Two weeks ago, I participated in the European Commons Assembly (ECA) in Brussels. I had the opportunity to present our policy proposal for a European energy commons in the EU parliament. The ECA lasted two days and has been both intense and very inspiring. I came back with one thought stuck in my mind: we should ground a European Commons Federation.
Multi-shaped, fragmented but very motivated commons
The European Commons Assembly showed one thing very clear: the diversity of people working in/on the commons is very big, as well as the topics. In Brussels, there were researchers, activists, advocates, practitioners; working on food, digital, urban, knowledge (and energy!) commons.
Diversity is a chance and a challenge.
It felt as an incredible chance to meet these 150 commoners, from all over Europe and learn from their experience. It opened my horizon of possibles (the Barcelona experiment, opening internet access, sources of funding for the commons, science as a commons…). It is extremely reinvigorating to see all these people who show that it works, it’s there, it can be scaled up. It has been an incredible visioning exercise.
But there was also a tension in the group. A certain lack of understanding and common vision. Sometimes, I felt that words were used differently, which at least to a certain part arises from the fact that we all have a different point of view on the commons. Another hurdle has been pointed to me by my Belgian neighbour, who told me that for him language was an issue (the discussions were in English).
We also have different objectives: for some, it is important to have an open discussion and debate, for others, it is important to get organized and have a common agenda. This is again directly related to our wide range of activities as commoners.
It’s like having hundreds of seeds planted throughout Europe, which turn into beautiful flowers that attract people and prompt them to grow that flower in their own garden! We have to make sure that the flowers keep blooming and that they make a colorful bouquet together.
The ECA as a starting point
So how to make sure that we really unite and at the same time respect and support our different needs and objectives?
How to move forward without leaving some behind?
How to push our demands on the EU plate?
While I was in Brussels, I took the opportunity to meet Daan Creupelandt, from REScoop, the European Federation for Renewable Energy Cooperatives. The purpose of REScoop is to promote the cooperative model at EU level and to support the creation and development of energy co-ops in Europe. These are seen as services that REScoop provides to their members, themselves energy co-ops or co-op federations. And I was thinking: this is a very strong tool and that’s exactly what we are missing for the commons.
REScoop has build a toolbox for new energy co-ops, they write policy recommendations, they coordinate projects to develop community energy (relationships between municipalities and cooperatives, linking energy production, the grid and the mobility sector…). These three axis of work are fully relevant for the commons and it is is something we can build upon.
So that’s it, I see the ECA as a starting point to build a tool that would help connecting the dots, expanding the commons and advocating our activities at a political level: a European Commons Federation.
To finish, it is noteworthy that one of the side events of the ECA was held on “Mapping the commons“. This is an excellent first step in the direction I am calling for!