Transeuropa Caravans : « We have to defend Europe »

, par Hannah Illing

Toutes les versions de cet article : [Deutsch] [English]

Transeuropa Caravans : « We have to defend Europe »
The team of the Central Eastern route on May 5 in Berlin. From there, the activists are traveling via Dresden, Salzburg and other Central European cities to Budapest.
Photo : Daniele Napolitano/European Alternatives.

Before the European elections, the NGO European Alternatives has started an interesting project : Transeuropa Caravans. Young activists will travel through 15 European countries on five different routes. Its their goal to discuss democracy and human rights across borders - and to mobilise for the European elections.

We spoke to Irene Dominioni who is on the Central Eastern Route of Transeuropa Caravans starting from May 6. Her team of four will travel through Germany, Austria and Hungary and meet civil society activists. Irene is a freelance journalist writing for Italian and international media. She is moreover a convinced European, with the desire to « do [her] part to defend and promote European values ».

Hannah Illing / The New Federalist : Irene, you are on the Central Eastern Route of Transeuropa Caravans. Where are you travelling to ?

Irene Dominioni : Within the Central Eastern route, we are going to travel to Germany, Austria and Hungary and have stops, among others, in Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Salzburg, Lustenau, Vienna and Budapest. We are very excited about the trip and we are looking forward to meeting activists and to organising activities with them.

Our aim is multifold : to connect different activist groups in different countries, to really show that a different Europe is possible and that it’s « already in the making », to promote knowledge and interest in European elections among common citizens in the places we are going to visit, and to collect best practices around Europe defending fundamental rights beyond borders.

Your trip’s motto is « civic spaces under pressure ». Why did you choose it ?

Germany, Austria and Hungary are three examples of European countries where the far right has overtaken public discourse and where democratic and European values are at risk. This means that also civic spaces, meaning those spaces where citizens can meet, organise and express themselves freely, are being threatened. The most outstanding example of these tendencies is the smear campaign that Viktor Orbán has undertaken against NGOs and other groups in Hungary through the so-called « anti-Soros laws », but there are many other examples of this also in Germany and Austria.

We want to meet organisations to collect their « stories of struggle » against these illiberal tendencies, and discuss with them about the role of civil society in the protection of these civic spaces and about the importance of cooperating beyond borders to preserve the common values that the European Union was founded on : solidarity, equality, respect for human rights and freedom of expression.

Can you give an example of an activist group you are going to meet on your journey ?

One of the coolest examples is certainly « Omas Gegen Rechts » - literally « Grannies against the Right », a group of elderly women in Austria who regularly organises protests against the conservative-nationalist government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. But there are many more examples of organisations actively taking a stance in the defence of progressive values : for instance, we are going to meet a theatre manager in one of the most far-right cities in Germany, an international NGO in Budapest active against corruption called Transparency International, and the mayor of a small town in Austria who is very critical of Kurz’s government.

If I would like to meet you on your journey, what can I do ? Do you organise public events ?

We are going to have a number of street actions and debates organized during our stops : anyone is welcome to join us and approach us while we are on the road ! To be fully updated on what is happening along the Central Eastern route you should definitely keep an eye on our page on the Transeuropa Caravans website, and also on our social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram. That’s where we are going to publish our full updates about the stops, and also share the stories that we are going to collect in the form of written interviews, photo reportages and blog posts. You are welcome to share them on your own social media accounts if you’d like !

What is the reason you have joined « Transeuropa Caravans » ? What message do you want to get across to people you meet on your journey ?

Personally, as soon as I found the call to take part in the project, I did not think twice in writing my application. I truly feel my identity as a European citizen and I strongly feel the urge to do my part to defend and promote European values and what I think is the best face of our Union.

I think I can speak on behalf of the whole team when I say that it’s essential that young people take responsibility as the embodiment of what being a European citizen means. Because in the end, no matter where we are from, we all want the same thing : an increasingly united and interconnected Europe, where governments and citizens are cooperative, inclusive and open in facing the global challenges that we are presented with today - namely climate change and sustainability, migration and social justice for all.

This is the message that we want to spread on our trip, and that is why we are going to be as active as we can in promoting voting in European elections : unless each and every one of us takes a stance in defending Europe, starting by going to the polling stations to express their vote, in five years’ time our Union could look a lot different than it is now - most likely, it would turn out worse. So take action, go vote ! And before the election day, do follow Transeuropa Caravans and spread the word !

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