Armed with a fighting spirit and great solidarity, more than 50 peasant delegates from across Europe gathered in Brussels in mid-January to celebrate their 11th General Assembly (GA). The event was an excellent occasion to welcome two new candidate organisations and to carry out an action in front of the offices of the European Commission for the regulation of the new GMOs that the biotechnology sector is currently promoting.
The pan-European meeting began with the ECVC Youth and Women’s Assembly (13-14 January), particularly vulnerable categories in rural areas, whose strengthening is a priority for the peasant movement. The Youth Assembly began with a tribute to the young comrades who died these recent years: Jose Luis Iranzo of the Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (COAG), Antonio Carmona of the Sindicato de Obreros del Campo – Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (SOC-SAT) and Felicia Ruperti of the Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA). The young delegates then focused on the empowerment of the youth articulation and its functioning within the different organizations. Delegations identified several opportunities to strengthen the work of young people and concluded that, taking into account the challenges and diversity of different member organizations, it was essential to continue sharing experiences among them.
For its part, the Women’s Assembly set as a priority to work on the construction of more spaces for exchange, encouraging women from all member organizations to deepen the on-going collective work. This involves promoting the participation of women in the peasant movement’s working groups. Special attention was given to agroecology, since this ancestral activity bears a more feminist approach. This model of agriculture “, they declare,” allows us to move towards a more inclusive model of society with rights for all, which touches in a transversal way the issue of land, migration and public policies.
The General Assembly started on 15th January, welcoming two candidate organisations: the Boerenforum from the Flemish region of Belgium and the Polish organisation Zachodniopomorski Oddzial EKOLAND. With the affiliation of these organisations, the European peasant movement gains on the one hand an important region of Eastern Europe and, on the other hand, with the Boerenforum, the representation of Belgium is strengthened within ECVC, thus consolidating coordination and input at the continental level.
Throughout the Assembly, a number of issues central to the collective mission of the peasant movement were addressed in groups. Major issues such as trade, seeds, migration, the CAP and peasant rights were extensively discussed by delegates. These discussions were enriched by the experiences of the work carried out by the different collectives, which allowed the subsequent elaboration of strategies and actions to advance our struggle on all these fronts.
On the afternoon of the last day, the Plenary approved three motions proposed by various members of the organization:
Soybean and other protein crop productions in Europe – Mainly driven by the industrial livestock sector, soya has become one of the most important agricultural products for animal feed in Europe and the world, with immeasurable negative impacts on ecosystems and their farming communities. In this regard, and following the presentation of the topic, the ECVC General Assembly agreed to support efforts to achieve greater self-sufficiency in sustainable plant proteins and to halt imports of GM soya and industrial soya monoculture in Europe. In this motion, ECVC stressed that for these efforts to be successful in terms of inclusiveness and sustainability, they must be free from corporate control, one of those bad examples is the Donau Soy Initiative, currently promoted by the business sector. Here you can read the full statement.
Motion to support the recuperation of land in Andalusia – The organizations present at the General Assembly gave strong support to land recuperation in Andalusia and called for solidarity with trade unionists persecuted in these struggles. It is worth pointing out that in Andalusia 55.6% of the arable land is in the hands of 2% of the landowners, a region that is home to more than half a million landless peasants and seasonal workers, who suffer ever-worsening working conditions. In light of this situation and land grabbing, the SOC-SAT not only defends and fights for the rights of day laborers, but also strives to take back land so that it can be worked as cooperatives.
Apart from 16 consolidated cooperatives, there are currently two estates that have been taken back, but that are at risk of eviction: Somonte and Cerro Libertad. ECVC member organisations committed themselves to sharing the news on the situation in Andalusia and the struggle carried out by the SOC-SAT within their organisations and providing them with support. Land is a right of the People, not a commodity! Here you can find the full statement.
Recognition of Pastoral Areas and the Issue of Predation – As part of a motion presented and approved by the Assembly, ECVC undertook to collect information on the recognition of pastoral areas and compensation for natural obstacles in the different European countries. This question is important for the maintenance of pastoral agriculture throughout Europe. The European Commission questions the aid granted to these areas, which could be called into question in the future CAP. The aim of this group will be to exchange views on the situation of grazing land in the various countries and to defend, at an institutional level, the recognition of these areas and the compensatory indemnities they are entitled to.
Under this same motion, and in order to define a common European strategy, ECVC undertook to collect information on: the predation situation (wolf, bear and other large predators); the measures implemented on this issue by the countries concerned; and the actions implemented by ECVC members. A meeting on this issue is scheduled for 2018.
Action before the European Commission
Before going back to their respective villages and regions, ECVC delegates mobilised in Brussels on the 17 January to protest the current shady process in the hands of European institutions concerning the regulation of GMOs, with the biotechnology industry behind the scenes carrying out an intense campaign to introduce their new GMOs into the market without prior assessment and labelling.
With the presence of activists, peasants, Belgian civil society and our allied organisations – IFOAM, FIAN, CEO, TNI, FOEE – the demonstration toured the neighbourhood of the European institutions in Brussels, asking the European Commission to regulate all GMOs and ban seed patents. To this end, ECVC delegates attempted* to provide the Commission offices with important documentation on new GMOs and peasants’ rights.
The action was a necessary new step in the broader battle for the preservation of peasant communities in Europe and the world, for the maintenance of their agroecological practices and a step forward on the road towards People’s Food Sovereignty. To read the press release, click here.
A new and significant milestone in the struggle for Food Sovereignty was reached in this meeting, further consolidating the peasant movement and the regional convergence across Europe.
Food sovereignty and peasant rights NOW!!
More peasants, better food!!
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Here you can see photos of the General Assembly