The European Greens last weekend (28-29 March) adopted their election manifesto for the 2009 European elections, calling for a ‘Green New Deal’ which they argue will offer generations to come “a future based on stability, sufficiency and sustainability”.
Arguing that “the financial crisis and credit crunch have brought the failings of current economic and social policies sharply into focus,” the European Green Manifesto for 2009, entitled a ‘Green New Deal for Europe’, calls for a wholesale transformation of economic and social systems.
Stimulus package for ‘green collar jobs’
To tackle the financial and economic crisis, the Greens advocate a massive EU-wide stimulus package along the lines of the Obama recovery plan in the US.
Irish Green Déirdre de Búrca, who was elected one of the party’s five pan-European ‘Green Leaders’ for the 2009 campaign, told EurActiv: “We’re pushing very strongly for an EU-wide economic stimulus package that member states have so far been very reluctant to agree to. We’ve criticised the European Commission’s recovery package as being little more than a series of member-state packages – there’s nothing new or different or truly European about it.”
Indeed, like Obama in the US, the Greens want any EU-wide stimulus plan to push for investment in green research and technology, making Europe a world leader in “shifting to a greener economy”.
In this respect, the Greens are tying their long-standing climate change and energy policies to their economic prescriptions. The manifesto argues that “combating climate change will boost employment and make us more self-sufficient, reducing our damaging reliance on energy imports”.
The party calls for a 500 billion euro package, with a view to creating five million new, largely green jobs. Many of these so-called “green collar jobs” would be in the area of clean technologies and green enterprise.
“We believe institutions such as the European Investment Bank should play a much stronger role in providing public financing” for these green tech jobs, De Búrca explained, saying the bank should also provide guarantees for matching private funding.
The manifesto concludes that “these ‘crises’ should be seen as an opportunity to transform our economic and social system into one that will offer generations-to-come a future based on stability, sufficiency and sustainability”.
A pan-European, multi-ethnic campaign
Building on their experience of 2004, when they ran the most pan-European campaign in European electoral history, the Greens are now seeking to disseminate a centralised campaign message across EU member states.
Their 2004 experience, by their own admission, produced mixed results. Despite the fact that all members agreed on a common campaign message and themes, not all member parties chose to use the common material in 2004.
Monica Frassoni, co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament, said national parties that decided to use this European dimension for the 2004 elections “really gained from it, for example the French and the Germans”. “Those who did not – like the Italians – made a mistake. I think that was a stupid thing to do” (EurActiv 25/07/08).
This time, the Greens say they will go even further. As well as campaigning in new member states, where there are currently no elected Green MEPs, some candidates will campaign in several countries, most notably Green co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit of France.
As well as this, a number of candidates of non-European origins will feature on Green lists. “I see it as a very multi-ethnic campaign,” said party spokesperson Philippe Lamberts, who will run in the European elections in Belgium this June.
In order to create interest in their campaign and generate a buzz around the EU, the party nominated five ‘Green Leaders’ and 11 ambassadors to sell the ‘Green New Deal’ to European voters. “I think it’s a good idea for a European campaign,” said de Búrca. “What you need are faces, names and personalities that people can relate to and identify with. This is an attempt to give a more public image to the grouping.”
Other eye-catching events include a cycle ride along the route of the old Iron Curtain and a train journey across the EU. “Going beyond campaign literature and engaging in EU-wide actions proves that we are the party that’s most advanced in terms of organising itself as a pan-European grouping,” De Búrca concluded.
The Greens were the first European party to hold a pan-European campaign. At the 2004 elections, Green parties across the EU ran on a coordinated common platform, based on written materials and posters.
For the 2009 elections, the Greens are continuing in the same vein, and will be running candidates under a pan-European campaign in a number of new countries: the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, Latvia and Estonia.
Like most European parties, the financial and economic crisis has played a large part in framing the Greens' common manifesto. Green leaders believe the crisis gives them an opportunity to show voters that they are not just campaigning "to save trees, but people too" (EurActiv 26/11/08).
The Greens are currently the European Parliament's fifth largest group, with a total of 43 MEPs.
- 4-7 June 2009: European Parliament elections.