In February the European Green Party convened in Brussels to discuss the Green manifesto for the European Elections in May 2014. Two participants report on the discussion and dynamics of the weekend.
This Electoral convention was characterised by a will to turn out a manifesto that all can agree upon and that makes all member parties proud. There was an exciting, cooperative buzz to the whole weekend, which came to a head on the morning of Saturday, February 22nd, when the assembled delegates voted in the third draft of the proposed manifesto.
Many of the delegates present had spent the previous afternoon and evening working on amendments: proposing compromises, voting, redrafting, re-proposing and re-voting. Draft 2 was a 40 page document, not counting a separate document on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which has been causing much anxious debate amongst all those wishing to protect European trade and health standards from aggressive corporate policies. The debates lasted, all told, from mid-afternoon until nearly midnight. At about 10 pmReinhardt Buetikofer (co-chair of the EGP) began to pointedly remind his fellow delegates that concord was essential to passing a strong manifesto, and his persistence paid off: the next morning’s assembly unanimously passed the final, third draft.
It was a fine moment, more stirring than I could have guessed. I’d expected meetings dominated by a sense of administrative necessity, the formalisation of decisions already taken in long, exclusive meetings. But the intellectual and political engagement of these conference delegates was genuine: they had read the drafts, discussed the amendments, and come together from all the far-flung corners of Europe prepared to whittle down any clauses they found wanting.
One of the few amendments left to Saturday’s vote was a proposal to switch chapter one, on the Green New Deal with chapter 2, One Planet, Our Home! The proposal was to put the ecological chapter first, as this is a flag ship section of the manifesto that every national Green Party can uphold with equal conviction. The vote on this proposal was close, but it was rejected in favour of keeping the Green New Deal section foremost in the manifesto, where it would be noted by casual readers as well as more serious students of policy. This year’s voters need to know that their Green Party has a strategy in place for dealing with the economic disasters overtaking nations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, and to a much lesser extent the UK and other European nations. The Green Party is known as the party with an ecological agenda, it now needs to strengthen its political and economic credentials. So the Green New Deal was left in its place.
That afternoon, the voting completed, there were speeches and commemorative presentations. Monica Frassoni, co-chair of the EGP, hosted an impressive selection of speakers, and then Reinhardt Butikofer, also co-chair, presented the Common Campaign. Ska Keller, who was voted first choice in the preliminaries, was present in the hall and spoke to the convention. Jose Bove spoke via Skype from a demonstration in Nantes against a new airport, giving us a brief glimpse of some lively French political action.
A good political convention needs a great party and after the debates and speeches came the dinner followed by a documentary on Ulisses, an economical regeneration project from Southern Europe and then, finally, a dance led by Klavan Gadje, a band making loud Balkan-style Ska sung joyously in Flemish. We bounced and we swung, and some of us fit country dance steps to it all. And we hit great big balloons across the room. It was very silly, and lots of fun, and it was well-deserved after the seriousness of getting out a united manifesto.
And now the campaign for our Green Manifesto has begun. May 22nd to 25th almost 400 million Europeans are invited to vote in their European Parliament. There has been much criticism of the institution, in the UK as in other European nations, so this is our chance to examine our options and choose the party that commits to a better Europe. Join our campaign if you feel you can – or just vote Green to Change Europe on Thursday, May 22nd.
Manifesto to be found here: http://europeangreens.eu/content/egp-manifesto-0
Or just google EGP manifesto, and look for the 2014 page.
By Chantal Frances
With the collaboration of Hugo de Armas Estévez