This is not the Capital of Europe we want.

Monday 28 January 2008

To : Pt of the Brussels Capital Region, Madam Secretary for Housing, Mrs. and Mr. MPs of Brussels Capitale Region, Mr President of the European Commission.

The Commune (Local Council) of Saint Gilles in Brussels has adopted a 5th expropriation plan for public use and extreme emergency in the district of the South Station.

Local associations representing residents and committed to housing rights, right to the city and human rights have submitted claims during the consultation exercise which was held on November 27, 2007. The consultation committee is the only place where civil society’s opinions about real estate projects may be officially expressed. The members of the committee were uncomfortable enough to abstain massively. The report of the commission wasn’t sent to the City Councilors before their vote.

It is therefore up to the government of the Region which is to finally adopt that plan to take into account the quite reasonable demands made by civil society in Brussels, expressed in respect for democracy. These demands are the following :

1. Renewing without destroying. The government is indeed proposing nothing but the destruction of housing to build new ones, but for different residents who will be able to pay more taxes;

2. Rehousing all tenants - so that the authorities take their responsibilities to the people by proposing a solution in case of expropriation which means decent rehousing like it used to be done in other cases;

3. Commitment from the region to propose a concrete schedule for the expropriation of up to 6 months, a condition which should also be extended to any other expropriation plans;

4. Enforcing the law by ensuring fair compensation for owners and traders;

5. One way or another, putting an immediate end to the uncertainty hanging over the people threatened with expropriation in islets A and D. Their only crime is to be settled on land where PPAS Fonsny 1 has planned "weak" (housing) functions , which are to this day still not realized.

We, the associations of European civil society and abroad are supporting these legitimate claims.

We are greatly surprised that funding for public housing is to be used to expropriate and destroy houses which could be renovated, while in Brussels and elsewhere, the lack of housing is acute, what is denounced for example in the reports of the United Nations.

We are also surprised that in a recent case of expropriation in the same district, a judge may have justified public interest in these words: "Whereas the South Station can no longer be the terminus for poor migrants seeking Promised Land, " and thus justified a social cleaning operation what corroborates concerns from civil society.

The "neighborhood revitalization" does not honor the Capital of Europe. For many years, all international travelers have been able to see the deterioration of the neighborhood attributed entirely to the public authorities in an another judgement which we are aware about, also condemning violations of human rights by public authorities.

We then condemn and in the strongest terms the devastation of the building located at 53, rue de Merode on January 15 (a raid targeting Agone Publishing and the Quartier Midi Committee) done illegally at the initiative of regional authorities. We demand the resignation and conviction of those responsible for this punitive operation.

Rather than a showcase for investors, we expect the capital of Europe to be a model of respect for democracy, consideration for civil society and protection of the weakest, in Quest or not of "Promised Land". And we know about the inhuman and corporate urbanism of the European Neightborhood which has destroyed a whole part of the City and City life. It came also after the disaster of the North Neightborhood, entirely destroyed in the name of corporate internationalization which never came. It’s enough !

Having also taken cognizance of the International Development Plan in Brussels, clearly designed for the business community interests, City Marketing minded, of its logic of competition of all European cities against all, we wish to insist that this is not the Capital of Europe we want. The "European identity" which that plan suggest to impose to the inhabitants of Brussels, explicitly through marketing techniques, is neither the identity of the Europeans.

We don’t want the whole of Europe to look like South Station’s neighborhood in Brussels, through the Public Private Partnerships which are promoted for the only benefit (in the best case) of the corporate world.

First signature : Kings’s Cross Railway Land Group (Londres), Association internationale de techniciens, experts et chercheurs (AITEC), Avenir Vivable (France), Comité des Sans Logis (France), Coordination Anti-démolition (France), Droit Au Logement (France), Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (Canada), Kenya Network of Grassroots Organisations (Kenya), Mouvement des Sans Voix du Mali, No-Vox, Urban Poor Associates (Philippines), International Alliance of Inhabitants, Centre d’études et d’initiatives de solidarité internationale (CEDETIM)

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