Who won the European elections? It wasn’t the extreme right led by Marine Le Pen, it wasn’t the eurosceptics represented by Nigel Farage, it wasn’t even the eurocrats symbolised by Jean Claude Juncker.
It was…apathy…with well over half of the population not voting. But that doesn’t mean to say that they aren’t participating in other forms of civic action.
We wanted to surface the voices which aren’t being heard by the politicians, the needs which aren’t being met by the state and the creative civic initiatives that are imagining, enacting and demanding a different Europe.
Through travelling through different environments – from the countryside to the city, from clone towns to ghost towns, from coastal resorts to inner city neighbourhoods – our caravans went to uncover these stories.
Whether it’s Alice from Cambridge using her personal experiences to help others rebuild their confidence, Phillipe who moved to Calais to help give back a sense of dignity to migrants, whether it’s Miek from Utrecht who campaign against infringements to their privacy, they are the other Europe.
From a resident-led tour to expose corruption in Valencia to a community fighting to save its mountain from fracking in Rosia Montana. The other Europe are the people who are campaigning to break through the barriers holding society back.
From reclaiming a castle to create an eco-village in Carricola to introducing a local currency in an imaginary city at the borders between Germany and Poland. The other Europe are the people that are working together to imagine a new future.
From Greek workers occupying a factory and turning it into a workers cooperative in Thessaloniki to turning a military camp in Perka into a community garden. The other Europe are the people who are showing us what the future could like…now.
The other Europe are the people who you don’t see in tourist brochures or Eurovision song contests. They are the kite surf instructor and the executive in the private sector discussing the increasing precarity of the youth in southern Europe.
For many of these people, there’s the feeling that the political class aren’t aware of, let alone understand the issues they’re facing.
To sum up from the Pumajero network we met in Sevilla:
“They talk about the public and the private, we talk about the common.
We don’t talk about the citizenry, we talk about cultivation.
They call it occupation, but we call it rehabilitation.
They call us anti-system, but we are the proper citizens, the neighbours”.
By the stories we’ve documented on our website, we want to start a different conversation, not between the representatives of our countries on our behalf, but a conversation between European citizens and between creative civic initiatives and institutions, which we started doing through Borders to Cross.
A conversation where communities don’t feel alone when their services or their natural resources are under threat, where workers who’ve been laid off don’t feel they’ve got nothing left to live for. A conversation where instead they regain hope by seeing that other people across Europe are in the same boat and have turned the tide back.
Let’s not let the extremes take the mantle of being the alternative. We are the other Europe.