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Looking for European alternatives in Belgrade

openDemocracy is partnering with European Alternatives to explore the Transeuropa festival. Here, two of the organisers explain why they chose Belgrade as the location for this year's festival.

Definitions of Europe seem always to default to the European Union. And if you live within the geographical bounds of this narrow definition of Europe, odds are you feel far removed from the democratic decision making process. And legitimately so. But there are a vast amount of Europeans with even less democratic influence, namely those residing in European countries that have not been granted entry to this exclusive and deeply flawed club. Where EU residents face a democracy deficit, the residents of non-EU European countries must live by its dictates, without reaping its benefits.

In many respects, this made the traditionally difficult decision of where to host the roving TRANSEUROPA Festival easy this year. The goal of the festival is to provide space to analyse, deconstruct and hammer out alternative proposals to the European status quo. We, the festival organisers, believe that in order to find and elevate real political and cultural alternatives, we must seek them out and create them outside of the traditional hubs of Brussels, Berlin, Paris and London.

TRANSEUROPA has always been ambitious. It doesn’t merely want to challenge our politics and policies, but it wants to challenge how we approach them and who is involved in constructing society on its myriad levels: political, cultural, social. The festival challenges all of us who are involved in it to bring artistic practices and approaches to political thinking. And it is to imagine what a transnational civil society could conceivably accomplish.

The concrete topics the festival will touch on this year very strongly resonate in Belgrade. The refugees transiting through Serbia have put Belgrade at the focus of attention as the last stop before the onward travel North to the now closed border with Hungary. There is a clear need to alleviate the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees while it is equally urgent to define the long term responses to end the blocking of asylum in Europe.

Belgrade. Wikimedia. Public domain.Urban struggles from across the continent have led to the creation of new political forms shaking the traditional "business as usual" politics of the nation states all around. Belgrade has its own catastrophe waiting to happen. The Belgrade waterfront development project is a flagship project of neoliberal processes in Serbia. What is most hypocritical about it though is the way of presenting it as a necessary harmonisation with European policies and directives. That is why it’s really important to present alternative politics coming from Europe to a EU candidate country in a local context. Or to say it differently: Another World Is Possible. The signs for this are visible when looking at the making of a network of resistance to the mainstream tendencies of neoliberalism from around the Balkans.

But it isn’t just Belgrade, the destination. Festival attendees have organised in groups to hitchhike there from their respective cities. Some will meet along the way. All will share their stories from the road. The festival takes place across Europe, culminating in Belgrade, October 1-5. We hope you’ll join us.

See here for more information on the festival, and click here for more of openDemocracy's coverage of the event.

About the authors

Daphne Büllesbach is the Executive Director of European Alternatives, a Europe-wide civil society organization devoted to developing the potential for transnational politics and culture. She founded the Berlin office back in 2013 and leads the organisations’ flagship event, Transeuropa Festival, a bi-annual event bringing together activists and artists and taking place in Madrid in 2017. In May 2017, her co-edited book: Shifting Baselines of Europe was published by transcript editing house.

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