POPULISM, POLITICAL ECOLOGY, AND THE BALKANS | Workshop, 30 November 2013

 

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The Greek Green Party [Ecologists Greens] along with other Balkan Green Parties, with the support of the Green Institute in Greece organized the workshop Populism, Political Ecology and the Balkans”, in Sofia, on the 30th of November 2013. The workshop which was a follow-up activity to the conference on Populism, Political Ecology and the Balkans”, that was held in Thessaloniki, from 23 to 26 of May 2013, was attended by students, political scientists, politicians, stakeholders, activists, and economists from Bulgaria. During the event, the participants, had the chance to examine the phenomenon of populism in detail and its negative consequences on the policies of Balkan countries, with a specific focus on Bulgaria, while argued over the alternative solutions for the tackle of the current crisis proposed by the Greens, such as the political ecology.

The event was opened by Daniela Bozhinova, the founder and Co-chair of the new greens – Zelenite – of Bulgaria, who welcomed the participants to the workshop, and made a few remarks on the preparatory phase of it, since she had an active role in the organising of the event.

Dick Pels, the former director of the Research Foundation of GroenLinks, the Dutch Green Party, introduced the participants to the workshop and presented the summary of the conference of Thessaloniki. The innovative aspect of his points was the insertion of several new dimensions of populism, affirming the continuous development of the issue and its spread across Europe in various forms.

Daniela Bozhinova further gave a speech on “Populism and Democratization of Post-Totalitarian Societies” where she highlighted the historical evolution of populism and argued about its current prevalent acceptance.

In the same line, “Populism, anti-populism and our current democratic malaise. The stakes for Europe’s future” was presented by Giorgos Katsambekis. The PhD candidate of the department of Political Sciences of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh), attempted to analyse the concepts of populism and anti-populism, in the context of Europe, while creating a link between populistic discourse, crisis, and Greece.

After the coffee break, the floor was given to the participants, who made a number of interesting questions to the speakers that led to a fruitful discussion among the group.

The next session, was the round table entitled “Populism through different angles and aspects”. The speakers along with the participants expressed their own views on the topic, and new questions aroused. In order to give an elaborate picture of the discussion, they highlighted some concepts that were analysed during the workshop such as populism, democracy, demagogy, sovereignty, civic participation, initiatives, elite, dialect, movements, environment, technology, economy, hate speech, violence, threat, community, minorities, majority, etc.

The participants and the speakers came back to the conference hall after the lunch break, and continued their exchange of knowledge and ideas.

Vasil Kadrinov, sociologist and doctoral student in political philosophy in the Faculty of Philosophy, St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, deconstructed the roads to true green left in Bulgaria. He enlarged upon the cases of leftist Greens in Bulgaria and their missing collaboration with the trade unions, the financial dependence of the green NGOs (and green parties) on the European Commission and raised the question on how the greens could be financially independent from the oligarchy.

The discussion continued with Alexander Georgopoulos, professor of the department of Early Childhood Education of AUTh, who presented the alarming example of populist discourse of Greece, Golden Dawn. The speaker made a historical evaluation of Golden Dawn, and he underlined that the Greek political life features favor the GD’s growing influence. He further analysed their present practice and ideology, their electoral base, and their manipulation of the media. Alexander Georgopoulos, stressed that legal means are not enough to curb the political influence of GD, while he posed the question whether Golden Dawn is a political party or a criminal organisation.

A short session of questions and answers followed.

According to the agenda of the workshop, we proceeded to the discussion on the Bulgarian situation, where every participant took the floor and expressed his own views regarding the impact of populism and Green ideas to the people. Various ideas and approaches were communicated, that contributed to the interesting discussion.

In closing the event, Dick Pels, summarised the points that were raised during the workshop, and Alexander Georgopoulos expressed his sincere thanks to the participants and the speakers.

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