Greens in Europe : An impressive gain in popularity

01 April 2020 /

8 min

The Green parties have impressed the political scene during the 2019 European elections with their rather important results. Year after year, the Green movement is winning over many European citizens. Let’s have a look back at the phenomenon that has shaken the European Parliament with a member of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS).

  • You can begin by introducing yourself.

My name is Ania Skrzypek, I am director for research and training at the Foundation for European Progressive Studies.

  • What do you think of the green’s results in the European Parliament? Do you see these results as a new a long-term trend for the greens parties in Europe?

I think that the results of the European green parties are spectacular of course, because it is the group that one can say “gained the most”, not only because of the number of members, but more importantly their programmatic visibility and consistency and a very solid and good campaign. Now, I think that a lot of analyses are talking about the greens being a new phenomenon, that the greens are definitely positioning themselves alongside with what they write in the manifesto and in the resolutions. However, they are not a new party, most evidently they have been established several years ago. 

The greens are making a difference because they are pushing for more ambitious, more giving, and more solidaristic agenda.

  • Do you think the rise of the Greens in the European Parliament could help the EU reach its climate objectives? 

I think, evidently, that the concerns for the state of the environment was the reason why the green parties have been established. And we have to say that what we see on the European level are united European green parties, despite the fact that there are quite a lot of differences in approaches among the green parties when it comes to particularities and the issues. But I have to say that also if you observe the evolution of positioning of climate change as a topic inside of the greens manifesto, you will also see a clear demand when it comes to target, and in that sense the greens are making a difference because they are pushing for more ambitious, more giving, and more solidaristic agenda when it comes to push Europe. 

  • How can you explain the bad results of the green parties in Eastern Europe? 

Well, Eastern Europe should not be seen as a bloc. Certain challenges that are being faced and the split that is being frequently referred to when it comes to the European Union politics. Now, one has to say that of course by the times that the green parties have been established on the Western side of Europe, there had been not that much space for them in the Eastern Europe, as such.  There are of course differences when it comes to the model of production and consumption, the idea of international solidarity. I think it has been especially true in the context of the migration debate, but also when it comes to the definition of sustainability and climate justice.  In that sense, in many countries indeed, the Greens have not been able to make the appeal that they would have had elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, there is a lot of green debates and there is a potential for those parties to recuperate and grow stronger. In Slovakia, which is very sort of unusual, is one of the places where the greens have been able to make the appeal but also when we look at the interest within the progressive circle, we also see that in the countries like Latvia and Hungary, there is more and more interest to tackle the issues of climate change and environment. Of course, there are certain hurdles. If you take Czech Republic, there is the question of the nuclear power. 

  • Do you believe that the recent social movements like the demonstrations in Brussels have had an impact on the Green results? 

I think that social movements are extremely relevant in terms of providing a momentum in a context. And it goes without any doubt that the recent mobilization against climate change and in favour of sustainable policy have made a big impact not only on the potential voters for the Greens but on the situation of all the parties. I don’t think that there is a single party that now goes into the elections without referring to climate change, climate justice, sustainability of policies, future of common agriculture policy, fishery, transport or energy for that matter.  This is the DNA of course of the green program, now, the question is: is it only the green parties that have the monopoly on the issues ? 
And there are also parties that are very sceptical when it comes to measurement of the growth. In the traditional way we used to be discussing that. In that sense, of course, it does play into the field that have been traditionally very much the field of the greens, but it doesn’t mean that, in the future, we will only see the monopoly of the green parties for this particular issue. Example of that is the composition of the current European Commission, it is actually a social-democrat that will carry this sustainability portfolio. It doesn’t mean exclusivity because evidently, in democracy, in order to change things, we need to have the majority. So, there is a momentum, there is a lot of willingness, but the question is of course the translation of the momentum in politics not to keep the movement hanging in disappointment.

It is clear that the greens are not only the party of the youth but also the party of intergenerational solidarity.

Last thing, I think what’s very interesting about the social movement around climate change is that they are not anti political. They do believe politics can deliver difference. They are asking for a different quality of politics.
One thing that is important about the Greens in terms of their potential to rise, Greens have been portrayed as the UFO party. I think that for anybody who actually does take time to read the green programmatic document, it is clear that the greens are not only the party of the youth but also the party of intergenerational solidarity. And that translates into both socio-economic dimensions of the political proposals which also means that they neither alienate the younger nor senior citizens, but also Greens on the European level have very strict rules about young people representation. This is why the group as such is probably one of the most youthful if not the most youthful group inside the European Parliament. If you ask about the average age of the party in terms of the names that come on the horizon, definitely, the greens have a potential to continue being the highlight because of the very strict division of tasks. If you look at the debates inside the European Parliament, the greens have very clearly identified a spokesperson, within the delegation. Which makes them of course very strong, also as stakeholders. On the other side, many of those names are very young names, which is something to take into consideration while you talk about the future of the party. 

  • What do you think about the European Green Deal of Ursula Von Der Leyen? Do you think it’s achievable? 

I am an optimist; I wouldn’t be a social democrat if I didn’t think that the ambitions are attainable. It’s certain that the European Union is under a lot of pressure and under a lot of expectations, and quiet recently we’ve been discussing the existential crisis of the European Union.
New Green Deal, of course in progressive way, in the green way, in conservative, whatever you take, is an agenda where we need to look at the way we produce and consume things. In the way we think about each other and nature, in the context of broader future debate, and also fits in very much into the big challenge of having a proper future for Europe debate. 
COP21 in Paris was not attained by the Americans, but on the other side we see China moving very strongly in terms of environmental policy. If Europe want to remain a global player and at the same time not disappoint each people, one could say again, I mean, depending again, on the way then definitely, the change in the way we shape economy, the way we create jobs, what we mean with that is part of the conversation that the New Green Deal is of course about. I think, you know, very frequently, the decisions that are environmental in character are subject of caricature. In  Europe, they are being ridiculed by many who neither believe in climate change nor believe in the necessity of change. But you know how exciting it is to be able to think that we could live in a world that is healthier, that the world is cleaner and all those resources through the public proper investment here, we come once again to the Europe delivery, can we put in a funds to actually make it happen, wouldn’t that be exciting to say that our future is much more secure than what it looks like now.  
Ismaël Panorios is a student in the first year of the master’s degree in political science at the ULB.

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