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Synthesis/Regeneration 26   (Fall 2001)

News from European Greens

Greens do badly in Italian elections

The center-right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi won the elections in Italy in May. Although the percentage difference between center-left and center-right was only about 4% in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the center-right obtained a clear absolute majority of seats both in the Italian Senate, with nearly 60 seats, and in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, with over 100.

As regards the Greens, it was not a good election. 75% of the parliamentary seats in Italy are attributed on a first-past-the-post system. The Greens elected 9 Senators and 8 Parliamentarians.

Unfortunately, this results in a decrease when compared to the past legislature, since then the Greens had 14 senators and 15 deputies.

Arnold Cassola, Secretary General, Efgp@europarl.eu.int

New Green-Left federation launched in Madrid

Over 600 high-spirited delegates from all over Spain kicked off the most serious attempt ever to put Green politics on the map in nation?wide Spanish politics on May 19.

The Green minister of environment in the Balearic Islands region, Margalida Roselló, opened the convention. She spoke of the objectives of the new Federación Los Verdes-Izquierda Verde(Greens-Green left) which aims to create a new political organization based on the principles of ecology, social justice, federalism and the construction of a democratic Europe.

Greens and regional Green-left parties like Iniciativa per Catalunya-Verds, Izquierda Democrática Cántabra and Izquierda Madrileña, among others, have come together to put forth a viable Green political option differentiated from the Socialist Party and the neo-communist Izquierda Unida. The new Green federation is already represented by hundreds of local council members, over a dozen regional parliamentarians and one member of the national parliament.

This new broad-based Green-left federation, in which the Confederación de Los Verdes plays a key role, is by far the most serious, feasible and innovative political proposal put forth by the Spanish Greens. Until now the regional and linguistic divisions of Spanish politics, added to the generally difficult context for Green Parties in southern Europe, have meant fairly hard times for Los Verdes. The consolidation and the emergence of the new Green Federation in the coming months may well mean a very positive turn of the tide.

This is an alliance of the Greens with “renovated left” parties that clearly identify with the European Greens. With time we hope this federation will become a clear reference point for all those seeking a serious and possible Green option that is badly needed on the Spanish political scene. This is especially true given the numerous current social-ecological crises (a disastrous National Water Plan, food crisis, severe river pollution, massive urban tourist expansion on the coast, urban areas dominated by noise and traffic, etc.). These crises have all taken place in the absence of a political force that concentrates on offering positive solutions pointing toward sustainability. Now, things can really change.

David Hammerstein, International spokesperson for Los Verdes, intz@ctv.es

Norwegian Green Party

The Norwegian Green Party (Miljøpartiet de Grønne) has remained very small, but now it seems that we are heading for the big time.

In the last Update the Mjøsaproject was mentioned. An enormous amount of toxic waste and ammunition has been dumped in this drinking water reservoir for at least 70 years. From the very beginning it was the Norwegian Green Party that pushed the officials to launch an investigation.

The national elections in Norway will take place on September 10.

Ane Aadland, International contact of the Norwegian Green Party, vinneng@lakenet.no

Sweden: A new party program!

Every fourth year, the Green Party of Sweden revises its party program. Now, we have a new party program which will lead us into the next millennium and the upcoming national elections in September 2002.

What are the main changes? First, animal rights are highlighted in a chapter of their own. Second, for the first time, a political party in Sweden mentions the situation of the homeless in its party program. Third, we have pledged that parents who want to stay at home with their children during the first three years will get economic support. And finally, we have agreed to lower the voting age and the age at which one may be elected to 16.

Discussing the next elections in 2002, the delegates agreed on the following main political tasks: climate change, reduction of working hours, no to EU/the Euro, food safety and human rights.

Ursula Mueller, International secretary, ursula@mp.se

Green vote in UK doubles

You may find it difficult to believe how happy we are with an election result that did not deliver any seats in Parliament. Under our first-past-the-post electoral system, however, we did not expect to win any seats.

Between the Scottish Greens and ourselves, we fielded 145 candidates out of a possible 659. The total Green vote was 166,626. Vote share doubled from 1.38% in 1997 to 2.85% with 50% more candidates this time.

The deposit was saved (i.e. we got over 5% of the vote) in 10 constituencies UK-wide. This was only ever achieved once before at Westminster level (6.1% in Vauxhall by-election on 1989 Euro polling day when we got that 15% result). This time around, our top result was 9.35% in Brighton Pavilion. In a first-past-the-post election, this is a very encouraging result.

The areas where we got good results are predominantly those in which we have Green councillors or where we had a high profile Greater London Authority (GLA) member candidate supporting residents over a controversial local issue.

On the basis of the results (if not candidate numbers) we have cemented a clear position as the fourth party of UK politics—the more so if our local election effort is also taken into account. The “big three” in UK politics are Labour (now essentially Social Democrats), the Conservatives (similar to Christian Democrats) and the Liberal Democrats. Their manifestos were almost indistinguishable in places, particularly on taxation levels.

Meanwhile the Socialist Alliance’s (a coalition of far-left parties and organizations) old left challenge to New Labour failed to make much of an impact despite a lot of driving around shouting out of car windows through megaphones. Their candidates averaged 668 votes less than ours and 1.69% in head-to-head contests. The inevitable left factionalism saw them up against the Socialist Labour Party (another far left party, led by Arthur Scargill, ex-leader of the miners’ union) in many instances. The latter averaged 1.16% in Constituencies we contested.

Tony Blair’s victory may mean that it will not be too long before we are plunged into a referendum campaign on the Euro. In which case we will be trying to make our structured, economic argument for a “No” heard over the nationalistic noise.

Many local elections were held at the same time, in which we lost 2 seats but gained 2 new ones, so we still have 44 “principal” councillors.

Chris Rose, Green Party of England & Wales Election Agent, John Devaney, Green Party of England & Wales International Co-ordinator, johndevaney@ukonline.co.uk

Cyprus Greens enter parliament

The Cyprus Greens have made it to the Cyprus Parliament for the first time! In the elections held on May 27, we obtained 1.93% of the votes.

The quorum necessary to enter parliament was 1.79%, so we now have one MP in a chamber of 56 MPs in Cyprus. The new Green MP is George Pertikes, who was a founding member of the Cyprus Greens, and has been an active member for many years.

Of course, the electoral system is a very favourable one in Cyprus. However, the result obtained is also a success for our Federation.

Three and a half years ago, in November 1997, when I first went on a fact finding mission to Cyprus in the name of the Federation, the Cyprus Greens had just under 1% of the votes. In the following EFGP Council meeting of spring 1998 the Cyprus Greens were admitted as full members of the Federation.

Since then, the Federation and the Green Group have invested a lot of political capital in Cyprus: the Federation had a Mediterranean Network meeting in Kykkos in 1999; we had our Council meeting in Larnaca in 2000 and we went to support the Cypriots in their election campaign last month.

The Green Group, have also offered their support. In 1999 they organized a meeting on the Cyprus issue in the European parliament and they were strongly present at the Federation meeting last year in Larnaca. They have also been active through Monica Frassoni, who is a member of the EU-Cyprus joint Parliamentary Committee, and who has been very active in Cyprus during the past year.

All this political activity of the European Greens in Cyprus helped to give further media prominence to the Cyprus Greens in their homeland.

This political investment has paid off, and the Cyprus Greens have now doubled their votes in the space of four years. This result proves that when a small Green party acts seriously, presents a united front to its electors and does not let itself be taken up by internal party struggles, with the help of the Federation and the Green MEPs, concrete results can be achieved.

This is something all small Green Parties should reflect on, especially now that we are starting to prepare the campaign for the 2004 European Parliament elections, when there is a strong possibility that a new group of EU member countries will be participating.

Arnold Cassola, Secretary General, Efgp@europarl.eu.int

New board for Prassini Politiki, Greek Greens

In our conference the unanimous decision was that the next few years will be crucial for Athens and Greece. The Olympic Games pose a serious problem that will probably only be solved at the last minute. The losers will be the environment, the economy and the public purse. We don’t believe that traditional parties can lead the opposition to these schemes with any success. From our point of view if we succeed in organizing the vast majority of ecologically sensitive people that don’t as yet have any political voice, we can block part of the government’s targets and can become established in the political life of Greece.

During the last year our movement thankfully left behind its internal frictions and is now present in social and political fights. At least now most people understand that something is missing in Greek politics. That is: Green Politics.

Yannis Tsironis, yannistsironis@fititikospoudastirio.gr

Ukraine: After BSE and GMOs—Where is food safety?

In follow up to the debate at the 11th EFGP Council at The Hague in June, we have received this article from Serhii Moskvin MP, Green Party of Ukraine.

Ukraine still has no fully-fledged law on GMOs; neither has it an official moratorium on growing and distributing them. The first attempt to adopt this kind of legislation failed in the Parliament of Ukraine in January 2001 as the draft law was heavily criticized by the public and Greens for being pro-biotech.

…Monsanto has been involved in a public debate about GMOs, pushing the idea that Ukraine should not lag behind scientific progress…

The Ukrainian public is not aware of the problem and the threat Trans-National Corporations’ (TNCs’) expansion in the new Newly Independent States (NIS) markets will cause. This is in sharp contrast to the public in the West, where they have been facing the results of TNCs’ activities in their countries for many years. Pesticides and food products containing GMOs are one of the main focuses of TNCs’ strategies in Ukraine.

One of the most powerful TNCs firmly implanted in Ukraine nowadays is Monsanto. It exerts considerable influence on the Ukrainian market policy and on the forming of National Law. The methods used are often unscrupulous and even ruthless. And it is exactly this company that lobbied for the recently rejected draft law on GMOs and is still pursuing the same target to make the Parliament adopt that version of the law.

Monsanto never misses a chance to speak about the high quality of its major product, GM seeds, although some scientists in Ukraine warn that allowing massive introduction of GM plants in the country would be a great mistake. No GM plant has yet received an approval for commercial release here. In the Public Treaty Monsanto alleges that all of its products will be safe and reliable for consumers, with very low risk of harm to the environment or to human health.

Monsanto is known in Ukraine as a producer of a pesticide called Round-Up, which is sold in almost every farmer’s shop. Now it is the leading company testing GM plants, mainly potatoes, corn and rape. For several years Monsanto has been involved in a public debate about GMOs, pushing the idea that Ukraine should not lag behind scientific progress and avoid new technologies simply for emotional reasons.

Right now we can say with confidence that TNCs in the NIS exert considerable influence not only on the economic sphere, but also on the development of national law. By means of powerful economic and financial incentives they actively participate in law?drafting and legislation development. In all their influence, however, they consider only the corporate, and never the public interests in these countries.

The national legislation on GMOs in NIS could illustrate the situation. In particular, in Ukraine the original draft law still it has its supporters among deputies who have contacts with the companies producing GMOs. Thanks to the efforts of the Green Party of Ukraine and Ukrainian NGOs, the draft law prepared with the assistance of those companies was rejected at the first hearing, though the TNCs representatives go on lobbying for the draft.

At the moment the campaign on promoting the original draft law gains new support. All methods are applied in the form of bribing, blackmailing the mass media and top officials, intentional concealing of scientific and research data, hindering their opponents’ presentations, etc. The Law regulating release and management of GMOs is most urgent in Ukraine. But it should be a restrictive law that defines the rules common for all players.

Due to the active position of the Greens and NGOs their representatives were included in a newly established working group initiated by the MPs to develop a new draft law on GMOs. Their participation will enable them to monitor the law-drafting process to ensure a really restrictive GMO law, based on the precautionary principle.

The environmental law NGOs are also involved in the process and debate about drafting the new law. For instance, the environmental lawyers with the EcoPravo-Kyiv Environmental Law NGO in co-operation with partners from Kharkiv and Lviv are developing their own recommendations and propositions to the draft law, and conduct public discussions and debates on the issue.

Serhii Moskvin MP, Green Party of Ukraine, moskvin@rada.kiev.ua

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