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Since last week universities in the state of Hessen (Frankfurt), the Technical University of Berlin are on strike against the introduction of Tuition fees. In the state of Bayern strikes are planned as well. In other European countries resistance is growing...
Education is changing rapidly in the whole of Europe. In more and more states in germany state-governments are introducing fees and influencial members of the social democratic party in Germany, the SPD of chanceller Schroeder are also demanding the introduction of tuition fees. The Green party, which is the smaller party in the German coalition government developed a plan for tuition fees as well. In the UK there are plans for even higher fees, the so called top-up fees and in Ireland the government want to raise registration fees with 80 Euros which are already 670 Euro at the moment. In France the government just anounced neo-liberal reforms for the education sector.
In the last years several governments started to introduce neo-liberal reforms in Europe (and beyond). In Spain for instance the L.O.U. (which provoked massive protests across the country). The European Union wants to be a big player on the fast growing world education market and in order to adchieve this the Dutch government asked the European Union (and they have got what they have asked for) to demand in the ongoing GATS (General Agreement for Trade in Services) negotiations acces to the US education market and the European Convention skipped article 133 (paragraph 6) of the nice treaty.
GATS is a WTO treaty which, according to the European Commission, is "first and foremost an instrument for the benefit of business”. European corporations like the German Bertelsmann Group are the ones who are pushing forward the GATS treaty and also the ones who are behind the changes of the education sector in Europe. Bertelsmann is using different organisations to adchieve one of their goals: the commercialisation and in the end the privatisation of education. In Germany for instance the Bertelsmann foundation introduced a project which is called „Selbständige Schule“ (which means independent schools) in cooperation with the state government of Nordrhein Westfalen. The Bertelsmann foundation is in control of the managment of the participating schools in this project (over 200 PUBLIC schools are involved in the project). The CHE (Center for the development of higher Education) is another project of the Bertelsmann foundation (in cooperation with the Hochschulrektoren konferenz). The CHE is a neo-liberal think-tank which promotes tuition fees and „independent“ (independent of the state but depending on private money..) universities in Germany. On the European level they are a big player in the European Services Forum, a very influencial lobbygroup in Brussels which was founded to lobby the European Union politicians during the ongoing GATS negotiations.
In a press release from 05th February 2003 the European Commission writes, that they won't propose any engagements in the fields of public health, audiovisual services and education in the current GATS negotiations. An internal EU report made clear, that new concessions in the fields of education, public health and audiovisual services were took of the EU-proposition for the following GATS negotiations because of a veto. Thus there has been a majority to make further concessions in the named fields. Because of article 133 (paragraph 6) in the treaty of Nice of the EU every member state has a right of veto in the vote for the sections of education, health and social policy and some states made use of it. But this exactly what should be changed in the EU constitution. Only the field of audiovisual services should be an exception (there the right of veto will still exist), in the other fields the majority of the member states will decide, if the EU constitution will be accepted in its current form.
It isn`t sure that the memberstates will accept the EU constitution in it`s current draft. Some member states want to change the text of the draft. We should start campaigning immediatly to get Paragraph 6 of article 133 of the treaty of nice in the EU constitution again. We could do this by organizing decentral days of protest in Europe and by integrating this demand in the ongoing local protests. Furtermore we should demand that education will be taken out of the GATS treaty. We should demand this (in our calls and pressreleases for actions) to local governments, national governments, the WTO and the European Union. To put pressure to corporations who want to make money with a commercialised education system we should remember that we don`t have to buy products of companies like the Bertelsmann group. For a list of their companies (TV stations all over Europe,like the RTL tv stations, the music Company Bertelsmann Music Group and much more) see http://www.bertelsmann.com/ .
Ongoing protest in Europe:
On November 12 there was a demonstration with 22.000 students in the state of Niedersachsen (Hannover) and students in the state of Nordrhein Westfalen are planning actions during the partycongress of the social democratic party, SPD, of chancellor Schroeder in Bochum (November 16-19). The prime minister of Hessen, Roland Koch, was surrounded for hours on Saturday November 8 by 3000 students. On November 12 he was again surrounded by a few thousand students. 1500 students of the Humboldt university (HU) in Berlin decided at a general assamblee that they will demonstrate together with students of the Free University (FU) and the striking university of the TU Berlin on November 15, further they agreed that they will have another general assemblee on November 20 where they will have a vote about a strike. At the FU Berlin professors started a temporary strike which will go on for 2 weeks. ( Please send Solidarity statements for the striking students of the TU Berlin to: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com and to the striking students of the university of Frankfurt to firstname.lastname@example.org )
On November 7 students blockaded the Paris univerity III. In Rennes university students are on strike. On november 20 there will be a day of action in the whole of France.
On october 26th there was alarge demo against top-up fees in London, over 30.000 students marched through the city. Last week there where more protests in Sheffield and Cambridge. On December 3 there will be a massive action against fees in the UK. Students will lobby members of parliament on the same day.
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Education is not for sale
Independendent news from student- and schoolstudent activists:
European convention: another attack on education
Coalition for Free Education:
Stop Fees now! (NUS campaign)
Campaign for free education:
Website (German only) about protests during the partycongress of the SPD in Bochum (Students and trade unions will protest at November 16 & 17): http://www.bo-alternativ.de/wer-hat-uns-verraten.htm
Website (German only) of the striking students of the TU Berlin:
http://asta.tu-berlin.de/streik/streik.html Please send Solidarity statements for the striking students of the TU Berlin to: email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org
Website (German only) of the striking students University Frankfurt: http://webstudy.de/uniprotest/index.php Please send Solidarity statements for the striking students of the university of Frankfurt to: email@example.com
Website (German only) of protesting students of the free university of Berlin:
Indymedia Germany about the strikes and other student protests: http://germany.indymedia.org/bildung/
Website (in French) about actions in France: http://www.luttes-etudiantes.com/