Multilateral meeting about Solidarity in Warsaw, PL

Multilateral meeting about Solidarity in Warsaw, PL

How do we understand the value “solidarity”?

13th – 15th March 2016

On 13-15 March the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation hosted representatives from the CitiPart project partners – more than 52 people from five European countries – France, Germany, Austria, Croatia and Poland. The main topic of the study visit was to look for the value “solidarity” on a European and global dimension. Is the value “solidarity”, which was fundamental for European integration, still present in Europe?

The study visit began with a presentation of the project and its aims and some group integration activities. The highlight of the first day was a city game through the streets of Warsaw. The participants took on the role of international journalists to explore the capital and at the same time what solidarity, peace and tolerance means for citizens of Warsaw.  They were divided into three groups – each devoted to one of the values. Each had a scheduled meeting with an invited expert to discuss one of the three concepts, a walk through Krakowskie Przedmieście street, a part of the royal route in Warsaw and also had to track down a secret informer. Tasks included conducting a street survey, photographic documentation and recording a spot advertising European values. Apart from being tired after the journey and that one group got lost, journalists returned satisfied with their city tours. They had the opportunity to discuss their conclusions and observations during a well-deserved dinner.

The second day began with a “waking-up” game – participants got together in international pairs and to taught each other some proverbs in their native languages. The game was followed by the presentation of local activities of each partner related to the value of “solidarity” that have been implemented since the autumn of 2015. The activities were very diverse and included conferences, a charity concert, intergenerational workshops, preparation and serving of meals for the needy ect. The aim of all the activities was to seek answers to the question, what solidarity is at local and European level. Multimedia presentations and videos will soon be available at All activities were summarized with the creation of a European solidarity tree made out of paper. Participants wrote down the different elements of European solidarity on its leaves.

Subsequently, participants divided themselves into four groups to deliberate what the value “solidarity” means in four frameworks: everyday life, interpersonal, international and in the European Union. The teams formed “round tables”, which symbolized equality of all participants regardless of nationality and age. In this context the Polish round table in 1989 and the social movement that contributed to the overthrow of communism in Poland and Central and Eastern Europe was discussed. The groups illustrated the results of their discussions with collages, which were presented to the other groups. Participants realized how many different aspect there are concerning solidarity.

After lunch, which consisted of traditional Polish dumplings, participants went to the cinema called “Kino KC” for the screening of the film “Nowhere in Europe” by Kerstin Nickig and a subsequent discussion about the situation of migrants in Europe. The documentary tells the story about Chechen migrants during wars in Chechnya who ran away from their homeland ended up in different European countries. Here, they are waiting for administration process to be given refugee status. The film was the starting point for a discussion on migrants’ situation in Europe in the context of human solidarity. Participants conversed with special guest Grzegorz Gruca, vice-president of the Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH), a polish humanitarian aid organization, and Marcin Zaborowski, President of the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation. Grzegorz Gruca described the reasons for migration, the situation in the countries from which people migrate and the activities of the humanitarian aid, which PAH leads in these countries – now in Ukraine and Syria. Marcin Zaborowski discussed the political situation in Europe in the context of the EU summit and the negotiations with Turkey. Among many issues raised, there was also the topic of social moods associated with the influx of migrants – refugees from Chechnya after Chechen wars and the current war in Syria. Currently, the scale of the influx of migrants to Europe is much larger and more cumulative than the number of Chechens that came to Europe. Hence, their presence in Europe was not as noticed by the public. According to the discussants, the largest fear of refugees exists in those regions where there are no or very little refugees. They gave many examples of methods for integrating migrants, including refugees, in their countries. All of them require direct contact – eg. cooking together, living together, meetings with migrants at schools. This can reduce fear of the unknown.

On the last day, participants were divided into two groups – coordinators from the partner organizations and the other members of the local working groups. Coordinators met at the Schuman foundation and discussed the next steps in the project and evaluated the study visit in Warsaw. The other participants continued the topic of refugees in Europe in the context of solidarity and met with Piotr Bystrianin, President of the local foundation “Ocalenie”. He explained how the foundation supports incoming migrants. It offers legal, psychological and logistical (such as finding an apartment) support. Moreover, he elucidated the difficulties that some people in Poland have with accepting the migrants in their society. This presentation gave rise to a discussion among participants as to how refugees are viewed in the different European countries and what stereotypes exist. Afterwards, the whole study visit was evaluated and both groups met for a joint lunch where the study visit officially ended.

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