Ecological Movement of Thessaloniki

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Ecological Movement of Thessaloniki (Greek: Οικολογική Κίνηση Θεσσαλονίκης, Oikologiki Kinisi Thessalonikis), is the oldest living eco-political group of Greece. It was founded in 1982, by an initial core of people with ecological sensitivities who wanted to turn them into action. Among them was Michalis Tremopoulos (currently an elected councillor in the Thessaloniki Prefecture and an elected member of the Executive Secretariat of Ecologist Greens, the Greek Green Party) and Yiannis Tziolas, who are still active. Oikologiki Kinisi in fact means ecological move or action or movement. This shows an emphasis on action and social mobilization. The political agenda of the group consists of the main pillars of the green ideology: ecology, peace/non-violence, grassroots democracy, human rights, social solidarity, with a strong social context. A major influence was Murray Bookchin's social ecology. André Gorz, Ivan Illich and Cornelius Castoriadis were also significant influences.

The first major campaign was about Thessaloniki's Ring Road (or By-Pass), which was planned to pass through the urban forest that surrounds the city and means a lot to its citizens. Thousands of trees were planned to fell. Demonstrations both on the site of the works in the forest and in the city's main streets raised a significant public support (there was a march where 2000 people were gathered). Unfortunately, this mobilization didn't manage to cancel the construction of the new road. It gave the group however, a good boost to continue.

The group had an open form of organisation, with a weekly free meeting as an organisational core element. Decisions were made by all persons present. It served something like a school from which many initiatives emerged and took their autonomous route. In 1984, a small group of university students in Thessaloniki, most of which belonged to Oikologiki Kinissi, undertook the first attempts to treat injured or sick wild animals. They rescued animals from the city zoo, where the public abandoned them not having anything better to do with them other than stuff them. Very soon the small group joined the Hellenic Ornithological Society (http://www.ornithologiki.gr/en/enmain.htm), and wildlife rehabilitation became a regular activity of the Society for several years and received much publicity for its success. In 1990, the Hellenic Wildlife Hospital, a non-profit organization, was founded by the most active rehabbers, who were mostly members of the original team.

The group studies, prepares proposals and generally is active about issues of urban ecology, the traffic problem, the protection of the urban forest, the city sewage treatment, etc. In June 1998 it participated in the Global Street Party, organised by the British group Reclaim the Streets. Another direction of action is the nearby biotopes, like the forest of Chortiatis or the two Ramsar wetlands (Deltas of Axios, Loudias and Aliakmonas rivers and lakes Koronia and Volvi).

In the 1990s[edit]

At the end of the 1980s, the group took an initiative for the formation of a Greek Federation of ecological and environmental organisations, which had successful results. However, the Federation soon transformed in 1990 to a political party (Alternative Ecologists), which proved to be short-lived, since many problems came on the surface. The collapse of the party brought a decline in membership for the larger groups, while the smaller and newer groups ceased to exist. Oikologiki Kinisi Thessalonikis managed to survive but with very reduced membership. However, the group's positions had still a strong appeal. In 1995, members of the group founded ANTIGONE – Information & Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non Violence (http://www.antigone.gr/). In the mid '90s a green-left list was agreed in order to participate to the local elections. This list had strong anti-nationalistic opinions, during a period that nationalistic sentiments were stirred by the name and flag of the new neighbour of Greece (Republic of Macedonia) and the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the local elections of 1998, the list managed to have the support of the Greek party of the European left (Synaspismos) and made it possible to elect one member to the Prefecture Council (M. Tremopoulos).

The group, motivated by its anti-war and non-violent positions, declared its opposition to the war in former Yugoslavia, the ethnic cleansic practices of the Serbian Government and NATO interference. It tried to draw the attention of the Greek public against the support of Mr. Milosevich. It tried to strengthen the ties of the Balkan green, peace and democratic groups and it organised a conference with speakers from the Serbian Independent Syndicates and the Kossovar independent press.

During the 1990s, a sub-group working on issues of conscientious objectors, peace, anti-militarism and non-violence, initiated the magazine ARNOUMAI (I REFUSE).

After 2000[edit]

In 2000, the main campaigns were about genetically modified foods (effort to build a nation-wide coalition against GMOs) and the changes to the Greek Constitution proposed by a parliamentary committee. Particularly, the proposed change of Article 24, concerning forest and nature protection, was unacceptably vague and less strong than the previous form. A strong protesting current emerged, by local ecological groups, national environmental NGOs, and other organisations. In 2004, a Greek Network against GMOs managed to form (http://www.gmostop.org).

Oikologiki Kinisi also initiated the Ecological Forum (in 2000), aiming in bringing together the more politically oriented green groups of Greece, active individuals and Prasini Politiki, the then member of the European Greens. This finally resulted in another effort of party building, which took the form of Ecologist Greens. The party was founded in 2002 and became a member of the European Federation of Green Parties [1], [2]).

In the local elections of 2002, M. Tremopoulos was re-elected in the Council of Thessaloniki Prefecture, as well as in 2006. In the European elections of 2004, he headed the list of candidates of Ecologist Greens for the European Parliament: http://www.eurogreens.org/cms/candidates/dok/7/7443.tremopoulos@en.htm In the European elections of 2009, he headed once again the list of candidates of Ecologist Greens. The party received 3.45% and Michalis Tremopoulos got elected. He is the first Green MEP from Greece [3].

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