• Background

last modified March 10, 2016 by Tord



There is broad consensus among social movements throughout Europe that we are facing a crisis with many dimensions. The conflict between the center and the periphery is increasing in Europe between countries and domestically, often also within each municipality. Many in the environmental movement says change the system, not the climate. The peasant movement together with environmentalists go out in mass demonstrations in some countries, and organize campaigning for food sovereignty and against the trade an investment agreement TTIP. Unions are demanding public investments to create green jobs, stop climate change and promote social justice. The refugee welcome movement is capable of mobilizing large practical solidarity work while also formulating political criticism, not least when it comes to the EU. The peace movement is in the making motivated by a growing conflict between NATO and Russia. Fundamental criticism of the current economic model is also presented in the financial pages of conservative magazines and more and more initiatives are taken for alternative models in smaller and larger scale.


Popular movements gathered early against the current EU development model which has increased the conflicts fueling the multidimensional crisis. The Norwegian victorious resistance in the EU referendum in 1972 when popular movements were able to defeat a united pro membership elite inspired a system criticism in the environmental movement gathering at Nordic summer camps and the network Ecoropa. In the 1980s, the environmental movement sought to show the need to combat the convergence of big business and EU. Organizations as the European Round Table of Industrialists was largely successful in using EU to pressure for social cuts, environmentally harmful highway projects and a single market. Small peasant movements began to question the compromises made by established peasant organizations both in Sweden and internationally. All the time, however, without the Left seeing the environmental movement or the peasant movement as an important equal partner for a common system-critical mobilization. In the early 1990s the Spanish environmental movement Aedenat, today Ecologistas en Accion, organized cooperation between the unemployed, unions, peasants and solidarity movements in both the criticism of the IMF, the World Bank and the EU. This in connection with the 50th anniversary of the Bretton Woods institutions and the EU summit in Madrid with broad anti-EU rallies for the first time held in Southern Europe. During the first decade of the 21st centrury summit protests continued to gather broad alliances of social movements against neoliberal solutions for just transition which was also expressed at the European Social Forum.


At the same time, however, there has been a professionalization and fragmentization of both political parties, popular movements and so-called NGOs, non-governmental organizations organized around specific issues or ways to work without having to have a democratic membership. Although there has been an accelerating deterioration in several social and ecological areas with growing gaps between social classes and between the periphery and the center, it has proved difficult to join forces and gather all social movements after the last European Social Forum held in Istanbul 2010.