European Commons Assembly

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= " A coalition for solidarity and commons-based politics" in the EU and Europe.




The "European Commons Assembly is an ongoing process that facilitates pluralistic debate regarding the strategy and agenda for a fundamentally united political vision. It supports activists’ continued engagement in concrete, collaborative and bottom-up actions and campaigns in Europe, and ultimately helps to build a flourishing European political civil society movement for the commons."

2. Nicole Leonard:

"Summary note on European Commons Assembly’s First meeting in Brussels, November 15 to 17 2016 There are now less than two weeks to go until the first meeting of our commencing European Commons Assembly process! Since there have been many people getting involved over the past weeks and months, it’s good to share some words on the background and process until now so that we have the same understanding heading into the event, even if not everyone can attend in person.

There was a preamble to our current gathering under the ECA call, which is hosted on the website and open for signatures ( It was drafted at a meeting called together on commons activism in Europe (then entitled Commons Watch), which took place from 18-20 May 2016 at an organic farm in Villarceaux, some 40km outside of Paris. The objective was then, as it continues to be today, to bring together in a trans-local coalition those engaged with commons and processes of commoning in different spheres. Among other things, we want to imagine together future concrete collective and collaborative actions and campaigns in Europe. Ultimately, the goal is to come to a strong and flourishing bottom up European political civil society movement for the commons, which is able to articulate the commons also as a new policy paradigm.

In Villarceaux, we also discussed an opportunity to convene the ECA’s first meeting in Brussels, with a session at the European parliament to be organised in cooperation MEPS from the Intergroup on Common Goods and Public Services.

Since the Villarceaux meetings, a lot has happened, including growing numbers of you on our commonswatch email list where we have been introducing ourselves (, in smaller groups working towards the Brussels meetings (including one on the ECA Assembly of Nov. 17th which takes us beyond the EP assembly moment), and on our Loomio and hackpad spaces, where we have among other things started to draft policy proposals on the themes we are working on as practitioners and/or researchers.

Taking all this into account, our ECA assembly at the EP on the 16th is a moment in our process where we want to engage in a participatory meeting with MEPs, to point to the potential of the Commons as a policy paradigm. We will identify together a few themes and issues (as we only have a short time at the EP) that need to be addressed on an EU level, and how MEPs can engage in this. At large there is a will to point to the relevance of the ECA at the EP level, and to address possible cooperation between the MEPs and the ECA beyond the assembly on the 16th.

And in the trans-local spirit, on the afternoon of Nov. 15 - before the Parliament session - activists in Brussels are organizing gatherings and workshops to welcome those traveling from around Europe so we can exchange and debate on our various struggles for the commons."


"Three main objectives were defined in the initial meeting:

1. Increase visibility of the commons (a civil and social practice) in European public discourse and media

2. Bring the advent of creative institutions and political alternatives from the local to the European level

3. Contribute and articulate joint demands for the commons the following issues, among others:

  1. Empowering community renewable energy.
  2. Internet infrastructures as a commons
  3. Open research and science with citizen participation for social and environmental objectives.
  4. Copyright reform for access to knowledge and information
  5. Transparency and direct citizen participation in political institutions.
  6. Supporting and financing urban commons for culture, co-housing, food production.
  7. Sustainable and democratic management of natural resources and biodiversity."


The ECA Assembly on the 17th in Brussels

Then, on the 17th in the morning, we take advantage of the commoners’ presence in Brussels to look into our ECA’s future and work to continue to give shape to our ECA process. How do we see the needs, objectives, priorities and structure of the ECA? How do we stand in solidarity around our diverse struggles and build a trans-local movement for the commons? How does the ECA relate to (already existing) local assemblies and existing Solidarity economy processes? How will we develop (further) policy proposals throughout our ECA? These are just some of the questions that we will want to address – for sure there are many others. Such is the process we are in for together!"


"Our call:

Civic and community initiatives are working to vitalize our urban, rural, scientific and digital commons, and promoting a future guided by democratic participation, social equity and environmental sustainability. At the heart of these acts of “commoning” are satisfying, joyful social relationships that regenerate our interpersonal and physical surroundings. We reject the idea that we are merely self-interested individual consumers or competitors in a fierce market jungle. Instead, we also consider ourselves active and cooperative citizen caretakers working for healthy and fair neighbourhoods, cities and societies.

In times when European institutions are losing support and in deep crisis, we as European citizens are reclaiming Europe. We are concerned that many of our governments tend to favour the narrow interests of dominant market forces instead of catering to the common good of people and the planet.

We are alarmed that growing global social inequality and exclusion, along with climate change, are threatening our very future. We regret that massive privatization and commodification have already deprived us of much of our shared commons that is essential for our physical, social and cultural well-being, and our dignity.

Our experiences of commoning:

Commoning relates to the network-based cooperation and localized bottom-up initiatives already sustained by millions of people around Europe and the world. These initiatives create self-managed systems that satisfy important needs, and often work outside of dominant markets and traditional state programmes while pioneering new hybrid structures.

As commoners:

  • We build and strengthen communities by using and sharing knowledge, arts, culture, agriculture and technology.
  • We build co-housing projects, support local agriculture, live in eco-villages, and have community-based and community-owned infrastructures (e.g. for energy, water, wifi, culture and funding).
  • We take care of and collectively manage natural resources (including water, forests, seeds and animals).
  • We make and freely share music, images, software, educational materials, scientific knowledge and the like.
  • We have already succeeded in making some public-sector information accessible to all, including publicly-funded research, health knowledge and technology.
  • We try to open up existing democratic institutions, through new tools of participatory democracy and transparency.

We call for:

  • We call for the provision of resources and the necessary freedom to create, manage and sustain our commons. We call upon governments, local and national, as well as European Union institutions to facilitate the defence and growth of the commons, to eliminate barriers and enclosures, to open up doors for citizen participation and to prioritize the common good in all policies.

This requires a shift from traditional structures of top-down governance towards a horizontal participatory process for community decision-making in the design and monitoring of all forms of commons. We call on commoners to support a European movement that will promote solidarity, collaboration, open knowledge and experience sharing as the forces to defend and strengthen the commons.

Therefore, we call for and open the invitation to join an ongoing participatory, inclusive process across Europe for the building and maintenance of a Commons Assembly. Together we can continue to build a vibrant web of caring, regenerative collective projects that reclaim the European Commons for people and our natural environment.

Omnia sunt communia!"


0. Extensive report from, Ruby Van der Wekken et al. via

1. Isabel Carlisle reports from the European Commons Assembly in Brussels.

"On 16 November I was in Brussels for the first European Commons Assembly: a gathering of over 100 people from all over Europe and beyond who are stepping forward to make visible, manage and protect the resources that we as citizens hold in common. We held our session in the European Parliament, hosted by members of the Inter-Group on Common Goods: MEPs who have formed a new working group that will include strategy on the commons in political debate. This is a milestone: the meeting of these two separate groups for the purpose of proposing policy that could be enacted across EU states sends out a number of signals.

One is a call to those working in this space (and the Commons is all about spaces) that the work we are doing to protect our water, soils, fisheries, public spaces, shared knowledge, local food and energy production and digital networks is seen and valued. Another is that the transition to sustainable living, to itself be sustainable, is being called to grapple with issues of governance and law so that we can build frameworks that uphold and validate our work.

A third signal is simply that all the shared ideas and language around the Commons offer a lively, inclusive space in which we can find Eco-Villages, the Internet, Permaculture, municipalities and mayors, mapping, Community Land Trusts, local Democracy, Transition, farmers, housing co-ops and the many facets of this movement. A movement that now appears to be moving in from the margins as more people realize that whole-systems change takes all of us to join in.


While in the Parliament we heard three policy proposals presented, Democracy as a Commons, Community Land Trusts (housing), and open technology for a Digital Commons. Altogether the collective of groups and individuals in the Commons Assembly prepared 26 proposals that are still being worked on for future submission.

These range from scientific commons and citizen science, the Commons and the solidarity economy, and currency as a commons to education, energy and knowledge. If you want to join in, please go to the European Commons Assembly website. At a time of deepening political upheaval I was heartened to read in the call that the European Commons Assembly put out that “we consider ourselves active and cooperative citizens caretakers working for healthy and fair neighbourhoods, cities and societies”." (

Meeting between ECA and DIEM 25

Via Silke Helfrich:

"It turned out that the "fringe meeting" between DIEM 25 and commoners evolved into a great opening and get together as well as a collective attempt to make sense of the moment we are at. Thank you all for sharing this space!

Socrates Schoutent did brilliantly some up my general feeling: "that commons could potentially include many more people in an engaging vocabulary than what I believe are the initial premisses of DiEM25"

We had a great meeting in Brussels, however, some of us share the feeling, that we didn't learn enough about DIEM25 plans and concrete next steps. Lorenzo, Agnieszka, Jorem and others: please share on this list what you consider helpful.

To start with, here are a few ideas and points of convergence:

  • as true politics is being built outside the so-called public institutions the work of commoner's on the ground might be part of the yeast DIEM25 activities in- and outside public institutions are nurtured from --> commons approach can help to make the project of democratization of Europe concrete and to "say what we want".
  • commons approach helps to "flip the narrative"; in Jorem's words: "to change the frame and the words that are being used to discuss what is going on in the society around us"

Antioniadis Panagiotis underlined, that we need to go beyond a work "based on the national identities". "How we can either get towards a citizen-based and common-based kind of governance or any other type of governance that is not bound by this national identity?",+ commons points beyond the bi-polarized but still prevalent: left vs. right;

Silke adds, that the project of rethinking democracy means "rethinking democracy beyond state/market fundamentalism, beyond left and right and beyond political parties"

Immon Hokkanen: "Many conservative people are commoners, unless we shut them up" -> so commons approach is bridge building between different ideologies/ positions -> lets be passionate + share stories

Socrates Schouten puts it straight forward: "I would argue that commons could potentially include many more people in an engaging vocabulary than what I believe are the initial premisses of DiEM25 that is for democracy in Europe and transparency.... the notion of democracy per se has not straightforward appeal to the majority of Europeans."

both: DIEM25 and Commoners identify themselves as a combination of a specific way of thinking, knowing and experiencing --> i.e. approaches are "extremely complementary"


David Hammerstein: commons - more focussed on processes of life; DIEM25 - in a way market-fundamentalist

Lorenzo's reply: "there is no market-fundamentalism in DIEM25"

Lasse Saetre: commons as a system that broadens the scope of politic and is a more encompassing system that outperforms competition

Daniela Festa: pointed to the "inside" - "outside" tension (here we discuss paradigmatic change, tomorrow we will have the First ECA inside the Parliament)

-> define strategies; what's DIEM25 main strategie? What can be done?:

  • first of all, as Ana Margarida Esteves points out: "bridges the language of academia, of technicians and the language of people with little or no education"
  • learn to communicate in a language of caring (where there is no "we" vs "them"); as sbd said: "consider as real people those with whom we don't agree now! Talk to them person-to-person."
  • contribute to DIEM25 w/ critical thinking for paradigmatic changes; f.i. a financial commons (if ever possible) instead of "amendments within the system"
  • join forces with the commons transition, collaborative economy, the circular economy and others to show people that there are solutions in all fields (Pablo ?)
  • cooperate with the creative ppl, as Christian Fruneaux put it: "My profession is I build fictional worlds; which range from fantasy to science fiction to real multi-layered very real social and economic structures; ---

I am just here to offer my services. I just want to build this fiction with you."

Lorenzo Marsili: "DiEM needs the movement for the commons, not to decorate its movement but to use its message when it comes to what a new economic policy, a new investment policy means for the EU. The first concrete invitation is for everybody here, individually or as a group, as an alliance, as a network, to really participate in the drafting of the policy papers that DiEM25 is going to plan over the next weeks and months

Let me end with Sophie Bloemen's simple and powerful questions:

Can we work together?

Is it something really crucial?

Are there crucial synergies or are they not there?

What do you think? If the answer to these questions is YES, what are the next steps?" (Commonswatch mailing list, December 2016)


Many of the participants (107) are listed here at , without bios so far

The list of those that participated in the preparator 'CommonsWatch' meeting in May are listed here at ; bios are included.

We are working on porting them to our biographical directory here as well:














Policy Proposals

Compiled from the ECA hackpad:

More Information

enlarged commonswatch list :