From March 11 to 17 European citizens organized a week of protests against the austerity measures imposed on the countries of the European Union as a strategy for ending the economic crisis. Known as the European Counter Summit [es], it is the response to the European Summit in which European leaders gathered [es], and an occasion to make the voices heard of those citizens who defend a “Europe for the people and not for the markets“. They also reject the negative effects of the policies of cuts and they demand a series of changes in the European Union. People from different countries have protested in the streets and commented on the events through Twitter under the tag #EuropeanSpring.
In Brussels, the protesters have chosen to bring their discontent to the European Council, while in Spain the Counter Summit week entailed a program with different acts that culminated with a protest in the center of Madrid on Saturday, March 16. The manifesto of the Counter Summit published on the blog Desmontando Mentiras (Dismantling Lies) [es] begins by declaring the following:
Defendemos una Europa donde se impongan los derechos de todas y todos frente a los intereses de los mercados. Un nuevo modelo decidido por la ciudadanía a través de la democracia directa, que ponga en el centro a las mujeres y los hombres. Que cambie competitividad por cooperación, individualismo por apoyo mutuo, opresión y patriarcado por igualdad, que haga efectiva la soberanía popular. Una Europa de las personas y los pueblos que se imponga sobre los mecanismos del egoísmo y el canibalismo económico.
Luchamos por la libertad contra la tiranía de falsas democracias y de un sistema económico que solo sirven para perpetuar las desigualdades y las injusticias. La Unión Europea no es un proyecto social, su fin último es aumentar la competitividad de los grandes bancos y empresas en los mercados mundiales, y con ello sus ganancias. La maximización del beneficio capitalista por encima de cualquier derecho social o ecológico. Por ello en Bruselas hay 15.000 lobistas, y la gente de la banca se coloca en altos cargos en los gobiernos nacionales y en las cúpulas de organismos como el FMI o el BCE. Por ello los presidentes y ministros acaban en los consejos de administración de estas empresas y bancos.
We defend a Europe where the rights of the people are held above the interests of the markets. We support a new model chosen by the citizens through direct democracy, which puts men and women at the center of policy. A system that exchanges competition for cooperation, individualism for mutual support, oppression and patriarchy for equality, and that is based on the sovereignty of the people. A Europe of the people that is opposed to the mechanisms of selfishness and economic cannibalism.
We fight for liberty against the tyranny of false democracies and an economic system that only serves to perpetuate inequalities and injustices. The European Union is not a social project, its ultimate goal is to increase the competitiveness of the large banks and companies in world markets, and with it their profits. It is the maximization of capitalist benefit above any social or ecological right. That is why in Brussels there are 15,000 lobbyists, and people from the banks can be found in important positions in national governments and in the leadership of organizations like the IMF or the ECB. That is why presidents and ministers end up on the boards of these companies and banks.
Dozens of platforms, assemblies and organizations united in the group RE-ACCIONA CIUDADANA (Citizen Reaction) are behind the preparation of this European Spring [es] and they explain their reasons in videos like this one:
Almost at the same time that the people were demanding a different model, the news about the imposition of a withdrawal [a tax] on bank deposits and the following freeze on assets in Cyprus [es] came by surprise. The negotiations for the rescue of Cyprus were concluded late in the night with a plan for restructuring the biggest bank in the country, closing the second banking entity and imposing withdrawals on stockholders, creditors and accounts with more than 100,000 euros.
Facing the harsh rescue conditions, and still seeming that those with small savings would also pay with a withdrawal from their deposits, solidarity with the Cypriot people was quick to come and there were a lot of signals of support and indignation toward the European decision, on Twitter under the hashtag #SomosChipre (WeAreCyprus).
It is hard to believe that European leaders will pay attention to the indignation of the people and their demands made in the Counter Summit . Will the European elections in 2014 be the opportunity to move forward with the changes that the Europeans are asking for, so that they are taken into account, and to alleviate the political crisis on top of the economic one that is taking place in the European Union? Even it the changes in the ballot boxes turn around the austerity measures, citizens should still put pressure on the activity of entities not subject to democratic elections such as the European Central Bank or the International Monetary Fund.