From 17-21 September, more than 10 000 people from all over Europe (and beyond) took part in the 5th European Social Forum in Malmö in Sweden. More than 15 000 participated in a colourful demonstration through the city of Malmö on 20 September, calling for “power to the people”.

Although this ESF might have been smaller than its predecessors, it certainly was more diverse, and less dominated by the Marxist and Stalinist left. For the first time, a European Peace Action forum was part of the ESF, organised by the Swedish antimilitarist group ofog. This made antimilitarism and peace much more visible at the ESF.

And this was important. Many workshops looked at the militarisation of the European Union and its relationship with NATO, with the special focus on the upcoming NATO summit. The Assembly of Social Movement also highlighted this focus in its closing document:

“2/against NATO and war: we call a large demonstration in April the 4th in Strasbourg/Kehl, centre of celebration of the 60th anniversary of NATO, to say “stop NATO” and dissolving this terrifying tool of war. In the same day we call demonstrations in all countries in Europe. We propose the WSF in Belem to declare the 4th of April a day of international mobilisation against Nato.”

The European Peace Action Forum was an important part of this ESF, especially for peace activists and antimilitarists. With its participation in EPA, War Resisters' International's European base could build on the steps made during the NATO Game over action in Brussels on Easter, to strengthen European networking and cooperation among groups focused on nonviolent direct action and military infrastructure. The groups that participated in EPA will also take part in the nonviolent direct actions planned during the NATO summit next spring.

In short, WRI's participation in this years' ESF and EPA was a great success, and an important step to rejuvenate WRI's European network.

Andreas Speck & Javier Garate