NO to olive trees death sentence in Turkey, YES to small farmers’ livelihoods!

Friends from Turkey have asked us for help with a petition (only in Turkish) to save hundreds of hectares of olive orchards from being uprooted and replaced with nuclear plants. We have translated the petition so that you can sign it knowing what it is all about. Feel free to ask any questions!

Sign the petition here.

A bill is attempting to limit the minimum size of olive tree orchards in Turkey to 25 decares (10 ares or 1000 square metres). Hence any land plot under this size would not legally be considered as farmland. This would in turn open the doors to non-agricultural use of the land. 

Environmentalists have evidence that the purpose of this bill is to make rural land available for the the establishment of nuclear plants. Once the bill becomes law, much land will not legally be ‘apt’ for farming, and so there will be no alternative other than selling it to the best bidder.

This bill jeopardizes a large amount of olive tree orchards in Turkey, potentially affecting wider ecosystems and causing drastic damage to the landscape, not to mention the attack to the livelihoods of small farmers.

This petition is addressed to the Ministry of Agriculture, various MPs and government officials to defend the livelihoods of thousands of small farmers as well as the environmental rights of vast areas of coastal Turkey where hundreds of centenary trees have shaped the history and culture of the Aegean coast.

Sign the petition here.

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End Ecocide in Europe: A Trans-European Campaign

The pollution and destruction of our environment, as well as the depletion of natural resources are progressing fast and without restraint. Extensive damage or destruction of ecosystems is called ecocide. European Greens in London have joined this trans-European campaign that demands that crimes against nature be recognised as crime as well as direct liability for decision-makers in politics and business.

We have more than 150,000 signatures! It sounds like a lot, but we still need many more – as many as we can get by 7 October 2014.  The European Parliament will be hosting a forum on this topic in mid-October, and we want to present hundreds of thousands of signatures to show the will of Europeans to do something concrete about ecocide, which is only a crime in times of war – what is the logic of not making it a crime in times of peace too?

Ecocide enshrined in European law would mean that sooner or later all European Union Member States would have to transpose this law into national legislation, thus making it much easier to tackle the risks of fracking, oil spillages or nuclear waste, just to mention a few activities that can easily end up causing extensive damage to ecosystems and people.

Sign the petition now!

By artist Gemma Burford in the aftermath of BP oil spill disaster in 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico.

What would a law of ecocide change?

An ecocide law would mean ‘extensive damage’ or ‘destruction’ of ecosystems would become a crime. No intent is necessary. Companies and individuals could be held responsible. If a company commits ecocide, the CEO and the senior management will be held responsible.

The proposed Ecocide Directive is much stronger than existing EU environmental legislation. In existing law, each element contributing to life is more or less protected, air, soil, endangered species, flora and fauna; however, the legislation regards each element independently. The proposed Ecocide Directive, to the contrary, does look at entire ecosystems.

In addition, it shifts the focus away from risks (i. e. probabilities) towards consequences. If an activity has potentially devastating consequences it should be illegal, no matter how small the likelihood that the catastrophe occurs.

The ecocide law can contribute to a shift in values where future generations . It has the potential to trigger the transformation to the green economy.

The campaign calls for making ecocide a crime in 5 cases:

  • Ecocide committed on EU territory; or
  • Ecocide committed by EU citizens; or
  • Ecocide committed by EU registered companies, even when operating outside EU; or
  • The import of goods and services resulting from activities causing ecocide into EU;
  • The financing by EU banks and other financial institutions of activities causing ecocide, no matter where these activities take place

An implemented ecocide directive will have worldwide implications.

 

 Sign the petition now!

 

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Expats, migrants, natives and foreigners. A discussion before the European Parliament elections.

The evening starts. We meet with members of New Europeans and other groups.

The evening starts. We meet with members of New Europeans and other groups.

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Violeta, an European Greens in London member, chairs the meeting. She introduces Jean Lambert (London MEP), Don Flynn (Migrant Rights Network), Nicholas di Genova (King’s College) and Ska Keller (Green candidate to EC Presidency).

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The venue was converted into an improvised gallery with artworks from our previous art exhibition ‘A Europe for All, by All’.

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More than 30 people joined the discussion on Tuesday 13 May.

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Speakers warned of ‘nativist’ trends in Europe – emphasizing the difference with ‘racism’. Another Europe, it was said, requires us to think about citizenship in a totally different light.

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Fortress or Open Europe – Join the debate on 13 May

At the beginning of the 21st century, Europe is a continent of multiculturality, and the European Union is a new reality in its millenarian history. Most European are not interested on what is going on in ‘distant Europe’ – it is a boring, far away, reality.

And yet we are Europe. Every single one of us living in this continent.

Europe is the Syrian refugee requesting asylum, the African who drowns trying to reach Lampedusa. Europe is the Southern migrant who moved to another European city following the crisis. Europe is the person falling for scare-mongering discourses by Nigel Farage in Britain or Marine Le Pen in France.

Europe is a dream for many and a nightmare for many others. However Europe is far more than all this.

The elections to the European Parliament on 22 May 2014 compel us to examine the role of Europe in ensuring the freedom of movement of persons. Let us look in detail at both sides of the coin on 13 May.

‘An Open Europe for All: An evening debate about migration and citizenship‘ will be a debate with experts, community leaders, and the most important of all – you!

Hosting this debate in London is all the more relevant at a time when controlling migration has become the mantra of a rising far-right in Britain, to which the government is responding by further attacking migrants’ rights.

The debate will be opened by inspiring speakers and community leaders, but it’s your view that counts most:

Ska Keller: Leading Green Candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission; MEP Green Candidate in Germany.

Jean Lambert: MEP Green Candidate for London.

Nicholas de Genova: Reader in Urban Geography, King’s College London.

Don Flynn: Director of Migrant’s Rights Network.

Violeta Vajda: Community activist and Romani Studies doctoral researcher at University of Sussex.

Plus representatives from various communities and networks of European migrants.

An Open Europe for All

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Don’t forget to vote on 22 May!

On May 22 there will be a UK-wide election for the European Parliament and also local council elections for London boroughs.

If you want to vote, please make sure you are registered on the Electoral Register. If you are, you should by now have received a voting card. If you haven’t had one, phone the Electoral Registration Service at your local council to check. You need to do this well before the deadline, May 6.

If you are resident in Britain but have a passport from another EU country, there is a second thing you have to do to be able to vote in the European Parliament elections on May 22. It may not be widely known that Polish, French, German, Spanish , Italian, Austrian etc. people need an extra form to vote in the European election, on which they promise to vote ONLY in the UK and not in their passport country.

You can get it from the electoral commission website and you have to send it or take it to your local council Electoral Registration Service in good time for May 6, which is the last possible date to secure your right to vote on May 22.

On  this website you can have more information about how to vote according to your situation. For example, if you are a citizen of another European Union country but reside in the UK, you can register to vote in the UK at a European Parliamentary election.

You must also complete a European Parliament voter registration form, available here.

More information about the process here.

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A huge THANK YOU for you all

Thanks to everybody who made ‘A Europe for All, by All’ art exhibition possible and who joined the fun!

From 3 to 13 April European politics and arts were combined at Hundred Years Gallery, in London, where many concurred to propose new ideas, and to discuss what we like and what we don’t like about the European Union.

This was only the first phase of a longer project that aims to encourage participation in the upcoming elections to the Euroepan Parliament (22 May 2014), particularly in the context of widespread disengagement and lack of understanding of politics beyond national borders in Britain.

Stay tuned because we are planning lots more for the next few weeks – next stop: 13 May!

 

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“A Europe for all, by all” begins at The Hundred Years gallery with a Private View

Finally, after months of hard work, European Greens in London presented its exhibition “A Europe for all, by all” at the Hundred Years Gallery yesterday. Around 100 people came to enjoy an evening of arts, chats, live music by groups like La Negra & Tuya  and KMAT  and, of course, politics! Just two minutes away from Hoxton Station, the gallery provides a friendly atmosphere for reflection where artists, activists, politicians and ordinary people gather together to talk about Europe.

Guests at the inauguration event admiring some of the art works.

Guests at the inauguration event admiring some of the art works.

Arts to picture Europe

When you arrive to the gallery, a map of Europe welcomes you. On one side, the good things and the diversity that the Union has brought.  On the other side, the dark part, left blank with a pen attached for you to tell what you don’t like about this Europe and what you want to change.

As you come inside expression explodes.  A display of 18 masterpieces can be admired along the two floors the gallery has.  Artists from all corners of Europe like Federico Gallo, Antonio Mena, Lisa Furness, Veronica Perales among others have created inspiring works to denounce ghost cities in Spain, the unfinished commercial centers in Ireland, the oil wars, the mileage of our food, the endangered environments and many other issues that Europe still need to endeavor to solve.

One of three pieces representing the genetic modification of crops and farm animals. By Milan Todovic

One of three pieces representing the genetic modification of crops and farm animals. By Milan Todovic

There’s also a small library where books with information about European institutions, the financial crisis, the tax system, etc are available for you to consult while you enjoy music, drinks and food among friends so that you can have a better understanding of  all these topics.

Run for your rights

The group Ad Feminarum presented its “Ecology and Equality race”. An unusual race with a very clear goal: to achieve real democracy. If you want to participate in this initiative, you will get a unique number to wear each time you spot a situation of environmental injustice or inequality.  You can take a picture with your number and upload it to the Ad Feminarum website for everybody to know where that situation is happening.

Ad Feminarum unique number dorsal to promote the Ecology and Equality race.

Ad Feminarum unique number dorsal to promote the Ecology and Equality race.

Ad Feminarum believes that ” running is a subversive act, and this race is a statement of intent” so these activities are a horizontal run to a shared future and these actions will help us to move forward together. However the exit is always open, you can enter this symbolic marathon whenever you want and you can carry your number for as long as you want too.

Is this the Europe you want?

The ultimate purpose of this two-weeks event is to stimulate debate about how to improve European democracy. You will have your chance to decide in the European Parliament elections on May 22nd but before that, European Greens in London wants to offer you a programme with a series of workshops, talks, theatre plays, music gigs, screenings and much more to discuss with you about the importance of political participation in a time of uncertainty, economical turmoil, denied rights and apathy towards politics.

A Europe for all, by all programme of activities.

A Europe for all, by all programme of activities.

Come, share your thoughts and think about what we can improve and how. We want to build A Europe for all, by all. And you?

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EGP Electoral Convention in Brussels

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.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been causing much anxious debate amongst all those wishing to protect European trade and health standards from aggressive corporate policies.

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

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Fossil fuels, the environment and our bodies

How the energy glut is changing our bodies, our health and our environment

For a hundred thousand years the main source of energy that humans have used was their own physical power. People basically had to walk, ride, row or sail to move themselves and their stuff. But nowadays all that has changed, with intensive mechanisation.

This mechanisation is mostly powered by the burning of fossil fuels and it comes at a well known environmental cost. But pollution is not the only hazard for human health caused by machines, another more subtle danger of the abuse of energy is the increase of our body weight.  In their book “The energy glut”[1] Ian Roberts and Phil Edwards explain how generalised mechanisation in transport and farming reduces the need of physical human effort, and increases the availability of high-caloric food. So we eat more, spend less and put on a lot of weight.

Humans used their own physical strenght to move

Humans used their own physical strength to move

An increase of the population’s weight is behind the increase in cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes and cancer.  Around 1 in 13 deaths in Europe have been attributed to overweight and obesity.  Population overweight cost the UK £15.8 billion per year, including £4.2 billion in costs to the NHS.  In the USA the increase weight has a direct cost of $160 billion per year in medical treatments and $480 billion in indirect cost (including $20 billion in extra fuel and electricity).  But is not only about money… to move our extra weight we need extra energy. In the USA an extra 3520 million litres of road transport fuel and 1325 millions of  airplane fuel a year are used due to increase of average passenger weight.  Bear in mind this is not only due to obese people but due to the whole population being heavier.  In other words, our abuse of mechanical energy is double-poisoning our environment, and killing us slowly but steadily.

Sick populations not sick individuals

It is important to understand that this process of gaining weight is not happening only to some individuals that become unnecessarily obese. It is the whole population that is putting on weight. Even lean people are now heavier than they would have been before. The fact that there are more “officially” obese people is not the problem, it is just the reflection that the whole population weight has been pushed upwards.  Is a problem of unhealthy population rather than unhealthy individuals!  That the whole population that is being affected, and not just some individuals, suggests that there are forces driving the change that are not under the control of the individual citizens.

High- caloric food is often more affordable than the healthy option

High caloric food is often more affordable than the healthy option

Is not just about making individual decisions on lifestyles. Firstly people do not have always the choices of healthy lifestyles (e.g. restricted access to safe cycling, walking, or reliable public transport). Secondly we do not always have the information and often we are purposely misinformed (“Marketing” and “advertising” are euphemisms often used for such strategies). And finally, often the healthy choices as too expensive at market value.  For example, often the healthy food that is sold in the developed (and developing) world has a much higher cost that the more unhealthy options and is not available to people with lower income.

Who is going to fix this?

Unfortunately the “markets” (in the capitalists sense) are not going to help to solve the problem.  They are actually creating the problem.   The markets of transport and food are effectively dominated by large corporations and cartels that are not interested in individuals making healthy choices. They would rather have populations of “consumers” that regularly drive everywhere and eat cheap hyper-caloric food, so that they can spend more money consuming other unnecessary goods.  This is not mere speculation, the USA is a clear example with 6% of the World population but 33% of the human biomass due to obesity.[4] China is moving fast in that direction with declining use of bicycles since 1990 and car ownership has gone up while obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular deaths and cancer is increasing.

Other means of transport like cycling could be the solution

Other means of transport like cycling could be the solution

To solve the problem we need to provide citizens with healthy options for transportation, such as bicycle and pedestrian friendly cities and roads, or reliable and affordable public transport.  We need to guarantee that local and environmentally friendly food is available and affordable. We need to provide people with true and reliable information about their choices.  In summary, we a need strong public policies to counteract the forces of the markets and defend the health of the people.

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[1]: “The Energy Glut: The Politics of Fatness in an Overheating World.” Ian Roberts and Phil Edwards. London and New York: Zed Books, 2010.
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‘A perfect storm’* for immigrants

One of the biggest scandals across Europe is that of empty homes, previously snapped up by rich investors and now abandoned. The Green Party of England and Wales has been campaigning for a long time against the same phenomenon in the UK capital and it is heartening to see that the issue is now gaining European traction. However, perhaps not many people understand first-hand how the problem of not finding suitable housing or ending up homeless is compounded and magnified for recent European migrants to the UK.

Recently, I spent a day with a group of recent Roma migrants to the UK and was able to experience first-hand how the UK government’s political games to appear as right wing as possible can create ‘a perfect storm’ for Roma families, with the potential of pushing them further into a life of poverty and discrimination.

Life as an immigrant family in the UK

This Roma family came to the UK about 4-5 months ago. They are decent, hard-working and deeply religious people who talk proudly of their honesty and physical and spiritual cleanliness inspired by their Christianity. The family (predictably) lives in sub-prime and hugely expensive accommodation in a city just outside London and now faces imminent eviction by their private landlord who wants to redevelop the property. In the past 3 months, everyone in the family worked in as self-employed, something that it was possible to do without a National Insurance number the mother has obtained a permit to work as a street vendor of kitchen utensils and the father has been working regularly as a self-employed labourer (something it is possible to do without a National Insurance number). One of their sons has been working in the local garage washing cars, but was sacked as soon as he demanded to be given a proper contract and the minimum wage.

Roma family

Roma family

Now they are faced with barely 2 weeks’ notice to move at a time when after a long wait, they have just been granted their National Insurance numbers, and are busy looking for employment that will pay them at least the minimum wage. Their children have just joined the local primary school and are happy there, and proud of achieving accolades such as ‘100% attendance’ in the last week. All that is set to change because of their housing situation.

The mother was telling me that she had spent their last savings on trying to get established in the UK, and doesn’t even have enough to pay for her and her children’s fare back home to Eastern Europe. But in Eastern Europe they would face poverty and severe racism so they are all very reluctant to return there.

Free movement of individuals in the European Union

This family could easily be tided over and allowed to ‘get a foot on the ladder’ if they could apply for temporary benefits or social housing. But just as they prepare to do so, they are slammed by yet another immigration clamp-down by Iain Duncan Smith demanding that recent migrants show they have earned £150 per week for the past three months before they qualify for benefits. According to the EU, this measure and previous similar ones are illegal . But does the UK government care? Certainly not. It also seems to be oblivious to the fact that £149 per week is hard to achieve even for some long-standing UK citizens, when a living wage is but a glint in some of our eyes.

The UK is still a member of the EU. Like it or not, right now all EU governments have signed up to certain principles. One of these is the free movement of individuals from one EU country to another. Another is the fight against Romaphobia. While some may want to change this, the fact is that the UK’s membership of Europe brings with it certain responsibilities that it cannot shirk. If Europe is to function as an economic and political union, governments across Europe must work together to fulfil these responsibilities rather than evade them at every possible opportunity, with a brazen attitude of ‘catch me if you can’.

By Violeta Vajda

Violeta is a London Green Party European Parliamentary candidate and a local Green Party Candidate in Lewisham, London. She works as a researcher studying how anti-Roma racism affects all Europeans.
Follow her on Twitter @violetavajda  
 
 
 *A “perfect storm” is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically.
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