Equal Voting Rights and Procedures for all EU Citizens in EP elections

Our friends from the ‘European Citizens Abroad’ network have launched a petition to demand equal rights for EU citizens to vote in the European Parliament (EP) election, very much in line with European Greens in London recent campaigning work. Find the petition here and the text below.

Equal voting rights

An Irish citizen who lives in The Netherlands cannot vote for Irish Members of European Parliament (MEPs), while a Danish citizen can vote for his country’s constituency even if he resides in another EU member state. However, a Danish citizen living in the US cannot vote at all, while a French citizen can. Some can only use postal voting, some can only vote at diplomatic posts (sometimes very far away), others enjoy both, and sometimes proxy voting or even e-voting (only in Estonia).

While a short list of common provisions have to be observed by all, such as proportional representation, voters in some member states can only vote for a list in order of candidates pre-determined by the corresponding political party (closed list), while others can change the order of candidates on the list to choose to prioritize the ones that they believe are more qualified (preferential vote with varying degrees of liberty).

National electoral law determines voting rights and procedures, but now is the time to stop hiding behind constitutional or legal complexities, and take a step forward with our democracy in Europe.

MEPs are the only directly elected representatives of the European, and we need them to be elected by and represent all EU citizens.

We need Equal Voting Rights and Procedures for all EU Citizens in EP elections !

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Give Greece a chance

European Greens in London has recently become a signatory of the Alter-Summit manifesto in support of Greece. Read the full version below.

For a democracy from below, let’s fight austerity everywhere.

I. Brief analysis

1. The Syriza government coming into office has a double significance:

 In Greece, it is a matter of responding to humanitarian emergencies, restoring social rights and starting to rebuild a destroyed and/or privatised production apparatus.

 In Europe, it concerns breaking with the pro-austerity unanimity and the hegemony of the German government´s ordoliberalism over the euro zone.

2. Those two challenges are not to be confused, however each one constitutes a necessary condition for the other, even if not sufficient: a defeat of one of the two plans would almost necessarily imply a powerlessness over the other. On the contrary, a victory in national issues would boost social movements across Europe.

3. In the conflict regarding the interpretation of what is happening to us, the priority is to present the conflict not as national (“Europe against Greece”) but as social and political: on one side, the interests of the working class and their families, and on the other side, the interests of financiers, banks and large corporations represented by neoliberal governments and European institutions.

4. A political and social commitment of many movements and citizens is possible and necessary. Regarding the political conflict at European level that is unfolding at the moment, the resistance, even coming from a single country, is the first step towards a break with austerity. No one is doubting that this first battle would be the beginning of a protracted confrontation. Indeed, the Greek government is currently the only one to express an alternative and its projects are subject to a very strong generalised adversity. A concrete solidarity with the Greek people and its organizations is justified in two ways:

 It is a simple act of solidarity with comrades in struggle and with organizations that we have been supporting for a long time.

 A success of the Greek government to respond to those internal emergencies would strengthen its capacity for  action at European level and it would open prospects of change elsewhere in Europe.

II. Our position

Alter Summit is a European network of unions and social movements which struggle together against austerity and for a social, ecological, feminist and democratic Europe. Our vision for the future of Europe is expressed in our Athens Manifesto as such:

1. We defend the Greek people and its democratic decision to opt for the Thessalonica programme and to reject the austerity and the Troika.

2. We will continue to support Greek social movements and trade unions both in their political struggle against austerity and their concrete actions of solidarity.

3. We support the Greek government’s decisions aiming to battle austerity and the antidemocratic interference of the ECB, the European Commission and the European and EcoFin Councils.

4. We call national, regional and local governments and political representatives to defend a vision of society in accordance with the Athens Manifesto.

5. We call on the members of the European Parliament and the governments of the MemberStates of the EU, as well as the regions and local authorities to support the right of the Greek government to carry out the programme on which it was elected and to reject all forms of pressures and obstacles to their freedom of action.

6. We will continue throughout Europe to support and organize struggles against austerity and for democracy while maintaining the awareness that the change in Greece is not a threat, but an opportunity for all of us.

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MEPs must protect public from EU-US trade deal threat

As the European Parliament drafts its opinion on the controversial TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) talks, 375 civil society organisations from across Europe, including European Greens in London, have called on EU decision-makers to protect citizens, workers, and the environment from the threats it poses. In an open letter sent to MEPs today groups – including trade unions, consumer, environmental, and civil rights organisations – from 25 countries, warn that TTIP could constrain democratic decision-making by strengthening the influence of big business and undermining public services, the protection of public health, the environment, food and workers’ rights.

Pia Eberhardt of lobby-watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory said: “TTIP is an attempted corporate coup d’etat where big business on both sides of the Atlantic are trying to achieve in secret negotiations what it could not get in open and democratic processes – from watering down food safety standards to rolling back regulations in the financial sector.”

The call comes as European Parliament committees are discussing a draft resolution on the TTIP negotiations to be voted upon in May. It will not be legally binding on negotiators, but will be a significant political signal as any final TTIP deal would have to pass a vote in the European Parliament. Paul de Clerk of Europe’s largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “TTIP is like a Trojan horse. In the end we find out that it results in lower food, environmental, labour standards and the sacrificing of democratic rights for corporate interests. MEPs have to clearly reject the dangerous provisions in TTIP, such as giving corporations vast new powers to sue governments in corporate biased tribunals and regulatory cooperation as the ultimate tool for business lobby groups to stop new regulation.”

Key demands in the open letter to MEPs include to the rejection of so-called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and a regulatory cooperation council in TTIP, as well as a call to oppose the lowering of standards and for the publication of all negotiation texts. Resistance against TTIP has grown rapidly across Europe in recent months.

More than 1.5 million people have signed a self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative calling on EU decision-makers to stop the TTIP negotiations and to not ratify the EUCanada trade deal CETA. Erich Foglar of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) said: “Trade unions will not support trade deals that lead to job losses, increase inequalities and undermine democracy. But the negotiation texts and independent studies we see, show that this is exactly what TTIP is about. What we need is a trade policy which respects democracy, helps generate decent jobs and enhances workers’ rights.”

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EP hearing on End Ecocide petition

While the one million signatures target hasn’t been achieved yet, which means the petition couldn’t be handed as an ECI, the 182,000 citizens behind the campaign have gathered enough leverage to have the European Parliament convene a hearing.

It took place last Thursday 26th February (right after another hearing on a revision of the ECI workings). This makes the End Ecocide ECI the first which didn’t collect one million signatures but still discussed in the European Parliament. The historic hearing is another step in the right direction for the End Ecocide campaign, which European Greens in London will continue to support and work on!

See the full video of the hearing here

End Ecocide EP Hearing

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In support of a better ECI

European Greens in London have long supported tools that build direct democracy, particularly if they promote transnational democracy. That’s why we’ve always been excited and promotional of the European Citizens Initiative (ECI). However, after the attempt of the ‘Stop TTIP’ coalition, of which we are active part, to make use of this instrument, we became disillusioned with the various obstacles, and final decline, of the European Commission to approve the collection of signatures around an issue as fundamental to European Union politics as it is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agrement.

For this reason today we are behind the movement that demands a better ECI: one that has put together a series of recommendations based on learning from the first two years of existence of this initiative. 

Discussions today at the European Parliament can be followed here or through the hashtag . See you in the twitter sphere!

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An update – Vote Denied Campaign

As soon as polls closed on 22 May 2014, it became clear that many EU citizens in the UK and across Europe had been unable to vote in the European elections. A coalition of groups and individuals, including European Greens in London and Migrantes Unidos, worked to raise this issue with the media and relevant policy-makers. There’s been some progress over the past months – here is what has happened.

First steps: official and media reports

The coalition that brought together in the #voteDenied campaign, managed to get the UK Electoral Commission to admit that there were problems in the European Parliament elections in the UK (read more about it on the Electoral Commission Report).

“On polling day we received 74 enquiries from citizens EU member states complaining that they had gone to their local polling station and found that they were able to vote in their local election but not the European Parliament election.
Since polling day we have also heard from a number of organisations representing the interests of citizens of other EU member states in the UK, including Migrants United and New Europeans, who have collected information from people affected by similar problems.

Citizens of other EU member states who are resident and registered to vote in the UK have a choice of voting at European Parliament elections in either their home country or the UK. If they wish to vote in a European Parliament election in the UK they must complete a separate declaration stating that they will not vote in their home country.

The ERO mark sthe register used for the European Parliament elections to make clear that only those who have completed this declaration are entitled to be issued with a ballot paper. Those who did not complete the declaration were still entitled to vote in any local government elections which were held on the same day.”

Launching our own investigation

In the UK, about 1 million European citizens, 74.3 % of the total 1,450,433 were considered as non-eligible to vote. Our own research, using data from London Boroughs’ Councils, substantiates our estimate that about 120,000  potential voters were actually prevented from voting at British polling stations.

Next steps

We have agreed with the Electoral Commission to work on solving this problem at its source and we are looking into meeting with the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the Parliament, and the Law Commission to discuss this issue.

One of us, Christian Heischt, has filed a petition regarding this problem with both the European Commission and the European Parliament. The European Commission  has replied that

“The Commission has therefore contacted the UK authorities to obtain clarifications on the problems reported as regards the participation of EU citizens in the 2014 EP elections”.

However, no answer has been received from the European Parliament as of the date of this blog post.

Our recommendations

You can find all the recommendations to the Electoral Commission in the DeniedtheVote.org site. The most important are:

– Registration on the electoral roll should be simplified and harmonised by removing the current two-step process compulsory for some UK residents.

– No person should be removed from the electoral register unless they request to be removed or their circumstances change considerably, e.g. because they moved abroad.

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Searching for socio-ecological and socio economic transformation

A feminist perspective on the Fourth Degrowth Conference in Leipzing (Germany)

In September 2014, 3000 people gathered for the Fourth Degrowth Conference in Germany.

In Europe the analysis of the multidimensional crises has reloaded discourses about a paradigm shift to overcome the hegemonic growth-led economic model. This discourse is actually in its third wave: the first one emerged in 1972 with concepts such as ‘steady state’; in 1990s, the suficiency economy and the subsistence perspective drew similar critiques. The present discourses on degrowth and post-growth are responses to ‘green economy’ concepts.

As the economisation of untapped natural and social resources, and further liberalisation of access to and trade in resources cannot solve the systemic crises, ecologists highlight once again the limits of growth, the peak oil, peak water, and peak land, and the loss of biodiversity and climate change.

Sustainable degrowth may be defined as an equitable down-scaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions at the local and global levels, in the short and long term.

In her short paper, ‘A feminist perspective on the Fourth Degrowth Conference’, Christa Wichterich, an active member of Women in Development Europe +, offers her views on the achievements and challenges of the Leipzig Conference and provides excellent information and commentary on the evolution, significance and reach of degrowth as an alternative paradigm.

Read the paper here. 

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Tell the EU that nature is not for sale

Biodiversity offsetting creates additional pressure on biodiversity becausee it gives contentious development green credentials. Biodiversity offsets have already facilitated approval of development proposals on ancient woodland, high value grasslands and areas that local communities enjoy.Biodiversity offsetting commodifies nature and sends out a dangerous message that nature is replaceable.

Watch this mockumentary about biodiversity off-setting by one of the participants in our ‘Europe for All, by All’ project and sign this letter to the European Commission please! http://naturenotforsale.org/letter2EU/

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Join us on Sunday 21 September for the biggest roar against climate change!

The World Leaders’ Climate Summit in New York this September will be a key moment in the fight against climate change. The march organised in New York aims to be the biggest climate demonstration the US has ever seen, and over 900 solidarity events are planned globally on the same weekend.

In the UK, the Campaign against Climate Change, Avaaz, 350.org, UKYCC, People & Planet, Operation Noah, Wake Up London, Oxfam, Art Not Oil, BP or not BP, CAFOD, UCL Students’ Union, Greenpeace UK, Rising Tide and more are helping to organise the People’s Climate March in London.

European Greens in London will of course be marching on the day. If you’d like to come check this page for more details. Even better, if you think you can lend a very needed hand as a steward please email fatima@avaaz.org. No experience needed!

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Reflecting on Join the Vote campaign

In April 2014 a bunch of European Greens in London members  took part in the Join the Vote action, registering thousands of people to vote in the European Parliament elections.

38 Degrees have now shared feedback on the action and, while it is hard to be precise, from what volunteers reported it looks like Join the Vote registered around 20,000 people.

There are a couple of really impressive things about this figure. In recent elections the Electoral Commission have spent around £25 for every new person they registered – Join the Vote cost just £1.92 per person. [1] And, unlike electoral officers who know which houses aren’t registered, we couldn’t get the data in time so we had to knock on every house to check if our neighbours were registered or not. Next time round, 38 Degrees says, we will make sure this information is available and easy to use.

European Greens in London aimed at and made an effort to reach out for non-UK European residents. Thanks so all of those that were involved. We will take to the streets again soon!

[1] They work for you: Electoral register:
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2014-03-17b.187332.h&s=%22cost+per+registration%22#g187332.r0

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