Panny Antoniou reports back from this month’s Young European Socialists Bureau Meeting in Zagreb.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the Young European Socialists Bureau Meeting in Zagreb, Croatia as the representative of the Young Fabians. It was one of the most reenergising and inspiring weekends of my life getting the opportunity to meet activists fighting for similar goals and learning from the tactics used across Europe.
Getting to the hostel, I discovered that I would be sharing a room with representatives from Northern Ireland and Portugal. The first day was spent getting to know people from the different organisations and meetings were held to discuss the different motions which we would be voting on the next day. Amendments and clarifications were discussed, and different organisations spoke about their positions on different issues and why it was so important that each resolution was drafted in a certain way.
We were also lucky enough to have dinner with Fred Matić MEP who spoke about his past as a prisoner of war during the Balkan Wars and brought a unique perspective to the conflict currently raging in Ukraine. After the initial meetings about the next day’s bureau meeting ended, we had an opportunity to go to an outdoor wine festival in Zagreb and get to know each other a little better.
That morning we – many of us with sore heads from the night before – got up to a full day of meetings discussing an array of issues including providing support for Ukraine, protecting vulnerable GRT and LGBT+ minorities, and moving towards a Just Transition and Green New Deal. We started the meeting off by introducing ourselves, saying a little about our organisation (in my case the Young Fabians) and discussing the political state of play within our respective countries.
When it came to discussing the resolutions and voting it was especially interesting to see the cultural differences in play between different nations. For example, the Nordic countries generally voted as a bloc and voted against the imposition of minimum wages across Europe due to their specific history of trade unionism where minimum wages are not imposed and trade unions are mandated to negotiate a fair salary on behalf of all workers. This unique cultural perspective was something new and interesting for me and it was fascinating to learn about the perspective of Scandinavian colleagues.
After the meetings ended, we were able to have further discussions about interesting policy differences between countries and in these discussions I put a particular focus on what could work here in the UK. It was especially interesting to speak to the Portuguese representative about the Portugal Model of harm reduction and to the representatives from the Western Balkans whose views are far too often overlooked by Western Europe. It was also interesting hearing from colleagues from Switzerland and Norway whose experiences are especially valued with regards to their relationship with the European Union. Additionally, it was enlightening to have meetings with Irish and Northern Irish colleagues about the Northern Ireland Protocol and the threat which the Tories pose to the Good Friday Agreement.
Overall, it was an incredible experience to get the opportunity to get to work with colleagues from across Europe to find common solutions. This is one of the many reasons why the Young Fabians pushed so hard to become full members of the Young European Socialists but above all to be able to provide such fantastic opportunities to our members. I would like to thank my predecessor as Bureau Member, Hunter Christopher and our previous chairs Mark Whittaker and Adam Allnutt for working so hard to make us full members of YES. I look forward to the upcoming trips for our members to Germany, Austria, and Albania which our membership of YES allow our members to enjoy.
Panny Antoniou is the International/Outreach Officer of the Young Fabians and represents the Young Fabians on the Young European Socialists (YES) Bureau. He tweets at @panny_antoniou.