From 3-5 June, the European Green Party organised its 35th Council – the highest decision-making body of the European Greens. During this biannual gathering that brings together hundreds of Greens from across the European continent, we discussed the most pressing issues of today, including foreign policy, security and the energy transition. We also adopted resolutions and elected a new Committee!
The Council offers the opportunity to talk with key actors that are pushing for a Greener vision for Europe. Our interviewees in this episode occupy different positions of power and represent various levels in national or European government. First, Ricarda Lang, Co-Chair of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and Member of the German Bundestag, discusses how to turn a political vision into governing action. Then, Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner of Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, speaks on implementing an ambitious European Green Deal. Lastly, Dritan Abazović, Prime Minister of Montenegro, discusses the importance of building on more democratic values after decades of corruption. We spoke with them about the challenges that they face as well as the successes they have led in their respective political environments.
Ricarda Lang, Co-Chair of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and Member of the German Bundestag, spoke to us about how the German Greens turn their political vision into action at the governmental level, now that they are in a coalition government in Germany. Lang reflects on how our reality is already changing due to the pandemic, war in Ukraine, and climate emergency. Today’s political context needs political actors that can respond to these changes and drive future-proof policies. The German Greens are advocating for not just administering this change but actively shaping it. This proactive attitude to shape the current present and the future also means confronting the status quo, especially considering that previous governments were maintaining it.
Today’s crises have led to important challenges and crucial lessons for the German Greens. Firstly, Lang made clear that foreign affairs cannot just be conducted through trade agreements, in the hope that “if we just have really closely knit economic ties with authoritarian states, then there will be no war.”
The war in Ukraine has proven that this has only made us vulnerable in the face of Russian aggression and their use of energy and food as bargaining chips in the on fossil fuels also created vulnerabilities – that’s why Greens must work hard to achieve 100% renewables by 2035. Thirdly, a just transition, in which there is a clear social dimension to policies, is vital to maintaining a stable economy. All these lessons imply the development of new and ambitious policies which will transform our economies and democracies. This active transformation needs to be shaped by putting social policy action in the centre of the German government as well as all other Green parties.
Virginijus Sinkevičius is a Lithuanian politician, and the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries. His portfolio plays a key role on the development of the European Union’s Green Deal. He outlines the main challenges and successes of this endeavour, from his perspective as a member of the College of Commissioners.
Sinkevičius reflects that developing a comprehensive implementation of the European Green Deal is the main challenge. He stated that forces are mounting to put the European Green Deal on hold due to current crises such as the pandemic of the war in Ukraine and warns that this would be a huge mistake. If anything, these crises require us to engage more deeply on climate and environmental protection, as well as tackling our dependency on fossil fuels. He also calls on civil society to maintain pressure on politicians to ensure the implementation of the Green Deal.
Indeed, he emphasises that the driving force of the European Green Deal has been the call from citizens who were persistent in their demands, meeting every Friday with a unified message from across the world. Many ambitious proposals were achieved as a part of the European Green Deal, such as the deforestation strategy and the sustainable product policy.
Dritan Abazović is the president of the URA party and Prime Minister of Montenegro since April 2022. He is also the first Prime Minister that comes from a minority in Montenegro. URA (Civic Movement United Reform Action) was established in 2015 and represents all ethnicities and stands for a European, ecological and democratic Montenegro. When Dritan Abazović was elected, minority parties agreed on a cooperation agreement which set Montenegro on a new path: one in which EU integration is initiated, institutions such as the judiciary were unblocked, crime and corruption were tackled, and citizen wages could finally be increased.
Abazović spoke about how to change political mindsets, fight corruption and promote democratic values from his perspective as a Green politician in government within a non-EU country. Since his party has been in government, URA is ensuring that more women enter political positions, such as Danijela Đurović who is the first woman in the role of President of the Parliament. He highlighted that the main task of the party has been to work on re-establishing the rule of law in Montenegro, starting with the judiciary.
He states: “No one is untouchable anymore. Everybody is responsible for what they have done.” The challenges for the country are clear. Firstly, it will be finding consensus in the parliament to achieve a functional judiciary system that fights corruption and organised crime. Abazović also emphasised the need to bring new democratic values to the country and bring justice, whilst also advancing Montenegro’s project of integration into the European Union.
As Greens increasingly move from being in political opposition, to being democratically elected to positions of leadership – from the local to the national to the European level – it’s inspiring to hear that the drive to lead on change is growing. It’s also vital to learn from the challenges our Green politicians face along the way as they tackle the status quo to build a fairer and greener Europe.