MEPs meeting in Strasbourg last week were faced with a series of dramas that directed the flow of traffic of the political conversation. Most notably there was Italy, which installed its new ‘populist’ government and Spain, which saw the ousting of Mariano Rajoy after a no-confidence vote and the swearing in of the socialist Pedro Sanchez.
EU budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger added to the political tension by implying that financial markets would indicate how Italians should vote in the event of upcoming elections. It sparked an immediate political response with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other prominent EU officals distancing themselves from the remarks. In a press release, our co-chairs responded by saying it is “deeply worrisome and has a catastrophic impact on the credibility of the EU Commission" and called for him to step down.
Greens also waved adios to Mariano Rajoy and said ‘SiSePuede’ to political change with the swearing in of Pedro Sánchez. Green MEP Florent Marcellesi said it marked a new era for Spain and was a question of “democratic hygiene” .
Bye bye @marianorajoy! Bye bye @PPopular! Bye bye corrupción del gobierno!— Florent Marcellesi (@fmarcellesi) June 1, 2018
La salida de Rajoy era una cuestión de salud e higiene democrática.
Espero que con #MocionDeCensura se abra una nueva etapa en España y Europa. Hacia más democracia, solidaridad y ecología.
Meanwhile in Strasbourg itself, the Greens notched up a series of important successes. We are pleased to see the Commission is finally taking plastic pollution seriously with the presentation of its plan to cut down on single-use plastics and reduce plastic pollution at sea. The EGP co-chairs reiterated the need to tackle the problem at a European level and in a press release called for a grass-roots movement to clean up our beaches, coastlines and seas on World Cleanup Day on 15 September.
Another topic on the agenda was sustainable finance with the European Parliament voting in favour of an initiative report from Greens/EFA MEP Molly Scott Cato. The report calls on the Commission to lead a multi-stakeholder process to establish, by the end of 2019, a ‘Green Finance Mark’. Cato said that consumers are familiar with ‘fair trade’ and organic labels and this should also be applied to finance. By creating a Green Finance Mark for pensions and investments, she explains, “we can give consumers confidence that their money is being invested in industries that have a future in our sustainable economy."
Green MEP Terry Reintke expressed her support for the European Parliament’s backing of the outcome of trilogy negotiations on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive that should put an end to employers taking advantage of cheap labour sourced from abroad.
Yeeeeeeesssssssssss! An important step against exploitation and for a more social Europe: The revision of posting of workers has been adopted. Go, social Europe!— Terry Reintke (@TerryReintke) May 29, 2018
Under the agreement, workers who provide a service in an EU Member State other than their country of origin will benefit not only from the minimum wage but also from local collective agreements. They shall also be entitled to any travel, accommodation and meals allowances that their colleagues receive. The revisions are expected to enter into force in 2020.
The Common Agricultural Policy was again back on the agenda. The Greens/EFA group has expressed strong concerns with the European Commission’s planned reforms to the policy. Thomas Waitz, the Agricultural Policy Spokesman of the Greens/EFA Group said "The European Commission is looking for savings in the wrong places” and called for a “shift away from industrial scale agriculture and support instead for smaller and more sustainable farms.”
Proceedings were framed by a Future of Europe speech by Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel as part of a series of interventions by European leaders. Bettel warned of the consequences of Brexit resulting in people fearing that the EU is not there for them or does not care. He reiterated the need to build a strong social Europe and explain why the EU still matters.
The Greens/EFA group co-president Philippe Lamberts praised Luxembourg's contribution to the European project but criticised opposition to any form of tax harmonisation.
"Luxembourg's opposition to any form of tax harmonisation is unworthy of a country that claims to defend the European project," says our co-president @ph_lamberts to Luxembourg PM @Xavier_Bettel #FutureOfEurope pic.twitter.com/HQeMGfTOkT— Greens in the EP (@GreensEP) May 30, 2018
Another topic that got temperatures rising in the hemicycle was the decision by the US to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on EU exports to the US. In a press release the EGP co-chairs said the move was a “disregard for long-standing partnership built up among allies" and would ultimately backfire on US interests. They said Europe should actively seek stronger cooperation with other parties concerned by unilateral US actions in defense of the multi-lateral global trade order such as Mexico, Canada, South Korea or Japan."
The next plenary is set to take place between 11-14 June and will include a Future of Europe speech by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.