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, Urszula Sara Zielińska, member of the Polish Parliament, co-chair of Partia Zieloni and the second conversation with Rui Tavares, Portuguese National MP, city councillor in Lisbon and Co-Spokesperson of LIVRE. We spoke with them about the challenges that they face as well as the successes they have led in their respective political environments.
Urszula Zielińska comes from an activist background and has participated in direct actions in defence of the Białowieża Primeval Forest as well as against the harsh abortion laws adopted in Poland. In the Sejm (the country’s two-chamber parliament), she is working on tackling rule of law issues in Poland. We had the chance to talk to Urszula at a crucial moment for the relationship between Europe and Poland. The European Commission decided, soon after the interview, to approve the disbursement of the EU recovery fund to the country despite the absence of true progress regarding the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
and set three conditions for the disbursement of the recovery fund to Poland: the liquidation of the illegal Disciplinary Chamber, the reinstatement of the judges suspended by this chamber and the changes in the disciplinary system for judges. The main request was for the Polish government to get rid of the disciplinary chamber for judges, which led to the politically motivated and unlawful revocation of judges. When the Polish government offered cosmetic measures, the European Commission deemed them sufficient to allow the disbursement of funds.
These funds are vital for Polish citizens to engage in the just transition, but they are currently being misused by the ruling party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość – PiS). Urszula recalled that COVID funds have only been released to municipalities that toe the line of the current government, and this is their main challenges. It is unacceptable that the €35.4 billion package has been released even though Poland doesn’t fulfil the conditionality mechanism. We must ensure that the values and conditionality mechanism of the European Union are maintained and build a mechanism that gives direct funds to municipalities and regions.
One of the successes of the Polish Greens is that their demands and proposals are starting to have a bigger interest and consensus among Polish citizens and the opposition. Urszula recalls that many of the proposals of the Polish Greens were not understood by citizens 10 years ago, but now, the idea of cheap renewable energy, seems not only reasonable but also crucial for the future, for health, for the people, and for strategic independence.
Rui Tavares is a Member of the Portuguese Parliament and City Councillor of Lisbon. He co-founded the Green-left party LIVRE in 2012 and was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2009, joining the Greens/EFA Group. He is also the first rapporteur of the file on fundamental rights in Hungary at the European Parliament. In this episode, he speaks to us about how to bridge green urgent priorities with social and ecological priorities.
One of the main challenges identified concerning Southern Europe is the lack of trust in politicians and parties, and lack of civic participation. Tavares discusses the necessity of having a clear political vision before going into negotiations with other parties, in order to obtain the best outcome. He also counters far-right narratives by re-framing the conversation to innovative topics such as the Universal Basic Income (UBI), which sets out to provide a lump sum to every citizen in order to ensure wellbeing for all and combat poverty. Now, the idea is gaining traction across the political spectrum in Portugal. They have also succeeded in gaining support for a 4-day work week.
Both climate and social justice are needed to deliver a just transition for all. As Tavares emphasises through the interview “the Green agenda in the South needs to be a green left agenda.” Therefore, they are working to build a new development model for Portugal based on decarbonising the economy.
gather thinkers and activists to discuss European issues.
Greens are driving the change and challenging the status quo across Europe – whether they are in power or in opposition! For Urszula Zielińska, being in opposition means fighting against an illiberal government which controls the funds and justiciary. For Rui Tavares, being in opposition creates a constructive conversation with the government is in dialogue to create a more sustainable future for all. Wherever they are, the Greens are holding governments to account and pushing for more progressive policies.
Urszula Sara Zielińska