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From the Arab Spring to a European Summer

From the Arab Spring to a European Summer


Political protests and riots are extensively shaping the current political landscape. In the beginning the focus rested on the Arab world; now demonstrations are taking place within Europe. Mehr Demokratie observes the incidents with great interest. Armin Steuernagel, member of Democracy International’s steering committee, visited a Spanish protest-camp and shared his impressions with us.

The pictures of the Arab revolution are still omnipresent in the public mind. In Tunisia thousands of people united to nationwide protests, aiming to overthrow the regime. Likewise, the Egyptian youth centred on public places, such as the Tahrir-Square, to demonstrate their rage; consequently, the government collapsed. Ever since in most Arab states, demonstrations and riots determine the daily life; unfortunately often accompanied by violence.

Recently, protests have spilled over to Europe. In May, the Spanish youth began to express their discontent and anger. Demonstration and rallies have since shaped Spain’s public life. Collective camps are used, increasing discussions among the citizens. Mass-protests are taking place in Greece as well. Furthermore, Portugal and France are witnessing demonstrations. Nearly the whole Mediterranean area is shaken up by political unrests. All protests seem to be motivated by the longing to break with the current political trend and attempt a new beginning.

 Armin Steuernagel had the chance to observe the Spanish protests firsthand. He visited the Plaça de Catalunya, on which protester are camping since mid-May. On May 27th ,the Spanish police tried to violent vacate the square. Yet, the demonstrators are not backing down. “The square has been transformed to a lively camp; people are living here day and night. Several activities are organized, creating a vibrant community. Some protesters have located  their camp in the treetops, a method used in the Stuttgart 21 demonstrations.” The participants are different, but connected through a spirit for new start and a strong urge for action. “During the day, several commissions are meeting to discuss critical issues and their solution. Each group has its area of expertise, for instance legislation, medicine, and energy. At night, the commissions’ outcome is presented and approved by a general assembly. Here, it is crucial that a strong majority agrees with the outcome.” The camp is well-organized. Experts share their knowledge in the commissions. Further, an own press office informs the public and media. However, the protesters explicitly distance themselves from any politicians and parties; an act symbolizing their discontent with the political class.

Most camps decided to dissolve this week. However, the Spanish people are determined to continue their campaign. “I deem the demonstrations as a serious endeavour. The protesters have countless reasons to be discontent, and now the time for change has arrived.”

In the coming weeks, we will introduce people, who participated in the Arab revolution and in the European protests – in order to provide you with independent insight and background information.

Text by Vanessa Eggert

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