In contrast with the sub-zero temperatures in November, members of the International Committee of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW), together with the Scottish and Northern Irish Greens, were feeling the warmth and love from our European Green family at the 30th European Green Party (EGP) Council in Tampere, Finland.
EGP meets twice a year to set the political direction of the European Greens. The Council in Tampere was attended by 35 European countries with six delegates representing GPEW.
At EGP Council, there are significant policy-setting sessions where delegates propose resolutions which are amended through compromise agreements. The Council adopted multiple resolutions with topics ranging from Marine protected areas of European waters to the support of refugees arriving in Greece. GPEW delegates worked to amend the resolution on refugees to ensure that the text acknowledges the situation of the Kurds in Syria. The adopted document states that: ‘The Turkish, Syrian and Kurdish people should not be used as bargaining chips for any negotiations with Turkey on joint support for refugees.’
The valuable contribution of the UK’s seven Green MEPs to the Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament was a recurring theme in plenaries, workshops and informal discussions. Our delegates received messages of support for our general election campaign and our campaign against Brexit. We are grateful to our European friends for unanimously passing a resolution on Brexit and the importance of European Unity, which calls out the irresponsibility of the UK Government for not outlining the issues and possible solutions prior to the referendum and also the lies and misinformation consciously spread by the leave campaign. It expresses wholehearted support for all UK Green Parties in the general election and states that EGP stands firmly side by side with our pro-European civil movement, the biggest on the continent, and supports our call for a People’s Vote.
EGP adopted a resolution to ensure that climate emergency declarations are followed by tangible steps to reach carbon neutrality, in accordance with the Paris agreement. The resolution aims to achieve a practical commitment to carbon neutrality in as many European communities as possible, empowering, mobilising and connecting Green Parties across the continent and offering concrete tools for action.
A resolution presented to the Council by the Scottish Green Party and supported by GPEW calls on EGP to support campaigning to ensure that all the governments sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017) through a Europe-wide alignment campaign. EGP member parties are requested to campaign locally for municipal and regional governments to align to the Treaty. The EGP also asks members of parliament to sign the ICAN pledge and for municipal governments to join the ICAN cities appeal.
Other highlights of this busy Council, were the election of our very own Jean Lambert (former MEP) to the EGP committee and of Eleanor Morrissey (Federation of Young European Greens Executive Committee) as substitute candidate to the Global Greens Coordination. GPEW delegates lobbied hard, ensured their profiles were visible on social media and sported our ‘Team Jean’ and ‘Eleanor – the good Morrissey’ badges. We know they will do an excellent job and we are conscious that their roles in maintaining links with EGP and in raising GPEW’s profile will be crucial if we leave the EU.
The celebration of the Green Wave throughout Europe permeated much of the discussion, as well as commitment to supporting countries where the Green Wave did not arrive. Indeed, GPEW contributed to the Wave with the election of seven Green MEPs, the Greens being now the fourth largest political group in the European Parliament. Our first-past-the-post system, however, causes us and our Scottish and Northern Irish colleagues to look enviously at the rest of Europe where proportional representation enables Greens to be in power and to make transformational societal change. The Finnish Green Party, for example, has three key ministerial posts: Foreign Affairs, Interior and Environment and Climate. We had the privilege of meeting Maria Ohisalo, the Green Finnish Minister for the Interior who was keen to work supportively with the UK Greens.
If we leave the EU, we lose funding, our MEPs and the ability to influence policy within the EU. Notwithstanding our reduced resources and diminished role on the world stage, we take some small comfort that we will still be able to remain within the European Green family whose network and support will be vital if the UK decides to go it alone.
Evelyn Leslie and Mirka Virtanen, International Committee members of GPEW
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