Dear friends, dear campaigners, dear activists, dear government members, dear out of parliament opposition, dear friends on the Euromaidan, dear Europeans!
It’s a great joy and honour for me to launch the European campaign together with you, and it's a great honour to address you today as one of your two leading candidates for the European election.
A tough, but very exciting challenge lies ahead of us. We’re used to fighting climate change when it’s about global warming. Climate change is causing major catastrophies, as flooded Great Britain and French Bretagne can bitterly testify, overwhelmed by the waves and storms.
But our political climate in Europe is also changing. And not for the better. The feeling towards the European project is cooling down, as criticism of the European Union are rising. Some of it is very justified, some is plainly populism. These storms are fuelled with anger and resentment. They come from the European countries that are badly hit by the crisis and that experience devastating social and economic damages. They come as well from the other side, where the sense of solidarity that founded our European Community is now in danger.
We know it. The forthcoming elections will be fought on more than just achievements and policy. It will be a battle of conflicting ideas of how we want to live together in Europe. A battle to reignite the European spirit. A battle on solidarity and European togetherness. And who better than us, who better than the Greens, can claim to be fit for that fight? Because we care for Europe, because we believe in the idea of Europe, because we think Europe can learn from its failures.
AND THAT’S WHY, DEAR GREEN FRIENDS, WE WANT TO CHANGE EUROPE FOR THE BETTER. LET’S TURN THE STORMS INTO A WIND OF GREEN CHANGE.
Some say Europe is nothing more than a bureaucracy these days. Some say, sure, there was the peace process after the second world war and yes, for tearing down the iron curtain the EU was good. But what does that mean nowadays?
What does this mean when the main concern of the European Commission seems to be regulating olive oil jugs and vacuum cleaners? What does this mean when European democracy is about fewer and fewer people going to vote every 5 years? What does it mean when basic rights of Europeans to travel and work are being questioned?
I tell you, it still means a lot for people.
It means a lot for people who have experienced war and division. It means a lot to me because I grew up at the Polish-German border and I saw how Europe can overcome borders. And that is still relevant. And this fight for freedom and peace has to continue.
For the people in Ukraine, Europe stands for freedom, justice and the rule of law. It stands for democracy. It stands for fairness, for making your voice heard, for being listened to. It stands for a better future. I don’t need to remind you: people are dying for the dream of Europe today. They are risking their lives and facing snipers because they believe in freedom, human rights and democracy.
Let us not forget, freedom, democracy and human rights are vital for human life. They are vital for a society. They are key parts of peace and justice, not just accessories. Let us keep this in mind, when we do politics, when we go out campaigning. THESE VALUES ARE GREEN VALUES AND WE HAVE TO TELL THE PEOPLE THAT WE ARE THEIR PARTNERS FOR IMPLEMENTING THESE VALUES.
Let us keep this in mind when we change Europe to become a hope again not just for people outside, but also for the people inside. Let us make sure that Europe is not just the idea of freedom and democracy, but that it is reality. Let us change Europe to be an idea worth fighting for.
Changing Europe, that’s what we’re here for. Changing Europe is what we need to do if we really care about it. And we do care. We do care about how nature is treated, we do care about whether people have a perspective and hope for their lives, we care about people who have to flee from oppression, we care about our climate and the environment that we leave for the next generations.
We Greens work every day to change Europe into a more sustainable, a more just place. We do that from the grassroots level, in the communities, in the regions and in the member states and in Europe. Because only if we have strong and active greens in the communes, in the regions, in the countries; only then can we have a better Europe. And only when we get it right at the European level will we make sure that we green our communities and regions.
And we have a lot of things to do, a lot of things need changing!
Let’s look at the Europe of today:
26 million people are unemployed. 26 million, that’s more or less as many as people living in Belgium, the Czech Republic and Finland combined!
Youth unemployment is up to 60 per cent in Spain and Greece – 2 out of 3 young jobseekers can’t find work! Imagine what that means for a society, for a generation, imagine what it also does to labour rights, when all your peers are unemployed. We have to wake up, dear friends. We want our future back.
And then look at the European Commission. Instead of doing their job and pressuring member states to finally implement the youth guarantee, this Commission goes around saying that the young people should try harder, learn more, get their act together! That is just shameless! Cameron told young people to go to school, get an apprenticeship and get a job. What world does he live he in?
Where are the apprenticeships that he says people should take? Where are the jobs that he claims young people are not interested in? Where are they? What is going to create them? More austerity? More cuts? More of the Troika? Certainly not! Unemployment is not only a problem for individuals, it’s a problem for the whole of society! It’s a collective challenge. And I tell you, it’s a problem for the whole of the EU, a problem that we need to fight together! We need to create the jobs of the new generation, the jobs that will still be around in the next 20 years; decent jobs of good quality, not exploitation. DEAR FRIENDS, WE GREENS WANT JOBS THAT ARE SUSTAINABLE FOR THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PLANET.
And where do we get those jobs from? Not from trading away our environmental standards in shady trade deals, not being led like lemmings by growth figures! We get them from investment in the green economy, into the things that we really need in society: Renewables, energy efficiency, education, health care, that’s where the jobs of the future are hidden, that’s where we create real value for society!
And we have the proposals for that. With our concepts on energy transition and on sustainable farming millions of jobs, of local and sustainable jobs are at hand.
And on the Emission Trading System, we also witnessed how wanna-be business parties like conservative and Liberal MEPs voted against innovative businesses and incentives to fight climate change, regardless of the thousands of jobs at stake. Is that their business model for Europe? THEY SHOULD GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND FINALLY LEARN HOW THE ECONOMY WORKS!
These same parties yield to the Council and Commission and vote for a shocking reduction of the European next budget framework. They say Member states reduce investment, and so must the EU. What a self-defeating approach!
And here, I have a special message for my opponents Martin Schulz and Guy Verhofstadt. Remember, when you were boasting about the Parliament’s resistance to the budget deal in the beginning of 2013? We knew of course that the EPP would eventually cave-in – they always do. But we almost believed you when you said repeatedly the proposal was unacceptable. Your endorsement of this retrograde and reduced budget in November shows you care more about your personal ambitions than you care about Europe. We don’t need your ambition. We need social justice.
We Greens cannot and we shall not accept that people are thrown out of their houses in Spain; that people are deprived of medical care in Greece, that EU citizens live in tents in winter like some have to do in Sweden! Look at Greece: 26% of its people are out of work, 3.4 million are below the poverty line and we witness the tragic consequences of austerity policies on public health, housing and education every day. Behind those abstract figures lie the sick who are no longer cared for, the ever-increasing numbers of homeless people, teachers who are no longer paid, families in poverty and retired people in distress!
This is a nightmare. It’s time for the EU to wake up, to realise the European dream. For that, we need to real about social rights! Solidarity and social justice are the future! Solidarity and social justice is what we fight for!
And you know what, for me those words are part of the key green message. Because I cannot think of social justice without thinking of climate justice, of how poor people pay the biggest part of the subsidies that go to fossil fuels, about how good nature is part of a good life. I cannot think of solidarity without thinking of solidarity with people in the global south and future generations. There is no planet B, we need to take care of the planet that we have, we have to stop the destruction of nature and the collapse of the climate! And then some say let's leave climate behind, now we focus on the economy. Those people don’t understand a thing! The economy cannot go anywhere against climate and environment! We are the ones who know that nature and economy must go hand in hand to be sustainable, in order to work for the people! That's where the jobs come from!
And what issues are more European than the protection of the environment and climate. Because, clearly, no nation can do it alone. So, where is the EU, where is this Commission when it comes to climate, when it comes to protecting rivers, ecosystems, biodiversity? This Commission is nowhere to be seen here! The climate targets are only targets to allow member states and companies to pollute as much as they want.
SERIOUSLY, MR BARROSSO, YOUR CLIMATE TARGETS ARE NOTHING BUT A LICENSE TO POLLUTE!
The next elections will be a vote on whether we allow this destruction of all of our future to go ahead; it’s a vote on whether we want to be climate cowards or climate heroes! A vote for the Greens is a vote for climate justice, for a sound environment, for green jobs and fair energy!
The next elections will also be about whether there will be a fortress Europe or an open Europe. Thousands of people are dying every year wanting to reach European shores. Almost 400 died in October at Lampedusa. 20 died in Ceuta last week. And those dead bodies on the bottom of the Mediterranean, those are people that are fleeing from oppression, from war, from persecution. Won’t we give them the protection they need? They are fleeing because the global north has been destroying the climate. Because EU trade policy undermines people’s right to develop, because the EU fisheries policy takes away their very means of subsistence. And if people manage to get here, it’s sheer luck whether they can stay. If you are a Syrian refugee you obviously have good reasons to flee. And as Syrian refugee in Sweden, you will therefore get a residence permit. And in Germany, by far most Syrians are recognized as refugees. But, since most refugees don’t exactly fly in business class to Frankfurt or Stockholm but have to take the difficult and dangerous route over land and water. If they end up in Greece, the same refugees from the same war-torn Syria will have no chance whatsoever for getting asylum. And if they end up in Italy they have to sleep on the streets. This is not a common asylum system, the only thing that’s common here is the lack of solidarity between member states and with refugees!
But we are not just going to stand by and watch how refugees and migrants are being pushed-back. For us Greens, fairness and solidarity don’t stop at borders. For us Greens, fairness and solidarity also means giving a safe haven to people in need!
I think it’s time we stopped spending hundreds of millions of Euros in heart beat detectors, drones and satellites to stop migrants! It’s time that we get rid of the prisons for asylum seekers! It’s time to the death toll in the Mediterranean! It's high time to change Europe; It’s time to tear down the walls!
And look at the Commission: are they standing up for our rights? Are they fighting for the climate? Are they really pursuing the “European general interest” as written in the Treaty? Clearly, they are not. Instead they are trading away the rights of citizens and consumers in shady trade agreements. They’re trading away our right to decide what we eat, our right to decide our laws. They will even allow companies to sue EU and member states over fracking and cigarette packaging. BUT, DEAR FRIENDS, WE WON’T LET THAT PASS UNNOTICED. WE’LL FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS!
We will fight and we are fighting together with the citizens of Europe, with civil society for our rights and for our future! We are the ones to put people before banks and social justice before private profit!
22nd to 25th of May, those will be the days to decide which way the European Union will go. And it makes a huge difference, which parties will gain.
The EPP has no interest in a social Europe. They are praying to the gods of growth, sacrificeing European values to earn their mercy. But should the environment, our social standards, entire countries from Ireland to Portugal, the European youth and the European spirit, all sacrificed to growth statistics and private profit? Clearly, the EPP is the parliamentary arm of the industry lobby and I think we have enough of those already!
The social democrats are the party of missed opportunity. How often did they agree with us at the beginning of a legislative process, just to change their mind at the slightest pressure from their governments. Never forget how they were allies in cutting the budget and green investments!
And with Schulz they have a candidate who doesn’t even know how to separate his party political campaign and personal interest from his job as president of the parliament! How is he going to manage conflicts of interest as Commission president then?
You what really shocked me in the past five years? It’s how democracy and human rights are ignored in the fight between the big political groups.
Take Hungary. In all the debate on democracy, freedom of the press, minority rights, the EPP was protecting their party ally Orban. We even heard from EPP members that they weren’t too happy with this but the leadership decided, party comes first, human rights second.
And in Romania, when people were out in the streets fighting for their rights and their environment, in Punghesti against Chevron and fracking, in Rosia Montant against cyanide mining, it was the social democrats who backed the their pals, no matter how corrupt, no matter how dirty they were! DEAR FRIENDS, THE NEXT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT NEEDS A STRONG GREEN VOICE TO PUT HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY FIRST!
We Greens, we think different! For us human rights, the rights of minorities, and democracy are not just hollow words. They have a meaning. They are worth fighting for. And they matter more than party allies!
The Liberals then are a bit of a historical paradox. They still haven’t realised that any liberal ideals they had, have been completely perverted and swallowed by neoliberal ideology. They are stuck in the solutions and analysis of the 70s and 80s, still believing that the market will solve everything. Get real, liberals, your time is over!
Freedom and liberty are not just about freedom of big business, freedom cannot just be freedom YOUR supporters! The freedom that we Greens fight for is for everybody!
The Left Parties. Nice try, but you know: just being against everything doesn’t change a thing. And I’m not sure they want to change things in the future. How else are we supposed to interpret that their top candidate is not even running for elections? Campaigning yes, work no? I think that’s simply not enough.
And there are also others, who are trying to threaten the European construction. Who are trying to fish for votes by offering easy solutions and blaming everything on the EU. Let’s be very clear about this: right wing extremists and right wing populists are not only attacking foreigners and minorities – they are attacking all of us! They are attacking freedom and democracy. But we shall not let them pass! There is no space for racism, there is no space for anti-Semitism and homophobia, not in the member states and not in Europe! Our weapons against the right-wingers are our true belief in our values, our clear alternatives for a better Europe, our strong stance for human rights. Those are our weapons and we’re not afraid to use them!
It will need us to stop them. It will need us, us Greens with our values based on solidarity, ecology and human rights. It will need us Greens to change Europe, to get Europe on the right track.
This is an uphill battle, we all know it. But look.
Look at what our green group has achieved over the past 5 years! We have managed to push through the energy efficiency directive. We have put fishing quotas on an scientific basis for the first time, instead of basing the quota on how they always have been. With the massive mobilisation of the European civil society we managed to stop ACTA and SWIFT. WE have put more human rights conditionality into Frontex. We pushed for the Youth guarantee, on water privatisation and on European banking supervision.
We Greens make a difference. We have achieved all of this even though we’re only 7% of this Parliament Every single green member of European Parliament makes an amazing difference. So let’s try to get lots of them into the European Parliament! Imagine what difference they will make!
And it is possible! Look at Sweden, where we might get 3 MEPs instead of 2. Look at UK where we might even double our MEPs! Look at the polls in Austria which sees us at an incredible 14 per cent!
Some people then say but what about France and Germany, if the Greens are doing badly there, then the whole group will do badly. Well, in Germany, we’re back at the levels of the last EU elections.
In France, we’re at 8%. But as Jose would remind you if he wasn’t out leading a protest right now: 5 years ago, 3 months before the elections, the French Greens were at 8 per cent as well. Et voila, 3 mois plus tard, at the elections, 16 per cent!
Dear Jose, Eva, Karima, Clarisse, Yannick, Pascal, Sandrine, Michele, I have just a tiny little request for you: do it one more time!
We’re only at the beginning of the campaign now. Let’s not confuse polls with election day. We Greens, we believe in our ideas. We’re not just shouting empty slogans, we’re here to change Europe. We’re driven by an urge to tackle injustice, we’re standing to change things for the better!
And we already got started. We’re ready for battle. We have mobilized already during the primary. And I want to thank every one of you for doing your part in this, especially my co-contenders. Monica, who was speaking earlier and who is trying to raise votes for the Greens in Italy. Rebecca, who can't be here because she's standing together with the people at the Euromaidan. Thank you very much and thanks to all of you for the great campaign!
But the primary was just the warm up. Now we're ready for the marathon. We know how to do it. Schulz, Juncker, Verhofstadt are yesterday’s men. Today’s Europe needs Green ideas and Green answers. We know it needs us, every single one of us.
And yes, we’re campaigning to get as many green MEPs as possible. But we’re also campaigning because we believe in what we do. We campaign because we know that caring for Europe means changing it. We campaign because we know that together, as a green European family, we are strong. We are a patch-work family with rebellious teenage kids, grandparents telling about our founding days, an uncle overseas, siblings all over the continent and very exhausting family reunions. And yes, at times it's messy. And yes, we might differ occasionally. But in the end, we stick together.
We are a family because we have the same urge to change. Because we believe we can do it better together. And when we’re building Europe together, we’re also building our family and growing. Because WE ARE EUROPE!
Let’s go out to the streets, to the market places; let’s go out to where the people are, let’s carry our ideas and our hearts to our friends, to our neighbours, to passers-by, to the citizens of Europe and to those who would like to be citizens of Europe.
Let’s campaign for putting the green into the economy, for social justice and a better future, for climate targets that deserve their name! Let’s say no to fortress Europe, no to selling off our standards! We can do it, we have to do it! Because we are Europe! Europe is what we make of it! If not us, then who?
DEAR FRIENDS, LET’S GO OUT AND FIGHT, LET’S CHANGE EUROPE!