Åland's Sustainable Initiative (Hållbart Initiativ) and Latvia's the Progressives (Progresīvie) have been accepted as our newest candidate member parties by delegates at the 35th European Green Party Council in Riga, Latvia. We are proud to welcome them into our Green family and to interview them to discuss their priorities in their respective countries.
🌻 Hållbart Initiativ and @Progresivie have been elected as our newest member parties by delegates at #EGP35 in Riga!— European Greens (@europeangreens) June 5, 2022
💚 Welcome to the Green political family! We look forward to working with you to fight for democracy & social and ecological justice in Europe. pic.twitter.com/NStvfi0xOT
A sustainable initiative to make Åland a climate and environmental leader
The Åland Islands, also known as Åland, are an autonomous region of Finland composed of about 6,500 islands in the Baltic Sea. Its official language is Swedish and Mariehamn is the capital city. Åland has committed to become fully sustainable by 2051. That is why the whole of Åland society has come up with a joint action plan - an agenda for Åland that was launched in 2016. Indeed, Hållbart Initiativ translates to 'Sustainable Initiative'.
The party is striving for all political decisions to be as sustainable as possible. Åland could run on 100% renewable energy. It could have a non-toxic and climate smart agriculture. It could prevent diseases before they break out. It could sustain a thriving plant and animal life, and clean lakes and bays. It could be a place where everyone is given the opportunity to develop as human beings. This is the vision of Hållbart Initiativ!
Among others, they are campaigning for:
- A climate law to reduce both direct and indirect emissions
- A pure Baltic Sea through more protection zones and restrictions on harmful substances
- Legislation on equal pay
- Sustainable agriculture free of artificial fertilizers
- An action program to restore pastures and meadows, build more wetlands, create more nature reserves on land and at sea, and more for increased biodiversity
- Modern sustainable transportation
Interview with Alfons Röblom and Erica Scott, Co-Spokespersons of Hållbart Initiativ
We are very happy to be able to welcome you in the Green Family and are looking forward to working together in the coming years. What are your political priorities for Åland in the near future?
The political priorities for Åland in the near future are to introduce a Climate Law, speed up the energy transition (wind power and infrastructure), renew our water legislation and initiate more nature protection.
What are the most important goals to make Åland more sustainable? How are you planning to make Åland an example for a sustainable region and increase efforts to reach the 1.5C degree pathway of the Paris Agreement?
We want to make Aland a hub for large-scale offshore wind power. Large-scale offshore wind power is not just about producing renewable energy. There's a huge potential for major positive effects in the Åland society as a whole when it comes to education, innovation, entrepreneurship and jobs. Large-scale offshore wind power means huge electricity production, potentially about one third of the current electricity need in Finland. This enables further processing to other forms of fossil free energy like hydrogen. Hydrogen can be refined into ammonia, methanol, green petrol or diesel, or be used for fertilizer production by various methods. Finland, including Åland, and Sweden are heavily dependent on the shipping industry for transport and commerce. Within the potential for large-scale offshore wind power there is an aim to make Åland the new "gas station" for the Baltic Sea, where ships can refuel with renewable energy.
One key element of your work in relation to the Åland Example 2.0 is that you want to ensure an inclusive and socially just transition. What are the next steps for that which you are currently working on?
When introducing subsidies or other proposals to govern towards a society within the ecological and social principles for sustainability it is crucial to take a systemic perspective and ensure that potential structural obstacles for people's health, influence, competence, impartiality are addressed.Our next steps are to target subsidies as part of the energy transition towards low-income groups to make sure everyone can contribute to the transition. There is also a need to target wage inequality as well as ensuring the inclusion of immigrants coming to Åland.
A progressive voice set out to unite the people of Latvia
Progresīvie, meaning 'the Progressives', is a Latvian political party with a strong focus on both social justice and Green ideas. They began as an NGO which then became a political party, and they have the highest number of small donor supporters in Latvia. Since 2020, they have been leading the Riga City Council in a local coalition government to bring positive and transformative change to the Latvian capital.
Progresīvie's mission for the municipality is to create a stable basis for the development of each inhabitant with quality services, good governance, and well-thought-out environmental protection. By promoting openness, mutual support and the involvement of all citizens in cultural life and in decision-making, progressive municipalities can build trust in democracy and build a cohesive society.
Among others, they are campaigning for:
- Encouraging citizens' participation in decision-making processes
- Solving environmental problems by implementing green procurement, supporting organic farmers and green entrepreneurs
- Economic development that provides people with stable wages and opportunities for personal growth
- Affordable housing for everyone
- The promotion of healthy eating in schools and the reduction of food waste
- Safe and sustainable mobility for adults and children
Interview with Antoņina Ņenaševa, Co-Chair of Progresīvie
With the Latvian parliamentary elections just around the corner what are the Progressives bringing to the table? What is your offer to the Latvian electorate?
We are a party that unites progressive social policies, a strong, zero-tolerance anti-corruption stance and environmental action. We are firmly Pro-European and Pro-democracy. This is the core of our party. However, for the next election, we have three main priorities:
Firstly, an effective and immediate response to the crisis that we expect to occur this autumn and winter. Like many countries, Latvia has been hit by food inflation costs and rising fuel prices. Many expect their heating bills to double or triple once the winter starts. In Latvia, where only a small portion of people have any savings for emergencies, the consequences for such costs can be dire. Our goal is to create effective social safety nets and relief mechanisms, so that those most vulnerable are not left unprotected once the crisis occurs. Latvia was among the states hit hardest by the recession of the late 2000s. This is a legacy that we still feel in our country, and PROGRESĪVIE will not let the state commit the same mistakes again. Naturally, the long-term goal is to work towards energy independence, so that our country does not have to rely on fossil fuels or other imports from authoritarian states.
Secondly, we want to create long-term investments and invest in our population. Public investments to create long-term prosperity, as opposed to relentless privatization of social needs. Education, healthcare and social services have long been neglected in Latvia. Our view is that proper investments in these areas eventually pay for themselves. Better health outcomes, jobs and economies of higher complexity and value, less crime and a happier society.
Thirdly, our goal has always been to work towards a united society. Some Latvian parties tend to brand themselves as "pro-Latvian" or "pro-Latvian-Russian". We do not condone any division among ethnic lines. So our goal is to promote societal cohesion and democracy, to unify our educational system and to prevent discrimination. And to fight for the rights of people that are too often marginalized in our society, such as people with disabilities, women, LGBTQIA+ community and other vulnerable groups.
At the latest EGP Council you became part of the European Green family. Do you consider this an important development in the life of the Progressives? What does it mean for you to be part of the European Green family?
We are thrilled to become a part of the green family. We feel that we share very similar values with EGP, such as the promotion of human rights, anti-corruption stances, and, of course, climate and environment as a top priority. What is especially important is our shared commitment towards a socially just green transition, one that does not adversely impact the working class or disadvantaged groups.
We see this growing relationship as a milestone for PROGRESĪVIE. Our party was founded 5 years ago and ever since we have been in continuous development. In the EGP council we were encouraged and inspired by your support and shared experiences. We hope to bring to the table our Northern Europe perspective, particularly on social issues and territorial security. Of course, this is a topic that has become very prominent over the last few months, given the challenges posed to our continent. So, it is paramount to us to join together with voices that have supported democracy, and environmental and social justice for decades.
What are your political priorities at the European level considering that in two years' time there will be European Parliamentary elections in all EU countries?
As Latvia will have a parliamentary election in 4 months, our attention is most focused on this current challenge, as for now we only have regional representation. However, PROGRESĪVIE can be rather predictable in our commitment to social, green and anti-corruption issues. As such, we would currently expect human rights, economic and climate justice to be among our top priorities in the European Parliamentary election.
We have always believed in stronger cooperation between various member states of the EU, in forging closer ties with our fellow democracies. The pandemic, as well as Putin's war in Ukraine has shown just how important it is for our continent to cooperate and remain united. Therefore, we see our Baltic perspective as particularly important, as it allows us to advocate for the EU's Eastern security and our state's importance in the European project.
And, of course, we look forward to working closely together with EGP on the next European Parliamentary election. And we hope to add to the new green wave in 2024!
One step closer to a fairer, greener and feminist Europe!
With the membership of Åland's Hållbart Initiativ (Sustainable Initiative) and Latvia's Progressives (Progresīvie), we are one step closer to a fairer, greener and feminist Europe. We look forward to working with them to continue the fight for democracy, citizen participation, social and ecological justice, and a green transformation!