk of populism and extremism.
- European Union is in the crossroads, the immigrant crisis highlighted the institutional crisis.
- Lessons learned from BREX.
There must be a viable solution to the four crises, on the other hand we must stop the money from Russia and the US to fund nationalism and extremism in Europe.
Danjel Tadic from the European Forum presented the new forum strategy and some of important points.
Summary of Lisbon discussions:
- Encouraging parties to be modernized.
- Well-structured work with young people, women, and minorities through the European Forum Training Academy.
- Building a bridge between progressive parties and social movements.
- “Watchful” on Russia as an exporter of authoritarianism, non-liberty, disinformation in order to polarize our societies.
- More effective communication in messaging.
- Increasing coordination and role sharing between S&D, FEPS and PES.
- The nowaday challenges for a possible enlargement with European countries.
- Observation and Political Consultation Visit.
- Solidarity and Support.
- Creating a network with progressive actors and the ability to get involved in countries that do not have a Social Democratic Party.
- Discuss working plan 2019-2020 with a new strategy and new resources.
- Better co-operation for the needs of neighboring European Union countries and with PES, FEPS, S & D, CEE Gender Network.
- Working plan for observational visits for “Social Democracy and Transformation in Eastern Europe”, LBGT and Minority Rights WB, European Forum Training Academy (Future Leaders).
Key Reactions from Conference Participants:
Bartosz Rydilinski, Amicus Europe, emphasized the need of thinking of a long-term strategy to mitigate social inequalities, because it risks our generations in the future.
Iris Skrt, Progresiva Slovenia said that democracy is not brilliant and more or less all of us have the same problems in today’s Europe.
Mijos Dajajic, the Center of Modern Skills, said it needed better cooperation and communication with the leaders of social movements.
Samuli Sinisalo, Kalevi Sorsa, told about the need for new human resources because new initiatives require staff and funds.
The growth of non-liberal democracies and the role of progressives
Presentation by Zoltan Pogasta, Political Economist at the University of West Hungary focusing on the Hungarian case study, the collapse of the left and at the same time the collapse of the middle class. He focused on the reasons of falling left in Europe, linked to many reasons, but first of all by the reduction of budget on health and social policies, as well shift towards the center in liberal politics.
Presentation by Nicoletta Pirozzi, L’Istituto Affari Internazionale, addressed the issues of radicalization of public debate, weakening of European political institutions, creation of specific target groups.
Participations in two groups:
- Moderated by Bohdan Feres, Institute for Democracy and Social Progress in Ukraine, on the topic of co-operation between political parties, social movements and workers’ unions. In this session I spoke about the projects of the “Qemal Stafa” Foundation as the Political Academy, discussion panels for EU Chapters, Political Magazine “Zoon Politikon”, trainings for the electoral campaign as well as the projects that we will undertake in the future for approximation and inclusion in our projects with civil society organizations and other stakeholders. As a conclusion, was emphasized the importance of holding political forums and open foundations.
- The second group was moderated by Arjen Berkvens, the Secretary General of the European Forum on Practical Examples of how Progressives can stop illiberal trends in Armenia, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine and the CEE Gender Network.
International Solidarity: How can we support our partners in fragile democracies?
- Maja Videnovic, Democratic Party of Serbia, raised the political situation in Serbia and the opposition’s efforts to bring a new alternative.
- Aleksandar Spasov, the Progress Institute, emphasized the importance of synchronizing on a common agenda of political foundations and social democratic parties, building a cosmopolitan society and the importance of political education. The issues dealt with were also related to the political situation in the Western Balkans and the risk of growing Russia’s influence in the region.
- At the conclusion of this one-day conference we would like to emphasize the positive opinion in relation to the “Qemal Stafa” Foundation, especially from the Kalevi Sorsa Foundation, “Olof Palme International Center “and” Foundation Max van der Stoel “.
- Patrik Eichler, Masarykova Demokraticka Academy from the Czech Republic who was open to collaborating with the “Qemal Stafa” Foundation in training programs focusing on the functioning of democracy and the rule of law, while the following may define a Draft-Cooperation between the two forums for further cooperation. He also wanted to give the Academy’s experience in capacity building for our country.
- From the conference I received two books for the “Qemal Stafa” Foundation library “Mind the Gap: Progressive Movements and Parties Together” and “An Inheritance of Willy Brandt”.
- Need to translate books of Left Socialist Democratic ideology discussed with (Christian Castagna, Euro Cite France).
- The conference message brings the need to strive to coolaborate among the foundations in Europe.
- Building bridges of cooperation between civil societies and social movements.
- More effective coordination, communication and role sharing between S&D, FEPS and PES.