Wed, May 29, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Triumphant Greens demand urgent climate action

EU ELECTIONS:After boosting their numbers from 51 to 70, the Greens said they want to see a real change of attitude on climate change and progress on social protection

The Guardian

Ska Keller, left, and Bas Eickhout of the European Greens speak during the final estimation of the results of the European Parliament election in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

Europe’s Greens, big winners in Sunday’s European Parliament elections, will use their newfound leverage in a fractured parliament to push an agenda of urgent climate action, social justice and civil liberties, the movement’s leaders said.

“This was a great outcome for us — but we now also have a great responsibility, because voters have given us their trust,” said Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the European Parliament (MEP) and the Greens’ co-lead candidate for commission president.

“Our voters, especially the younger generation, for many of whom we are now their first choice, are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and they are pro-European — but they feel the EU is not delivering. They want us to change the course of Europe,” he said.

Riding a surge of public concern over the climate crisis, Greens achieved double-digit scores in several countries, finishing second in Germany — where they doubled their previous score — and an Finland, and third in Luxembourg and France.

With their tally of MEPs surging to 70 from 51 in the last parliament, the Greens will have about the same clout in the 751-seat assembly as the far-right populists led by Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini — and a much better chance of using it.

The parliament’s shrinking center-right and center-left groups lost their longstanding joint majority in the election, meaning that along with liberal MEPs, Greens could prove critical to achieving broad pro-EU majorities to pass European legislation.

The big parties are certainly ready to talk.

Manfred Weber, the conservative European People’s party’s lead candidate for commission president, on Monday said that the Greens were clearly “a possible partner. We should sit down together and draft a mandate for the next five years.”

However, the Greens will have a price.

“We will need to see much more serious climate action, a real change of attitude: a price on CO2, properly tackling aviation, the greening of agriculture,” Eickhout said.

“We will also want real progress on social protection and reducing inequality in Europe,” Eickhout said. “And we will demand far more vigorous action on the rule of law — no more playing politics. So those are the topics. We’ll talk to all who are interested in addressing them.”

Sven Giegold, a senior German MEP, confirmed that the party would “insist on negotiating substance first.”

“We aim to negotiate a pro-EU agenda in which climate change policy is front and centre — and no longer just symbolic, but concrete,” Giegold said.

Any cross-party agreement with Green backing would also need to include an EU policy on investment and social cohesion, Giegold said, plus an absolute commitment to tackling civil rights backsliding in EU states, including Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Malta.

“We think these election results give us a higher legitimacy to make these demands,” Giegold said. “Parliament now needs to have the time to sit down and discuss all this. We need to see more EU democracy come from this, not less.”

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