European Democracy Network17. december 2019
As transnational partnership we initiated the European Democracy Network (EDN) to support, empower and connect activists who stand against the erosion of democracy and fundamental rights, and advocate for legal, political, social or climate justice. We believe that we can only encounter the shrinking of civic space in transnational solidarity and across issues.
Interview by Lea Friedberg with Jonathan, activist in EDN and Nyt Europa
So, who is Jonathan and which areas are you active in?
I am born and raised in Copenhagen from a middle-class background and my political upbringing have been shaped by being part of anti-fascist mobilizations. I have spend the last years engaged in various grassroots organisations. Currently I am an activist and foreperson of the board of Global Action, a solidarity organisation supporting social movements of the Global South in fighting for system change and against structural roots of inequality. I am mainly occupied with topics of trade, democratization of natural resources, land rights and climate justice.
Why are you an activist?
It is not easy for me to say in simple words why I am an activist. All times have their defining struggles, but I feel that the rising global inequality and the existential threat of climate crisis are very, very real and defining issues for the times to come. I guess I am sensitive to injustice (as any sensible person should be) and given the knowledge of the challenges we face, I find it a moral imperative to engage myself and simply hard not to
What do you see as the biggest challenges for Danish and European Democracy?
For me there are at least four main currents, if you discuss current threats to democracy.
The rise of the authoritarian right in EU (as well as on a global scale) is very apparent and the root causes highly debated. The erosion of civic institutions and civil liberties are very real in countries like Poland and Hungary and this is something that really worries me.
The use of percieved external threats like ‘islamic terrorism’ to justify suspending basic civil rights, such as the right of assembly on a temporary or permanent basis. Very vague anti-terrorism in many EU countries such as Germany, Denmark and Spain, the now de-facto permanent martial law in France or the new law that allows the Danish Minister of Integration to administratively strip people of their citizenship without due legal process, if they are suspected of being foreign fighters in Syria, are examples of this.
The apparent inability of national states as well as EU as an institution, to properly regulate transnational corporations and bring them to justice for crimes they commit. Panama papers and luxleaks show the very tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the immorality of the super-rich and the biggest transnational corporations. Massive tax evasion is the norm and is often legal, which to me expose the systemic nature of the problem. The attempts of representatives of EU nation states as a whole, to derail and sabotage the UN process of developing a binding treaty on business and human rights is a dire example of the reluctance to tackle the problems at its root.
The rise of surveillance capitalism, understood as the bargain where the big tech corporations trade personal information of everyone with an internet connection, with whoever want to buy them. Their services are seemingly free, but it is a Faustian bargain, as the currency is your personal data on everything from shopping habits to friendships and personal connections, whereabouts, sleeping patterns etc. This is for me really the glimpse of what could be an Orwellian nightmare, if we do not act in time to establish digital rights of people to act anonymous in the digital public space
Why are you participating in EDN?
I strongly believe in the importance of sharing knowledge and building alliances between grassroots movements and across borders. My main motivation was that I saw the opportunity to meet and learn from activists working with very different issues then myself and try to link our struggles under along common lines.
What does it give you as a person to be a part of EDN?
New friends and allies! Until now there has been a strong focus on practical tools and learning that can easily be applied, instead of very theoretical discussion. For me this has been very successful. Especially seminars on secure communication and digital activism was very relevant and something I want to explore more.
Read more about EDN here https://europeandemocracynetwork.org/