Wednesday, 26. October
City Museum of Ljubljana, 16.00 – 18.00

  • Murat Belge, independent political theorist and activist, Turkey
  • Janek Sowa, Jagiellonian University Krakow, Poland
  • Kaspars Goba, filmmaker, Latvia
  • Cattis Laska, political activist, Sweden
  • Harlan Koff, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Moderator: Danijela Tamše, precarious activist of Social Centre Rog, Slovenia

Murat K. Belge is an intellectual, academic, translator, literary critic, columnist and civil rights activist. He has got his MA and PhD in Department of English Language and Literature at İstanbul University, Turkey. He is Head and Founder of the Department of Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, İstanbul Bilgi University (1996 -) and Associate Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, İstanbul University (1980 -).

He is author of numerous books such as: Tarihten Güncelliğe (Alan Publications, İstanbul 1983), Sosyalizm, Türkiye ve Gelecek (Birikim Publications, İstanbul 1993, 2000), Marksist Estetik: Christopher Caudwell Üzerine Bir İnceleme (BSF, İstanbul 1989), Türkiye Dünyanın Neresinde? (Birikim Publications, İstanbul 1992, 1997), Türkler ve Kürtler: Nereden Nereye? (Birikim Publications, İstanbul 1996), Yaklaştıkça Uzaklaşıyormu? AB-Türkiye (Birikim Publications, İstanbul 2003), Türkiyenin Halleri (Liberte Yayınları, Ankara 2003). Additionally, he translated numerous works of Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence as well as some important works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels into Turkish.

He is the founder and has been editor in newspapers Yeni Gündem (1986-1989) and Birikim (1975-1980), and is a founder of Halkın Dostları (1969-1971). He publishes regularly in daily newspapers Politika (1976-1977), Cumhuriyet (1977), Milliyet (1976-1977), Demokrat (1980), Radikal (1996- ).

“Welfare Chauvinism” vs. “Federation of Human Values”

The European Union came into being as a European response to the trends and developments in the second half of the 20th century, following the World War II. It has passedthrough several stages and has got transformed into quite large body which comprises most of the countries on the continent today. Perhaps, partly because of this enlargement, ideas about what exactly it is and what it should be can differ, sometimes quite radically. I shall try to formulate, in summary form, two basic but opposite views about the present and the future of the EU. One of these positions tends to take geography as a determinant, but at the same time largely equating this geography with culture, and argues that Europe should be strictly European. The second position gives prominence to principles rather than geography and sees Europe as a confederation gathered around a community of values, a step, perhaps, towards a world federation based on universalist values and principles.

According to the first position, the geographical Europe, throughout its history, has produced “European culture”, whick is democratic and humanitarian, but also Christian (It does not reflect upon the fact that racialism, fascism, nazism were also bi-products of this culture). The second position has no bias in matters of religion but concentrates on the democratic quality of the political culture, within as well as without Europe. Nowadays, the first position is gaining ground in Europe. Countries known for their liberal attitudes, such as Holland, Denmark etc., have become strongly anti-Islam. Turkey, a long-time candidate, also being a Muslim country, is now an object to be kept at a distance, through efforts of countries such as Germany, France, Austria, etc.

This negative attitude of what might be called “Castle Europe” has adversely affected not only the Turkish government, which initially manifested a genuine desire for membership, but also the people in general. Back in the nineties polls showed a willingness that rose up to as high as 70%. This has ebbed away and certainly is below 50%. Within Europe, too, the bureacratic/eurocratic attitude of the authorities has caused a lot of disappointment.  Together with the “cultural” exclusiveness as demonstrated by France, Germany etc., there is what might be called a “welfare chauvinism” that refuses to “share” anything.  These are not signs of a development towards a “federation of human values” and Europe is in need of reviewing its positions as well as its political leaders. The attitudes taken vis a vis what is “outside” Europe are indicative of what is desired or expected to take shape “inside” Europe.

Jan Sowa is a sociologist, writer and activist. He studied literature, philosophy and psychology at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland and Saint-Denis University Paris 8, France. He holds a PhD in sociology and is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Communication of Jagiellonian University. Before starting his academic carrier, Sowa worked as a curator in the Center for Contemporary Art “Bunkier Sztuki” in Kraków and as journalist for the Polish Public Radio. He has been active in the field of autonomous education and independent cultural animation for more than a decade; currently he is engaged in developing and running Free/Slow University Warsaw (

In his research Sowa explores the borders of cultural studies, social anthropology, critical theory, art and politics. He wrote and edited several books on society, media, history as well as social and political theory (most recently: Over and Over Again: 1989 – 2009). He published almost 100 texts both in Poland and abroad. The article he co-authored ‘L’événement dans la chambre froide: le carnival de Solidarność’ has just appeared in L’idée du Communisme, II edited by Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek (Nouvelles Éditions Lignes, Paris 2011). Sowa is also an independent publisher, co-founder of Korporacja Ha!art Publishing House, currently working on the Polish translations of Michael Hardt’s and Antonio Negri’s Commonwealth and Fragments of An Anarchist Anthropology by David Graeber.

Central-Eastern Europe within the European Union – a Peripheral Continuation or Emancipatory Turning Point?

There is a puzzling fact about Europe’s cultural and social identity. The continent seems to be permanently split between East and West with the division line on the river Elbe. It’s precisely there that the limits of Roman influence coincide with the borders of Caroling Empire (i.e. classical feudalism), the division between capitalism and second serfdom and the cleavage between West and East in the second half of the 20the century. However, as the world-system theory of Immanuel Wallerstein has very well demonstrated, this division line has always been a division within the same socio-economic system. It’s in the Central-Eastern Europe that the first periphery of the capitalist system had been constituted and it’s where the historically first Third World emerged.

Judged from this point of view the revolutionary character of the European Union extension in 2004 is expressed not so much by the fact that EU is built across national borders, but by an attempt to build a permanent and coherent social, political and economic structure across the oldest and the most permanent division of Europe into East and West. It’s a historic chance for societies east of the river Elbe to leave there peripheral condition behind and become something else. But what is it going to be? Despite many benefits form the EU enlargement, many socio-economic phenomena (migrations, income distribution, patterns of industrial development, export and import characteristics, cultural relations etc.) show that there is at least as much continuation of peripheral status of Central-Eastern Europe as emancipation to some new and better condition. Maybe the most permanent division of Europe will prove to be more permanent than we think.

Kaspars Goba is a documentary film director, journalist and photographer. He started filmmaking in 1996 and worked as a director, scriptwriter and cinematographer on more than fifteen documentaries. In 2005 Kaspars established his own production company ELM MEDIA with the aim of drawing society’s attention to social and environmental issues through filmed documentaries and documentary photography projects. His latest documentary ”homo@lv” (2010, 70 min) was the first documentary film from Latvia to be screened in the Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2011.

Kaspars also works in the field of documentary photography. During the last decade he has taken photos during journalistic trips to Iceland, northern Russia, Siberia, the Far East, Roma ‘tabors’ in Latvia and Lithuania, and Kurdish areas in Turkey. Along with his films, Kaspars often creates documentary photo series on the same topic, which have become objects of contemporary art. With his photo series on Seda, People of the Marsh and HOMO@LV, made during the shooting of the films, he has taken part in contemporary art exhibitions in more than 20 countries.

Democracy as Consumerism

The day when Latvia voted for joining the EU, I was finishing filming my first social documentary “Seda. People of the Marsh”, a story about forgotten people of my country living in a Russian immigrant village built in Soviet times, where less than 400 of 3000 inhabitants had rights to vote. Others were considered as non-citizens.

In the mass media politicians were advocating for joining the EU talked about economic advantages, subsidies for agricultural sector and funding for building infrastructure. It reminded me of the times of Perestroika, when young Latvian communist leaders after their first trips to Western countries started campaigning against the old regime. Very few of them talked about values, the majority was interested in Western lifestyle and consumption possibilities. Many people understood democracy as consumerism, a consumerism without much work.

After regaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Latvia experienced enormous changes – from one economic system to another, from totalitarianism to the so-called democracy, from having nothing in the shops to having everything in the supermarkets. The life of two million people changed beyond recognition. People had difficulties adapting to those changes, accepting them, giving up something in which they have believed for something new and unknown. Joining the EU was another promise of life that will instantly get better. But it did not. Instead, people were faced with issues like accepting minorities and immigrants that they were not ready to accept. Pro-EU politicians and opinion leaders failed to explain to the nation that joining the EU will mean not only joining a much bigger market and having advantages of receiving EU funding, but also joining a different system of values. It led to having unsatisfied people who became an easy target for manipulation.

Making my latest social documentary “homo@lv” I observed how so-called conservative politicians manipulated with public opinion and split Latvian society based on their attitude towards sexual minorities. There are many more examples where Western European values are not accepted in the new Member States or countries planning to join the EU. I think this is the main topic to be discussed when we are talking about the EU enlargement.

Cattis Laska is an antimilitarist/noborder/feminist activist living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She’s active in various organizations and groups such as ”No one is illegal” – striving against deportations and for the rights of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants; “Ofog” - an anti-militarist network working on non-violent direct action and public awareness raising such as lectures, workshops, street actions etc., against NATO, military exercises, the army industry and militarization of society; “Interfem” – an antiracist feminist think-tank organizing lectures and workshops; and with the campaign Ain’t I a Woman: For Undocumented Migrant Women’s Right to Protection.

In July 2011, ”Ofog” organized an international action camp, where people from around the world came to protest against NEAT – Europe’s largest military test area located in northern Sweden. Besides activism, Cattis has worked with youth groups and studied gender, feminism, international relations, conflict resolution and film.

Militarisation as the Controversial Aspect of the EU

Though EU is much more than a military union, the military units, such as the EU Battle groups, military police and Frontex, are vital for EU’s control of other areas, both outside and inside European borders. Nowadays EU, being a NATO “strategic partner”, further increases the militarization of EU and drags European countries into NATO. EU still promotes itself as a peace project, but the reality is that the EU is upholding an unjust world order where former colonial powers maintain their control and impact on the world, and doing this using militarism and violence.

In the case of Sweden, politicians and authorities use EU regulations and agreements to excuse repressive migration policies and Sweden’s active part in war and militarization. Located far away from the external borders of Fortress Europe, Sweden uses EU/Schengen agreements such as the Dublin convention to deport migrants once they’ve arrived in Sweden. During the last years, cooperation with Frontex has increased, and Sweden supports Greek border police with surveillance air planes to seek for undocumented migrants, while at the same time officially criticizing Greece’s management of the migrant situation. Sweden is being in the forefront in the EU militarization process, participating with 2350 soldiers out of 2800 in the Nordic Battle group, one of EU’s rapid response military units. Europe’s largest military test range over land is located in northern Sweden, including air space for testing drones and fighter aircrafts, ground space for bomb exercises, and the world’s largest downloader of satellite material.

To legitimize all this militarization, military responses are promoted as the only solution to all crisis and problems, the other option being not acting at all. Thus when discussing EU, its impact on our daily lives, as well as on upholding an unjust world order (inside and outside the EU), militarism and how to resist it are very important parts of the discussion.

Harlan Koff, PhD is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Political Science Institute at the University of Luxembourg. He is founding President of the Consortium for Comparative Research on Regional Integration and Social Cohesion (RISC) and coordinator of RISC’s working group on Comparative Border and Migration Politics. He is co-editor (with Carmen Maganda) of the international peer-reviewed journal Regions & Cohesion (Berghahn Journals).

His present research analyzes the impact of regional integration on border communities. Specifically, he is working on a comparative project on border regions in Europe, North America and South America. This research examines cross-border political cooperation, economic transformations in these border areas and their impacts on social marginalization, organized crime and migration. Moreover, Koff is the head of the BRIDGE (Border Regions in Different Geographic Espaces) research project comparing Luxembourg and Belize, Central America.

Living With Their Shadows? The Ramifications of Cross-Border Integration in Contemporary Europe

One defining characteristic of European integration has been the establishment of officially recognized cross-border regions. These bi- or multi- national communities are characterized by cross-border political cooperation and the evolution of transnational economic markets, both of which generally contribute to increased wealth in these places and consequently, public support for European integration.

This paper discusses integration processes in three cross-border communities: 1) the Eurométropole, 2) Luxembourg’s Greater region and 3) Bari, Italy and Durres, Albania. It argues that institutional governance or economic markets do not solely determine the distribution of the benefits of integration in cross-border communities. Instead, intermediary mechanisms, such as the nature of local leadership and the structure of local interest representation systems strongly influence how well the benefits of integration are shared in cross-border communities. The paper aims to show that when political power is centralized, the benefits of integration are as well which leads to political tension and euro scepticism.

Danijela Tamše is a political activist and postgraduate student in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is mostly involved in the questions of borders, migrations, production and labour regimes and knowledge production. Her research is strongly connected to the movement of Invisible Workers of the World (IWW). She participated on different transnational activistic meetings and conferences, organized by movements and collectives such as Edufactory, Uninomada, different social centres and IWW. She is a member of student’s association, where she is a part of organization team of different events, mostly symposiums such as Political Critique in Art (2009), Taboo and Culture (2010), Pop Culture Hours: Balkan Strikes Back (2011). For two years she was a student representative on Cultural Studies Department at the Faculty of Social Science, Ljubljana. As a volunteer she works on different projects among others she participated in European project Gruntwig Makno – Managing Knowledge in Intercultural Learning Communities (2008–2010) and is a part of an ongoing transnational project Cultural Studies in Postyugoslav Space (2009–2011). She occasionally works for ČKZ – Journal for Critique of Science, Imagination and New Anthropology. She published in Media Watch, ČKZ and some other journals and papers.