Interview: Greens’ dream turns social ahead of EU elections

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The financial and economic crisis gives the Greens an opportunity to show voters that they are not just campaigning “to save trees, but people too,” said Austrian Green MP Ulrike Lunacek in an interview with EURACTIV.

Energy and climate change will not be the only strong points of the European Green Party’s (EGP) campaign manifesto for the upcoming 2009 EU elections, with Lunacek explaining that the economy and responding to the financial crisis would will feature high on the agenda alongside social policy as well. 

“We have a huge financial crisis. We have an energy crisis. We have a food crisis. All these need to be tackled and the EU needs to take the lead,” said Austrian parliamentarian Lunacek, who co-chairs the European Green Party with Philippe Lamberts (Belgium). 

With 43 MEPs, the Greens are aiming to maintain their position as the European Parliament’s fourth largest party and get more deputies from Eastern Europe elected in the upcoming elections in June 2009. To attract new supporters, the party must show that it is not only strong on energy and the environment, but also capable of dealing with citizens’ social concerns, believes Lunacek. 

“On social issues we have a long way to go,” she said, but nevertheless declared that the EU was “ready for a European social pact”. “As dramatic as the financial crisis may be, it has the positive aspect of making people realise that we need the European Union,” she said. 

Involving young Europeans in the political debate will be key for the Greens in the elections, with a series of Internet initiatives currently being prepared. “I think we can all learn from the Obama campaign,” Lunacek, underlining that a ‘yes we can’ attitude could change the way politics is run and give young Europeans an appetite for political dialogue. 

Moreover, Europeans should be wary of right-wing extremist parties, which are expected to be more vocal than they were in 2004, Lunacek warned. It would be “a dangerous development” for European democracy if these parties united in an international nationalist movement, she added. 

To attract voters, the European Greens must capitalise on their strong politicians. Daniel Cohn-Bendit is expected to campaign across borders. As a perfect linguist and well-known politician, so-called ‘Danny the Red’ will campaign across borders and help gather consensus in many EU member states. 

The recently elected co-chair of the German Greens, MEP Cem Ozdemir, is also likely to attract attention after having already been dubbed the ‘European Obama’ across the continent. 

Following the example of the US president-elect, who gathered great support from grassroots organizations, the Greens are also counting on the European Green Foundation to mobilise civil society and develop “green thinking and green acting,” noted Lunacek. 

The European Green manifesto will be launched at their congress in March 2009.

To read the interview in full, please click here

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