The Greens are growing. That means our policies will have to be heard’
By Evelyne Huytebroeck
As climate change rises up the agenda, Green parties are making unprecedented gains. A northern European ‘Green Wave’ has seen environment-focused groups increase their representation in Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. We spoke to Filipe Henriques, a political advisor to the European Green Party, about the party’s agenda over the next five years.
What are your party’s top priorities going into the European Parliament elections?
Firstly, to fight the climate emergency by phasing out coal, promoting energy efficiency, moving to 100 per cent renewables, investing in a just green economy and making trains a real alternative to planes. We will promote good local, GMO- and pesticide-free food and farming without cruelty to animals, and will fight pollution and plastic waste to protect the health of all citizens.
We also want a more social Europe where a decent minimum income is guaranteed, where free access to quality education is guaranteed, where fairly-paid internships and good jobs for young people are guaranteed, and where tax justice exists.
Finally we must fight for a more democratic and safe Europe where the rule of law and fundamental rights are protected, transparency is increased, corruption is fought, the right to asylum is protected, safe and legal channels for migration exist and gender-based violence is eradicated.
What big changes do you predict after these elections?
The next European parliament is likely to see the main traditional groups lose their majority for the first time, and the Greens grow. This means that Green policies will have to be heard.
How concerned are you about the influence of nationalist and populist parties in the next EU parliament, and what can be done to counter this?
Democracy, the rule of law and human rights have been increasingly challenged both within Europe and internationally. In these troubled times, Europe can be a beacon of hope. A bigger and more decisive Green group will help curtail these nationalist and populist parties.
In what areas do you see opportunities for innovation and growth in the next five years?
Making the necessary transition to a sustainable economy will require significant investment. We propose a sizeable Green New Deal to finance and leverage investments into areas such as cross-border rail connections, renewable energy, sustainable innovation and just transition, particularly in the poorer member states. We absolutely need to reform the economic system so that it works for the people and respects planetary boundaries. A Green New Deal would channel billions into sustainable investments and innovation.
What role do you think the European Parliament can have in helping European businesses flourish?
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of the European economy. We strive to encourage more people to become entrepreneurs and to support existing ones – and are particularly keen to encourage female founders, family businesses and migrants who establish companies. Smarter regulation should guarantee SMEs a fair playing field with big companies and competition regulation must be reformed accordingly.
European business flourishes when the citizens of Europe flourish. All too often, poor people have to pay proportionally higher taxes than the wealthy and small business owners more than big corporations. Europe must close the loopholes that allow the well-off to avoid taxes, levelling the playing field and helping to finance much-needed public investments.
Is there still opportunity for the EU to forge new trade ties and global partnerships, given a growing protectionist sentiment in some parts of the world, including in the EU itself?
The trade treaties proposed so far – such as CETA, TTIP and TISA – are seriously flawed. Negotiated in secrecy, they have neglected concerns about social rights, public services and the environment. We especially reject privileged dispute settlement rights for investors which undermine democracy.
We will continue to work for open and fair trade policies, provided they are based on international rules and transparent processes, and that they enhance – not endanger – the rights of workers, farmers and consumers, animal welfare and the protection of health and the environment. We favour progress in the WTO and multilateral agreements over bilateral trade deals. The Paris Agreement, international labour standards rules and UN Sustainable Development Goals must form the foundation of trade treaties.