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 Home > Event-related > European SF > FSE-ESF 2006

[ en ]

EPA - Reports from Prague EPA, May 27/29, 2005

(Date: 11 September 2005)

Reports from Prague EPA, May 27/29, 2005

1. Report from Barunka M.

2. Report from Anastasia L.

3. Report from ALIS

1- Report from Barunka M.

Prague EPA (27.5. - 29.5. 2005)
Babels Czech Republic

I have been involved in Babels thanks to ECOS (Association of solidarity interpreters and translators, Granada, Spain) since 2003 as a voluntary interpreter. I started to be involved in coordination and preparatory work of Babels only in October 2004 during the London ESF. One of my aims since the very beginning was the involvement and support of “minority” languages (my mother tongue is Czech) in the whole ESF process. That is also why I took over the responsibility of organizing the interpretation for Prague EPA.

Since the “Lexicon” meeting in Granada in March 2005 and later on during the Babels meeting in Athens (9.-10.5.) I have been discussing my involvement in the Prague EPA with Emma R., Julie B., John S., Yan B. and others, whose help and advice have been absolutely fundamental for my work.

Procedure and initial difficulties

Regardless of the lack of time we had in order to select and organize interpreters we had to wait till the first week of May for the final decision on linguistic combination needed during the EPA weekend. Strictly speaking there were three different sides I had to negotiate with:

1. Czech ESF coordination, which insisted on having Russian as the “Esperanto” for Eastern Europe and having preference even over Czech in case there were not enough booths! They have never expressed any doubts regarding the need of having English and French as working languages but did not want to understand the need for Greek and Czech interpretation during the meeting.

2. Greek ESF coordination insisted at the beginning on having Greek as a working language but was not persistent enough and we faced enormous communication problems during the preparatory period (I had to wait very long for their answers and many emails never received any response), which added difficulty to the whole procedure. I did not know, if there was any supplementary communication between the Czech ESF and them or not and did not know how to react to many proposals made by one of those parties.

3. Babels (all involved in the preparatory work), which was emphasizing the need of Czech - we are supporting “less usual” languages and the EPA was taking place in Prague! How could we ask in the future Czech interpreters to work voluntarily for the ESF, if they would not have been asked while the ESF is meeting in their own country speaking apart from other things about the language diversity etc.) and Greek (high participation of Greek representatives was sure and the fact that the next ESF is taking place in Athens were just two fundamental reasons for including it and giving it clear preference over e.g. Russian)

Missing the reaction from the Greek side and being under time pressure we agreed on having the following linguistic combination during the Prague EPA: Czech, English, French, and Russian. Meanwhile the interpreters for the Czech, French and English booth were selected from the Babels network, the Russian booth interpreters came directly from Russia as Mr. Prokes, Czech ESF coordinator, insisted on “giving the opportunity to them - Russian students - and allowing them in this way to leave the country for few days”.

I contacted Alla Glinchikova (contact person from Mr. Prokes), who assured me that she would send me three professional interpreters (almost offended she wrote to me in one of her emails “they are not students but professional conference interpreters!”). I discussed the “problem” of having non-babels interpreters in the Russian booth with other people in Babels, with whom we agreed on their participation. Russian booth was therefore organized only through email contact with Mr.Prokes, Alla Glinchikova and me.

- Selection procedure and steps that were to be done before the start of the EPA:

1. As soon as we fixed the linguistic combination and number of interpreters per booth E.R., Y.B. and J.S. wrote a call to interpreters within the Babels network asking for their help during the EPA.

2. After the call had been sent we (E.R., J.S. and Barunka) started receiving emails. Well over 100 emails came as a response to the call. John S. was elaborating the list of interpreters (excel sheet) and Emma R. was selecting and addressing the most suitable interpreters according to their linguistic combination and availability.

3. In a period of 3-4 days the interpreters for the French and English booths were selected, contacted and asked to purchase a flight ticket, which would not exceed 300 euros (decision of Czech ESF).

4. Meanwhile I was organizing the Czech booth through my contacts with Czech interpreters in Czech Republic and solidarity accommodation for 9 interpreters (Czech interpreters were all living n Prague).

5. Booth and related technology was organized by Mr. Prokes.

- Arrival
All interpreters were picked up at the airport and brought to their host families (mostly Czech Babels and politically active persons). They were given maps of the town, transport tickets and all needed instruction for their work and stay in Prague.

All interpreters arrived on time at their booth and worked till the end of the meeting and till the interpretation was required. Consecutive interpretation was required mainly during the meetings of working groups on the first day (27.5.) and was sufficiently covered.

- Problems

1. The first day (working groups) was a bit chaotic and therefore it was very difficult to know if consecutive interpretation was needed, although I asked at least once in every particular working group. The unexpected last minute change of the venue was definitely one of the reasons for it.

2. Russian booth ­ Alla Glinchikova overestimated the “professionality” grade of her representatives, who had not had experience with booth interpretation and had occasionally serious problems. One of the three interpreters never entered the booth. Consequently, he declared not having been let in by his colleague, who “wanted to practice” and therefore he participated actively as a representative of a specific Russian social movement. Despite of those facts the interpreters in the booth have done their best.

3. Internal problems ­ despite the pressure and problems I had been facing during the whole preparatory process and the meeting itself I was attacked by one Babels co-ordinator for not having said sufficiently enough about Babels during my short public speech at the last meeting. I found it unfair and unjustified regarding the situation I was facing.


In spite of all initial complications and problems I managed to organize the reimbursement for all costs for all interpreters before their departure!!! (Great thanks to Mr. Prokes, Milan Neubert, L.Rezek and M. Molnarova). None of the interpreters have claimed to have problems with their host families, accommodation or other sorts of problems. All interpreters have received water and food (one warm meal per day and baguettes) during the whole EPA. None of participants have expressed publicly or to me any complaints regarding the interpretation.

I have survived and was satisfied with the work done despite my enormous sleep deficit...:-)

Barunka M.

2- Report from Anastasia L.

This report is by definition going to be partial since during the EPA I had to interpret for the Greek delegates. Therefore, I will concentrate on some observations I made during the preparatory assembly.

On the assembly meeting on Saturday morning, the working group on consultation and the thematic proposals for the Athens ESF came up with the following proposal:

The consultation period should expand until the next EPA, which is going to be held in Istanbul, in September. Up to now, several organizations have responded to the consultation process, mainly Greek organizations, but an effort should be made for enlargement outside Greece as well.

Another point is that the EPA adopted fourteen thematic areas around which the consultation will be realized. These axes are the following:
- War and peace
- Europe in the world
- Conflicts Global justice
- Europe position in global institutions (e.g. WTO)
- Migration- immigration in Europe
- Racism, discrimination, extreme right
- Employment and unemployment, workers
- Environment, sustainable development
- What democracy in Europe.
- Citizenship, federalism, EU institutions
- Education, training, media, culture
- Feminist alternatives, equal rights of women
- Strategy of the movements , prospects (from Seattle till now)
- Where is Europe going to ?

Several questions were raised as to the way the consultation methodology and assessment can be organized in the most transparent way and how these proposals can be merged in order to structure the program. It was also pointed out that certain discussions can be part of many different thematic areas.

The Enlargement group for the preparation of the Athens ESF pointed out the small number of participating organizations and entities form Central and Eastern Europe and proposed to hold two open meetings, one in Budapest and another one in Belgrade, so as to contact Central and Eastern European organizations and entities. These meetings might take place in September.

Another observation is that participants from Czech and Romanian social fora had difficulty understanding the notion of horizontality and the whole structure of the ESF.

The Organization group for the preparation of the Athens ESF presented the committee’ s effort to try and find the appropriate venue and the different opinions of certain members of the committee.

Babels-el also talked about the efforts made to establish a network in Greece that will be able to provide for the Athens ESF. The Alis group for the building of an alternative interpretation system made a presentation of their equipment and about the future of the project.

The Programme group for the preparations of the Athens ESF undertook the responsibility to merge all the proposals and make the program of the Athens ESF. Though, they pointed out that they need a web-site that will offer transparency and the proposals mad e will be open to everybody to see.

The issue of the Central and Eastern Social Forum came up again and Matyas Benyik said that this initiative will be constructive for countries that face similar problems and in no way it will harm and divide the ESF process.

There was also a discussion on the assessment of the demonstration of 19th March in Brussels and certain actions were agreed for the future. There was also a discussion about the campaign in France against the Constitution Treaty. A march was agreed against poverty at the end of January.

Babels provided interpretation for four languages at the EPA: English, French, Russian and Czech. Greek was provided through the alternative interpretation system and the Alis working group.

Babels-el pointed out at the assembly that we are very sensitive to the issue of language diversity since it is the first time that an ESF event takes place in a country whose language is not widely spoken. We shall try to cater for as many languages as possible giving priority to the minority ones. We also pointed out that if the open meetings of the enlargement groups take place, Babels should be part of it in order to try to expand the network in the Central and Eastern Europe as well.

We also asked that in all EPAs leading to a forum, there should be as a working language the language of the country that will host the forum event. It should be noted that according to Barunka Molnarova the Russian interpreters were not Babels people and they were not interested in setting up a Babels network in Russia.

3- ALIS report on Prague EPA

At the Prague EPA, a commercial system (with the typical infrared technology) was used only at the big room where the assemblies took place. With this system, Babels provided interpretation for four languages (CZ, RU, FR, EN).

On Saturday morning, we installed some ALIS equipment (basically one pre-amplifier, one FM transmitter with its antenna and several small radios) adjoined to the commercial system in order to add interpretation to Greek

The interpreter (Anastasia mainly) used a receiver of the commercial system to listen to the language of his/her choice, but as there was a cooperation of two different systems, there was no ability to do the retour (e.g. to English) if the speaker wished to speak Greek.

The Greek participants (about 20 persons) used the small radios (or their mobile phones if they were equipped with a radio receiver) to listen to Greek.

ALIS equipment was also used in two workshops to provide three working languages (EN, FR, GR).

Initially, there was no sound equipment at all in the small rooms where the workshops took place. This meant that the interpreters that used the ALIS equipment had to listen to the speaker physically, not through headphones (the ALIS equipment is for interpretation only, i.e. no loudspeakers, etc.

However, for a demo of the system at the small workshops of EPA, Anastasia and Rebecca from Babels managed to do the interpretation. Again, the participants used small radios to listen to the language of their choice, while the two interpreters used simple switches to choose if they wanted to listen to each other (instead of the speaker) and to which language they were interpreting to.

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