French Greens defend pact with Mélenchon’s party ahead of legislatives

To apply the programme of the "New Ecological and Social People's Union", both parties have even expressed their willingness "to disobey certain European rules. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON [CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA]

Ahead of France’s upcoming June legislative elections, the Greens have found themselves defending their new partnership with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party amid accusations that it is compromising when it comes to the EU. EURACTIV France reports.

The political agreement between the Green Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV) party and Mélenchon’s radical-left party La France Insoumise (LFI) in the run-up to the June legislative elections and unveiled on Monday (2 May), is generating criticism, particularly on the topic of Europe.

“But if some European rules are a source of support (consumer protection, environmental standards…), many others are out of tune or even in contradiction with the imperatives of the ecological and social emergency,” the final version of the agreement reads.

To apply the programme of the “New Ecological and Social People’s Union”, both parties have even expressed their willingness “to disobey certain European rules (in particular economic and budgetary rules such as the Stability and Growth Pact, competition law, the productivist and neo-liberal orientations of the Common Agricultural Policy etc.).”

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However, deviating from EU rules can only be done while respecting the rule of law and “France’s policy cannot be to leave the Union, or to break it up, or to end the single currency”, according to the agreement.

The agreement has already the Greens in a position where they are accused of cutting back on their historically pro-European commitments and adopting the same language of Mélenchon’s Insoumis.

“We could almost put ‘Europe’ in brackets in the party’s name,” Sabine Thillaye, a lawmaker of President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche party, told EURACTIV. According to her, the agreement comes as a “great surprise”.

The call for “disobedience” of certain EU rules is “hallucinatory”, she said, noting that one could “hear the same thing from the Rassemblement National” of Marine Le Pen, whose presidential programme was accused of leading to a de facto “Frexit”.

“Changing the rules unilaterally is also a form of ‘Frexit’. It’s a cluster bomb”, she noted, adding that the EU is the wrong target as it is necessary to address France’s challenges.

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Not an ‘à la carte’ Europe

However, this is not the case in Strasbourg, where EELV sits in the Green group in European Parliament.

The subject is being discussed internally this week during the plenary session of the European Parliament, which brings together all elected representatives.

“It will not be Europe à la carte,” French Green MEP Karima Delli told EURACTIV, adding that she does not understand the criticism and that the political agreement between her party in France and that of Mélenchon has given rise to much extrapolation.

“Notable inflexions have been obtained that modify the original orientations of LFI,” tweeted French Green MEP David Cormand. Mélenchon’s party did not initially rule out an EU exit if his party’s renegotiation of EU rules would face a deadlock.

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However, according to Delli, “Europe is already doing disobedience”, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the liberties taken with budgetary rules. “We will not change our pro-European DNA,” she said.

“Criticism is out there, and we hear it,” said her Belgian colleague Saskia Bricmont from the Greens. “We must remember that this is above all a political agreement with a clear objective: to ensure that the social and ecological agenda is present in the National Assembly,” she added.

“That’s part of the game,” the Belgian MEP told EURACTIV, adding that it was “obvious” that this type of alliance does not cover the entire programme of the parties involved but that, for all that, “EELV is not giving up its European agenda”.

Bricmont also stressed that the “question of ‘disobedience’ should not be misinterpreted” and that it included “criticism”, especially of European issues with room for manoeuvre, for example, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The MEP also welcomed her French partners’ “good choice” to “move forward together”.

Cormand, for his part, recalled that “it was the ecologists who invented this political concept of passive and non-violent resistance… It is not new, and we claim it as our own”.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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