EL Communal Forum – Cities for future

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EL Communal Forum – 22-23 October 2021

Europa Haus Wien, Linzer Str. 429, 1140 Vienna, Austria

Interpretation: English, Spanish, German

Friday 22 October

18.00 – 19.45 How to win a city – Successful experiences of the Left and lessons to learn
Welcome remarks: Günther Hopfgartner (spokesperson KPÖ)
Speakers: Marta Kiš, Member of the City Council of Zagreb (Platforma Možemo!); Iva Marčetić, feminist architect (Zagreb); Paul Stubbs, sociologist; Max Zirngast, City Councillor of Graz (KPÖ)

Saturday 23 October

9.00 – 11.30 Opening plenary: Current crisis of housing and mobility/traffic in big cities (interpretation in EN-DE-ES)
Mia Haglund, City Councillor of Helsinki, Left Alliance
Ana Correia da Veiga, City Councillor of Luxembourg-City, Dei Lenk
Michael Schmida, City councillor of Linz and expert of transport/traffic, KPÖ
Mercedes Vidal, City Councillor of Barcelona, EUiA
Andrej Holm, Researcher in Urban Sociology and Housing Research, Humboldt-University Berlin, housing activist & policy advisor, Die Linke
Moderation: Heide Hammer, EL Executive Board

11.30 – 11.45 Coffee break

11.45 – 13.30 Workshops (see below)

13.30 – 14.30 Lunch break

14.30 – 16.00 Workshops (see below)

16.00 – 16.30 Coffee break

16.30 – 18:00 Closing plenary: How to connect left concepts and communal politics (interpretation in EN-DE-ES)
Katalin Gennburg, City Councillor of Berlin, Die Linke
Maria Manuel Rola, Member of Portuguese Parliament, Bloco de Esquerda
Rubén Perez, head of local policies for Izquierda Unida, Spain
Nikos Belavilas, Professor NTUA, City councillor of Piraeus, Syriza
Moderation: Waltraud Fritz, EL Political Secretariat


A) Home belongs to those who live in it: rent cap and affordable housing
Main topic: the long fight for decent living

Inputs from: Katerina Knitou, responsible for communal politics in the political bureau of Syriza (Greece); Kay-Michael Dankl, City councillor of Salzburg (KPÖplus, Austria); Andrej Holm, Researcher in Urban Sociology and Housing Research, Humboldt-University Berlin, housing activist & policy advisor (Die Linke, Germany); Vasco Barata, lawyer and movement activist (Cultra, Portugal)

Left forces in every city are facing a rather grim reality. Uncontrolled rise of housing prices is leading to unaffordable mortgage and very high rents, leading to evictions and homelessness. We want to share our experiences in organising campaigns against this: one of the best-known examples is Berlin, where the fight against evictions of renters has become a crucial political issue. We expect comrades from all over Europe to share similar experiences and find common strategies.

B) Urbanism vs. Profit: claim your city back (interpretation in EN-DE-ES)
Main topic: right to the city movement

Inputs from: Nikos Belavilas, Professor NTUA, City councillor of Piraeus (Syriza, Greece); Karlos Renedo, lawyer and activist (SORTU, Basque country); Rubén Perez, head of local policies for Izquierda Unida (Spain); Katalin Gennburg, City Councillor of Berlin (Die Linke, Germany); Maria Manuel Rola, MP and responsible for housing (Bloco de Esquerda, Portugal)

Housing is not only accommodation. Housing is an inclusive term, including public spaces for living. Spaces to care for the disadvantaged as well as for individual needs and collective activities. Space in big urban conglomerates is a precious good and it cannot be a privilege of the rich! Left concepts for creating spaces for all, and for all generations is a challenge in times where we need at the same time to avoid further extensive consumption of land and selling of grounds. What are the experiences of the Left in Europe? A lot could be packed into this: homelessness, syndicate movements, urban gardening, solidarity-based economy, social centres, basic energy security benefits, Sanctuary Cities and Refugee Housing.
How to finance public housing? The town halls have to be the driving force for affordable and environmentally sustainable housing. We want to look at left concepts how to achieve this, as well as how to find the money to realize this role. A role that is indispensable if we want to fight for social justice along with climate change (“Fit for climate change”). This brings us also to the question of how to finance the renovation of existing homes, and it touches an important aspect of our living conditions: the role of the public/town halls in creating qualified and sustainable jobs in the housing and mobility sector.

C) Can commuting be sustainable?
Main topic: how to fight against large-scale road construction projects

Inputs from: Judith Dellheim, Senior research fellow for Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (Die Linke, Germany); Angelika Lorenz and David Sagner (activists from “Lobau remains”); Michael Schmida, City councillor of Linz and expert of transport/traffic (KPÖ, Austria); Pierre Eyben, City councillor of Liege (Demain, Belgium)

What is the relationship between the protests in Austria (“Lobau bleibt”) and other social movements (climate activism) in Europe? What can we learn from each other? How can we support each other? Which protest methods are sustainable and effetive? How to mitigate the risks of social exclusion, turning commuting by car into another social privilege thus reducing climate friendly and CO2-neutral lifestyle to the poorer half of society?
The challenge is, on the one hand, to develop and implement concrete concepts to reduce the social and ecological burdens of commuting. On the other hand, the concepts and their realisation should help to make living in the city more attractive for everyone, especially for the socially weakest. Thirdly, this work and policy should help to make society more social, just, ecological and solidary – to initiate and promote a social-ecological transformation.

D) Streets like ravines: cities for people, not for cars! (interpretation in EN-DE)

Inputs from: Detlef Tabbert, Mayor of Templin (Die Linke, Germany); Mia Haglund, City Councillor of Helsinki (Left Alliance, Finland); Ana Correia da Veiga, City Councillor of Luxembourg-City (Dei Lenk, Luxembourg)

Is free public transport enough – for environment AND people? How to discourage people to use their private cars, avoiding social exclusion? What can we learn from experiences in Luxemburg and other places where, thanks to left political engagement, free public transport has been introduced some years ago? Activists from different countries will share this experience and we will try to find strategies to extend it to other cities and contexts. (keywords: expansion of bicycle traffic, expansion of public transport to the outskirts, free public transport, reduction of parking in the city)