AS ANTI-EUROPE parties try to convince the Dutch that they are better off alone and they should abandon the sinking ship that is the Euro, the country’s Green party GreenLeft is trying to do the exact opposite: portraying the EU as an inadmissible part of daily life not only today, but for generations to come. On national television, the GreenLeft Member of Parliament Jesse Klaver used examples from a nineties children show around an acrobat and a clown to stress the importance of the EU. Less visible, but with similar ambitions for The Netherlands and Europe, Hannah Odenthal (26) is taking to the streets convincing the Dutch not just to vote, but to vote for the Greens. In an interview with Pandeia, she explains why and how she’s spreading this message.
“To answer your question of why I do what I do, I believe that all of us are Europe, as we enjoy its benefits every day. Europe stands for peace, progress, and renewal. Europe means freedom: we can live, travel, study, and vote, anywhere in the European Union. However, not everyone can benefit from the possibilities given by Europe to millions of people every day. Therefore, we have to work together to create a Europe in which no one gets left behind.”
“I am indirectly involved in the campaign, as my job is to support the Secretary General of the European Green Party. In addition to supporting her work and making sure she is in the right place at the right time to speak to political actors and stake holders, my work varies from day to day. For example, last weekend our team travelled to Berlin for the kick-off of the ‘hot phase’ of the Common Green European campaign, where I was asked to do voice-overs for videos to introduce our speakers. While this is not usually part of my role, it reflects the variety of tasks that makes the job and the entire campaign exciting.”
Past elections have not resulted in high turnouts. How do you ‘sell’ Europe in general and the Green Party in particular to the voters? What is the Green Party’s strategy?
“Despite the best intentions in creating a European-level political sphere, in the European elections, people vote on a national level and not on a European level. They vote for national parties, often from a national perspective. As the European Green Party only operates at a European level, the broad part of actual campaigning falls to the 33 Green parties across the EU. We have advocated for European-wide lists to move towards true European politics, and we have had common campaigns since 2004. We always make sure that there are transnational elements such as common visuals, that are part of our European campaigns.
“Part of showing voters what we stand for, is our common manifesto, which is drafted and adopted by EGP member parties from within the European Union. Our manifesto is a signal of their cooperation and unity, and it is a basis for pushing forward our common Green agenda on the European level. Our manifestos of the past ten years can be found here:
What is the Green Party’s position in the European Parliament?
“The European Green Party does not have a position in the European Parliament itself. We are represented in the parliament by the Greens/European Free Alliance, of which the Greens are a part. With 58 members from both Green parties, independents and regionalist parties, Greens/EFA is the fourth largest political group in the European Parliament. We are a strong, cohesive group that have been very successful in pushing environmental issues, digital rights, food and fishing, LGBT rights, fair economic policies, the rights of migrants, and many other issues, to the front of the EU’s agenda.”
“The Greens are a diverse family across the EU. While each party shares strong green values (such as environmentalism, democracy, and a commitment to social justice and fairness). However, across Europe each Green party is different, depending on many different factors such as resources, the national context, the size of their membership, how developed the Green movement in their areas are. In Germany and France for instance, there are strong, well known Green movements where their respective parties are important actors on the political sphere. In Spain, the youngest Green party has a different background and impact and is focused on both pushing their political agenda and building recognition across the country. Because of national politics, some parties have a more cautious approach to Europe, while some are very eager advocates for closer EU ties. Some member states have Green parties that work very effectively in an environmental-grassroots lobbying model. In other countries, the Greens are in government and have a clear impact on national legislation. There is no set rule.”
What are the Green party’s plans for the future?
“Over the next five years, we have an ambitious agenda to show that Europe must and can do better.
With rising unemployment (especially for young people), huge strains on public finances, food scandals undermining consumer confidence, a dead-end energy policy that ignores the urgent issue of climate change, and democracy and rights under attack in some EU countries, Europe needs a change of direction.
“The multiple crises facing Europe – economic, social, environmental, democratic – require action in all European policy fields. In a globalised world, the challenges transcend borders; so do the solutions. Isolation and nationalism cannot be the answer, neither can old policies and austerity measures.
“The Greens are working towards a comprehensive transformation for Europe, that allows everyone to live a good life based on economic, social and environmental sustainability. We want to deliver millions of green jobs, ambitious climate protection, health and social justice. The Europe we want is a Europe of solidarity and well-being; a Europe that acts for equal opportunities and fundamental rights; a transparent Europe that people can trust; a Europe that promotes cultural diversity and gives hope to youth; a truly democratic Europe in which citizens have a say.”
Words: Lisanne Oldekamp
Pictures courtesy of European Green Party