PRESS RELEASE - 19.6.2001 for immediate publishing
Ulla Klötzer - coordinator of the European Futures Congresses, board member of the European Anti-Maastricht Alliance TEAM, chair of Alternative to EU, Finland
THE GOTHENBURG ACTIONS A SEVERE THREAT FOR DEMOCRACY
In the media all around Europe pictures of extreme violence have been shown during the last days from the counter meetings and demonstrations during the EU Summit. Opponents of the EU and of the globalisation process have been shown as stone throwers, communists, fascists and trouble makers.
The fact is that amongst more than 100 000 persons participating in the Gothenburg events, only a hundred trouble makers succeeded in turning professors from well known universities all around Europe, representatives of serious third world NGO:s and representatives of EU and globalisation critical organisations representing the whole political scenery from right to left, into extreme radicals breaking windows and throwing stones at the police.
University professors, members of the European Parliament and members of EU-critical organisations took part in the European Futures Congress, initiated by Alternative to EU in Finland and now meeting for the 7th time. Half of the participants from 20 countries, representing the Balkans, the Baltic states, Eastern and Western Europe, were young students. These persons took part in different seminars and meetings where the situation and future of Europe and the world was seriously discussed from the view of normal citizens for almost a week. The atmosphere was intense, the concern was very deep but the spirit was positive and constructive.
The undersigner had the possibility to participate in some 20 different events both as a speaker and as a listener. In all forums the need for an open dialogue and for activating the political engagement was stressed. All forums condemned violence as a means to achieve these goals. This positive atmosphere was, however, broken, especially when it comes to the young participants, by the way the Swedish police treated them and the whole event. Twice, young people where evacuated from the school floors where they were supposed to sleep.
Twice, the European Futures Congress had to change the venue half an hour before the congress was supposed to begin. Some participants and lecturers never found the new meeting places. The young people saw how quite "normal" youngsters with whom they had been sharing floor accommodation the night before, the night between Saturday and Sunday, were driven by machine guns out to the school front yard and had to lay down with their faces to the ground and hands behind their necks in pouring rain for more than half an hour.
Every time somebody raised their head or wanted to change the positions of their hands they were hit wherever the truncheon happened to land. Everybody was shouted at in a language that it is not proper to print in a newspaper. The most insulting comment came from the Chief of police Hakon Jaldung, who excused the violent action by the stress and the hurry but told the press that the youngsters could blame themselves since they had chosen to share the floors with possible terrorists. The young students attending the European Futures Congress felt extremely insulted and in the final debate on Sunday afternoon the disappointment in democracy, in a fair and peaceful debate between ordinary people, NGO:s and the politicians was extremely deep - hopefully though still repairable.
A sad fact is that this happened in Sweden, the cradle of nordic democracy, in a country which recently has been accusing the Israelis for using hard weapons against stone throwing young Palestinians. The Swedish government - which must be seen as responsible for what happened in Gothenburg - changed its mind overnight. Overnight hundreds of thousands of young and other believers in democracy lost their faith in the political system and in the capacity of our governments to listen to their citizens.
At all the seminars and conferences during the whole week everybody wondered where the media was? Why did they not show any interest in reporting about the concerns and constructive suggestions for changes from normal citizens and respectable NGO:s? Where is the role of the media to function as a supplier of severe messages from the people to the politicians whom they nowadays can meet only through the television or the newspapers or through the windows of fast driving limousines?
A dangerous gap has been built up between the people and the political elite. If that gap cannot be filled by anything else than stones and machine guns our societies are on the edge of a civil war and the peace keeping forces of the European Union can be used to keep up peace between the citizens.
Are these the values the Nordic countries wanted to bring along when joining the European Union? Other values the Nordic governments have not up till now been able to present in the EU policy making.