We have been exploring how community organising can be used by mobile EU citizens to participate in their local communities and make them a better place to live and work. The project involved communities from four cities: London, Berlin, Cologne and Warsaw.
Hundreds of community leaders from across the EU came together to find out more about how community organising works in other countries - we launched at a special event at Europe House in March 2015.
We attended the Citizens 2015 General Election Accountability Assembly at Westminster Methodist Hall, held prior to the UK General election. The Assembly was attended by Polish and German partners, as well as a host of organisations from around the country and representatives from major political parties. During the Assembly, Zrinka Bralo and Jonathan Cox from Citizens UK presented work on migration and community organisation in Wales, respectively.
We also took part in the founding Community Assembly of STARK! in Cologne, Germany, together with another 800 enthusiastic people involved in fostering community relations around Cologne.
There were community organising training events in London, Berlin, Milton Keynes and Warsaw.
During the project, the Syrian refugee crisis provided a focus for participants, as all were involved in welcoming and supporting refugees. We were part of a major transnational conference call for people to share their experiences and learning.
We reported back our findings at the European Economic Social Committee in Brussels on 1 December which was well attended despite the security alert being at the highest level. It was chaired by Pavel Trantina, Chair of the EESC’s Committee for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship. Guest speakers were Marie-Helene Boulanger, from DG Justice and Consumers, who looked at European Mobile Citizenship, Anthony Valcke from ECAS, Sue Lukes from Migration Work and Oonagh Aitken from Volonteurope. Here we launched a toolkit for mobile European citizens living in the EU to learn how to get involved in the community where they live, or how to make sure they are registered to vote in their new country.
The success of the project demonstrates the power of community organising for bringing people together for the common good. If non-national EU citizens are to fully engage in communities and better protect their own legitimate interests, they need a better understanding of their rights as European citizens. Social media, and especially the Together in Europe website, are great ways of supporting the educational process and raising awareness.
Most importantly, the project demonstrated that the identity of European citizens is based on a shared set of values, including solidarity with other members of communities, whether those communities are located in London, Cologne, Berlin or Warsaw. This solidarity works both ways, to and from the host community. There were many wonderful examples of mobile EU citizens reaching out and touching other people’s lives in positive ways. These values and experiences are now empowering EU communities to reach out to other newcomers, as the world responds to a global migration and refugee crisis and Europe struggles to respond.