Uma Sigdel (Nepal) and Tanya Gutmanis (Canada), our two GYG representatives to the FYEG Wintercamp 2013 in Finland, wrote a report about their experiences at an event with Young Greens in Europe. You are kindly invited to read their detailed report.
March 2nd, 2013 – Day #1
The first day of the Wintercamp kicked off on Saturday evening at the Finnish Green Party office, downtown Helsinki. After checking into the Stadium Hostel (where we stayed our first night), participants met at the Green Party office at 6:00pm for the info/welcome session. Introductions were welcomed with tea and coffee as we got to know one another, along with several ice-breaker and name games.
March 3nd, 2013 – Day #2
On our second day we all left the Hostel with our luggage to head to the Green Party office, where we had breakfast and a morning energizer. We then went over rules/guideline that were expected of participants while at the Wintercamp.
Our first task was to write down on different sticky papers, what our expectations, wishes, and fears of the Wintercamp were. Once everybody had written their thoughts down, we took turns posting them to the wall and sharing our views with the group at large. This enabled us to become aware of what others expectations were, and also to share our fears, allowing us to realize that we may share the same fears as others. Our second task for the day was to split into groups and discuss how we can influence decision making via our own country (tools and obstacles).
After our lunch break we had an exercise on the various EU institutions. Participants got into groups, where each group was then assigned a specific EU institution. Groups were to write down what that organization is responsible for, and then list some problems with the institution. We then presented the organization we were responsible for, sharing with others the responsibilities and problems of various EU institutions.
At 4:00pm we departed from the Green Party office downtown to our main Wintercamp location, located just 45 minutes outside of the city of Helsinki. Upon arrival we had an introduction and then set off into our HEG groups, where we would meet once a day to give opinions and suggestions about how the Wintercamp was going thus far; what we liked and what we didn’t like, and any improvements that could be made.
After meeting with our HEG groups we divided off into our committee groups. The three committees were: Political, Social, and Report Group. Participants chose from one of the three groups to join, and once a day for the rest of the week we would split off into our respective groups where we would work on our committee tasks.
In the evening we had our organizational presentations. Each country’s Young Green organization would present itself, share how many members they have, things that work/that don’t work, what campaigns they have been working on, etc. Representing Global Young Greens (GYG), we gave a brief overview of who we were, sharing the principles and values of GYG, mentioned recent campaigns, and discussed membership and regional organization.
March 4th, 2013 – Day #3
After breakfast and our morning energizer, the first session of the day was a guest speaker; Gerald Häfner, who discussed the concept of democracy and citizen’s participation. One of the original founders of the German Green party and ex member of parliament, Häfner stressed democracy as the most important issue for Young Greens. “Democracy is the soil for everything we want to grow politically.” According to Häfner, one of the fundamental elements of democracy is that as society grows and develops, so does the concept of democracy. Democracy is a continuous evolution. The most important step that we have to take right now, is the move from an indirect to a direct democracy. The current model needs to move to a participative model; one where citizens can raise issues themselves.
Häfner believes direct democracy to be the ability to discuss issues and at the end to have a say in decision-making. For him, it is ok to have professional politicians but representative democracy only works well when it is accompanied by direct democracy. The talk by Gerald Häfner followed with a Fishbowl Discussion, whereby participants with questions would form a circle of about 5-6 within the larger circle itself, asking Mr. Häfner a series of questions. If somebody from the outer circle thought of a question, they would simply walk towards the inner circle, tap somebody that has already asked their question on the shoulder, and switch places with them.
Following the discussion around participatory democracy, the latter session of the day focused on the idea of a European Convention and democracy in the EU. It had been mentioned that the EU, as a whole, is an attempt to organize democracy on a transnational level and that European democracy can only work if we bring democracy across the EU. A key point of discussion was the fact that most EU members are only spectators who don’t have a say in negotiation, and that it is imperative to create a Europe where citizens are able to say: “this is MY Europe.” We must make parliament stronger by giving the right for initiative and giving parliament the last say for law.
Gerald Häfner stressed the importance of having a new European Convention; one that is different than the ones previously seen – A convention that discusses questions around fiscal responsibility, taxes, budget economy, solidarity systems, etc, and addresses these issues on both a national and international level. How can we develop a European Union that isn’t seen as a union of banks and institutions, but a institution of citizens. Häfner noted that there should be a democratic convention that has time. For example, one that lasts three years that is published all over Europe, and has six months to make recommendations and amendments before it goes back to the convention to be voted on and implemented. A critical point of discussion was that Europe will fail if we don’t make it a union of the citizens.
The evening ended with cultural night; an opportunity to gather together and share a story, song, or dance from each person’s country of origin, accompanied with food or drink from that individual’s country. This gave participants insight into one another’s home country’s, gaining appreciation for one another’s nationality and values while at the same time enjoying the social aspect, indulging in many international drinks and goodies.
March 5th, 2013 – Day #5
On Tuesday morning Heikki Patomäki gave a lecture about the euro crisis and the worldwide financial crisis. He gave his view on the causes of the crisis and the choices and solutions that exist for European Union.
The first part of his lecture was mainly explanatory and he explained how the financial markets are interconnected with each other. He stated that: the single European currency is the direct result of the volatility within the global financial world. After the abolishing of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, the world currencies become more volatile. Therefore the Euro was introduced in Europe. That worked well until the crisis of 2008.
According to Patomäki: “the answer of the crisis is global keynesianism”. Global Keynesianism aims to regulate global interdependence in such a way to produce stable, high and sustainable levels of growth, employment and welfare for everyone and everywhere simultaneously. He actually defended that not only the European Monetary Union needs reform, but the global power systems needs as well. The solution is politics in the form of democracy on the global level. Of course that’s still a long term objective and therefore the European Union can already make a start, but that is a choice, as Patomäki puts in: “Ending the crisis is only possible if we become a European federation or if we disintegrate.”
So far the EU did not make that choice and that has certain consequences. For example in Japan and the USA the federal banks are under the authority of the state. In the EU, the bank is above the state, because there is no European state. The problem is that is that this shows an extreme faith in the free market. That might very well be a structural mistake because the free market is (partly) to blame for the most recent financial crisis.
In a federal Europe or even global government the following items should be dealt with: the reintroduction of a global currency, a debt arbitration facility, global taxes, support for workers’ rights and trade unionization and a basic level of education for all.Afterwards we had a Skype conference with Sven Giegold (MEP). He was telling us the framework of the positions of the EGP about the Euro-crisis for 20 minutes, so we had the possibility to ask questions and discuss with him about specific issues afterwards.
First we talking and discussion about the problems of the Euro-crisis: the Euro-crisis as a global crisis and the Euro-crisis as a danger to the whole European project. Afterwards we were talking about possible solutions of a European taxation policies, the need of European institutions, the need of Euro-Bonds and the need of European solidarity. Talking with Sven Giegold made it really clear to everyone that the Euro-Crisis also gives us the possibility to struggle for a Europe of solidarity, a Europe of and with the people.
On Tuesday we also did a role play game. Our task was to take part in decision making process in the framework of representative democracy. We were divided into four groups – government, transnational banana company lobby, tourism lobby and agricultural lobby. After Antonina’s explanation and clarification of the objectives, the groups had 30 minutes to discus and prepare arguments with help of written instruction. After that we met in plenary, two representatives of each group sat in front and the others formed the public. Each group, except for government, had two minutes two introduce their interest and arguments in their favor. Then the government asked questions and in the last round the public could ask questions. After that, the government group had five minutes to make a decision and after that they presented it in the plenary. After that there was an evaluative discussion and time to comment and suggest. Mainly the problem with time and other limits of discussion and decision making process were mentioned. We discussed the limited role of public in the procedure and the possibilities of changing the rule of the ‘game’, so we reflected upon the flaws in the representative democracy.
After the coffee break Bob gave us an input regarding the interrelation between democracy and economy. Bob focused on the questions of how to define and measure the quality and level of democracy. He mentioned different approaches and their pros and cons. In the second part of his lectures he mentioned different consequences of democracy with regard to global situation. He also presented historically oriented the research which showed that that there is a link between implementing democratic features in certain countries and colonization. So as an outcome we could see that democracy as it is now and as it was in the past can be perceived in different angles and that some of them are controversial. Unfortunately due to the delayed program there was no time for discussion in the plenary so the informal discussion took place during dinner and coffee breaks.
March 6th, 2013 – Day #6
However there’s late night parties and Sauna, one special feature of FYEG’s Camp was program started at a defined time.
In the first session, the official visit of Parliament was made. That gave the clear picture of the Chamber and talks about how the finish parliament works. The Finish Parliament there are 200 MPs from 8 different political parties. At this moment, the Finish Government is formed by 6 of them. The Finish Green Party is part of the Government and they have 2 ministers there.
After the official visit to the Parliament, a small meeting in the office of the Green Group was organized. A group of three assistants of Green MPs (each MP has one assistant in the Parliament), formed by Ville-Veikko Mastomaki, Alma Roberts and Joel Linnainmaki, as explained us how is their daily work and gave some more detailed information about the Parliament procedures.
Similarly in the second session, Seminar ’From Crisis to Crisis – How is EU’s democracy?’ was held in Eurooppasali in Helsinki. The event was organized by The Green Cultural and Educational Centre Visio, Federation of Young European Greens FYEG and Federation of Green Youth and Students – ViNO ry.
Maria Ohisalo, who was a host for the session and then, researcher Rolf Büchi’s delivered the keynote speech on ‘My view on Europe and Democracy’. Büchi shared the interesting ideas on Europe needing more democracy and democracy needing Europe. One of his main arguments was about the history of democracy. “Athenian democracy was built from down, modern democracy was built from above”.
Nextly, Satu Haapanen (Green), Member of Parliament and Samuli Virtanen (The Finns Party) presented their comments on Rolf Büchi’s speech. Virtanen was as skeptical about EU and euro as expected. Haapanen was really pro-EU since as she said, challenges today are much wider than nation-based. Finally, a panel discussion about improving European democracy was held among Satu Haapanen, Samuli Virtanen, and Rolf Büchi. The discussions were clear and transparent and by the end of discussions with all the questions and answers made throughout an hour, the three speakers of the day agreed that EU should be more democratic and that there should be more direct democracy.
March 7th, 2013 – Day #7
The day mainly had two sessions:
9:00-13:00 Group sessions with free debate and discussions
15:00-18:00 Cooperation and confrontation as well as power relations
The three groups were formed and everyone were told to go to the respective group of one’s interest. The groups were: Activism-group, Political group and a Thinking-group and the internal discussions were made and was told to make presentation by the group.
In the second session of the day, Open space for discussions was made which was supposed to be the most fruitful discussions by most of the participants. The process was like each participant had to name a topic they wanted to discuss and after they should vote with the three votes they had. In the end there were 5 topics with majority of the votes and preferences:
1. ECI Basic Income
2. Solidarity East-West(EUROPE)
3. ECI fracking
4. Internet as a Human Rights
5. Youth emancipation/unemployment.
The groups with the members were divided and the discussion time was given. The mission was so to work on creating a campaign of those topics.The project and the framework of the campaign was thus presented by each group.
March 8th, 2013 – Day #8
It was the last formal day of the wintercamp. The day had two sessions. It was more with presentations and discussions. The two sessions were scheduled as:
9:00-10:30 Series of presentations
11:30-13:00 Putting pieces together
In the first session, the presentations were made by the Working groups that was formed. Similarly, there was a presentation of VISIO and Finish greens. Similarly, the presentation on the budget and the working framework of FYEG itself. And there was the presentation of the Global Young Greens (GYG).
In the second session of the day, the participants were given three rounds for interaction and reflection opportunity. The floor was open for any of the feedbacks and the inputs and to reflect the whole winter camp through their own perspective. Similarly, more importantly, there was given the ideas for the further elaboration of the topics was to take active participation within already existing FYEG Working Groups. All the participants were strongly encouraged to propose their ideas and apply for a membership within the groups of their interest. The working groups were:
2. Global justice
5. Climate Change and
However the debate was also made open for new proposals.