European politics: Greens time is coming?

In some countries in the EP elections we have seen a good results for parties of Greens and they will have more MEPs. There are probably two contributing factors. Traditional parties are losing and people do care about climate change, environment. But will/can Greens affect the EU policies and it what sense? Read few comments.

John BarryProfessor of Green Political Economy, Queen’s University Belfast

The Greens having more MEPs than ever before means they have a democratic mandate for stronger action within the Parliament and EU institutions around climate breakdown and the loss of biodiversity. They may follow the Irish and UK parliaments and lobby for the European Parliament to declare a ‘climate and ecological emergency’ as as the basis for a radical step change in EU policies on decarbonsiation and the creation of a low carbon and regenerative circular economy.  Having more Green MEPs will also give the Greens more leverage to also push the EU to get tougher on tax evasion, green job creation and dealing with the social recession within Europe and ideally develop an EU wide ‘ green new deal’ and a ‘just transition’ beyond a carbon-based, growth at any cost economic strategy.  To do this, and to diminish the rise of right-wing, nationalist populist MEPs within the Parliament they will have to work with left wing groupings.

Tom O’Brien, Lecturer in Political Sociology, University of York

It was certainly interesting and heartening to see Green parties do well in the European elections. Their performance could be seen to represent something of a shift in attitude, as people appear to be paying more attention to climate change and environmental issues. This is reflected in actions of groups like Extinction Rebellion. The first issue would seem to be whether this interest is sustained or fades again, as we have seen increased focus on environmental issues in the past. Traditional parties do seem to have struggled, but their size and history suggests an ability to adapt, so important not to write them off. It is also important, as everyone points out, to remember that it is difficult to talk about a single European result, as there is considerable diversity.

The ability of the Green bloc to exert influence will be shaped by the make-up of the groups within the Parliament. As a supra-national body, the EU is subject to pressures and incentives at the national level, so any pressure the Greens exert in the Parliament will likely be constrained and shaped by those interests. Referring to the New Zealand example, which I am more familiar with, the Green Party has been more effective where it has concentrated on influencing particular policy areas and portfolios, pushing incremental change. The challenge for environmental policies is that there is always a perception, rightly or wrongly, that they have a detrimental effect on economic performance.

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