Internationalism Vs Nationalism: What the YES Summer Seminar Taught Me

After the YES Summer Seminar, Panny Antoniou reflects on his time in Albania with young activists from across Europe.

Late last month, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the YES Summer Seminar in Vlore, Albania. Having elected to be part of the working group on Democracy and the Fight Against Right Wing Extremism, I was looking forward to discussing how to tackle the threats which European democracy faces with friends and colleagues from across the continent.

After an early morning bus from Tirana to Vlore at 5am, I soon arrived and just in time for breakfast at the hotel and the bus to the university where we due to be meeting. Following sensitivity training by one of the Young European Socialist Vice Presidents Anna Laetitia, we split into our groups for the different seminars and began. Our Session was led by Jusos Germany colleague Michelle Reißmann who is the coordinator of the working group. It was enlightening to hear from delegates from countries who have had severe problems with the far right or are continuing to experience problems with far right extremism. One Colleague from PASOK, Konstantinos Dekavallas, spoke about the problems faced in Greece with Golden Dawn and how they livestreamed the trials and blogged about them to increase publicity about the once powerful far right’s misdeeds. Belgian colleagues by contrast spoke about how their strategy of deplatforming and totally ignoring the actions of the far right had borne fruit with the far right unable to get a significant foothold in the francophone parts of Belgium.

These sessions lasted for two days and were punctuated with a talk about the Future of Europe with special guest speaker Francesco Cerasani from EuDem in Italy. This was especially illuminating given Britain’s recent withdrawal from the EU as we were able to learn more about how we could cooperate with Europe in the future and build the connections which were irresponsibly severed by the Tories. Additionally, this session was also valuable for the Albanian comrades in attendance whose recent granting of EU Candidate status made them keen to learn more about how they could accelerate accession talks and join the EU as full members as soon as possible.

On the first evening, we also took advantage of the fantastic weather by doing an outdoor launch event with senior politicians from Germany, Spain, and Albania coming to speak to us and welcome the delegates to the seminar.

We also had a number of social events in the evenings where I had to rapidly learn the rules of flunkyball (I regret to announce that my team did not win!)

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend which was a great balance of fun, friendships, and internationalism. It truly showed the benefits of the Young Fabians’ YES membership and we were pleased to have been able to get involved in such a great event. Really looking forward to the next event organised by YES and hope to be able to welcome lots of friends from our sister parties to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool this September!

Panny Antoniou is the International/Outreach Officer of the Young Fabians and represents the Young Fabians on the Young European Socialists Bureau. He tweets at @panny_antoniou.

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