End Times, Determination and Fresh Hope

Last week saw the final Strasbourg plenary session before Brexit. The last time that UK MEPs travelled to this small town on the Franco-German border for late-night political discussions, negotiations and votes on proposals aimed at improving the lives of European citizens. A sombre backdrop to the many good news stories that came out of the week’s plenary proceedings, not least around the climate.

Strasbourg & Green Victories

The big thing that happened last week, was the European Parliament’s resolution on the European Green Deal. As I’ve previously written, the European Green Deal is the new Commission’s flagship programme: a huge package of political reforms aimed at making the EU carbon-neutral by 2050 at the latest.

After the Commission published its first communication on the reform package in December, it was now Parliament’s turn to say its piece on what the Green Deal should contain. I’m happy to say that we managed to secure a hugely ambitious text, significantly improving on the Commission’s proposal. Among our Green victories were:

  • Strong text on the urgent need for ambitious climate action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
  • EU Member States should adopt intermediate and long-term targets for both renewables and energy efficiency.
  • Underlining the need for the green transition to be a just one, and to focus support programmes on especially vulnerable localities, such as coal-mining regions.
  • Calls for EU industrial strategy to be inextricably linked to a circular economy action plan, and for the elimination of planned obsolescence.
  • An amendment on the necessity of nuclear energy to tackle the climate crisis was voted down.

Us Greens managed to include many of our amendments in the resolution and I’m going to miss this when we’re gone – the power and purpose of a large Green presence in Parliament. The outcome really shows that a strong green voice in European politics has a concrete impact.

I also managed to do some personal lobbying on climate action this week. On Tuesday, I had a meeting with the Commissioner responsible for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans. Apart from discussing the reforms needed to tackle the climate crisis, I also gave him a copy of my report on The Green New Deal in the North West, to help inform his work.

Australia Bushfires

On Monday, the Parliament debated the devastating and tragic bushfires in Australia. The link between climate change and extreme weather events like this was clear in many statements made by Commission representatives and MEPs. It’s commendable that even Conservative politicians on the EU level seem to be waking up to the fact that we are in a climate crisis. We can only hope that our UK Conservative government will follow the example of our European colleagues in this regard. Or at least that we must continue to lobby and push for policy to match reality.

Citizens’ Rights Post-Brexit

There are over three-and-a-half-million EU citizens living in the UK, and around one-and-a-half million UK citizens living in the EU. After Brexit, we have to ensure that citizens’ rights of both these groups are properly protected and that they are treated fairly and lawfully.

These issues were the subject in Parliament for Tuesday’s debate. I spoke about the difficulties that many EU citizens in the UK are already facing when it comes to applying for settled status.

The UK government claims that the process should take one-to-four days, but many people have to wait for far longer than that. The uncertainty, stress and difficulties that waiting months for a decision on settlement status brings, is unacceptable. Leaving people without essential documentation and rendering them unable to get jobs or rent a home.

The UK government must uphold its commitments to protect citizens’ rights. We must ensure that everyone is treated fairly and that the quagmire of Brexit does not contribute to more uncertainty and anxiety for EU and UK citizens than it already has.

If you want to see my speech, it is available here.

Palestine: Stopping EU Complicity in War Crimes

This week I also published an opinion piece in Middle East Eye, on how the EU is funnelling millions of euros of taxpayers’ money to Israeli weapons manufacturers. A new report shows that the EU’s current research programme has handed out around nine million euros to Israeli defence companies Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries.

In the article, I argue that the EU is putting its reputation as a credible and trustworthy partner to both parties of the Israel-Palestine conflict at risk by financing these companies.

The EU also counteracts its own policies towards Israel by funding companies that provide the Israeli military with much of its hardware. Arguably making the EU complicit in the oppression of Palestinians and the undermining of international law.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

Despite a sense of sadness at leaving, I am so very grateful to have had this incredible experience of being the Green MEP for the North West; it’s been an honour and an inspiration. I am particularly proud of our The Green New Deal for the North West report that can be used as a framework after we leave the EU and I am looking forward to launching our Sustainable and Active Transport for the North West report this coming Friday – both have ideas that I will continue to champion in my work as a Councillor. Armed with the research and experience, we can continue to make clear just how much our region could benefit from a green future with quality jobs and improvements in all aspects of our lives:

Bad:

After our final visit to Strasbourg this week as UK MEPs, I’m more disappointed than ever that we are deliberately breaking away from collaboration and cooperation with this huge block of our nearest neighbours. This is not just about quality trade in goods and services with an underpinning agreement to protect the environment and working standards, but also a relationship in a whole range of other endeavours that EU countries together undertake: to deal with global problems from the climate crisis, to social inequality to addressing the challenges of the digitisation of the economy. Such a desperate shame.

Where hope lies:

Soil getting the attention it deserves. I wrote recently for the Ecologist that:

“The North of England has experienced the largest increase in flooding in Europe – flood levels have increased by 11 per cent, per decade, since 1960. Promoting and increasing healthy woodlands and restoration of peat bogs will help to ’slow the flow’ of water up-stream, reducing the risks of flooding to our towns and cities.”

And this week we see in the UK media, some reasons to believe this is finally being taken seriously:

“The commitment will be part of the biggest shake-up of British agriculture in 40 years and requires a regular report to MPs outlining supply sources and household expenditure on food, as well as consumer confidence in food safety.

“Other changes include a stronger emphasis on the soil, at risk from overuse, erosion and nutrient loss; farmers are to receive help maintaining healthy soils, as well as with improvements to the tracing of livestock movements between farms. There will be powers to regulate fertiliser use and organic farming after Brexit.”

Onwards

 

New Year, Green Projects & EU Citizens

Happy New Year greetings to everyone. I won’t pretend that it’s not a little difficult to be happy about the UK leaving the EU at the end of this month or the general state of our politics. More another time about the dire need for proportional representation to ensure a fairer democracy, something which I will be looking to campaign on. For now though, I am coming to the end of what has been a wonderful and productive experience as Green MEP for the North West. However, I have a lot to complete both in the NW region and in EU Parliament – with the help of my fantastic staff, as we ensure we maximise our impact before the end of January and try to leave a positive legacy.

Looking Ahead

Transport

We will launch our detailed report on sustainable and active transport in the North West on Friday 24 January in Lancaster. This report follows up on the Green New Deal in the North West report, with more detail about the challenges and mechanisms for ensuring investment in transforming our public and active transport systems in the region.

Research and Innovation

The future of research and innovation funding…particularly as we will now no longer be a full member of the Horizon Europe research funding programme within the EU.

We have a report coming out imminently on this and I will also be following this up with an event in the European Parliament on Wednesday 22 January about the importance of research and innovation in meeting our climate targets and the policies described in the European Green Deal – the European commission’s first attempt to introduce such a concept (good news). With a range of policies across the board, as Greens we are not totally convinced that the proposals are deep enough or bold enough.

The Occupied Palestinian Territories

During my last week, not only will I finally publish a report on the occupied Palestinian territories using some of the information I gathered during my visit there in August and the numerous initiatives within the European Parliament, I will also be hosting an event in the Parliament looking at how trade in goods from the occupied Palestinian territories can be properly regulated according to the principles of international law.

The Green New Deal Presentation at Steady State Manchester

Just three days after the election, one of my MEP office team members, Laurence Adams, who was the key researcher behind our Green New Deal for the North West report spoke at a ‘Green New Deals and Greater Manchester’ event hosted by Steady State Manchester, a group working to promote alternative approaches to economic development that respects planetary limits.

Laurence gave a short presentation of our report, outlining what the challenges are in our region and how a Green New Deal of the kind put forward by the Green Party could be transformational. In particular, we made the point that we must work hard to retain ownership of the principles of a ‘Green New Deal’, which are at risk of becoming watered-down. It is fundamental to the Greens’ model that any Green New Deal worthy of the term must meet the six key principles we set out in our report:

-Recognising the Emergency
-Making a Fair Contribution
-Ensuring a Just Transition
-Investing Public Money for Public Goods
-Localising Democracy
-Rethinking Measures of Success.

 A local member of Labour for a Green New Deal was also due to attend and put forward Labour’s position, but after the dire election result, was still too crestfallen to attend. 

EU Citizenship

As the true impacts of Brexit unfold, one bad news story at a time, it is important that we pay close attention to what’s being offered. We’ve had much correspondence about the issue of ‘Associate EU Citizenship’ and my fellow MEP, Ellie Chowns has put together the following important information:

We continue to believe that the UK is best placed within the EU in terms of our economic interests, strong environmental and social standards and, of course, the benefits of freedom of movement. The proposal of associate EU citizenship is, therefore, at first glance, an undeniably attractive proposal for those of us who wish to stay a part of the European project and retain the rights we have long enjoyed as its citizens.

Associate citizenship isn’t a formal proposal. Charles Goerens, a Luxembourgish MEP, first proposed this amendment to a report on possible future changes to the EU treaties by the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) in the European Parliament. This was not a legislative report and could not create the status of associate citizenship by itself, and the proposal was ultimately withdrawn prior to the vote with Mr Goerens issuing this explanation on social media.

So far it has been agreed amongst legal experts that to achieve associate citizenship for the UK would require a treaty amendment agreed to by all remaining 27 EU member countries, and then ratified by their national parliaments or by referendum. Unfortunately, this would take a long period of time and is unlikely to happen, and while we support freedom of movement, this right must be reciprocal and enshrined for both Britons and Europeans. In this respect, associate citizenship would discriminate against Europeans.

My Greens/EFA colleague, Jill Evans, commissioned researchers at Swansea University to explore this associate citizenship question and the House of Commons library published legal opinions on EU citizenship that is online here.

Despite the strict legal issues, remaining open to the idea of an associate citizenship, if anything, sends a clear message to the UK government that citizens want to be empowered and remain part of the EU.

I’m keeping a watching eye on this – among all the other Brexit-related developments!

Here’s a link to the GreenWave Voxbox, where we discuss citizen rights post-Brexit with other MEPs.

Meanwhile this week

Good

It is good to see this progressing and to have to opportunity to sign the declaration before my role here ends:

“The Intergroup on Welfare and Conservation of Animals launched DECLARATION ON A TRANSITION TO NON-ANIMAL SCIENCE calling on the EU Commission to establish a concrete strategy to phase out the use of animals in areas of research, education and testing.”

With more than 200,000 animals used each year in the EU for the primary purpose of education and training, this initiative will have a huge impact for good.

The link to the declaration can be found here.

Bad

You couldn’t make it up, but then again:

“Counter-terrorism police placed the non-violent group Extinction Rebellion (XR) on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent programme, which aims to catch those at risk of committing atrocities.

“XR featured alongside threats to national security such as neo-Nazi terrorism and a pro-terrorist Islamist group. The guide, aimed at police officers, government organisations and teachers who by law have to report concerns about radicalisation, was dated last November.”

This article, discovered by The Guardian, is dark and threatening to those who are simply campaigning to protect the life, nature and the environment and I am certain will be challenged. I agree with my colleague Molly Scott Cato MEP who said this is:

“A sign of a state out of control and failing democratic standards.”

Where hope lies

Localism!

I am being asked a lot about what I will do after the end of January.

I have of course kept both of my local councillor roles on at Lancaster City and Lancashire County Council during the last seven months, and will return to them with renewed determination (and I believe, support) to ensure local action by our councils on the climate emergency. As the MEP office, we will be producing a short report on good practice so far in the regions – and I have no doubt that people support local low and zero-carbon initiatives which can also transform our local economies, adding to the quality of daily life. Better public transport and support for active travel, more local services, expanding and promoting biodiversity in our public green spaces and supporting community initiatives just as a start.

I am sure many of us will be turning to the well established Green truism for creating a better future: “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

But first, this coming week will be my last visit to Strasbourg and the formal plenary of the Parliament and there is lots on the agenda I will be participating in.

Onwards

 

Endings, Visits & Injustice

Mood change

The mood has, of course, changed in Europe now, the sense of an impending end and unclear view of what the next stage of our relationship with the EU will be. There was a feeling of gloom amongst UK MEPs (except of course the Brexit group) that we could see on the faces of our Green colleagues and those of all the parties. It’s absolutely clear that across the Parliament over the last four decades, UK MEPs have been highly valued for their contribution and what they bring to the Parliament. And I would say amongst those, the Greens are held in particularly high esteem.

The demands of the job, however, go on, and the vital work of the European Parliament continues. This week, a group of visitors from the North West (the fourth visit I’ve arranged) went to Strasbourg. Discussions touched on the UK elections, but much of the time, my work was around international affairs.

Speaking on Brexit

In the European Parliament plenary, I was given speaking time to discuss the UK general election result and Brexit. My speech is below but I also want to quote first, the remarks of European President, Ursula von der Leyen:

She warned that a cliff-edge Brexit at the end of 2020 will hurt the UK more than the EU as she laid out her intentions to “make the most” out of the “extremely challenging” 11 months available to strike a trade deal.

“In case we cannot conclude an agreement by the end of 2020 we will face again a cliff-edge situation and this would clearly harm our interests but it will impact the UK more than us as the EU will continue benefiting from its single market its customs union and the 70 international agreements we signed with our partners – but it’s clearly not in our interest.”

Von der Leyen said she would not miss the Brexit party MEPs, as they heckled her speech, but she offered her condolence to those parties who had campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU.

“If I look at our very brave remain MEPs I can only say, I’m sorry, we will miss you. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for having been at our side. We will never miss those who scream and yell.”

My speech:

Thank you Madam Chair,

Sadly, for all of us who think the European Union offers the best future for the UK and the rest of Europe, we now have to face the reality of Brexit.

Last week the European Council reiterated its commitment to a level playing field in standards and regulations in trade between the EU and the UK, but the new UK government already threatens to break its commitments.

We now have a serious risk to workers’ rights and environmental protections, to parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals, and therefore, a risk again of the possibility of a no-deal Brexit at the end of next year.

This parliament, elected on proportional representation, demonstrates of all that can be achieved by nations working together in co-operation, representing citizens against global corporate business interests; and in confronting the global challenges of climate change, social injustice and the ecological crisis.

Citizens of Europe look to their governments to protect them against the vested interest of financial and property millionaires, and corporate power.

Many of us in the UK will continue to look to the best in the EU to overcome those challenges.

Visitors to EU Parliament from the North West

We are trying to make sure that more North West constituents get the chance to experience the EU institutions, albeit at a very sad time, as we know we are leaving. This is the fourth visit my team and I have arranged since taking office and every visit has been such an amazing experience.

On Wednesday, we welcomed a sponsored visitor group from the North-West region to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. We originally were due to host around 25 visitors, but due to strike action in France, the final number of participants was 12. The ones who made it had to endure a tough journey to get there, and we hope the ones who could not make it will have a chance in January before we leave.

The day began with an opportunity for the visitors to meet some Green MEPs, hear a bit about their work and ask them questions. We were lucky to have MEPs Molly Scott Cato, Terry Reintke and Ellie Chowns, who took time out of their busy schedule to meet the visitor group of Green and Remain activists.

All the MEPs spoke of their profound sadness at the prospect of the UK leaving the EU. Molly outlined her disappointment in not being able to continue her work on important projects going forward, such as Green financing and the European Green Deal. Terry, who is a German MEP, gave a passionate account of her love for the UK and her difficulty in coming to terms with the UK leaving. She told visitors that after the election result on Friday, she moved fast to set up a Friends of Britain group in the Parliament, made up of MEPs willing to continue their relationship with the UK going forward. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with a huge number of MEPs from all over Europe having already signed up. Ellie, in explaining how she went from a university lecturer to MEP, was also able to uplift the mood by encouraging people to get involved in Green politics at the local level because it is possible to make a difference. I would like to wholeheartedly thank all of my amazing and inspirational colleagues for taking the time to meet our visitors.

After the session, the group went inside the Plenary, where they watched my speech in the hemicycle on Brexit. I was pleased they got a chance to see the plenary in action, although sadly, Nigel Farage spoke shortly after myself so visitors were unable to see first-hand, the carry-on pantomime that is usually performed by the Brexit Party MEPs at every plenary session. Afterwards, I was able to speak to our visitors, where I outlined my work in Parliament and answered questions.

To conclude, there was also a talk by the visitor centre staff on the history of the EU and the Parliament.

When I spoke to the visitors at the end of the day, you could feel a general sadness they felt in leaving behind an institution that they firmly believe can offer them the best future.

However, there were also little moments of hope – particularly the sense of solidarity from our European friends and the confirmation that there will be a collaborative relationship in the future between the UK and the EU. If there is anything we should not do, is lose hope.

We are not alone!

Palestine & Israel

This week, I attended a meeting of both delegations for relations with Israel and relations with Palestine.

The focus at the Palestine meeting centred around how to ensure that the EU member states only import correctly labelled products from the illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. And while the Greens are calling for a total ban on these products, the EU position, recently reinforced by the European Court of Justice decision, is that products should be labelled so that the consumer knows the province.

We heard from specialist speakers that a recent survey showed only 10 per cent of wines sold by online sales from EU outlets and produced within illegal settlements, are correctly labelled as such. Wines are the one sector that is relatively easy to monitor, so these findings understate the problem. Ethical issues are clear: a third of settlement vineyards are based on private Palestinian land (confiscated land). Palestinian agricultural areas have decreased by one third in recent years.

Meanwhile this week…

Good

Although we will be leaving on the 31 of January, I aim to do and achieve as much as I can until then. There has been much interest in the future role of hydrogen and in my role on the Industry, Research and Energy Committee. I am planning a workshop in the European Parliament to make an impact on both the Green groups and Parliament’s views on hydrogen. In our report on The Green New Deal in the North West, we highlighted the potential role hydrogen technology will play a key role in the transition of some sectors, but it is essential we underline that it must be fully renewables-based hydrogen.

Bad

The European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning a new Russian law this week. This new law forces an individual who distributes information on the internet and receives money from any foreign source, to brand him or herself as a “foreign agent”.

This is the latest attempt of the Russian government to prevent journalists from doing their job; hindering independent and investigative journalism from scrutinising those in power.

Russia’s efforts to interfere with the media also concerns the UK. Propaganda and disinformation is a serious threat to our democracy and it’s becoming clear how systemic Russian efforts to influence democracies are.

After last week’s elections, Putin and his cronies have a new ally in Downing Street. Until recently, Boris Johnson blocked the publication of the report into Russian interference in UK politics; only clearing it for release after voters can no longer hold him accountable.

The Tories also deceived voters through online ads featuring outright lies and disinformation, while also setting up accounts such as “Factcheck UK” to mislead voters.

Like Putin, this is just another way of preventing journalists from scrutinising those in power. Another way of withholding information from the public to mislead voters. Another way to gain supporters and demonise opposition by spreading lies.

With the Tory party cosying up to Russian methods of misleading voters, it is becoming clear that Boris Johnson is a threat to our democracy. Spreading hate and lies to gain and keep political power and pulling our country apart in the process.

In the coming years, we will have to fight the government’s lies. We will have to hold them and the media accountable. Fighting for independent and critical journalism that is not a mouthpiece for the Downing Street spin machine. That is the only way to fix our broken democracy.

Where hope lies

It’s a mixed ‘where hope lies’ this week, tinged with optimism in a sad situation. This week saw the awarding of the Sakharov Prize to Ilham Tohti. His daughter, Jewher Ilam, received the prize in his stead, due to his imprisonment. She hasn’t heard from her father since 2017 and has no information from authorities about him whatsoever.

Ilham is a renowned Uyghur human rights defender, economics professor and advocate of the rights of China’s Uyghur ‘minority’ population. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison for his activism following a two-day show trial in 2014. Millions of Uyghur are forced into and held in so-called ‘re-education centres.’, which are huge concentration camps in China.

This prize though is so valued by human rights defenders as it helps shine a much needed international light on their plights and protect them for further human rights abuses. Ilham’s daughter works tirelessly on his behalf, in fear also for her freedom and that of her family but carrying on because to raise the profile of the Uyghur people, is their only hope.

Our Greens/EFA coordinator of foreign affairs in the European Parliament, one of the proposers for this years prize, said:

“The Uyghur are suffering from the worst police state that exists in the globe today.”

It was humbling to meet Jewher and witness her bravery and honour; she is an example of the importance of citizens continuing to fight injustice whether that’s against authoritarian governments or the interests of corporate big business. The hope is in those who fight on regardless of the risks they personally face or the sacrifices.

Onwards

 

 

 

 

Budgets, EU Green Deal & Making Votes Matter

There is much to process about the results of the UK general election…but life in Europe will go on with or without the UK MEPs. We are still there for another month. I will share more thoughts another day.

Last week, I luckily managed to get to and from EU Parliament in Brussels, in spite of the ongoing travel disruption from the SNCF signallers strikes which impacts the Eurostar service in France. The strikes began on the 5 December and it is unknown how long they will go on for. This week, I’m in Strasbourg with the UK Green delegation of MEPs.

EU budget cuts endanger tens of thousands of UK jobs

Two weeks ago, EU Member States announced their first negotiating position on the Union’s long-term budget. In short, they propose to cut back on almost everything that the EU does. From infrastructure investments to humanitarian aid and support to farmers. I wrote briefly about this in last week’s Sunday Long Read.

Among the cuts is a proposal to decrease EU research funding by almost a third until 2027, from £100 billion to £71 billion. This is completely unacceptable. We are facing a climate crisis. To tackle that challenge we need a stronger commitment to research and innovation, not a weaker one.

Therefore, on Tuesday last week, the MEPs responsible for negotiating the EU’s next research funding programme met to discuss these recent developments and the way forward. I participated in the meeting as the Greens’ representative.

It was an encouraging meeting, with all political groups agreeing that we have to fight the Council on this. A rare moment of unity among Conservatives, Social Democrats, Liberals and Greens. In the coming negotiations, we will put up a unified front to secure an increased research budget.

A large EU research budget will be hugely beneficial to the UK, at least if we stay in the European Union. As a world leader in innovation, the UK will be able to attract billions of pounds of research funding. Money that will support the careers of many UK researchers and scientists, and help UK businesses innovate to remain successful. Tens of thousands of jobs will to be created, directly and indirectly, through EU research funding.

However, Brexit endangers our access to these funds. If we are no longer a member of the EU, we will not be able to receive from the EU budget as easily, and UK researchers and businesses will have a hard time participating in projects. I am currently preparing a report explaining more on this subject, to be published in January. Follow me here, Twitter or Facebook to get updates about the report.

European Green Deal

Last week, I wrote a blog on the European Green Deal, which is a core pillar of the 2019-2024 strategy of the new EU Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen.

My message was simple: the centrality of the Green Deal is already a big win for us Greens, but we need to be constructive allies to the Commission, and ensure some of our key demands are included in the process.

In my blog I argue that the Commission needs to show ambition by not only aiming at ‘hard policies’ that incentivise the rollout of renewable energy systems and increase the cost of emissions, we also need ‘soft policies’ that change the way we consume, live and travel without putting the responsibility of those changes on individuals – particularly the poorest.

The European Green Deal is a positive step and can bring many solutions to our communities’ problems. Now is the time to act.

GreenWave TV

After the extraordinary plenary session, I sat down with four other UK Green MEPs to discuss the European Green Deal announcement. MEP for Yorkshire and Humber, Magid Magid, chaired the session, and along with my fellow MEPs – Alexandra Philips, Catherine Rowett and Scott Ainslie MEP – we chatted, laughed and shared some great contributions on our visions for the European Green Deal. You can watch it here.

Palestine

Last week I met more NGO representatives from Israel and Palestine. What is clear is that civil society in Palestine looks to Europe for help in fighting against injustice and human rights abuses.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), is an initiative by the World Council of Churches that sees volunteers undertake a three-month fieldwork placement as human rights observers. They do not take sides in the conflict, and their only mission is achieving peace in the region. I had previously met volunteers there in August, during my fact-finding visit.

The three women told me accounts of the systemic, structural and symbolic violence occurring in the region. Expanding settlements for Israeli Jews only in the occupied West Bank, means a lack of access to basic resources such as land for agriculture or water for Palestinians. For example, while Israelis have access to around 240 litres of water per person per day, and settlers over 300, Palestinians in the West Bank only have access to 73 litres.

The EAPPI representatives also witnessed the destruction of EU-funded buildings by Israeli settlers. In 2019, 50 schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, became under threat of demolition, many of them had been provided with support from the EU.

This year particularly, has seen a high level of demolished structures, with 582 documented cases by EAPPI. This poses serious questions for the EU and its external funding: should we continue the EU-Israel Association Agreement, let alone upgrade it, without Israel’s commitment to the peace process and respect for international humanitarian law?

Good

Finding the good has been difficult this last few days! But as I write, I am now back on the train to Strasbourg, albeit with a different emotion to my usual excitement and anticipation.

However, there are some achievements that we can celebrate: the Green Party ran a very clean and positive election, forcing the first-ever climate debate among political party leaders. And throughout, we promoted our positive vision and policies to deal with the climate crisis.

Bad 

It took 850,000 votes to get just one Green MP re-elected – Caroline Lucas MP! The devastating results of the general election within our continued broken First-Past-The-Post (FTPT) system means the Conservative Party win is described as a ‘landslide win’, despite only increasing the actual vote by 1% – the same as the Green Party. But with their massive majority of 80 seats, this sadly leaves them comfortable to push forward with any parliamentary business, with minimal scrutiny or opposition. Our antiquated electoral system is a colossal failure, giving power to the rich and influential and side-lining a generation of voices. We absolutely must push for proportional representation if we are to be represented properly in a democracy.

Where hope lies

There is no doubt that people want change and now the actual election is over, Greens across the country are ready to work with local communities to reduce carbon emissions in energy and local transport, bringing services closer to home. I have mentioned my Green New Deal for the North West many times before, but I am getting such positive feedback. I do I hope you will read it, if you haven’t already, and if please share with other people. We can still ensure we empower local people to work together to get change for the better, across-the-board.

It was great to see people fighting back immediately for a change in the voting system – do sign this petition here.

Onwards

 

Cuts, Climate & CSOs

It’s been a busy week in Europe, with so much covered from challenging budget cuts that would impact the essential work on the climate crisis, preventing big business from hijacking research programmes to ensuring the safety of Civil Society Organisations and their staff is upheld in the Middle East. We also stood strong with others against harassment and through a media outlet, we got a leaked preview of the upcoming Green Deal for Europe. The coming week though is likely to be even more action-packed!

Budget cuts will not solve the climate crisis

On Monday this week, the European Council released its first negotiating position on the EU’s long-term budget. The so-called “negotiating box” represents the collective EU Member States’ view on what the EU should spend money on during 2021-2027 period. This opening position will now constitute the basis for negotiations between the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission.

In short, the Member States want to cut back on almost everything that the EU does. For us Greens, this does not make sense. We are facing a climate crisis. Dealing with that crisis requires a considerable transformation of our society and such a transformation does not come cheap. We need significant public investment and focused efforts to help businesses, local councils and individuals achieve climate neutrality. The European Council’s position takes us down the wrong path.

For example, the proposed cutbacks also affect one of the EU programmes that I am working on, the EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe. The Council wants to decrease the EU’s research budget proposal by almost a third, from £100 billion to £71 billion. This is not what we need. Research and innovation will be key in tackling the climate crisis. As Greens have already secured a commitment that 35 per cent of the EU research budget will be spent on climate-related actions until 2027, these proposed budget cuts mean billions of pounds less to climate-relevant research. And as the UK strives to be a part of the EU research programme even in the case of Brexit, this will also greatly affect the opportunities and funding available to UK researchers.

Scrutinising the influence of big business

I attended an ‘exchange of views’ with Jean-Eric Paquet, head of the European Commission’s research department. He is currently leading the EU’s work in setting the priorities in some parts of the Horizon Europe research programme. Priorities that will guide the projects on which taxpayers’ money will be spent.

In determining these priorities, the Commission is gathering input from different stakeholders. As Greens, our main fight here is to ensure this involves a wide-reaching range of players and not only big corporations. Too often, big business hijacks public programmes to serve their own interests. That’s why I pressured Mr Paquet on how he aims to increase the participation of civil society in the process. EU expenditure must serve the public interest, not only the interests of big business.

Omar Shakir – deported for his human rights work

On Tuesday, I attended an exchange of views with the Human Rights Watch Director for Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir, who was recently deported from Israel for simply doing his job. His deportation was the result of a landmark Supreme Court ruling, and Mr Shakir spoke at length of the sustained assault on human rights and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Reports of travel bans, criminal charges and arrests on CSO workers are now rife in the region. This Supreme Court ruling, however, amounts to a dangerous escalation, Mr Shakir claims. My intervention was focussed on a similar point, stating that CSOs are a foundation of any true democracy, and should be protected at all costs.

Sadly, Mr Shakir’s situation is symbolic of a globally shrinking space for human rights defenders, that is fuelled in this case, by the Israeli political agenda. This agenda shows no sign of improvement with the prospect of a new government. It continues to actively and freely disregard the human rights of Palestinians as well as, by definition, the peace process. The EU and the international community need to rethink their approach to the issue, while in parallel support all civil society workers on the ground.

Meanwhile this week…

Good

There are training and awareness initiatives that promote transparency and action, which is always a welcome opportunity. On Wednesday afternoon, I finally had the chance to attend a training course on Preventing Psychological and Sexual Harassment at the European Parliament – something the Green group has pushed for in light of the #MeToo movement. It’s a training course aimed solely at MEPs – and before being elected, all candidates were encouraged by the campaign to sign the MeToo pledge to prevent, combat and report sexual harassment and sexism in the European Parliament and beyond, and to support the victims. The website sheds light on the stories of harassment of staff within Parliament. Enough is enough, let’s eliminate harassment of all kinds from our lives.

Bad

What makes it even harder for parties that act with integrity like the Greens, is that the system is so open to manipulation by those with lower standards. An article in DeSmog this week makes clear the cracks that let the bad in.

“The Tories have received millions from the richest of the rich with vested interests in fossil fuels. And – as we today revealed – they’ve also received millions from the aviation industry.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, the data shows surges in giving around the time of key government decisions on aviation, such as the approval of Heathrow Terminal 5 in 2001 and debates around Heathrow expansion in 2009 and 2018.

“With such huge sums being donated, perhaps it’s no surprise that none of the parties made tackling the industry’s massive emissions a core part of their campaign.”

Where hope lies

The European Green Deal – like the ‘Green New Deal’ being adopted elsewhere, is a roadmap that can get us out of the chaos that the climate crisis threatens. Nothing is perfect, but a Green Deal that addresses the climate across all sectors and includes social as well as environmental justice at its core, is a great start. We do have concerns here though.

This coming week there will be an extraordinary plenary for all MEPs to hear the European Commission’s proposal for the European Green Deal. Unfortunately, it’s looking very unlikely I will be able to attend due to the French public sector strike which includes the rail workers and heavily affects the Eurostar service.

A summary of the draft proposal to be presented was leaked last week, and it appears that although there are few concrete proposals, it’s more of a Commission ‘wish-list’. Two significant areas covered in the leaked document are the Commission’s stated aspiration of how quickly they will begin to reduce carbon emissions and what they will achieve by 2030, and the proposal to enshrine the ambition for climate neutrality by 2050 into law. This “climate law” could have a huge impact depending on what it contains. More on this next week.

Onwards