After few months of election campaign across Europe, last week Sunday 26th May, results came out.
We sneaked into the European Parliament invited by the European Greens. Reaching the fourth floor, we joined MEPs assistants, European Green’s staff as well as the two lead candidates Ska Keller and Bas Eickhout.
Projections per countries were already out at 6.30 pm. At this time, people in the room started wooing by looking at the screens. In fact the German Die Grünen led by Ska Keller doubled its votes from last elections in 2014, finishing second behind Angela Merkel’s party.
European Elections results show an increase support from voters to parties taking into account climate action.
Outcomes were impressive across all Europe: Dutch GreenLeft gathered 10.5%, French Écologie-Les Verts surpassed Macron’s party passing to a 13.3%, from a previous 8.9%. Ireland’s Green party increase it’s voters of over 200%. In Austria, Spain and Finland, Greens obtained substantial percentages. From the 52 seats allocated in the mandate 2014-2019, at the end of the night projection showed a total of 69 seats . More than being an unexpected outcome, Greens mobilisation turned out to be overlooked. Most of the attention in the post months has been given to the fear of the rise of populist parties.
The Time for Politics
The rise of both green and populist parties at this election have completely opposite stories.
Speaking with Green staff members that night, we encountered 30-years-old policy officers that worked for over 10 years in green parties in Austria and Germany. Looking at their countries’ results they were themselves astonished. They had been fighting for over a decade, but in past years their fight received little attention.
To grow consensus, greens had to wait for young voters and for the climate crisis to be back on the global agenda, if not media. Some of the populist parties across Europe are instead quite new. However, they had been able to frame issues in their favour, capitalising citizens’ fear on an handful of topics in very short time. We all know what the Greens stands for when it comes to environment. Shouldn’t we look into populist parties’ climate agenda, if there is any?
Climate Rights for the Right?
Right-wing populists hold an Euro-skeptic view over the functioning of the European Union. But how does these parties conceive climate change and climate policy?
In the study “Convenient Truth, Mapping climate agendas of right-wing populist parties in Europe“, Adelphi has tried to map positions of parties and single MEPs in respect to climate policies and resolutions voted at the EP. The study shows that right wing and populist groups as ENF, EFDD and ECR are the EP’s political groups most hostile towards climate policy.
Liberal Greens, Green Liberals? Liberals?
The graph shows that the ALDE group have taken more environmental progressive stances than the Green party itself. Are the liberals more green than the Greens themselves?
This is were data, might need to be clarified, by looking at the case of the vote on “Cost-effective emission reductions and low-carbon investments” in 2017. This provision was meant to establish a system for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Union. At that time, the Parliament rejected a more environmentally ambitious proposal from the Greens settling for a provision to protect the industry. Bas Eickhout described it as showing that “the lobbyists have won out in the end.”.
Green neoliberalism is not a new concept, but no one knows how much it actually accounts inside the liberals at the EU level. EP Parties’ groups are constituted by members of parties across Europe with same core values, and in the case of ALDE…well, it is liberalism.
Finding a way
Can the results of the European Greens mean the return of a serious climate policy across Europe?
By representing the 9% of the European Parliament, both ALDE and S&D now see in the Greens a potential coalition’s partner. However, the European Greens made clear they would only support a EU Commission candidate focusing on “social justice and prioritising the climate crisis“.
The growing representation in the EP can bring environmental issues on top of the agenda more often than in the past. Though Greens might fear that tackling climate crisis ambitiously could be toned down by parties such as the liberals, in the name of protecting the current economic system.
The success of future EU climate policies lays upon multilateralism and cooperation to deliver transformative change. By statements of EP parties’ group leaders, it looks that a majority might be in place.