Some two hundred people gathered in Brussels to watch the official launch of the European Green Party's campaign for the EU election campaign in May.
Speaking to the party members, German MEP and one of the two European Greens campaign frontrunners, Ska Keller, said: “It is a great honour to launch the European campaign with you, today. Let’s turn the [economic and social] storms in Europe into winds of green change!”
The Greens have polled poorly in a number of member states. They could lose their spot as fourth largest political force in the European Parliament in the next European Parliament.
“Our big challenge today was to motivate our people and resist the negative news of the polls,” the European Greens co-chair, Monica Frassoni, told EurActiv. “The campaign is still to be done and events like this are very important to mobilise the party’s base.”
A ‘Green New Deal’
The party showcased their campaign material, which includes a series of posters with the tagline “Change Europe, vote Green”. The posters can be customised online by national parties or Green party supporters.
The main point of the convention was the adoption of the Greens’ manifesto: a common programme that will be used in national green parties’ campaigns.
The text spells out a ‘Green New Deal’ that focuses on the promise of green jobs and sustainability in Europe. Social justice is also high on the Greens’ common programme, which criticises the EU’s austerity-driven response to the crisis as well as the lack of resources to underpin job creation schemes.
Green politicians also scorned EU policymakers for allowing GMO-produced food onto the European market, and for putting in danger social and environmental standards in the ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United States (TTIP).
Frassoni said green parties across Europe could win the campaign with a convincing plan on how to get out of the crisis: “A lot of parties have ideas, but our idea of the green reconversion of the economy is a plan that is really good for Europe. And secondly, we approach European integration as a truly positive project.”
A final version of the manifesto will be published early this week, party representatives said on Saturday.
After the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, the Greens are the second party to adopt their manifesto at an electoral congress. Later this week, the Socialist PES party gathers in Rome for their campaign kick-off; the centre-right EPP party has scheduled its congress for 6-7 March in Dublin.
From primary to campaign
The Greens engaged in what they called the “first primary process” of a European party, selecting two figureheads to be their European campaign faces in an online poll that ran from November until the end of January.
According to Keller, “the primary was a warm-up – now we are ready for it. Europe needs green answers; let’s go out and fight; let’s change Europe”. Ska Keller was elected the party’s frontrunner for the European elections, together with French member of the European Parliament José Bové.
These two frontrunners also serve as the Greens’ designate Commission president candidates to succeed José Manuel Barroso, but the party itself admitted they o not have a shot at such a top position.
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Bové was even absent at Saturday’s election convention. Party representatives explained the French politician was participating in a protest rally against the construction of an airport in Nantes, France, leaving it up to Keller to motivate the European party’s members.
Fighting polling results
The Greens are hoping to keep their seats in countries like Sweden, the United Kingdom and Austrian so as to maintain their presence in the European Parliament.
The battle ground for the party is set to be in France and Germany, countries that will be key if they are to curb their expected decrease in seats. The French Europe Ecologie currently has 15 seats in the EU parliament but could fall back to as little as 5 seats, PollWatch data shows. In Germany, Bündniss 90/Die Grünen could lose another 3 seats, falling back to a total of 11.
“Let’s not confuse polls with election day,” Keller said on Saturday. In 2009, the French green party was facing a similar outcome but managed to boost their numbers. Keller called on the French delegation at the convention to “do it again!”
Frassoni toned down the negative news, telling EurActiv that “it is very difficult to foresee what will happen in many countries. We believe a European campaign can be very helpful in Spain, Hungary and a couple of other places, but we try to make a Europe-wide campaign and to offer our services".
The Greens face strong pressure from parties on their political left. Latest data has shown the far-left European United Left/Nordic Green Left could overtake the Greens group in number of seats, putting the latter in fifth spot as a political force in Europe.
Saturday’s convention showed that the Greens may aim their arrow at the political centre. “The EPP doesn’t have an interest in a social Europe. They represent the parliamentary arm of lobby interests,” Keller told the audience. “The [Socialist] S&D is the party of missed opportunities ... and Liberals still believe the market will change everything. Get real, Liberals: your time is over.”