At the 35th European Green Party Council held in Riga, Latvia, we elected a new committee. Thomas Waitz was re-elected as Co-Chair, whilst Mélanie Vogel prepares for her first mandate as Co-Chair of the European Greens!
Mélanie Vogel is one of the youngest senators in France, representing the French living abroad, where she sits on the committee for social affairs. She has been a committee member of the European Green Party since 2019. Prior to her Senate mandate, she worked as an advisor for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament in the committee on constitutional affairs. She is an expert on European democracy, rule of law, the future of the European Union, feminism and LGBTI rights.
Thomas Waitz is a Member of the European Parliament from Austria. He is also an organic farmer, forester, and beekeeper. He fights for sustainable agriculture and better animal, climate and environmental protection as well as a peaceful foreign policy.
Mélanie, how has the transition into your new role been?
I'm very happy to be in this position, it's something that is very close to my heart. Working at the European level and not being stuck in the national context is very important. I'm very confident that we have a great team to do the work. We have a very competent, talented, engaged committee with a great energy. We have already had very nice, strategic and political conversations. The diversity of the committee is also a great asset – we have people with different competences: in terms of age, background, gender identity, and more.
How do you see the shifting priorities of the European Greens under your leadership? What is your vision for the Green mission at the European level?
We are headed towards the European elections and getting the European Green Party ready for the campaign. This is an important moment in the history of the Greens - we have more MEPs than ever before, we are in government in more EU countries than ever before, and have more parliamentary representation in EU member states than ever before. Now, we need to show that we are delivering on the solutions that we have committed to and make a difference to people's lives. This comes with new levels of tasks and responsibilities for the European Greens. We also need to adapt the European Greens to grow even more as an organisation, all while not losing what makes us great to begin with, like being well connected to civil society and social movements.
At the last elections, we were still the underdogs asking voters to strengthen a reasonable opposition. In these elections, we are the ones providing society with the solutions of the 21st century. And we're showing how we're doing that in our daily work and in leading governments. Now, we will be asking citizens to vote for a party that is ready to deliver these solutions and is already doing so. And that's a major step ahead.
What are the current political challenges for the Greens?
Climate and environmental policies are heavily challenged at the moment due to the war in Ukraine. Industries in certain sectors are using the opportunity to push back on many Green policies with the argument that the issue of the moment is security. Indeed, with Putin invading Ukraine we have a new security situation which has put into question the post-World War II peace order. But that shouldn't distract us from the mid- and long-term major security questions we are facing, such as food security and energy security, as well as the need to secure people's wellbeing. One of our main tasks as Greens is to link our environment and climate policies to the most relevant social issues of today.
We have the climate crisis, and we have the war in Ukraine, and these crises unfortunately illustrated that we have already correctly identified the issues that we need to solve. We have expressed the need to reorganise our economy and invest more in our public services to avert a health crisis. And we have shown concern about our fossil fuel dependence, being the only political party that never compromised with Putin. Now, we have to implement solutions in a context where the measures are not easy for us because we are facing difficult choices.
We're also witnessing an obvious struggle between democratic and authoritarian forces. This is not just a battle visible in Ukraine, but also a battle that is taking place within other countries. And while most other political groups are more or less siding or starting to get complicit in empowering right-wing politicians, we are the main opponents of authoritarianism. We are the party that offers a clear vote that stands for the exact opposite: for democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and civil liberties.
We also see a dangerous development in the relationship between some political parties and the far right inside of the European Union. In the European Parliament, liberals and conservatives don't have a problem with making deals with the far right anymore – even though the liberals are trying to portray themselves as though they are the ones that have been fighting for our freedoms. What has happened in France with Macron striking deals with the fascists is very dangerous. This is an additional reason why we should take the space of the ones fighting for rule of law and fundamental rights; because we have the feeling most political forces are giving up on social justice. We have always said that there will never be a green transition without social justice. It is clear that security, climate change, and social justice including the energy crisis are interrelated issues. We know that the most vulnerable groups are going to be hit the hardest by the climate crisis. Now we must tackle the social anxieties linked to energy, food and cost of living that is in our societies in this moment and speak to people in a way that resonates with their daily life experience.
Indeed, if you look at Greens in government, they are already implementing social policies that are much further reaching than what the social democrats have ever done.
Following the Green wave, more Green parties find themselves in positions of power taking minority roles within coalition governments. What could be achieved if Greens became the majority?
We have massive opponents, since we are not defending the interests of big business. Some political actors are trying to prevent the Greens from growing too much. They didn't take into consideration however, that people value truth and authenticity. Voters realise that we are doing politics with honesty. What we would do in majorities, would still be to keep finding solutions for the mistakes that have been made by previous governments, and finding pragmatic solutions to the oftentimes complex realities we are working with.
We can already look at the municipalities and big cities where we are the ones governing. At the beginning, we faced a lot of resistance. In France, Green mayors were heavily attacked at first. But now people see that the changes that have been implemented are increasing their quality of life. It's nicer to live in Lyon, or Grenoble or Bordeaux today than it was 5 years ago. No one wants to put cars back in cities or get rid of trees. These Green mayors have been re-elected. I think it is a very good sign that people who have experienced what it is to be governed by Green minded people continue to vote for us again. The successes we have at the local and regional level are very promising.
What are your priorities now that we are approaching the 2024 European Elections?
First, I think there is a big commitment in this new committee to run a full-fledged European campaign: to have a common umbrella through which we campaign across Europe, and profile Green candidates from different countries. One of our priorities is to diversify the representation in the European Parliament. We want to increase the number of member states where Green MEPs are coming from.
In the political sphere, our priority is nothing less than fighting to rescue our planet and providing a decent life for all. That's a big task. But that's what Greens are elected for and what we strive for. The second big challenge is to push back the fascist, extreme nationalist and authoritarian backlash we're witnessing in Europe today. I believe that this is the historical responsibility of the Greens. We need to strengthen democratic participation, transparency, and the rule of law. Finally, we must show that Green solutions consider the daily life problems of citizens and puts them at the centre of the equation.
How will we secure more Green wins at the national, regional and municipal level across Europe, especially considering the crises we face today, such as the COVID-19 crisis, the climate emergency, and the war which is impacting on energy and food?
We will secure more Green wins by networking and increasing knowledge sharing and cooperation. Regions and cities don't need to reinvent the wheel, there's a lot of successful strategies out there. Some are interpreting these crises as a difficult situation for Greens. I don't see it that way. First, the concerns we have been raising about our societies have become even more pressing today. If we talk about food security, we're all there. If we talk about energy security, we're all there. If we talk about social inclusion, we're all there. And if we talk about democracy versus authoritarianism, that's exactly what the Greens have a strong profile on. All these topics are now being debated and will be the top five in the next European elections. And in all these topics, we're credible: we have delivered, we have substantial positions, and we have solutions.
It's true that right now in the public debate, we have the climate crisis, the social crisis, and the democratic crisis. There is also a realisation of the importance of Europe and its values. For us Greens, being European is at the core of our identity. If you look at who we are in the charter of the European Greens, we are answering the challenges that we have today. There are political forces that have minimised climate change for decades, and now we have a situation where the climate emergency is here, and the changes are happening anyways. Now, we need to deal with the reality of the climate crisis. The situation is dramatic, but now it is even more on us to show that we have the political solutions and mobilise as many people as possible to fight together to make a difference. There is a way forward, and for me that way is Green. There is a saying by Murray Bookchin stating that we are facing 'ecology or barbarism', and I think that's where we are. The basic structure of society is in danger. Now is exactly the time to strive for a Green future.
The new committee of the European Greens is now preparing to face the political challenges of the 21st century and getting ready for the 2024 European Elections. With Mélanie Vogel and Thomas Waitz at the helm of our European political party, we will continue to push for a sustainable and just transition for all!
Follow Mélanie Vogel and Thomas Waitz' social media accounts to keep up with their work!
Photographer: (c) Sien Verstraeten / European Greens