South Countries are expecting a lot from the EU

Article published on May 27, 2003
community published
Article published on May 27, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Interview of Julien Luçon, member of the Anti-G8 European coordination.

How is the G8 counter-summit organised at the European level? Are all the Europeans involved with this summit?

The main initiatives are concentrated in France and Switzerland, mostly in Geneva and around Lake Geneva. European coordination meetings were first held in November 2003, during the European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence. French, Swiss, but also Belgian, British, Italian and Spanish people took part in these. Then they met again at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre.

The idea was to create a consistent framework for the different initiatives to get organised, and then to bring them together in Evian.

Do you think that a proper European movement is taking shape, or rather that the initiatives are still scattered on the national level?

There is a European dimension. Though its not totally European yet, its not exclusively national anymore; its the result of the European Social Forums dynamics.

Has the ESF really given it a boost ?

Yes, it has. Today, all the invitations, reports, texts, initiatives and mobilization notices about the G8 are circulating on European lists counting thousands of people, not only from Western but also from Eastern Europe.

Is there any European unity at stake?

The Iraq war has created a totally new situation. Its been a major factor in the movements life through its unifying force.

Was it the birth of a European public opinion..?

Yes, and also, I think, of a global one, with a large anti-war movement which has strenghtened the anti-globalisation movement. Economic and social issues are sensitive and highly motivating themes in Europe. This has been confirmed at the ESF.

As for the European construction, which contributes to the current social regression, there is a community of interests for these European movements, even for the EU candidate countries, about these problems. Weve already started reflecting on public services, retirement, pensions, the financing of public policies, the fiscal system...

Is the nature of the anti-G8 mobilization changing? From highly visible demonstrations through the media as in Seattle or Prague, why not move towards better structured, yet more discreet, initiatives in terms of propositions?

As far as organisation is concerned, Genoa was highly structured. They had made the state of their preparation more visible than ours, several months before. Lots of things had taken place, not only massive protests but also debates, exhibitions, initiatives. We had not set about it as well as they had, in terms of visibility, but Evian demonstrations will be visible, anyway. On the other hand, theyll take place in a background different from Genoa.

Genoa took place before September 11th, within a context of rapid development of the so-called alter-globalisation movement, and it was the climax of those various summits. And there is no doubt that the Italian authorities handling of Genoa has played a great part in delegitimating the G8 even more.

Today, the situation is very different. The international context is marked by an aggressive, unilateralist, warlike US foreign policy, the crisis between the great powers brought to light through the Iraq war, but also the high tensions in various countries whether rich or poor due to the rise of extremes (extreme right, fundamentalism) and a social background marked by the neo-thatcherian conservative revolution. This is what makes the movement still credible, but also what makes it take other stakes into account. Its also much more difficult to handle, politically speaking.

Why protest against the G8 ? After all, it is a forum of exchange, like Porto Alegre.

We stress the illegitimacy of the G8 because precisely its not JUST a forum for exchange. Its also a club which never came from any democratic demand. Since 1975 its been following a programme related to the industrialised countries interests. The G8 governments carry considerable weight within the international institutions they are the controlling shareholders of the IMF and World Bank and the world's riches (60% of the world GDP). What we protest against is the fact that the G8 have taken upon themselves to control the functioning of international order. In the name of what do these eight countries decide on world political choices, irrespective of any political debate with other countries, other governments or other people?

If there is one legitimate institution to take on this part, we think it is the United Nations. The framework does have defects indeed, and should be worked on. More importantly, if you consider the gap between the political statements and the reality of facts over the last 25 years, the disappearance of the G8 would have no important effect.

But the G8 have taken initiatives, about debt for example

What initiatives? The G8 in Cologne (1999) called for debt relief for poor countries. This is far too inadequate in terms of what they need and whats at stake here. We have for a long time been asking for a summit on debt. Let Jacques Chirac, host of the G8, suggest a UN summit about debt. A summit in which civil society will be able to take part. Then well have lots of things to say

Weve moved from « anti-globalisation » to « alter-globalisation ». What are the propositions that youd like to deal with?

The problem of global governance, by stressing its anti-democratic nature and taking the question of US hegemony into account. The Summit for another World [part of the anti-G8 movement] focuses on themes suggested by the G8 French presidency: NEPAD ( the New Partnership for Africas Development), social responsibility of companies, water, conflicts related to mining, terrorism.

In terms of propositions, a number of movements have tried to show that it is possible to establish social relations different from those imposed by capitalism: thats what the alternative villages of the counter-summit will be particularly dedicated to.

Do you believe that the EU could play a role in the US hegemony on global governance? Or is the EU nothing less than another framework tending towards neoliberalism?

Its a framework where neoliberal policies are being imposed. There are historical reasons for that The EU can play a role, indeed, but we must go further than that. We must ask ourselves how it could play this role, and then start working at the level of trade unions, political and associative forces in order to carry out the political battle and change Europe, together with its content and its role, inside and outside its boarders. In order to denounce its current anti-democratic nature.

Is such a movement taking shape?

That work, born from the ESF, is being progressively undertaken in Europe The Iraq war has revealed the European political fractures. And it has shown us that a political debate, and a political battle, could be lead at the continental level. There are various European projects. We should work so as to have ours command attention, and then create the right conditions for a political battle on the subject.

The EU can play a role in the construction of a multipolar world (even if the meaning of this word still has to be agreed on). Many Southern countries and organisations are expecting a lot from it. Yet, today, we can see that the EU, in its dominant version, rather tends to promote as liberal policies as those of the US, and sometimes even worse depending on the case.