The last 6th of April - ten years after the war started in Bosnia-Herzegovina - over 400 representatives of local and regional authorities, NGOs, trade unions, associations and volunteer groups coming from several European countries met in Sarajevo to start a team work aimed at the construction of a Europe from below, based on peace and human rights, democracy, living together, justice and cooperation.
After the wars of the 90's in former Yugoslavia and the dramatic consequences in terms of casualties, refugees, destruction, it is now time for a definite, sustainable and bottom-up integration of the Balkans into the European Union. The time has come for a development and cooperation politics based on local communities and social cohesion, for politics of peace and security which could eradicate nationalism and conflicts, for politics of citizenship and rights aimed at strengthening public welfare and the civil society.
The European Union must adopt a positive approach and - facing the historical challenge of the reunification of Europe, a continent divided for 40 years by the Berlin wall - must release its politics from purely economical and budget oriented parameters. The EU must now take the chance, through the European integration of the Balkans, of healing the old wounds caused by war and nationalism and invest on a future of peace, cooperation, solidarity.
The risk of building new walls between Europe and the Balkans (which are indeed Europe as well) is today concrete: the wall of economic inequality and the wall of poverty caused by neoliberalistic politics; the barriers to free circulation of people caused by inquisitorial policies on immigration, obstacles to the respect of social and human rights as imposed by a limited and formal democracy.
The wall that separates European citizens has to be removed.
From the bottom, with the strength of the action of social movements, local communities, associations and volunteer organisations. Priority must be given to policies and practices ranging from local development to social cooperation, from the fight for rights to disarmament with the aim of strengthening a euro-balkan civil society, ripe and fully conscious. This new civil society is committed to build a social, civic and democratic Europe. We don't want another "superpower", we want a space for dialogue, where different cultures can meet, where different people can live, an active subject for cooperation and peace.
That's why we have started the network 'Europe from below': for building together a path of cooperation between euro-balkan civil society organisations, for lobbying European institutions and national governments so that integration, peace and development can be the basis of European action, for confronting in the Balkans the challenge of healing those wounds which could lead to new conflicts, tensions, violence.
Through this contact and networking activity we engage ourselves in working together fostering specific initiatives aimed at influencing public opinion, governments, European institutions, and building a network that will be developing an active movement for a "Europe from below" in the Balkans and Europe.
In order to achieve these objectives we invite all groups, associations and local authorities committed to peace and solidarity in the Balkans to act, so that the 'Europe from below' may become a concrete inspiration for a joint action aimed at building a Europe based on rights and solidarity and not only on markets and finance.
We call all these subjects to join the 'Europe from below' Organizing Committee, a space for open dialogue and exchange for our joint work which has to be placed in the heart of Europe, in Sarajevo. The Organizing Committee will meet once a year, each time in a different town of South-East Europe, following the meeting in Sarajevo of April the 6th 2002. The first meeting is scheduled in Belgrade in the spring, to evaluate the work so far achieved and to discuss and plan together future events.
The network's activity will keep on going on all through the year via working groups, seminars and thematic conferences. A mailing list of Europe from below will be created together with a regular newsletter being distributed from the month of December with main information in English and in the other useful languages.
As main working issue for next year we propose right now a large European campaign for the suppression of internal visas between the Balkan states and for the suppression of visas which are needed to enter the EU. These barriers - so called migratory policies - are more and more high and humiliating, and are the symbol of that fortress Europe that we reject, in the name of an open Europe, house of peace, dialogue and where people can live together. Hence, we decided to re-start the Citizens Pact coalition initiative, by collecting thousands of signatures for the suppression of the visas regime and for the abolition of all barriers to the free circulation of people. The Europe we want is not a fortress, we want a Europe made of travels, exchanges and human relations.
That's the Europe from the bottom, the one we are working for.