European environmentalists have chosen their top candidates for the June elections. Gathered at a congress in Lyon from February 2 to 4, the members of the Greens nominated a man and a woman, for the sake of parity: the German MEP Terry Reintke and the Dutch elected official Bas Eickhout. Their dynamism and enthusiasm will undoubtedly not be too much to carry out a campaign which promises to be delicate.
“ I know that we sometimes have the impression that the campaign will be difficult, but we see and feel that we are a very strong family, united and ready to campaign », Launched Bas Eickhout at a press conference after the Greens congress. In fact, polls predict a substantial decline for the Greens compared to the previous election: from fourth place in Parliament, they could be demoted to sixth, behind the far-right parties ID and ECR.
Coming from the environmental left, Bas Eickhout was a researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Improvement Agency before being elected a Member of the European Parliament in 2009. Two years earlier, he had shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the other co-authors of the IPCC report on climate change. Today vice-president of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Commission, at 47 years old, the Dutchman is at the top of the list for the second time in a row; in 2019, he led the Greens’ European campaign with the German Ska Keller. An experienced elected official, he knows the mysteries of Parliament well. “ A good choice », estimates Camille Defard, head of the Energy-environment center at the Jacques Delors Institute. “ He is someone who is very technical, who knows the issues very well and who has a great political aura within the ecosystem. “.
Far right on the rise
Eleven years his junior, Terry Reintke is running for a third term. During her first election in 2014, this native of Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr, born on May 9, Europe Day, was then the youngest MEP in the hemicycle. She is today the vice-president of the Greens/European Free Alliance group. During the Lyon congress, in English just as good as her Dutch colleague, the German elected official insisted on the threat posed, according to her, by the rise of the far right in the polls. “ This threat exists, we cannot deny it », she launched, before calling on activists and elected officials not to stand idly by, drawing inspiration from examples such as Poland, where after eight years of populist PiS government, the government is now led by the pro-European Donald Tusk.
Along with the fight against the far right, Terry Reintke, who belongs to the left wing of his party, also leads other fights, such as the fight against violence against women during the #MeToo movement of 2017 and the rights of LGBT+. At the Lyon congress, the mistress of ceremonies is none other than her companion, French senator Mélanie Vogel, whom she met when the latter was doing an internship at the European Parliament.
Better known in Brussels than in Berlin, this representative of the Grünen, the German Greens, themselves involved in a weakened social-democratic coalition, has a lot to do. Its designation is “ a bet on its ability to mobilize German voters », estimates Camile Defard, who underlines the “ disproportionate weight of the Liberals compared to their electoral weight in influencing this coalition government. This absolutely does not benefit the Greens because they are associated with a government that cannot pass the reforms they want. “.
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Ecology “in defense rather than attack”
The farmers’ movements today place the Greens at the forefront of criticism. Terry Reintke recently had to to defend oneself accusations according to which elected environmentalists, with their environmental policy, are responsible for excessive regulation. Environmentalists say they are ready to continue to defend the Green Dealincreasingly contested by certain groups, such as Farmers.
The task promises to be delicate. “ The atmosphere, the mood of the time in Europe is not so positive for the themes of the environment and global warming. Currently, ecology is a bit on defense rather than attack », notes Daniel Boy, director of digital research at Sciences Po. In this context, he underlines, the Greens will not be in a position to ask for more. “ Raising climate ambition even further is not the priority. The priority is the implementation of the texts that have already been adopted », agrees Camille Defard. “ The Greens suffer from their very big climate ambitions and the lack of resources available to achieve them, whether at European, national or local level. ».
Defined at the Lyon Congress, the European electoral program of European environmentalists remains ambitious. He wants the EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2040, ten years earlier than expected.
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