Green MEPs target policy shake-up 

Green MEPs target policy shake-up 

Green parties in numerous European Union countries have made dramatic electoral gains, holding off challenges from the populist far-right. 

Their success could shake up Brussels to boost environmental protection. 

Ahead of the May 23-26 European elections, a populist wave was being predicted that would change the makeup of the European Commission and ditch commitments to the 2015 Paris climate agreement. 

Now, EU citizens can look forward to Brussels increasing its commitment to renewable energy projects and ending Europe’s over-dependence on heavily polluting coal.

The former Warsaw Pact countries of Central Europe are still dependent on coal as part of the legacy of Soviet occupation.  

The EU’s Green parties have gained 20 seats to become the fourth-largest bloc in the parliament.

With around 70 MEPs, the Greens will have similar numbers in the 751-seat assembly as the populists led by the Italian far-right deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini. But the Greens will not be shunned by the centrist parties, which refuse to work with the populists. 

In Ireland, the Greens finished equal second. They came second in Finland and were third in Luxembourg, France and Belgium. 

In France, the Green vote rose from 9 per cent in 2014 to 13 per cent, eclipsing both the two traditional parties, the centre-right Republicans and the Socialists.

“We are witnessing a green European wave tonight that we are part of,” Yannick Jadot, the French Green leader, told party supporters. “The French sent us a clear message: they want ecology to be at the heart of our lives.”

There were strong showings in Austria, the Netherlands and UK, where the Green Party came ahead of the ruling Conservatives.

When combined with the pro-EU Liberal Democrat vote, the equally pro-remain Greens received the same vote share of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which dominated the headlines.  

The German Greens doubled their vote share to become the second-largest German party in the parliament after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU. The Brexit Party is the single-largest party with 29 seats.  

The populist AfD failed to build on its performance in the September 2017 general election, returning a disappointing four MEPs. 

“This was a great outcome for us – but we now also have a great responsibility, because voters have given us their trust,” said Green MEP Bas Eickhout from the Netherlands.

“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.

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

Manfred Weber of the CDU, the European People’s party’s candidate for the commission president, said the Greens were now “a possible partner. We should sit down together and draft a mandate for the next five years”.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change reported in October last year that warming was looking at rising between an unsustainable 3°C or 4°C. 

 

Greta Thunberg. Environmental concerns have energised young voters. Picture credit: Wikimedia  

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