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Germany

"A New Day is Dawning for Globalization Critics"

Around 100,000 demonstrators are expected at the G8 summit in June. DW-WORLD.DE spoke with Sven Giegold, one of the founders of Attac, a group which describes itself as a skeptical of globalization, about the protests.

Some G8 protests have already occurred, like this one in Berlin on May 1

Attac co-founder Sven Giegold

DW-WORLD.DE: Leaders from the world's most industrialized nations meet every year at the Group of Eight summit to discuss issues and set agendas. What do G8 opponents like Attac have against that?

Sven Giegold: It's the leaders from wealthy nations who meet at the summits, even though the world's problems, such as poverty and climate change, should be solved within the United Nations. The UN is as weak as it is because the rich nations discuss issues among themselves rather than trying to address problems together within the UN.

In addition, we criticize the fact that the G8 summits over the past 30 years have only focused on liberalizing capital and product markets. What is missing is a form of globalization based on social and ecological principles. Economic globalization increases social divisions, environmental destruction and contributes to the eradication of democracy.

Protest gegen G8

G8 protests took place months before the summit

In Germany , around 900 police officers recently raided 40 sites linked to left-wing activists believed to be preparing attacks on the summit. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has also threatened to have potentially dangerous protestors taken into custody for up to two weeks before and during the summit. Do such measures intimidate or incite G8 opponents?

We see more people mobilizing. The measures were clearly illegal and have motivated people to go to the summit who were previously not even considering it. There's a danger, though, that the assurances by participants -- Christian groups, trade unions and environmental organizations -- that the protests will be peaceful will just get lost in the shuffle.

What is the aim of Attac and other G8 opponents in Heiligendamm -- a complete blockade of the summit?

Some of the groups want to show their symbolic protest on the streets; others really do want to completely block off the summit. With 16,000 police officers and a security fence costing 12 million euros ($16 million), that won't be successful. Attac relies on peaceful protests, but we also support civil disobedience -- such as sit-ins at access routes -- among our activists. Civil disobedience is simply part of social movements, such as the civil rights movement in the United States or Gandhi's movement in India. We want to base our protests on this tradition.

Protestkundegebung der globaliosierungskritischen ATTAC Bewegung

Attac has been active for years, and at different venues

Demonstrators will not be able to directly approach G8 participants since protests are now forbidden within 200 meters (657-foot) of the security fence, and that area will be widened during the summit. Attac has filed a legal suit about these no-go zones. Why?

We haven't filed suit about the security fence per se, although we reject it as a symbol of the separation between the rich and poor. We have filed suit against the additional no-go zone where demonstrations are now banned. It's an impingement on the constitutional right to assemble in public that we can't even demonstrate within view of the summit area. We will take our case all the way to the constitutional court.

At such short notice?

We have received signals that a binding decision will be handed down before the summit begins. Unfortunately, the protest ban was announced at such short notice that it has been difficult to use legal means to appeal the prohibition. That's an additional restriction of the principles of a constitutional state.

G8 Gruppenfoto in Gleneagles

G8 leaders at Gleneagles summit in 2005

Some of the protestors have threatened to break through the security fence. At the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001, a demonstrator died and 400 others were wounded. How likely do you think it is that something similar might happen in Heiligendamm?

We think the danger is minimal. But one can never rule out the possibility that a few protestors may turn violent, and given the way the police are acting at the moment, that chance has not become less probable. We also have to keep in mind that the police started the violence in Genoa. If demonstrators break the law, then police have to react -- that's clear. But it isn't legitimate for a free government to annul the presumption of innocence and take people into custody or deny them entry into the country as a preventative measure. That creates an atmosphere in which peaceful protests become less likely.

Criticizing globalization is no longer only a matter for the left. Peter Marx, secretary general of Germany's nationalist NPD party, has dubbed 2007 the "year of nationalist resistance to globalization" and called for protests against the "summit of fat cats." Do you fear that false alliances could evolve in Heiligendamm?

Sicherheitszaun in Heiligendamm vor dem G8-Gipfel

Security fence in Heiligendamm

One can't speak of alliances. The protests that we and others of the civil society are planning are based on the idea of a different kind of globalization. None of us wants to revert back to the concept of a nation state. Right-wing extremists want more of a "Germany for Germans" or "France for the French." That's not our vision: we want international relations that are based on solidarity, democracy and environmental consciousness. There won't be Nazis where we'll be protesting, and they are definitely not welcome among us.

What does the G8 summit mean for the anti-globalization movement in Germany ?

I am not aware of an anti-globalization movement in Germany. We want a different form of globalization and therefore call ourselves globalization critics. I do believe that, with this G8 summit, a new day is dawning for the movement. It's interesting that the movement is not being mobilized by the big groups who will be traveling by bus to the summit. The protests are being organized much more by smaller, local initiatives. After this summit, no one will be able to say that social movements are lacking in Germany and that people cannot be mobilized. One is going to have to reckon with this movement in the future.

Sven Giegold is a co-founder of the Attac network that seeks a different form of globalization. He is a member of the German national coordinating committee.

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