For the first time, the EU’s Committee of the Regions has enough Green members to form their own group. The group, who already met on Tuesday (11 February), is keen to have good relations with the other groups but also wants to “exert pressure”, particularly on energy transition and environment. EURACTIV Germany reports.
The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) welcomed the new political group composed of 20 Green members on Tuesday. As Green members previously could not meet the 18-member-threshold, they had to join the body’s five political groups or be independent.
“One of the challenges will be to first make room for us. We are still seen as ‘the little ones’,” the French Green member, Guillaume Cros, told EURACTIV.
Cros has been a member of the CoR since 2016 but used to sit with the Socialist Group. Although he felt that he had mostly been in good hands, he had experienced some resistance, including with regard to the area of sustainable industrial policy.
The formation of the group allows the Greens to take concrete action on environmental protection and exert joint pressure in the assembly.
Cros is optimistic that he will be heard across party lines. “Environmental protection happens above all in the regions. Here in Occitania, not even 15 days go by without us seeing the direct effects of climate change. This creates a very different awareness in the CoR than in other institutions,” he said.
Green parties record profits
The 2019 European elections introduced new members, who now make 31% of the CoR.
Members, who are democratically elected and/or hold a political mandate in their home country, usually hold their seats for five years but will have to give them up when they lose their region’s mandate. In other words, the CoR’s plenary session is, therefore, subject to much greater fluctuation than that of the European Parliament.
At present, the European People’s Party (EPP) is the strongest group with 111 full members, followed by the Socialists (S&D) with 90. The European Conservatives and Reformers (ECR) have 25 full members, while 20 members are part of the European Alliance and a further 11 MEPs are independent.
Yesterday, at the first plenary session of the new legislature, the Committee of the Regions elected a new president – the Central Macedonian Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas – as well as new vice-presidents and the Bureau. In addition, the six commissions have been reshuffled, and the Greens are represented across all of them.
The formation of the new Green Group reflects a European trend of the past two years: While the established popular parties suffered heavy losses in many regions, Green parties are growing across Europe.
In the last European elections, the Greens/EFA group increased its seats in the EU Parliament from 52 to 70. In Germany and France, the number of Green MEPs doubled, from 11 to 21 seats for German MEPs and from six to 12 for French MEPs.
A great deal of goodwill
German member Bernd Voss has been appointed to the CoR for the region of Schleswig-Holstein for the first time since January.
Asked by EURACTIV about the priorities of the new group, he mentioned the energy transition, climate protection, the CAP, biodiversity, integration policy, gender issues and a “smart industrial policy” to achieve climate neutrality.
Voss is also all about sharing best practices: “In Germany, the share of renewable energies in the heating sector is just under 15 %, while it is almost 60% in Denmark. This is because a different political framework was created there much earlier. So we can learn from each other. That is what we Greens in the CoR will do to drive the energy transition forward”.
The new member also does not expect too many turf wars between the various groups, as he noted that he had been warmly welcomed when meeting with other political groups.
The Green group may even submit a report at their initiative regarding the CAP, said Cros. However, he is afraid that the hoped-for transition in the agricultural change will once again fail to happen.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]