This spring in Madrid, the European family of Green Parties formally decided to organize an EU-wide primary. All citizens of the European Union – aged sixteen and over – who share and support the values and combat of the Greens will be able to participate. The objective is to elect two people to take on the delicate task of embodying those very values and of ensuring that the policy proposals that stem from them are firmly a part ofthe European debate. Moreover, while making no illusion about the balance of political forces in Europe, they should also be the Greens’ candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission – should the question arise.
This audacious and pioneering initiative is yet another illustration of the Greens’ political inventiveness and will to lead the “battle of the practices” in an attempt to move forward our somewhat fatigued democracies. Inspired by Portuguese MEP Rui Tavares’s (Greens-EFA) Democratic Pact, the Citizen Primary has already begun to influence the other political groups. Indeed, they have all indicated that they will each put forth their own candidate to the European Commission.
Will 2014 mark the end to the diplomatic maneuvering and horse-trading amongst Member States that has thus far been the modus operandi in appointing the President of the European Executive ?
More importantly, will we finally be able to have a debate on the substance of the issues that will guide European politics and policies over the coming years, and choose amongst ardent nationalism, liberal-conservatism, social-democratic conservatism and the Green alternative ? It is an historic occasion to involve Europeans in defining their Europe. It is a major step in the long and winding path to building a political Europe, one that has garnered responsibility despite its technocratic tendencies ; has been legitimized despite the reluctance of the States ; and has been mobilized despite the increasing skepticism of its citizens. We need a legitimate and democratic political Europe to claw back from nationalistic temptations the amazing project that is the construction of an area of peace, freedom and prosperity out of the ruins of the past horror of a continent divided and at war. Yet, perhaps more importantly, we need a Europe that can act. We need a continent-wide public power that can give the necessary political responses to the crises that are shaking the foundations of our societies. But, the only action that counts is that which rekindles hope. At a time when entire societies, especially on the periphery, have been brought to the brink, when unemployment is on the rise throughout the E.U., especially amongst our youth, when public finances are under heightened pressure, the majority of European citizens are overcome with a feeling of despair and fear for thefuture.
Taming the financial markets, committing to the energy transition, fighting climate change, tirelessly defending our freedoms, transforming our agriculture, and establishing true solidarity amongst citizens of Europe are the issues that form our platform and that will mean that citizens will reclaim their sovereignty. That is our idea of “Federal Europe.” This century’s challenges are global, whether in the area of climate change or nuclear energy, development or common goods, poverty or education, human rights or nature’s rights. No State, no matter how illustrious its past, can go it alone. We are all tired of the circus of summits in Brussels or elsewhere. Watching members of governments unable to cope and prisoners to their own national short-sidedness has lost any comedic value. This “intergovernmental system” in which the Barroso Commission and the Member States have been dealing for far too long is an eloquent illustration of their impotence in the face of crises after crises and of their collusion with the interest groups. We must place the “general interest” back at the heart of all European policies. The time has come to make a choice. We can choose the weary model that advocates for growth and the vested interests ; or the model of nationalism and defense of sovereignty that drove Europe to its historical divisions. As European Greens, it is our duty to offer citizens an alternative that makes a clean break with the past. Multinationals, tax havens, financial markets, mafia triads…when the powers-that-be play the borders, it is necessary to rise to their level and employ the mobilization of transnational countervailing powers.
Trade Unions, political parties, associations, and citizen groups : the future of our struggle and the power of our leverage lie firmly outside of our national borders. Under the burden of the crisis, our societies are caving to national sentiment and the fear of anything foreign. This populism is rampant both on the right and on the left because when the going gets tough the people turn on each other. Recently, we have witnessed the reappearance of worrying stereotypes in the German press and alarming events in Greece.
The European Greens draw on the vitality of the movement to find the energy needed to combat this resurgence of the dark side of Europe. By building a transnational democracy and by transcending the conventions of our national political culture we are able to find what best resembles us. That is the spirit of the European project that motivates me and I would be honored to bring it to the public debate if the European Greens should place their trust in me. This Primary is but one modest stride in the path to European democracy. But long marches always start with a first step.