IN A NUMBER of European countries the Greens are an increasingly influential political movement. They have been part of power-sharing agreements to form governments and have been involved in legislating at both the national and supra-national levels.
However, despite these electoral successes the Green movement in Europe, and beyond for that matter, seems to be caught in a state of limbo – more influential than grass-roots and protest groups, but never a realistic electoral prospect for acting as more than a minor party in national power-sharing agreements.
The popularity of Green politicians is often overlooked. It’s hard to think of a more genuinely popular politician in the UK than Caroline Lucas, who of course managed to win a seat in the UK Parliament – a remarkable achievement for such a small party in a First Past the Post system of voting.
However, while Ms Lucas has been able to maintain her presence throughout her time in Parliament, even appearing in court after being arrested at an anti-fracking demonstration, the party is unlikely to stamp its authority on the General Election in 2015, although polls do suggest increasing support for the Greens.
In Europe the Greens are more influential. As Hannah Odenthal of the European Green Party points out in her interview with Lisanne Oldekamp, the Greens are becoming more influential in countries such as Spain as well as Germany and France. Therefore, the appetite for voting Green is there among European voters.
However, despite this support, the Greens still form one of the smaller groups within the European Parliament, and the expected increase in support for anti-EU parties might mean that it becomes even less significant. This seems to defy logic at a time when Europe is largely beginning to accept that it needs to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and fuel imports – most notably as a result of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. In addition to this the Greens are often portrayed as being a diverse group recognising all European interests.
This may be the problem for the Greens.
While they can rely on a certain amount of support, in effect they often are perceived as campaigning on a single issue platform – namely the environment. However, this is less and less the case. The Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament also represents a number of progressive-nationalist movements, most notably in the form of Scotland and Catalonia.
If the Greens want to press forward in Europe they need to address this image and sell themselves better to voters. They are a genuine alternative to the political establishment and while it can be argued some of their cause has been stolen by increasingly environmentally conscious mainstream parties, they should appeal to a wider population than they currently do.
One way of achieving this could be to attract an ever-growing disenfranchised young electorate – especially if they stand in stark contrast to the growing anti-EU rhetoric and political parties who look likely to drastically increase their vote in upcoming elections.
The real tragedy of these European Parliamentary elections is that the debate about Europe has changed from discussing and debating the benefits of Europe to the inadequacies of the European Union. The Greens have an opportunity that is afforded them by their outsider status and pose a genuine alternative.
Someone’s got to do it.
Words: Greg Bianchi
Photo: European Green Party