State of the Union
Dany CB delivers the Green response
This week all eyes were on the European Parliament as President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso made his annual State of the Union speech to a packed European Parliament. Barraso's speech contained much of interest to the Greens, including his ideas for how to solve the Eurozone's financial crisis through greater cooperation and by the Union moving towards becoming a federation of nation states (you can see details and video of the speech here). But as Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the Green group in the Parliament noted, the speech made no reference to how this was actually to be achieved, and also failed to discuss the environmental crisis, which continues unabated despite the economic problems Europe still faces. He called instead for a post-national Europe, a commensurate EU budget and a social redemption fund for European citizens hit by the crisis.
You can watch Danny's full speech by clicking on the image below.
Mr Cohn-Bendit also provided one of the lighter moments of the day in his passionate and humorous response to the Earl of the Dartmouth, an MEP with the Eurosceptic EFD group. "Can't you understand the modern world, Mr. Earl" is already a youtube hit and helped to bring a lot more attention to the state of the Union address, and the Green's contribution.
New efficiency directive a green win, but needs quick implementation
The European Parliament today adopted new EU legislation on energy efficiency and savings. The EP's draftsperson/rapporteur, Green MEP Claude Turmes, welcomed the vote but called for swift implementation and the reorientation of public policy and funds to ensure these job-creating measures can be delivered. After the vote, the EP rapporteur/draftsperson Claude Turmes said:
"This essential legislation is not only crucial for achieving our energy security and climate goals, it will also give a real boost to the economy and create jobs. Crucially, it will reduce the sizeable and growing cost of our dependence on energy imports - €488 billion in 2011 or 3.9% of EU GDP - which is particularly stark in crisis-hit countries.
The legislation includes a number of crucial measures that will deliver concrete energy savings. Member states will have to set out a roadmap for achieving energy savings of 80% in the buildings sector by 2050. Energy companies will also be tasked with delivering 1.5% in annual savings across all end-use sectors, even if this obligation was regrettably watered-down by EU governments. Binding financial instruments and better consumer information (such as through the use of smart meters) are among the other detailed measures included, as are demand response measures that will potentially reduce costs of balancing energy and reduce energy bills.
"Policy at EU and national level must now be reoriented with a view to swiftly implementing and fully maximising the benefits of these new rules, which are a concrete tool for responding to the economic crisis. This includes mobilising European funds - such as Structural Funds, project bonds and European Investment Bank funds - to support energy efficiency and savings, as well as creating training programmes - notably with a youth focus - with a view to creating employment in the sector and tackling unemployment.
"This directive enshrines the EU's 20% energy savings target in a legal framework and sets out binding measures, which will bring the EU closer to realising the target of reducing energy consumption 20% by 2020. However, clearly more needs to be done to fully close the gap and the Commission must now outline further measures to this end. This makes economic sense, as it would stimulate economic activity and create millions of jobs, bring down energy bills for businesses and households, and reduce our dependence on energy imports."
working groups report
Digital Rights, Pensions and the Future of Europe
The EGP's active Working Groups had a busy weekend of meetings last week, with three of them coming together in Brussels at the EGP headquarters to discuss some of the key issues facing Europe and to further develop Green policy responses.
The Digital Rights working group focused on it's key aim: defining the Greens position on digital rights and deciding how the Greens can best express the key Green values. The group is to develop the second draft with 7 key focuses: Access issues (net neutrality and public structures), education for all ages as a public right, protecting online privacy and self determination, developing the Digital Commons, freedom of expression, e-democracy and transparency, and security.
The group hopes to have their next draft of a comprehensive policy ready for discussion at the Athens EGP Autumn Council meeting in November.
The Social Dimension of Green New Deal Working Group has been focusing on a more integrated European approach to pension provision, and was focusing this time on the practicalities of making a European Pensions System a reality, in order to better guarantee the rights of European citizens to an economically secure retirement. There was very good participation of several key MEPs in the session, who are eager to see this key issue progressed in advance of the elections in 2014.
The Future of Europe Working Group is focusing on providing a resolution for the Athens Council on where we as Greens want to see the EU develop. The discussion took in not just institutional structures and the shape of the process through which a new EU can emerge (to avoid the failings and flaws of the last EU Intergovernmental Conference) but also points out where and how Greens want to improve and change the proposals to emerge out of the crisis. The representatives from member parties tried to hammer out the details of a resolution that would put democracy and the will of the European citizenry at the heart of a more integrated EU.
One of the highlights of the discussion focused on the idea that citizens do not only have allegiances to their national backgrounds, but rather can find solidarity with other citizens due to other aspects of their identities, such as age, gender, etc. When thinking about alternatives to the current democratic aspects of the union – the European parliament, for example often solely reflects the tendency to classify issues by their national elements.
Discussion also focused on the more immediate issues facing the EU: banking union, the EU budget, the role of the ECB, the role of member states as actors in the Union, realising solidarity on the EU level, and the EU's international role.
Together, the working group aims to put together not only a draft resolution that emphasises the three key aspects to the Greens European policy: EU institutional development and further integration and reforming the decision making process, but also to provide further input for the election manifesto.
Nominations close, meet the candidates!
The deadline for nominations for membership of the next EGP Committee is now closed, and we are please to present so many candidates for the positions. As well as the five ordinary committee members, the elections at the EGP's Autumn Council in Athens will see the election of a male and female co-Chairs, the organisation's General Secretary and the Treasurer. There are now 12 candidates from all across the continent for the OCM positions, so a competitive race seems guaranteed.
You can see the profiles and information on each candidate at our website here.
Japan vows nuclear phaseout by 2030s
On Friday it emerged that the Japanese government, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, will be withdrawing from the use of nuclear power, with a total phaseout planned for the 2030's. The country is the world's third biggest user of nuclear energy, and the withdrawal is yet another blow to the "nuclear renaissance" envisaged by the atomic energy lobby. The Fukishima nuclear power plant disaster had led to a sharp increase in public resistance to the use of nuclear energy, and the move was not totally unexpected. The question is now whether Japan can transition to a fully renewable energy future, or continue to increasingly rely on polluting coal, oil and LP gas. The recently formed Greens of Japan argue that the transition to a renewable future needs to happen now, and cannot wait until the 2030's.
Latest poll shows support for European Parliament
The latest Eurobarometer poll (conducted by the European Commission twice yearly to gauge the feelings of European citizens towards the EU) was out this week, and showed the EU recovering some of the confidence it had lost in recent polls.
A majority of respondents believed that the European Parliament was the institution that best represented the EU, and that voting in the 2014 European elections was the best way for them to influence EU policy and have their voices heard. A significant 50% said that they would be more likely to vote in these elections if the European Political Parties were to put forward candidates for the post of President of the Commission.
The popularity of the Union has also recovered somewhat, with more than half of respondents now claiming that membership was a good thing for their home country, and ith 40% holding a positive view of the EU (up 9% on the previous poll). However people are still divided on the level of attention paid to their voices on issues - 57% felt they were not adequately heard.
You can see the preliminary results of Eurobarometer 77 at the Commission's website and a report from Euractiv.com here.
GroenLinks disappointed in tough election
The results of the national elections in the Netherlands are in, and they are not positive for the EGP’s member party GroenLinks. In a tough election that focused mostly on the battle for the top spot between the centre right Liberals of VVD, the social democrats of the Labour Party (PvdA) and the left wing Socialist Party, GroenLinks was largely squeezed out of voters consideration. The party had also recently just undergone a leadership election that emphasized internal problems the party had been experiencing. Although the party is on its way to overcome these problems, the timing of the early elections was not helpful in this sense.
The final result of the election was nonetheless surprising in other ways. Both VVD and PvdA did far better than expected, gaining 41 and 38 seats respectively. The Socialists made no gains at all, staying on 15 seats, having lost all their early momentum. The populist far right Freedom Party and their anti-European platform was roundly rejected, and they lost 8 of their 24 seats. It seems that the Netherlands is returning to its more traditional party system, with dominant centre right and centre left parties vying to lead governments together or with other smaller parties.
The most likely coalition now is between the two largest parties, PvdA and VVD. They might look to other parties, such as the social liberals of D66 (12 seats) or the Christian Democrats of CDA (13 seats) to get a majority of seats in the Senate also, where they are short of a majority by 6 seats. There is a very slim chance they could choose to coalesce with D66 and GL to secure a majority.
For GroenLinks, there is some solace. The Dutch electorate have once again shown their strong commitment to the EU and the European project, by endorsing the pro European parties and shunning the Eurosceptics of the SP and the PVV. The party still has a very strong presence in local government and the European Parliament, with three fantastic MEPs. Their five seats in the Senate will allow them to maintain influence over legislation. It also now seems certain that the party will get one more seat in the House of Representatives through an electoral alliance with PvdA and the SP, for a total of four.
What is certain now is a process of rebuilding the party, of developing their profile and platform in order to recapture the attention and the trust of the Dutch electorate.
Romanian Green parties Partidul Verde (Green Party, PV) and Mişcarea Verzilor – Democraţi Agrarieni (Green Movement - Democratic Agrarians, MV-DA) have joined forces in Romania. The EGP welcomes the collaboration of the two parties. The division between the many green parties created confusion for the Green electorate in Romania in previous elections. The two have been working together before and it is a positive sign that they have decided to work together in the future.
The decision to work together comes after one of the most heated summers in recent Romanian political history. In a battle for power between Prime Minister Victor Ponta and President Traian Băsescu, last minute laws have been pushed through the Romanian Parliament. Members of the Constitutional Court have said to be pressured or even threatened in order to influence democratic processes. For a long time already, the EU and major international NGO’s have raised attention to the endemic corruption in Romania, or more specifically: the use of allegations of corruption as a political tool.
The EGP expresses the hope that the combined effort of the MV-DA and PV will contribute to changes in Romania for the better, speeding the progress towards a fully democratic, green and transparent Romania. The expectations are high. Elections are set for December 9th, and for the first time in over 16 years, a green seat in the Romanian Parliament is in sight!
Greens protest new nuclear plans
On September 6 2012 Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Draft Law "On the design and construction of energy blocks N3 and N4 at the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant." 253 deputies voted for this bill.
Pavlo Khazan, the Ukrainian delegate to European Green Party and the chair of Dnipropetrovsk regional organisation of the Green Party of Ukraine, commenting on the event said that greens considered this decision as a betrayal of the interests of Ukraine.
"This move constitutes a serious problem for the country as a whole, its national sovereignty, environmental and economic security. At the same time, the citizens of Ukraine will have to pay out of their pockets for this economically disadvantageous and dangerous project, which according to official data will cost 4,13 billion USD" – said Pavlo Khazan. - "Moreover, this decision is a demonstration of complete disregard for the opinions of experts and the public, who unanimously declared – no to construction of the NPP."
"The progressive community around the world reached the same conclusion – nuclear power is the most expensive and the most dangerous. After Chernobyl and Fukushima no one has any doubt that use of the "peaceful atom" was and is a terrible and tragic mistake in the history of mankind, which cost the lives and health of multitudes of people. Instead of making plans for the rational energy consumption, for improving energy efficiency and the introduction of renewable energy sources, Ukraine is stepping back to the past of 30 years ago.
Taking such irresponsible decisions is a crime against the Ukrainian people. Ukraine should be joined with other European countries to stop building nuclear power plants and abandon altogether the construction of new nuclear power plants" – said Pavlo Khazan .
Banking supervision welcomed, but democratic checks necessary
The European Commission today presented legislative proposals aimed at providing for a supervisory system for European banks, as well as a communication on European deposit guarantee and banking resolution schemes, another key element of the proposed European banking union. The Greens are in favour of strong banking supervision rules but cautioned on the need to provide democratic oversight and to prevent conflicts of interests with the existing competences of the European Central Bank. Commenting after the announcement, Greens/EFA co-president Rebecca Harms said:
"The Greens have long argued for comprehensive EU-wide banking supervision and we welcome today's announcement as an overdue step to this end. Light-touch supervision and oversight has enabled financial institutions to engage in risky and irresponsible activities, the wider, devastating economic consequences of which have been struggling to deal with since 2008.
"Proper supervision of all European banks, with a view to preventing a recurrence of this and to strengthening the real economy, must be a central element of the new European banking union. However, entrusting this role to the European Central Bank raises clear concerns about democratic accountability and oversight. The Greens will seek to ensure these concerns are not simply glossed over when the European Parliament considers these proposals as a co-legislator."
Greens/EFA economic and finance spokesperson Sven Giegold (MEP, Germany), who will be draftsperson/rapporteur for the European Parliament on one of the legislative proposals, continued:
"Empowering the ECB to fulfil the role of banking supervisor raises a number of challenges, notably as regards transparency, accountability, budgetary control and conflicts of interest with its existing roles.. The Greens will work to ensure not only that the democratic concerns are addressed, but also that potential conflicts of interest between the ECB's monetary stability roles, its new role as banking supervisor and investor protection are properly managed. We will also seek to safeguard the crucial role all 27 member states have in the supervision of a fully integrated single market along the lines of progressive position the European Parliament adopted when establishing the European Supervisory Authorities in 2010"
EP votes for more transparent labelling
The European Parliament last week voted on the first of a set of legislative proposals reforming the EU's Common Fisheries Policy. The Greens welcomed support for proposals to amend the draft legislation on market organisation to make labelling more transparent. Commenting after the vote, Greens/EFA fisheries spokesperson Isabella Lövin (MEP, Sweden) said:
"Consumers are set to get clearer information on the fish they buy after MEPs supported Green proposals to include information on specific fish stock, area of catch and how the fish was caught on labels. This is a step forward from the current situation under which labels only indicate a huge area that may contain many fish stocks. Information on how a fish was caught (e.g. by damaging bottom trawling or by line) is crucial for consumers to determine whether the fish they buy is sustainable. The EP also supported the inclusion of information on the flag state of the fishing vessel, so that consumers can see the country of origin of the fish they buy. Providing clear information to consumers on the fish they buy is essential for encouraging more sustainable consumption habits.
"MEPs unfortunately failed to support Green proposals to change the current provisions of the legislation, which foresee subsidies for storing/freezing fish when prices are too low. The Greens believe these outdated subsidies should be phased out. If the market price is too low, fishing boats should stay in port. The best place to store fish is alive in the sea."
Right to Strike
Greens welcome Commission's withdrawal of Monti II proposals
The European Commission today announced it would be withdrawing a draft legislative proposal on the relationship of economic freedoms and the right to collective actions - the so-called Monti II proposal - following a challenge by national parliaments in the EU (1). The Greens welcomed the 'yellow card' initiative by the national parliaments - the first time this procedure has been used - and the withdrawal of the Monti II proposal, which the group opposed from the outset. Commenting after the announcement, Green MEP and vice-chair of the EP employment and social affairs committee Elisabeth Schroedter (Germany) said:
"Today's withdrawal of the draft Monti II legislation on the right to strike is a welcome development. These proposals were flawed from the outset and national parliaments were right to deliver a slap-down to the Commission.
"The right to strike is an inviolable fundamental right that should be upheld and defended by the EU, but the Monti II proposals did the reverse, limiting this right. This not only interfered with the constitutional prerogatives of member states, it reneged on a commitment made by Commission president Barroso at the time of his re-election. Thankfully, after months of hesitation, the Commission has finally admitted defeat and decided to withdraw the draft."
Green employment and social affairs spokesperson Emilie Turunen (MEP, Denmark) added:
"The proposal by the Commission would interfere with national labour market models and threatened the fundamental right to strike, which is totally unacceptable. This is the wrong way to solve the problems which the ECJ created with its Laval and Viking decisions. In order to prevent social dumping and ensure that employees can benefit from the fundamental right to strike without restrictions within the EU, the Commission should not be setting obstacles to that right. Today's withdrawal is hopefully a sign that the Commission has become aware that they have turned down the wrong road."
(1) Under the Lisbon Treaty, a third of national parliaments can call on the Commission to review a draft legislative act if they deem it does not comply with the subsidiarity principle. The Commission may then decide to maintain, amend or withdraw it. This is commonly referred to as the 'yellow card' procedure.
The parliaments of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom - representing more than one-third - all issued a 'yellow card' to the Monti II proposals, the first time this new procedure has been successfully employed.
democracy and justice
International politics on the EU agenda
This week in Strasbourg saw the Parliament addressing some of the major international political issues that have continued to develop during the summer break. From the civil war in Syria to the political use of justice in Russia (and more specifically the sentencing of dissident band Pussy Riot), and the serious diplomatic situations between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the CIA's use of rendition through European airspace, the European Parliament had the international politics and democracy and justice issues firmly on its agenda.
The Green group was involved in many of the motions being debated. Green MEP Hélène Flautre (EELV, France) was the rapporteur on a long awaited EP report on the use of rendition flights to get suspected terrorists to the USA, sometimes using EU airspace. The report shone a spotlight on the use of the illegal practice, and the Greens were glad to see the motion pass with large majorities. See here for more information.
The situation in Syria has continued to escalate throughout the summer, and it now seems that the EU is closer than before to coming up with a unified approach to the conflict. While debate continues as to the merits and potential to intervention, the Greens in the EP put forward their motion that stressed condemnation of the actions of the current regime and the need for a negotiated settlement.
The health of democracy in Europe was also on the agenda, as the Prime Minister of Romania, Victor Ponta was in Strasbourg to talk to the Parliament about concerns about measures taken by his government since they gained power earlier this year. Green group co-president Rebecca Harms contributed to the debate and stressed the need for the rule of law and judicial independence as essential to the maintenance of democracy in any country.
The debate on the political use of justice in Russia saw another motion from the Greens/EFA group that strongly condemned the recent actions of the Putin regime. Green MEP Werner Schulz was present to put forward the Green approach that emphasised the need for Russia to turn away from its current course and to respect the judicial rights of its citizens. Special attention was paid to the recent case of three members of Pussy Riot who were convicted to three years in prison for supposed public indecency.
Dissident Band members nominated for Sakharov Prize
On Friday it emerged that Russian dissident band Pussy Riot had been nominated for the Sakahrov Prize for Freedom of Thought by Green MEP Werner Schulz (Die Grünen, Germany), with the support of 45 other MEPs. The prize is awarded annually to individuals or groups that have fought for freedom of thought and political liberty, and is the highest award granted by the European Parliament. Three members of the band were condemned to three years in prison recently for their participating in a "punk prayer" concert in a Moscow cathedral, in a case that has shocked Europe and demonstrated the Putin regime's commitment to return to a harder line on dissent in the face of declining support.
The Sakharov Prize is voted on by MEPs, and nominees can be supported by any of the political groups in the Parliament, or by a minimum of 40 MEPs. The Greens/EFA group also nominated three imprisoned Rwandan opposition representatives (Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Déogratias Mushayidi and Bernard Ntaganda), who have tried to put an end to the cycle of violence by fostering dialogue and reconciliation in their country.
The nominees will be presented to the EP on 25th September 25th, with the award being given around the 10th December.
Green SUmmer Universities
A roundup of the debates
2012 remained a busy summer for the green movement with a number of Summer Universities across Europe in places such as Vis, Croatia; Carnsore, Ireland; Bodjak, Hungary; Salzburg, Austria and Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. GEF was heavily involved in these events, either organising them or being present at them with workshops and publications. These events touched on a huge number of issues relevant to the Green movement today: growth/degrowth, the future of Europe, the commons, populism. A series of reports from the events are now available on the GEF website.
Were you there? Leave a comment on the article and lets us know what you thought of the debates!
The Point Festival, Carnsore, Ireland
Spanish Green Summer University
The future of the commons - a common future for Europe, Croatia
Growth or radical change, Austrian Summer University
Let it B, Hungarian Summer University
Green New Deal
Website continues focus on energy and jobs
The Green New Deal website continues to grow as a resource for all the latest information and material on this issue and is constantly updated with publications, events and best practices on topics central to the Green New Deal. In this update, the website promotes a number of publications and events related to energy and proposals to use investment in renewables to create reliable, sustainable jobs in the green economy. The website will be regularly updated with new best practices, events and publications and if you would like any to be added please leave a comment at the bottom of the article!
Green New Deal website continues focus on energy and green jobs
Cypriot Young Greens cleaning up Cyprus' beaches
The Young Cyprus Greens (ΝΕ.ΟΙ.) have once again participated with great success in the Mediterranean beach cleaning campaign with the slogan 'Seas and Coasts free and clean’. The cleaning took place in Larnaca, Ayia Napa, Limassol and the Lara area.
The public was enthusiastic to respond to all efforts, especially in the last cleanup along the Lara beach. The volume of rubbish collected by the participants in the cleanup events organized by the Young Cyprus Greens was massive: including broken bottles, cigarette ends, used condoms. In the case of the Lara beach they also found bulky pieces of tar, tyres, ropes and decomposed animal corpses.
The Ecological Movement of Cyprus, the Volunteer Emergency Department (for underwater cleaning), the Municipality of Larnaca, the Famagusta District Commission of the Ecologists-Environmentalists Movement and the Wildlife Protection Association also participated in the cleanup events.
The cleanup effort ended by cleaning the north coast of Lara. By the end of the treatment, the participants – who exceeded sixty - had the opportunity to witness the birth of about thirty Loggerhead turtles (Caretta Caretta). Mr. Andreas Dimitropoulos and Mrs. Myroula Chatzichristoforou informed the participants about the breeding and nesting process of turtles, and about the turtle species encountered in Cyprus.
The illegal premises which appear to be continuing to sprout like mushrooms in the so-called protected area of Akamas, was of particular interest. The state does not seem to be exercising any control in this region, and the work of people who have dedicated their lives to what is perhaps the most successful program in the Mediterranean to protect turtles is now endangered by the arbitrary application of the law. The Young Cyprus Greens invites the relevant institutions to act and react to the irregularities and to protect the people who are struggling to protect the area on a daily basis.
Through the cleanups we had the opportunity to deliver messages for tourism, culture and our environment: Young people demand 'Seas and Coasts free and clean’.
Hope you enjoyed our latest offering. Any comments, news, suggestions or correction, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please think about passing the newsletter on to anyone you think would be interested and get them to sign up at www.egp.eu
Read our newsletter in your browser.