by Alfred Burballa Nòria.
The European movement against unnecessary imposed mega projects or in French Grands Projets Inutiles Imposés (GPII) met for the third consecutive year from the 25th to the 29th of July in Stuttgart, in South Western Germany. Activists from Turkey to England and from the Basque Country to Romania gathered to exchange experiences and knowledge as well as to enhance the movement first started after the forum held in Val di Susa (Northern Italy) in 2011 and consolidated after the second one in Notre Dame des Landes (French Brittany) against the GPII and other environmental harmful projects.
The Wagenhallen –an old shed currently used as place for music and art events- was the venue chosen for the Forum. About 800 participants enrolled in the forum where dozens of volunteers from the anti Stuttgart 21 movement ensured the organization. The program of activities included a short presentation of the struggles during the first morning and continued with several workshops and debates –up to 7 taking place in the same time. Translation was provided thanks to an extremely enthusiastic team of translators which made sure that the contents were understood no matter the language spoken by the participants.
The evening was time for a more relaxed debate and exchange combined with activities such as singing, concerts or theatre. The meeting finished with a Monday of protests: blockade and digger occupation in the morning and international demonstration in the afternoon across the city centre.
What do projected large high speed train railways, airports, open cast gold mines, motorways, tunnels for train and road traffic, massive urban developments, stadiums and dams have in common? According to EJOs fighting against those projects, it is possible to find the same protagonists, the same methods, the same public uselessness, the same repression, the same waste of public money favouring only a specific minority, the same asphyxiation of democratic debate and the same environmental damages. In other words, a pattern can be identified in all those GPII. While some analysts may identify them as classical NIMBY movements, the movements do not only oppose concrete GPII in their own areas, they seek to build and propose alternatives to preserve the environmental and social bases of people’s lives –as one of the forum’s aims states.
Previous documents and declarations including the Charter of Hendaye in 2010, the final resolution of the 2nd Forum 2012 in Notre Dame des-Landes, the final resolution of the 2012 Florence 10+10 forum and the Charter of Tunis -developed during the World Social Forum in March 2013 in Tunis, were reaffirmed. The final declaration urges to the different government and economic agents provoking such conflicts to respect the European Convention of Human Rights and the Aarhus Convention.
After the Forum, one thing remained clear, the White Elephant’ Syndrome has not yet been overcome. New strategies from the governing elites, for instance, the “Europe 2020 project financial bond initiative” of the European Investment Bank is the latest mechanism designed to provide funding for EU priority large infrastructure projects, as the Italian association Re:common warned in the Forum (http://www.recommon.org/il-business-delle-grandi-opere/). In fact, despite all the resistance and opposition, few controversial projects have been stopped. The clearest example is that the works for the new station in Stuttgart continue despite the Green Party victory in the elections, who won on the back of the opposition to the station. This frustrates many in the anti Stuttgart 21 movement.
The participants decided that a permanent network for coordination and contact has to be established. This network should count on experts so that technical and specialized counselling can be offered as well as access to information and analysis. Here, EJOLT is committed to play a role in the study of these conflicts and the production of knowledge regarding them.
Finally the movement agreed to launch a coordinated day of action across Europe on the 8th of December called European Engineers Day, and to meet again in 2014 in the Fourth Forum in Rosia Montana (Romania) (a planned and highly disputed gold mine project). Participants remain convinced that stopping those projects is not just a matter environmental and human rights but also of ethics.