« The profound changes under way in Eastern Europe, brought about by massive popular mobilisation, are arousing little more than passing curiosity amongst the people of the West. Although relative Western prosperity only partly conceals deep-rooted inequality and social injustice, it has produced widespread apathy. More and more citizens are aware of their lack of influence over the vital decisions which affect their lives. They half-heartdely express their protest by no longer exercising their civic rights and duties. (…). If a remedy to this situation exists, then it is surely to be found in the rapid establishment of direct contacts between citizens from the whole of Europe, thus opening up the way for new forms of solidarity. »
From the Appeal calling for the creation of the European Civic Forum, 12 December 1989.
The European Civic Forum (ECF) was created in December 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The initiative was taken by citizens from several European countries, both in the West and the East, who had already worked together in the European Cooperative Longo Mai, a movement of self-managed agricultural and craft cooperatives, in the European Committee for the Defence of Refugees and Immigrants (CEDRI) and the European Federation of Community Radios (FERL).
It seemed clear to us that the opening up of Eastern Europe would be limited to western economic interests, major international institutions and governments and that obstacles would be put in the path of ordinary citizens wishing to develop east-west relations. It is for this reason that our main objective to begin with was to establish direct contacts between people from East and West.
During the 1990s many concrete projects were launched. These included agricultural projects in former East Germany and Ukraine; an alternative network of independent journalists (AIM) throughout former Yugoslavia during the period of war and conflict ; cooperation with the university of Oujgorod in Ukraine… In the 90s, the ECF initiated several Europe-wide campaigns, such as the campaign for the support of deserters and draft resisters from the different republics of former Yugoslavia.
In 2000 the ECF began a new campaign that was to become one of its most important activities. It sent an international delegation to investigate the racist riots against Moroccan agricultural workers in El Ejido in Andalusia (Spain). The ECF has published several books on the scandalous exploitation of migrant workers in industrial fruit and vegetable farms throughout Europe.