David comments on Madrid meeting

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European Commons AssemblyDavid comments on Madrid meeting

Message from David Hammerstein after the Madrid meeting

I would like to share a few first reflections on our Madrid ECA meeting.


We aimed at consolidating the Assembly process that began in Madrid last November in terms of public projection, broad participation, networking of commoners and the democratic organizational consolidation of ECA.

ECA needs to be placed in a political and social context with a clear explanation of our added value and what we do that others do not. Our principal objectives include responding to the urgent and multiple crisis in areas of climate, food, energy, urban planning, housing, immigrations, internet, among many others.

We aim at promoting the channeling commons-oriented policy proposals to institutions.

We hope to map local commons inititatives and to organize solidarity among commoners on a European level.


1. Participation: Participation was roughly half or less (if we count the participation outside the EP last ) of that from the Brussels meeting. As a result many key actors present last year were missing. This is not a technical problem but also a reflection of our failure to maintain interest in the ECA process since last November.

2. Public projection: For the Brussels meeting there was a Call/Manifesto along with a video to encourage participation and to offer ideological coherence to the event. This year there was no such urban commons call nor were there any written conclusions drafted by the participants to be publiccly available. In fact, while in Brussels there was quite a bit of debate and criticism of EU policies, in Madrid there were few focussed written policy proposals nor any other clear political demands that would call on local governments to respond to commons demands. There was no commons action taken together at ECA on a local commons issue.

3. Networking: Probably the most positive part of ECA was the ample time alloted to workshops where much greater networking could take place than in Brussles. Nevertheless, the workshop structure and methodology often was more general principle oriented than oriented toward concrete action or policy or internal organizaiton. There is quite a bit of material from the workshops to be analysed and drafted.

4. Panel discussion on Radical urban politics and the commons: This panel discussion did not consider any radical urban policies on the part of local administrations and tended to consider commons policy as a purely "citizen participation" issue. No key environmental, urban, housing, food, energy or internet policy was considered in this discussion. The moderator did not focus questions on any commons or radical urban politic issues. This was a missed opportunity to discuss commons relationships/demands with local authorities.

5. Political confusion of message: The combination of ECA with the TransEuropa festival which might at first glance have had financial and organizational reasons to take place at the same time created confusion and even dismay among some participants in ECA. Instead of adding to attendance it might have had the opposite effect. While the commons movement is clearly plural politically and non-political party oriented, the TransEuropa festival was closely connected with very concrete electoral proposals toward the 2019 elections and Spanish political party particpation was mainly limited to one party. On another level the ECA often gave the impression that local Spanish governments were already applying commons policies when in a general sense this is far from true.

6. Organization of ECA: It was not clear at all if new people would be involved in the year-round organizaiton of ECA because the concrete questions about personal or organizaitonal commitment towrad the future were not clearly posed. There was a lack of clarity on membership, level of commitment and time and decisions on the future of ECA. There seems to be a great resistance at talking about this.

7. Outside world and political context: While in Brussels there was ample reference to what was happening socially and politically both in the EU and in the aftermath of Trump´s victory, in Madrid there was very little reference to the relationship of the commons movement to the principle problems in cities like mass tourism, pollution, Uberization, .... The dominant model of cities is so far from the commons vision yet there was practically no criticism of the structural problems in our cites. It would have been easy to present - even to the press- some of the basic urban demands of commoners in a 1 or 2 page summary.

8. Process: In ECA there is a much greater focus on process than on content, on talking about ECA and the commons than talk about the outside world and out to change it. The idea of hiring an outside researcher to study the governance of ECA is a reflection of this non-justified endogamia. The processes and the organizational forms are not usually previous steps but are developed through common objectives, joint actions and then needs to respond to society.