Official review of the first meeting of the EU Intergroup on the Commons

The debates in Italy (with the history of the referendum on water as common good) are the most advanced reflecting the content and strategic options. A interesting input gave Ernest Urtasun from the Catalonian left-green party – referring to a more general approach for a Fundamental Charter on Common Goods.

Republished from Elisabetta Cangelosi, and followed by a personal appreciation from Birgit Daiber:

“On May 26, the Intergroup on the Commons was launched. The conference focused on the definition of the commons and included the participation of both scholars and activists. It aimed at sharing experiences and analysis on what the commons are, how they can be relevant for Europe and what role the intergroup can play within the debate on the commons. This launch – first event of a long series to come – is the preliminary step for future activities of the intergroup, whose board is composed by M. Matias (GUE/GNL), S. Cofferati (S&D), A. Jongerius (S&D), D. Tamburrano (EFDD) and E. Urtasun (Greens).

The meeting started with a video by Stefano Rodotà – Italian legal scholar expert of commons – focusing on the importance of the commons from a legal perspective in a context of social and economic crisis, and on the connection between the debate of the commons and fundamental rights.

The first panel focused on legal, economic and political approach to the commons, with interventions by Anne Le Strat (former president of Aqua Publica Europea), Paolo Napoli (legal scholar) and Benjamin Coriat (economist). Several key aspects of the debate and of the definition of the commons were discussed with legal and economic contributions going from Ostrom, to the current legal approach of Italian scholars.

The idea that it is time for commons to find their place in the legal debate was reinforced; this should be done by adopting a perspective that considers law as a dynamic tool, both at national and European level. Furthermore, it was stressed that it is time for making commons part of the European political debate, using them to pave the way for alternatives to the current socio-economic model.

During the second panel, some concrete examples and experiences were presented. Two relevant perspectives were discussed within the debate: water and digital commons. For the digital perspective, Michel Bauwens (Director and founder of the P2P Foundation) and Ricardo La Fuente (Free Culture Activist) discussed the importance of participatory processes and cooperation. Jan Willeam Goudriaan (vice president of the ECI Right2Water and Secretary General of EPSU) and Ruben Martinez Moreno (Fundacion de los Communes and la Hidra Cooperativa) elaborated on water and commons.

Goudriaan underlined the importance of future approaches of the intergroup in view of the interaction with the European Commission policy process. Moreno focused on the commons as a way to reinvent the concept of public and to respond to economic and social crisis, especially in more affected countries such as Spain and Greece. Creativity, sustainability, transition, participation and circularity are among the key words that emerged from the interventions and the following debate. Both panels, indeed, were followed by interesting debates with the audience, which was itself made of activists and organisations involved in the debate about the commons.

Different areas of interest for the future of the intergroup have been identified at the level of theoretical analysis as well as of concrete experiences. The importance of a legal recognition of the commons, including in a human rights perspective, goes in parallel with the discussion on property and State. It emerged the importance of elaborating a reflection based on practices, such as: urban commons, natural resources, self-organised workplaces, collaborative economy, digital commons and knowledge. The global scale of the debate was also stressed, referring to the threats represented by international trade agreements such as the CETA and the TTIP.

The event was closed by the MEPs involved in the board who are committed to the topic and are oriented to create a space for further discussions. In particular, the role to be played by civil society was strongly stressed by the MEPs (and by the public along the whole debate). Furthermore, in the view of the need for a legal recognition of the commons, recognized by all the participants as fundamental, two possible steps are identified by the MEPs: on the one hand a more consistent analysis of what already exists and can be used to protect and reinforce the commons and, on the other hand, the elaboration of a joint resolution on the Commons.

A lot was discussed and still a lot remains to be done. But, it’s definitely time for the commons in Europe!”

On the Commongood mailing list, Birgit also gave a pessimistic personal appreciation of the state of the European Union today:

“I’m continuously trying to understand the driving interests destroying the European Union as we have known it in these days. Seen from a European point of view the battle led by some Governments (Germany, The Netherlands, Finland and the Baltic States in the first row) seems to be irrational and missing the least sense of common interest. No beautification by the propaganda machines can help to hide this. What is called “compromise” is the expression of intransigence and unwillingness to find solutions for the existential problems most of the EU-Countries are facing in the 7th year of the continuing crisis. Europe as a political entity seems to fall apart and national interests command. This means: it’s not only a continuous battle upon the biggest piece of the cake it’s splitting up into winners and losers. This is the lesson we learn from the Greece case: While the winners try to lead the Left Government of Greece like a lamb to the slaughter they execute their victory and continue to tell the myths of austerity policy to those Euro-Zone-countries (it’s the majority of the 19 Euro-Zone-States) still fighting against high and higher growing state-debts and mass unemployment. And all those countries suffering difficulties and potentially belonging to the losers keep quiet and are afraid to be the next getting under fire.

Just to remind: weren’t there the two basic promises of the 20th-century’s European Integration wealth for all citizens and peace? Well, the 21st-century’s European Integration tells another story. Wealth is something exclusively for winners – i.e. minorities within the countries and a few countries within the European Union. And even peace is under threat if we look to Ukraine and some initiatives of Baltic States and Poland for a military intervention …

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