An interview with the European Green Party co-chair Monica Frassoni looking back at some important milestones to mark our 15th anniversary.
- How significant is this 15th anniversary?
Just like in 2004, this year the Greens are once again on the rise. But whilst fighting climate change and bringing about a Green and just transformation are mainstream ideas today, this was not the case 15 years ago. Now, it’s an issue that is increasingly able to mobilise thousands of young people in a way we haven’t seen since the peace movement in the 1960s. This gives us a huge responsibility, because being aware of a challenge does not mean being able to adequately tackle it. In this sense, the EU elections will be very significant.
- How has the European Green Party changed since it was founded in 2004?
The founding of the European Green Party took place in the sumptuous setting of Rome’s Campidoglio in the same room as the Treaty of Rome was signed back in 1957. There were around one thousand people attending from over 30 Green parties. 2004 was the year that Europe added one million new citizens to its population with the accession of 10 new countries, mostly from eastern Europe. The Greens were in a number of European governments. Since then, we’ve seen our fortunes both rise and fall but we really worked hard at European level to give this European party relevance and substance. For most Greens, the feeling of belonging to a European family is now a given. In the current European debate that has become infected with nationalism and xenophobia, this is a great asset.
- How do you see the next 15 years?
If we manage to match our proposals with our effectiveness in raising awareness and consensus than we will become more relevant on the political scene. To have a great message is not enough. We’ve stayed true to our principles over the years letting mainstream opinion move in our direction rather than the other way round. Other so-called traditional parties have abandoned core principles and as a result become increasingly amorphous and out of touch. The Greens have shown a unique capacity for renewal by promoting young people and women from diverse backgrounds to positions of power and influence. This was not a given but is the result of hard work. This should enable us to take on Europe’s biggest challenges with a fresh perspective. Brexit is a huge concern not only for the UK, but the rest of the EU too - especially in a no-deal scenario. We’re also faced with the uncertainty of climate change if we exceed 1.5 degrees of warming compared to pre-industrial levels as specified in the UN’s IPCC report. My hope is that an increasing number of Europeans will be convinced and work with us to solve these existential problems. But for this, the EU needs to change. Three major reforms are needed to advance towards an effective and participative democracy. We need to get rid of member state vetoes, give the European Parliament all the powers it still needs in terms of legislation, treaty changes and initiative and establish transnational lists.
- What are the European Green party priorities?
Even though Green parties have played an important role in pushing for the phase out of nuclear and coal and transitioning to renewables, it hasn’t been enough to disrupt vested interests and transform the economy and society towards net-zero emissions. Since 2004, the risk from climate change has become immeasurably worse. In this election campaign we’ve laid out our 12 electoral priorities for a Green transformation of Europe, but our urgent focus must be to stop irreversible climate change.
- How will the European Greens be celebrating?
An anniversary is an opportunity for us to reflect on all the important milestones in our history and give thanks to all those who have helped us achieve so much. At 15, our party is becoming more mature and focused. We have shown our capacity to weather many storms and come out unscathed. Our hope must be to become an even more vibrant, open and inclusive political family, able to be successfully support all our member parties even those that are not strong today.