European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Towards a European 'Mienskip' April 23, 2015

A Public Debate about the Future of Citizens in Europe


The event is organized by the European Cultural Foundation who has taken up the theme of the 'Commons' as advanced among others by David Harvey and which has played a role in discussions in Athens with architects like Nicholas Anastopoulos one of the leading proponents.

The official text announcing the event:

"Traditional power structures are changing. Current institutions and political systems are out of date. People are taking matters into their own hands and are taking the initiative to organise public affairs themselves. On the one hand, this is because they are losing confidence in politics; and on the other hand, it is because some issues are simply not being dealt with by governments any more. 

There is a diverse range of initiatives involving people driving change. For example, local entrepreneurs in Friesland (NL) have founded a cooperative in order to generate sustainable energy for their own community by setting up windmills. And to address the lack of pension funds for the growing group of self-employed professionals in the Netherlands, some people are organising themselves to set up their own pension funds.

These alternative models of collaboration and co-creation require us to look at new forms of participation in governance and economy. The challenge we face is to rebalance responsibilities between State, market and civil society. Can we come up with concrete ways to involve citizens in policy-making, learn from their experiences, and connect resourceful initiatives? Can these often local initiatives fuel ideas at a European level? And what are alternative methods of participation and decision-making at a European level? 

The European Cultural Foundation (ECF) alights in Leeuwarden – the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2018 – to start the discussion with local, national and European stakeholders, politicians, opinion makers, entrepreneurs and scientists. The central question of the debate will be how to share power, build alliances and establish not only a genuine dialogue, but an equitable distribution of responsibilities between the State, market and the Mienskip (which means ‘community’ in Frisian) at the local, national and European level.

We have invited people and organisations representing citizens’ initiatives from Liverpool, Madrid, Bologna and Friesland to share their thoughts and experiences. They will speak together with the audience and other guests to see what we can learn from each other and how we can use their ideas to breathe new life into democracy and to imagine a new future for Europe, as a European Mienskip."

* ‘Mienskip’ means ‘Community’ in Frisian


Welcome and opening
Ferd Crone, Mayor of Leeuwarden and Katherine Watson, director ECF

Introduction - Lennart Booij, moderator

Key note - Silke Helfrich, Co-founder of the Commons Strategy Group, Germany

Discussion interview with 4 local European examples on their methods, tools and models to engage with citizens and local governments. 

  • Christian Iaione, founder of the think-tank Laboratory for the Governance of Commons, Italy

  • Matthew Fox, Engage Liverpool, UK

  • Carmen Lozano Bright, Peer to peer movement, Spain 

  • Wim Hiemstra, Kening fan de Greide, the Netherlands

  • Reflection / Column - Teun van de Keuken, journalist and television presenter and creator

Debate on How to engage citizens, communities, government/politics on European level 
Agnes Jongerius, Member of the European Parliament

  • Pascal Gielen, Professor of Sociology in Art and Cultural Politics 

  • Bouwe de Boer, Policy-maker energy in Leeuwarden

Wrap up and Conclusions - Lennart Booij, moderator

About the speakers

Silke Helfrich, Germany
Is an author and independent activist of the Commons. She has studied romance languages and pedagogy at the Karl-Marx-University in Leipzig. Since mid of the 1990s activities in the field of development politics, from 1996 to 1998 head of Heinrich Böll Foundation Thuringia and from 1999 to 2007 head of the regional office of Heinrich Böll Foundation in Mexico City focusing on globalisation, gender and human rights. She is founding member of Commons Strategies Group and is the editor of several books on the Commons, most recently with Heinrich-Böll-Foundation: Commons. Für eine neue Politik jenseits von Markt und Staat, Bielefeld 2012 (together with David Bollier: The Wealth of the Commons beyond Market and State, Amherst/MA, 2012).

Agnes Jongerius, The Netherlands
Is Member of the European Parliament for the Labour Party, since July 2014. She is Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. In the period 2005-2012 she was president of the FNV, the transport union. Jongerius was a researcher at Utrecht University, where she dealt with questions of how citizens can be more involved in Europe. She started her career at the FNV and later collective bargaining coordinator and vice president of the FNV.

Teun van der Keuken, The Netherlands
Teun is a journalist, columnist and producer. For years he has been one of the faces of the tv show Keuringsdienst van Waarde Food, which tries to give insight into the wonderful world behind our food. From the inspection also arose Tony's Chocolonely, the slave-free chocolate which Teun is the namesake and founder. Is the presenter of the research-journalism television program De Monitor, that is based on tips from viewers and whistleblowers that denounces abuses in The Netherlands. His other tv program is an undercover documentary series about the affairs of the garment industry (De Slag om de Klerewereld). Furthermore he made De Slag om Nederland (The Battle of the Netherlands), about the abuses in the Dutch administrative culture and now he created the Battle of Europe. Teun writes a weekly column for the Dutch newspaper Het Parool and publishes regularly in the Volkskrant about current social issues.

Christian Iaione, Italy
Is associate professor of public law at Guglielmo Marconi University of Rome and visiting professor of governance of the commons at LUISS Guido Carli where he coordinates the LabGov – LABoratory for the GOVernance of Commons. Graduated in Law at LUISS Guido Carli, he earned an LL.M. in Government Economic Regulation at NYU School of Law and received his PhD in European and Comparative Public Administration at Sapienza Business School. In 2012-2013 he directed the City as a Common project and was on the working group drafting the Bologna Regulation on public collaboration for urban commons. Christian has published several articles in the field of public and administrative law and, in particular, land use, public goods and the commons, public services and public contracts, urban law and local government. He has authored two books on “The in house publicly-owned companies. Iaione’s research focus is currently on commons, public governance and public-private-commons partnerships.

Pascal Gielen, The Netherlands 
Is director of the research center Arts in Society at Groningen University where he is full professor for sociology of art. He is editor-in-chief of the book series ‘Arts in Society’. Gielen has written and edited several books on contemporary art, cultural heritage and cultural politics, including ‘Being an Artist in Post-Fordist Times’ (2009), ‘The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude. Global Art, Memory and Post-Fordism’ (2009, 2010 and 2015), ‘Teaching Art in the Neoliberal Realm. Realism versus Cynicism’ (2013), ‘Creativity and other Fundamentalisms’ (2013), ‘Institutional Attitudes. Instituting Art in a Flat World’  (2013), ‘The Ethics of Art. Ecological Turns in the Performing Arts’ (2014), ‘Aesthetic Justice. Intersecting Moral and Artistic Perspectives’ (2015), and ‘No Culture, No Europe. On the Foundation of Politics’ (2015). His books have been translated into Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. The research of Gielen focuses on cultural politics and the institutional contexts of the arts. 

Carmen Lozano Bright, Spain
Has a degree in Journalism, and lives in Madrid since 2012, where she is currently researching the rising transformation of citizen laboratories and peer-to-peer (p2p) practices. She participates in El Campo de Cebada and in the C4C Collective, as well as coordinating pedagogical aspects and communications for the Open Summer University held there. She presented the project in Helsinki at Pixelache Fest in June 2014 and at mARTadero project, Cochabamba (Bolivia) in August 2014. She also collaborates with La Aventura de Aprender (The Learning Adventure), a cross-institutional project that has shot more than 200 p2p experiences in Spain for national television.

Matthew Fox, United Kingdom
Matthew Fox is a writer, filmmaker, and occasional urban activist. His short films have screened at festivals all over the world, and he ran the Liverpool Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Film Festival for 5 years, including during Liverpool's European Capital of Culture year of 2008. Matthew has a degree in Politics and Philosophy from Balliol College, University of Oxford. His current interests are air pollution, cycling, sustainability and cities. He works for Engage Liverpool CIC, a non-profit seeking to bring people together to improve the Liveability of cities. For Engage Matthew has developed the Liverpool Air Project.

Bouwe de Boer, The Netherlands
Bouwe de Boer is for more than 25 years, working on sustainability and special sustainability energy in Friesland. His is currently working for the province as well as the municipality of Leeuwarden, he is called the Frisian energy guru. He is initiator of many energy projects including Frisian energy cooperation (Ús Koöperaasje) and the Frisian Solarchallenge. Bouwe sees the attention to energy in Friesland changing towards active citizens. Where possible he is stimulating this process from within the municipality of Leeuwarden. Because of this change there is a clear acceleration and Leeuwarden’s wish to be independent of fossil fuels of can be fulfilled faster.  

Wim Hiemstra, The Netherlands
Wim works with Dutch Farm Experience and ETC Foundation on the transition to ecologically-oriented rural development based on rural people’s culture and local knowledge in both the global north and south. He is trained in organic farming, both in technical aspects and in participatory and community-led approaches and coordinated international networks on agro-ecology and endogenous development - development from within. Since 2012, he is member of the citizens’ initiative ‘King of the Meadows’, focusing on migratory birds and agro-biodiversity. This initiative explores the feasibility to jointly develop a European Citizen Manifesto on Biocultural Rights by communities along the migratory route of the godwit (Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, UK), which could be handed over to EU politicians in 2018. He facilitated a citizens’ jury which resulted in a citizens' manifesto and a learning exchange with a NGO from Uganda on citizens’ participation and social media in 2013. 


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