DiEM25 in Geert Wilders’ Backyard

The biggest step towards European Union so far took place in Maastricht, when the eponymous Treaty was signed by the member states and the European Community became the European Union. The town with a population of approximately 122,000 inhabitants is also located right in the backyard of the right-wing populist Geert Wilders and his EU-critical PVV party.
The fact that DiEM25 can count on a Spontaneous Collective in Maastricht is due largely to the work of the two coordinators Dominik Leusder and Cihan Erkli and their strong commitment to the project.
Dominik closely followed the negotiations with Greece during the Euro crisis. How Greece and its people have been treated caused him a lot of frustration and a strong desire to develop an alternative. Before DiEM25 was launched, Yanis‘ book „A New Deal for Europe“ came into his hands. Later he read through DiEM’s website. „I found that the language was so different. The Manifesto appealed to me and I wanted to be involved. I felt both this anger and that this movement for democracy has momentum on its side,“ explained the political philosophy student during a conversation via Skype.
He organized a few meetings about Universal Basic Income and about Brexit, among other topics, hoping to find people who thought and felt the same way. Up to 15 people participated on a number of occasions, but these were primarily international students. „DiEM needs a solid foundation in Maastricht and that is why I wanted to find people who actually live in Maastricht and not just those who merely stay until the end of their studies,“ explained Dominik.
Finished with his own studies, it should have been time for him to move on but he decided to stay another year in order to dedicate himself to the establishment of a solid local DiEM group. He is strongly supported by Cihan, who stayed for a longer period in Turkey after the coup attempt.
Maastricht is a small and very conservative place. It is not by chance that Geert Wilders is from this region. Many Maastrichters laugh when they hear terms like ‚revolution‘ and ‚change‘. In the formerly prosperous city a precariat has formed in the last decades, unsecured working conditions and lack of prospects prevail. The local dialect is an additional barrier in contact with the local population. „Especially the new precariat and those in such a region must be involved in our pan-European movement,“ emphasizes Dominik. Yet, one can also feel a new democratic spirit in the city. This and the fact that 20 people had finally taken part in a meeting on a rainy Sunday morning made him confident.
Dominik carries out practically all promotion single-handedly. „We are still financing everything ourselves, which is sometimes a problem. It is true that one can compensate the lack of financial resources with creativity, but not always. “
The group is currently working intensively on the strategy papers, with more than 20 people writing. This is a phase where we can directly influence DiEM25 policy and it also helps to integrate people into the movement. When asked about the internal organization of DiEM25, Dominik says: „there is a minimum of coordination, but otherwise a Collective can freely do what it wants within the manifesto’s framework. Not everything is controlled from above and DiEM is very transparent. “
DSC Maastricht’s recipe for success is to address people directly, to go to the people and tell them to come to the meeting. It does not work only with sterile and anonymous invitations via social networks.
„If it did not work here, it encouraged me that DiEM25 succeeded in other places and that new people would join,“ he concluded. A sense of community makes us stronger, and while it may sound like a platitude, given the atomized society that we live in today, it cannot hurt to remind ourselves of this.

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