SOLIDAR at Sabir Festival 2023: against walls, for a welcoming Europe

A SOLIDAR delegation was present at this year’s Sabir Festival, taking place from 11th to 13th May in Trieste, Italy. Sabir, the festival of Mediterranean cultures, is co-organised yearly by SOLIDAR members ARCI and CGIL, along with Italian organisations ACLI, Caritas Italiana, ASGI and Carta di Roma

The Festival offers moments of sociability, debate and in-depth analysis, with the idea to promote the Mediterranean area as a space of solidarity, migratory justice, and transnational exchange. The presence of civil society representatives from the two shores of the Mediterranean, from non-EU European countries and of international networks enriches the discussion, with the view that proposals emerge for necessary policy, practices and narrative shifts on mobility and protection.

The 9th edition featured a special place for the Western Balkans countries. The Balkans have historically been a place of economic and cultural exchange with Italy as well as many central European countries, and Trieste as a city embodies perfectly this melting pot. The region also occupies a special place due to the Western Balkans route being one of the main migration routes to Europe, especially since the EU-Turkey agreement of 2016. At the institutional level, the relationship between the Western Balkans and the EU is said to be shaped by the prospect of enlargement, with 5 countries at various stages in the process of accession. In reality, the EU mainly promotes economic and financial alignment with EU practices while the implementation of the rule of law and fundamental rights are sidelined.

From SOLIDAR were present representatives from Centre for Peace Studies (Croatia), Initiative for Development and Cooperation (Serbia), Community Development Institute (North Macedonia), Centre for Labour Rights (Albania), Movimiento por la Paz – MPDL (Spain), Willi-Eichler Akademie (Germany), Liga de la Educación (Spain), Casa do Brasil/Rede Sem Fronteiras (Portugal), as well as representatives from SOLIDAR Secretariat and Board.

During their interventions, members mentioned the EU’s blackmail game in which EU and member states use European funds and visa policy as a means of blackmail to obtain cooperation in return policies and externalisation of border controls. IDC highlighted how Serbia’s accession to the EU is being conditioned to the alignment of Serbian visa policy with that of the EU, and how in this context has emerged a new criminal offense in Serbia for “abusing the asylum system in another country”. In Croatia too, explained CPS, readmission agreements are used to deport people and have the consequence to effectively prevent access to asylum procedures.

After the panels, participants engaged in a March Against the walls and for a Welcoming Europe, crossing the border from Slovenia to Italy to demand the stop of building walls, whether around or within Europe.

The Festival was also the occasion for the SOLIDAR delegation to discover Trieste and learn about its cross-cultural history, meet Italian, European and north-African stakeholders on migration and inclusion, and hold a Task Force on Migration and Inclusion meeting.