Second Congress of European Green Party Geneva 12-15 October 2006
Geneva is sometimes called the city of peace, and its prosperous, solid and beautiful architecture shows what can a historic city can look like if it is spared periodic reductions to rubble in the convulsions of war. The Geneva Green Party members who welcomed and catered for us were competent and determined. In fact all the European Green Parties present, including ones who have only been in existence a few years, had a story of electoral success, and it seemed commonplace for them to be able to point out their MEPs and MPs, and not unusual to be able to point out a Green Minister of Environment here and a Green Minister of Finance there. I felt sickened and angered by the ridiculous, archaic travesty of democracy that is the British electoral system, which is artificially holding UK Greens back from taking our rightful place in Parliament and Government.
The business of the Congress was to agree the text of the mini-manifesto of the European Green Party. This was achieved with more speed and less debate than we would have managed, and although there were procedural hiccups, no blood was spilled. I was encouraged to hear a French delegate say "Of course there are (verbal) fights - c'est normal".
A Danish motion to do away with the EU was summarily dismissed, and we spent time on a number of amendments. The original document was noticeably and uncritically europhile, and there were a number of French and Swedish amendments passed to dilute the europhilia. In the end, the GPEW delegation voted against the final amended document as mandated by Conference. (see box for the GPEW speech of rejection). We were in a tiny minority of rejectionist parties.
Nevertheless, there was a palpable sense of unity of purpose at the Congress. This is strong evidence of the power of core green philosophy, the realisation that humans have no alternative but to secure our social existence within the parameters set by our home planet. This unifying philosophy surpasses our national and parochial interests - even our differing evaluations of the European project.
I personally learned an enormous amount from this Congress. There was a real sense of excitement in absorbing the perspectives held by colleagues with a diversity of backgrounds. In Poland, for instance, the old Left has abandoned any attempt to put forward social welfare programmes, so the Greens alone raise that standard. In many ways, each Green Party (our own not excepted) reflects the position of its own nation, yet the green philosophy manages to bind us together.
I came away with the task of helping to draft some health policy for the European Green Party, and I look forward to the next step forward of the Green International Movement, the Conference of Global Greens in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2008.
Joint International Coordinator
Debate Speech on the final document of the European Green Party, Geneva, 14.10.2006
We are mandated by our home party to vote against this paper. Of course, the paper will pass in any case, so our vote will not impede the progress of the Europe Green Party. In ancient Rome, during a triumphal procession, a slave was given the job of whispering "Remember Caesar, thou art mortal". I hope that our rejection will be taken as filling the same function, as a restraint on hubris, and a stimulus to do better.
Greens in England and Wales accept the value of the EU. We endorse it as a peace project, are glad that its influence has pushed environmental standards up in the UK, and acknowledge its positive influence on many other areas. In defence matters, we have to confess that the judgment of EU nations is frequently better than that of our own Prime Minister.
However, the England and Wales Green Party Conference has clearly rejected the Euro, an EU Foreign Minister, an EU defence policy, and Transnational Voting Lists. It is possible that our position on these points will change in future.
The two major points of difference are on Subsidiarity and the Constitution. We hold that a Green document should be far stronger on handing power down to the local level. (It might be that this is a difference in perception, since in the UK we are starved of power at this level, whereas on the continent you already have more local self-determination).
On the Constitution, it is the case that the EU Constitution that was very much a weighty tome handed down from on high. The essence of democracy is that political power ultimately comes from the people. Therefore, we must find a way of involving the people far more intimately in the process of designing the constitution.
If our No vote helps to bring pressure on these points, it will have been worthwhile.