The number of deaths in the Mediterranean add up each day. The deal European states have made with Libya’s military, the only actor now allowed on the sea, is a deal laden with atrocities and crimes against humanity. The ever increasing criminalization of humanitarian and civil society organizations who are rescuing humans at sea and on the shores add to that development. However, people and voters in Europe do not seem to understand the consequences – rather the opposite.
Anti-immigrant and right wing parties continue to rise in EU countries, and in 2019 projections for the European parliament, their potential influence is troublesome. With “Welcome Everyone,” Senior Fellow Verena Riedmiller wanted to raise awareness of the responsibility and privilege of voters in the face of the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s borders.
The European May packed this awareness in the positive vision of being welcomed and a positive feeling of empowerment and change towards an open, welcoming and borderless Europe for everyone.
A topic that concerns us all is the increasing racist attacks on freedom of movement of people in the Schengen zone and any European Union borders. The Mediterranean remains Europe’s deadliest border. In order to raise awareness on the privilege of mobility, freedom of movement, and the reality of a border-free Schengen area, Verena joined The European May, a young, transnational collective that advocates for progressive global justice in Europe, and declared May 4th to be Free Movement Day in seven European countries.
The motto of the collective: “Another Europe is in the making!”
In Germany, the group revived the welcome culture (Wilkommenskultur), for which the world saw German hospitality at its best during 2015, at Berlin central station. For entire Saturday, the European May collective welcomed and greeted passengers at the train station.
Through collective action, the European May pointed out how many borders passengers crossed during their travels and surveyed the bystanders about the feeling of being welcomed.
However, the focus of the initiative was not only to celebrate the travelers, but also to engage people in dialogue on the privilege of mobility they were exercising at that moment.
This action also involved two speakers: first, a woman discussing how the Turkish diaspora organizes, and secondly, a young man from Iran who criticized his treatment in Europe. The call to action was a flyer showcasing initiatives to support; initiatives that are saving lives in the Mediterranean, building a movement to demand safe passage, and welcoming newcomers, all of which train passengers were invited to join and support.
The European May organized events in the year leading up to the 2019 European Parliament elections, on May 19th. May 4th, Free Movement Day, was one day in a series of days of direct action in more than seven countries. As a founding member of the collective, Verena co-conceptualized the action day on free movement.
The European May is still up and running and always looking for people to join or support its transnational activism on global justice issues in politics. Learn more on their website here and their Facebook page here.