A Seminar on “The 2014 European Elections, Democracy and Discrimination” was organized by Symbiosis on 5-7 April 2014, under the auspices of the Council of Europe network of Schools for Political Studies, at the Journalists Association (ESIEMTH) premises in Thessaloniki.
Democracy and human rights lie in the heart of the coming 2014 European Parliament elections. It is vital for Europe’s citizens and civil society to actively participate in a broad discussion aiming to explore the relevant issues of discrimination and racist and xenophobic discourse have gained today on the agenda of the European and local elections. The target is such a debate to highlight recommendations for messages and actions which will be αν appropriate and effective response to racist and xenophobic rhetoric from people who seek to (re)elected. The forthcoming European elections raise significant challenges for public communication at all levels. What are the politics evolving currently in the member states? How to resist giving credence to xenophobic, racist and sexist arguments and the scapegoating of minorities and gain electoral support? How to develop spaces for dialogue with the electorate in general and minorities? How to draw out the commonalities facing minorities in several EU countries specifically to make a powerful counter-narrative against the rush by politicians for “easy votes” by scapegoating those who are least powerful? What are the ways of dissemination of those messages to wider audiences as possible?
The programme started on Saturday, 5th April with a discussion on what is happening on the ground: the rise of extremism and discriminations in Europe, the institutional and political context of European elections, the political process in the EU member states in view of the 2014 European elections and a comparative presentation of 8 European case studies. In the afternoon the presentations focused on discriminations in the public discourse: an overview of what is happening In Europe regarding xenophobic rhetoric and speech: Italy, UK, the Netherlands, Hungary and an overview of what is happening re xenophobic rhetoric and speech in Greece: The media, continued by small group discussions on what are the key commonalities within in EU countries and what are the differences in Greece.
The evening session centered on registering and evaluating the situation on the ground in Greece: What happens to applications for residence? How to address the problems of displaying place names in documents? What is the future of social integration after the abolition of participation of long-duration legal migrants in local elections? What are the consequences for the “others” from the smothering of labour and social rights during the crisis? How affordable is citizenship now? Do the new asylum structures work? Where does the interminate incarceration of “undocumented migrants” lead to? Interactive discussion amongst speakers, discussants and participants took place throughout.
On Sunday, 6th April, the topics under investigation were the statements and activities of political parties, campaigns, civil Society: Are there alternative proposals: Ongoing anti-discrimination campaigns, mobilisations, actions, How to message a counter-narrative to the common issues – information i.e. statistics and references for each counter-narrative so to build up the evidence base, How can key messages be communicated using a variety of tools – disseminating the messages; linking them into actions and connections with activities and events for promoting the messages and links. A Screening of the documentary “Dreaming of Democracy”, director Morteza Jafari, Iranian refugee, followed, as well as discussion throughout. In the afternoon, the view from outside Greece was presented, with speakers residing in the UK, Belgium and Canada, while in the evening a Forum for Politicians was organized, where candidates in the elections from Athens, Xanthi and Thessaloniki, some holding important positions already, presented their views on the topic as well as their programmes.
On Monday a guided visit to the Thessaloniki Jewish Museum took place, as well as the screening of the documentary “Future suspended”, The City at the Time of Crisis project.