Photo: the Portuguese National Assembly during the TRANSEUROPA Festival 2022, © Natacha Oliveira & Maria Ferreira
By Jéssica Moreira
On May 7, the Portuguese Closing Session for the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) was held at the Serralves Foundation in Porto. This ceremony, hosting the national Portuguese representatives of the CoFoE in Strasburg, the State Secretary for European Affairs and the Portuguese Prime Minister, marked a closing chapter of the efforts made for the Conference, giving an overview of what was done on the national level regarding the different topics of the CoFoE. More than 200 people attended the event, many of which where young adults engaged in local students’ and youth movements and the general adhesion was so large, that the room exceeded its maximum capacity.
At the end, the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, sat in front of a large audience for a Q&A session. What ensued was a public display of youth militance for the future of Europe. The questions revolved around six main topics and demands:
- The EU’s and the national promotion of youth participation has to be complemented by structural support measures for the economic and social emancipation of what is considered the most qualified generation in Portugal’s history;
- Ecological commitment needs to be taken seriously and to be seen as a compromise and commitment between generations. More efforts need to be done in order to prioritize ecological and social concerns over profit. Moreover, energetic – or other form of – dependencies from countries disrespecting basic human rights have to be avoided;
- Institutional reforms must be proceeded by a stricter regulation of the housing market, allowing young people and minoritized groups to live and develop projects in the cities;
- The example of transnational participative democracy set by CoFoE needs to be traduced in a long-lasting endeavour, fostering the engagement of national communities for the EU project;
- The national education system needs to be revised, allowing more space for creativity, associative behaviour and critical thinking. This involves a curriculum reform of history classes, promoting a more critical perspective of historical events. School curriculums should provide more time and opportunities to students to engage in socio-political projects;
- The EU and national governments need to preserve their support for Ukraine and debate ways to deepen this aid and to stop Russia’s aggression. The request was made, for Portugal to express a clear and strong position regarding material and humanitarian support of Ukraine.
The Portuguese Citizens’ Assembly and the Conference on the Future of Europe
European Alternatives’ and Forum Demos’ representatives joined the event there to represent the work done on the TRANSEUROPA Festival 2022 in Porto, namely the Citizens’ and the Transnational Assemblies held from the 22nd to the 24th of April. These assemblies have revolved around many of the issues raised by the participants in this closing session.
The Citizens’ Assembly was part of the national events created in the context of the debate set forth by the CoFoE. Initiated by Forum Demos, the assembly held at Ermesinde’s Cultural Forum, on the 22nd and 23rd of April, aimed to explore, in cooperation with 20 national NGO’s and several activists, the issues and responses needed, at national and European level, in order to guarantee the rights of socially discriminated communities and to foster hospitality and equality. The perspectives on these topics where multiple, since the assembly sought to address local, national and European questions regarding the protection of minorities and socially discriminated people.
Being part of the project Asssemblies of Solidarity, coordinated by the coalition Citizens Take Over Europe, the assembly was based on a participative way of making politics that seeks to involve citizens’ horizontally, creating platforms based on their direct participation in the elaboration of policy proposals.
Even though the communities involved were bound to local realties, they represented groups present in many European societies – namely, afro-descendent, Sinti and Roma, and migrant and refugee communities. Gathering 38 citizens, engaged in different NGOs and representing the diversity of Portuguese society, the assembly elaborated a a number of recommendations on the socio-political and cultural challenges faced by these communities in Portugal.
Gathering 38 citizens, engaged in different NGOs and representing the diversity of Portuguese society, the assembly elaborated a a number of recommendations on the socio-political and cultural challenges faced by these communities in Portugal.
Through this participation, the assembly brought togheter 20 national NGOs working on the rights the different communities, namely ACMET, ADEIMA, Associação de Estudantes Africanos em Vila Real, Associação para a Integração, Centro Social de Soutelo, CIVITAS Braga, Costume Colossal, Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa – Gondomar/Valongo, DJASS, Fórum Refúgio, KALINA, LAR, Mén-non, Moinho da Juventude, Movimento Mulheres Brasileiras, NEA, Ribalta Ambição, SOS Racismo, TANE-TIMOR e UNA – União Negra das Artes.
The assembly thus sought to work on the topics set forth for the CoFoE, namely, “Participative Democracy” and “Values and rights, state of law, security”. One of the main issues raised was the need to improve internal security for discriminated communities and people, and improve social, medical and economic protection for people belonging to these communities. The Citizens’ Assembly aimed at looking at local and national experiences, in order to develop a project that could shape the future of Europe as a society of the future, characterised by diversity, the guarantee of equal rights and access to these rights, paying particular attention to socially discriminated communities and minorities and the inclusion of these communities not only in consultative processes but also in decision-making processes.
The Citizens’ Assembly aimed at looking at local and national experiences, in order to develop a project that could shape the future of Europe as a society of the future, characterised by diversity, the guarantee of equal rights and access to these rights, paying particular attention to socially discriminated communities and minorities and the inclusion of these communities not only in consultative processes but also in decision-making processes.
Understanding “Europe” as an inclusive and democratic supranational entity, the assembly set up a forum with the objective of thinking about how to include the specific needs and rights of the most fragile communities withing the policy-making processes at the European level, but also at the national and local level, bringing concrete answers to the immediate problems that beset these communities.
Our assembly advocated the idea of an inclusive Europe, understood as a welcoming, transnational space and common patrimony. It is pivotal to understand that we live in a network society, in which problems are interconnected and affect all people transversally – but unequally. We believe that the consequences of issues such as climate change or economic crises cannot anymore disproportionally affect already marginalized communities. We believe that right to live in a healthy environment, the right to non-discrimination (regardless if the discrimination is based on racist, economic or gender-identity exclusionary assumptions), the right to affordable housing, healthcare and education as political participation rights cannot remain the privilege of a few but must become the reality of the many.