Translation of “Por una Europa sin miedo”, published in CTXT on 01/11/2018
In 2019, the municipal and European elections will coincide in Spain for the first time since 1999; on the 26th of May, the country’s citizens will be called to the polls to give their verdict on local and European politics.
And though the fact that these dates align is a coincidence, it is significant nonetheless. The relationship between the local and the transnational is more relevant than ever before. On the one hand, Europe is going through dark times; according to the latest polls, the European party of Salvini, Orban and Le Pen could see its representation in the European Parliament increase by 60% at next year’s elections. On the other, it’s at local level, by means of thousands of small victories, that an alternative is being built to the politics of xenophobia and fear.
It’s an alternative that can be seen in the response of municipal governments to the arrival of people seeking asylum. While national governments look the other way, hundreds of towns and cities have declared themselves ‘sanctuary’ or ‘refuge’ cities and have demonstrated their desire and capacity to welcome refugees.
Similarly, it’s thanks to the brave anti-pollution measures being taken by the cities of Barcelona and Madrid that Spain got out of a fine for breaching EU air quality directives in May of this year. It’s mayors like Ada Colau and Manuela Carmena, far more than presidents or prime minister, that are defending breathable air and public health.
Cities are playing a particularly important role in the fightback against the housing crisis. According to the latest report by Housing Europe on the issue, it’s cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris and Vienna that are at the forefront of defending the right to housing. While national governments have spent years cutting investment in public housing, cities are finding solutions, from making lots available for affordable housing, to obliging private constructors to provide affordable housing, to putting empty housing on the market.
It’s clear that towns and cities are already playing a role in the big political issues facing Europe. They’re stepping up and responding to the great challenges of our time, in many cases taking on functions that go far beyond their formal responsibilities.
And these responses aren’t limited to local level. Increasingly municipalities are working as a network to achieve their goals, whether it be by exchanging and replicating transformative policies, uniting against Airbnb’s lobbying in Brussels or coordinating their activity through formal organizations like Solidarity Cities, the network of refuge cities. These connections between local governments is creating a powerful multiplier effect at European level.
The municipal and European elections in may is an opportunity, especially for the forces of change in Spain. It’s an opportunity to highlight the role of municipalism as a bulwark against fascism. An opportunity to prefigure, at local level, a Europe that supersedes the old logic of nation states
Its essential to unite and strengthen the candidatures that emerged in Spain in the European elections in 2014 and link them up with the municipalist platforms that took the country’s city halls the following year.
It’s time for cities of change to have a voice in the European Parliament. They have much to teach an EU that’s in freefall. In the face of Salvinis and Orbans, we need thousands of Ada Colaus and Manuela Carmenas. We need to build a combative, feminist and caring Europe. A Europe of networked municipalism. A fearless Europe.