A gathering of Citizens Europe alongside the European Union summit of June 2003 in Thessaloniki articulated the concerns of many Europeans about the continents new constitution, its responsibilities over the Iraq war and security issues, and its policies towards migrants and asylum-seekers. The meeting participants, the Thessaloniki Social Forum and the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, sent this powerful message to the summiteers. Will they listen?
This European Summit is of key importance because the European Union is welcoming ten new members and considering a constitution for Europe. Yet it is taking place after a war which left deep divisions between Europe and the United States, within Europe, and within Nato and the United Nations.
Above all, the war revealed a deep chasm between civil society and governments. Here in Thessaloniki, a range of citizens groups from within Europe and beyond have had intensive discussions about the future of Europe and the world. We are grateful for this opportunity to inform you about five of our most urgent concerns, something that might help to overcome this chasm.
First, we wish to propose that the new constitution for Europe include in its preamble a commitment to Europe as a peace project. For most of its history, Europe has been the theatre of war and imperialism. Europe experienced two world wars, the cold war, and most recent1y, wars of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and the Caucasus. The founding idea of the European Union was to end war in Europe. Europe has a responsibility to the world to build our union around this idea, both within our continent and in the rest of the world.
This can only be achieved if Europe is democratic, socially just and committed to equality between men and women, and if it works to extend these principles globally.
Second, with these principles in mind, we urge the Union to adopt a human security policy and not a state security policy. We believe it is urgent to support civil society groups, especially in conflict zones, and to work for global social justice. We propose that the European Union develop a strategy of preventive democracy and not preventive war.
Third, we wish to express our deep concern about the erosion of the rights of asylum-seekers and the lack of respect for the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees. We believe that Europe must have open borders and that the Union should develop a rights-based policy towards legal migration. We strongly oppose the British proposal for camps outside the European Union. And we would urge you to extend European citizenship rights to all residents of the European Union.
Third, we wish to stress that undemocratic behaviour in or by any member of the Union is a cause of concern to all Europe. The new members have successtully met the criteria stated in Copenhagen in order to be admitted to the European Union. It is essential that such democratic principles become permanent standards. All European leaders at this summit should be aware of the embarrassment caused by the upcoming Italian presidency, in the context of a prime minister who finds himself in a position of conflict of interest which has led the Italian parliament to approve new legislation designed to exempt him from his judicial responsibilities and undermine the separation of powers and media freedom.
Fifth, the European Convention, in drafting the constitution in Brussels, has not yet succeeded in closing the chasm between Europe and the citizens. It should be extended and opened up to the peoples of the continent.
Democratic elements in the draft constitution must be kept and built upon. Europe must now launch a Democracy Process, offering more channels of direct and deliberative participation to its citizens, and a beacon of peace, democracy and social justice to the world.
The signatories of Citizens Europe are:
George Kokkas (Greek Social Forum/Forum for Citizens Democacy), Anna Karamanou (MEP), Arzu Abdulayeva (Co-Chair Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Simone Susskind (Coordinator Jerusalem link and Cyprus link), Niazi Kizilyurek (Turkish Cypriot academic and writer) Christos Stylianides (former spokesman of the Cyprus government Coordinator of the Movement of Political Modernisation of Cyprus), Mehmet Caglar (Turkish Cypriot academic specialist of peace education), Mary Kaldor (head of Institute for Global Studies/LSE) , Hilary Wainwright (writer and academic), Ali Bayramoglu (journalist), Mahcuppyan Etyen, Emel Kurma, Tacizer Belge (Helsinki Citizens Assembly-Turkey), Paul Carline(Democracy International Network), Virgilio Dastoli (European Civil Forum), Paulina Lampsa (Helsinki Citizens Assembly Greece), Philippos Savvides (Member of the Movement for Political Modernisation of Cyprus), Myria Antoniadou (journalist), Juliette Dickstein (peace education expert), Bernard Dreano (chair of Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Jacques Nikonoff (head of ATTAC / FRANCE), Michel Rousseau (head of March against Unemployment), Florent Schaeffer (coordinator of Citizens Pact Initiative), Gian Giacomo Migone (ex-President of Foreign Affairs Committee of Italian Senate ), Antonio Rossin (Worldwide Direct Democracy Movement), Ronald Pabst (European Referendum Campaign), Tuzlic Devzet (Bosnia Herzegovina Television), Ponos Tihomir (Journalist, Human Rights Award) .