There is too much rubbish in the British media about the EU. So I’ve penned this straightforward account of the Greens in the EU:
MEPs in the European parliament are usually members of national political parties and may also be members of transnational European parties. The UK’s Green MEPs are members of the European Green Party. MEPs also join voting blocks or coalitions, known as parliamentary groups. MEPs from the Green Party of England and Wales (as well as MEPs from Plaid Cymru and the SNP) are members of the Greens/European Free Alliance. The group is largely made up of MEPs from the Green parties of various EU member states, as well as other parties with similar goals.
Greens/EFA is the forth-largest parliamentary group in Europe, with 58 MEPs sitting in the current parliament. It is larger than both the Tories’ group (ECR), and the UK Independence Party’s group (EFD).
The European Green Party candidates for Commission President are José Bové and Ska Keller. In an innovative move, it has nominated two people, a man and a woman, as our choice for the job. Greens have decided that, given the importance of gender diversity among the most senior EU positions, the candidates will share the role should the Greens come out on top in May.
José Bové, from Bordeaux in France, is best known for his work campaigning for a more positive vision of Globalisation. He made headlines in 1999 when he organised a direct-action initiative to halt the construction of a McDonalds restaurant in southwest France. He is a powerful voice for those who want to see the global economic system work in the interest of ordinary people, not just big business, through measures from immigrant rights to trade regulations that support local communities.
Ska Keller, from Guben on the German boarder with Poland, became an MEP in 2009 at the age of 27, and is a firm believer in the power of democracy to bring about real change. Her academic background is in Islamic Studies and she is currently heavily involved in debates on the democratic crisis in Turkey and Turkey’s relationship with the EU. She is also instrumental in orchestrating the Green’s opposition the TTIP trade agreement, which threatens environmental and social standards, and in speaking out for the interests of the developing world its relations with the EU.
Green campaigning and voting influence has achieved the successes in the European Parliament including:
· A cap on bankers’ bonuses.
Bankers are now unable to earn a bonus of more than 100% of their annual salary, largely thanks to the work of Green MEP Philippe Lamberts.
· Access for all young people to the European Social Fund.
Support for education, training and voluntary organisations, targeting areas with high unemployment.
· Passing the Energy Efficiency Directive
Legal target to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2020
· Consistent measuring of human rights progress across all EU countries
· Ban on testing cosmetics on animals
· Protection of the countryside
Including supporting farmers, banning bee-killing toxins and promoting seed biodiversity.
· Groundwater monitoring to ensure companies can be held accountable for environmental damage caused by “Fracking”.
· More efficient asylum processes
Fighting to ensuring equal access to human rights protections, and introducing protections for vulnerable persons and the victims of torture.
A key battleground for the Greens in the next parliament will be opposing the TTIP trade agreement (also known as TAFTA). This is an attempt to create a US-EU trade area in such a way that European trade laws and protections will be overwritten by a new agreement with the US. American multinationals trading in the EU will be given the power to bypass both national and European law if it is deemed to be impeding trade according to the terms of the agreement. Greens oppose the lack of transparency surrounding these negotiations; we feel the deal cuts at the very core of European democracy, and threatens to destroy all the environmental protections and consumer rights that we have won in Europe.
Another key policy area is the fight for digital rights. In this last parliament, Greens helped to block the ACTA treaty, which threatened to allow private companies the ability to track the activities of internet users with no due legal process. Now, Greens are supporting legislation on tough data protection, which would prevent the UK government from carrying out their planned sale of HMRC and NHS data to private companies. Ultimately, Greens support the introduction of a Digital Bill of Rights, so companies and governments can be held to account for online snooping and phone tapping.
In the longer term, Greens are fighting for a socially just Europe, including ensuring labour standards are enforced across Europe to prevent “social dumping”, an end to zero-hour contracts, a living wage, and legally binding social justice targets to raise standards in all member states. This will counteract “brain-drain” and unsustainable migration patterns to the benefit of every state. Most importantly, Greens will continue to work towards a Green New Deal, supporting investment in green technology to create thousands of new highly skilled jobs for a sustainable and resilient economy of the future.