Delegates at the 31st European Green Party (EGP) Council were due to meet this year in Skopje, North Macedonia, but, owing to the coronavirus crisis, it took place online. The event was a not inconsiderable feat of organisation with hundreds of delegates from nearly 40 green parties participating from their homes in Europe, and with speakers from across the globe, including India and the US.
The Council’s theme was ‘Restart Europe’, and all presentations and discussions focused on how to build back better as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. The conviction that there would be ‘no going back to business as usual’ was palpable.
At the EGP Council, there are significant policy-setting sessions where delegates propose resolutions which are amended through compromise agreements. Resolutions were kept to a minimum this year to simplify the processes of online discussion and voting. The Council adopted the resolution, proposed by EGP: Coronavirus Recovery.
The contents encapsulate the recurring themes of the entire event. These include: a call for well-funded health care and social service; resilient and sustainable economies; resilient communities; disappointment at the European Union’s initial slow response to the crisis; a demand for a recovery plan which addresses the needs of the most vulnerable; and a Green New Deal at the heart of the plan to achieve climate justice and social justice.
Also adopted was the Green recovery towards climate neutrality, a resolution putting climate at the heart of the coronavirus crisis recovery, and requiring member states to commit to achieving climate neutrality by at least 2040 in line with the Paris Agreement. It recognises the historical responsibility of industrialised countries for global warming and calls for a strengthening of EU leadership ahead of the UN Climate Conference, COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. The resolution also urges the UK to strengthen its resolve in addressing the climate emergency and likewise to commit to becoming climate neutral by 2040.
The plight of precarious workers, another conference leitmotif, was addressed in the resolution Power to the gig-workers. This was proposed by the Federation of Young Greens (FYEG) and adopted by the Council. It highlights the injustices of precarious work and calls for regulation across Europe to prevent the exploitation of gig workers, requiring them to have employment, social security, health care and pension rights, and to ensure that companies operating within the ‘platform economy’ are properly regulated across Europe, specifically with regard to tax and employment legislation.
An emergency resolution in consultation with Greens of Colour was tabled and adopted, Black Lives Matter, in which European Greens expressed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and protests. It demands a wide range of actions, including: education and training on colonial history and anti-racism; an end to racial profiling and excessive use of force by the police; and the implementation of measures to prevent discrimination.
Notably, Bill McKibben, an environmentalist from the US and a speaker at one of the plenary sessions, sincerely thanked those who had taken part in Black Lives Matter protests, assuring us that people in the US, who are fighting for racial justice, had taken enormous heart from watching people take to the streets in European cities and around the world.
The six Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) delegates took opportunities to meet the Montenegro Greens (Civic Movement URA) who were elected to the EGP as a candidate member; the Scottish Greens as part of our Inter Isles Network and a nascent networking group of non-EU countries within the EGP whom we invited to share knowledge and experiences. We were pleased to witness the election of our own Emma Carter (GPEW) to the Financial Advisory Board. At the last Council meeting in Tampere, Finland, we saw Jean Lambert (former MEP) elected to the EGP Committee.
As we are no longer members of the EU, these links with the EGP are more critical for raising the profile of GPEW in Europe. In some ways a bittersweet experience: disappointed to be excluded from the EU, yet thankful to be part of this large European Green family and to make new alliances.
Kudos to the organising committee for this superbly well-run online council. As always, we take inspiration, hope and courage from fellow European Greens and look forward hopefully to a face-to-face meeting at the 32nd Council in Warsaw in December.