Biking to burst the bubble: Manon Aubry’s tour to learn from citizen-led alternatives
By Manon Aubry, co-President of the Left group in the European Parliament
Looking to break out of the Brussels bubble, last week I cycled 260km from Nice to Marseille to meet with as many people as possible in the region I grew up in. This was a chance to see and hear about people’s daily struggles months into my mandate as a newly elected MEP. What I found were people with many alternatives to broken systems working to make Europe and the world a much better place.
As a first of its kind initiative, which we named “1000 bornes dans une Europe en berne” [1000 pit stops in a Europe at half-mast], this was a leap into the dark. However, the kindness of people I met and their eagerness to tell their stories made this journey relatively easy. Some were surprised that an MEP would care to listen to them once elected.
This was a week of memorable encounters. Pierre-François and Isabelle, small farmers in the central-Var, fighting for an agriculture that respects the planet and our health. Christian, Kamel and all the migrants at the Italian border persevering despite outrageous treatment by the French authorities. Geneviève Legay a tireless campaigner against police violence and for social justice. The yellow vests from Cannet-des-Maures, building a different society of solidarity and ecology.
This was a week of solidarity with activists tirelessly dedicating their lives to a cause. Martine, Mireille, Agnes, Adele, Patricia, Joel, Zohra and Dellia who organise daily to end the appalling treatment of migrants at the border with Italy and for dignified and humane conditions at the reception centres. All of the civil society organisations in Haut-Var mobilising against privatisation of their water, for the rights of migrants and for the environment.
This was also a week of envisioning alternative paths. Those that must be carved against the scandalous refusal of the Border Police to allow my visit to the centre where migrants are kept in confinement. The one being built by activists in my hometown of Fréjus against the rise of the far right and the social and ecological catastrophe that they are exacerbating. The necessary ecological alternative that experts and ecologists in the forest of Font-Blanche have warned of from witnessing first-hand the effects of the climate crisis and the urgent need for a new economic model. An ecological alternative by the inhabitants of the eco-village of Bois du Brindilles. The alternative defended by the movement Alternatiba that I met in Marseille who have put forward 300 proposals for an ecological transition at the local level. The agricultural alternative defended by François and Isabelle, and supported by the Association for the Maintenance of Small Farming (AMAP), pioneered in France for the first time in the Var region.
So many experiences, adventures and emotions that I jotted in my notebook to honour those who are not usually heard. So many testimonies that remind me why I got involved in politics and why I fight in the ivory tower of the European institutions. So many life stories and struggles that I am brining back with me to Brussels. “1000 bornes dans une Europe en berne” is an ongoing project. The next stage will involve another part of France and a new effort to bring more citizens closer to EU decision-making. To be continued.
- La France Insoumise