Taking place in Croatia’s capital Zagreb, the 22nd European Green Council was opened with rousing speeches from Co-Chairs of the European Green Party, Monica Frassoni and Reinhard Bütikofer. Mirela Holy, leader of the Croatian Greens, next introduced themes of anti-austerity, green jobs, and climate change. Then, amid a maelstrom of press, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar- Kitarović anointed our event as an almost regal affair.
The first major plenary of council was ‘Green Strategy: Ideas to Change the EU’. Having just finished our own election campaigns, the English contingent was keen to be involved. Discussing ‘establishmentarianism’, we learned that, for many of our sister parties, being part of government has led to them being viewed as ‘establishment’ parties. It’s something we steer well clear of here in the UK – if only thanks to our retrograde electoral system.
Populism was a recurring theme. Much discussion centred around how we, as a Green family, can harness the strategies used by parties such as Syriza and Podemos. Yet populism has a darker side: the rise of the far right is a worrying trend across Europe. A perfect storm of high youth unemployment and wily right-wing parties has led to a growing trend of fascism and anti-immigration, most worryingly amongst young voters. Here in the UK, the Young Greens have done a wonderful job in galvanising youth movements to support Green politics.
The main purpose of the council was to elect the ninth committee member, and with efficient digital voting, Maria Peteinaki from Greece was voted in, followed closely by Hungarian candidate Peter Ungar. Maria is an architect in Athens and told me how the economic crisis has made business more difficult than ever.
However, she went on to say that Syriza’s anti-austerity rhetoric has given many people hope.
Austerity was a common theme. Much of eastern and southern Europe have suffered disproportionately, and the continuing rise in unemployment shows little sign of improvement. As we enter another five years of austerity in the UK, we remain the strong anti-austerity voice.
The 22nd European Green Party Council showed that the Green Family is unique in having this tight network of enlightened minds, dedicated to the green vision, which should be a resource as we approach an impending referendum in the UK.