On April 1st 2021, the French Senate adopted an amendment to the anti-Islamist law targeting UNEF and other organisations that hold closed meetings based on one’s colour, origin or belonging to an ethnic group, nation, race or religion. The proposed penalty would result in a dissolution of any organisation holding closed meetings, no matter the reasoning for said closed meetings. This amendment comes on the heels of the French Minister for Education claiming UNEF represents Islamo-leftism. A term described the French Conference of university presidents as a right-wing term brought into the mainstream to criticise postcolonial studies.
UNEF enabled such closed meetings, only allowing access to racial minorities, to discuss issues of discrimination in a safe space without holding general decision-making powers.
This amendment conceals a wider attack against the freedom of association and directly targets students’ representation. Attacks against fundamental personal and collective rights especially against student organisations within the EHEA have become even harsher in the past months thus depriving many students of the fundamental right of association. For instance, this amendment bears similarities to the demand of German right-wing party AfD to dissolve student governments and representing bodies. Any policy in line with a right-wing anti-democratic agenda depriving, in this case, students, of their fundamental right of self-organisation, needs to be questioned and called out for what it is.
The European Student Union firmly condemns the actions taken by any government to silence critical student voices. It is no government’s prerogative nor right to dictate structures or mechanisms under which a students’ union operates. We strongly believe in the right of students to organise their meetings freely and take measures, they deem appropriate, to address and tackle struggles and injustices within universities and society as a whole.
In the past years, we saw a rise in attacks against students and their freedom of speech and right to organise. This is a problem not limited to a single students’ union or country and we, therefore, must take collective action to stand in solidarity with those affected. Anti-democratic measures need to be called out and fought against on every political level whatsoever.
Proposed by: fzs
Seconded by: FAGE