Europe’s Green parties have emerged as potential kingmakers following the European parliamentary elections last weekend that saw Europe’s center right and center left parties lose their majority in the EU’s governing body, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The Greens came in second in Germany and Finland and third in Luxembourg and France, The Guardian reported, raising their total numbers in the 751-seat body from 51 to 70. Far-right nationalist parties also did well, but not well enough to influence the agenda of the European Parliament, since the pro-EU parties are unlikely to ally with them. The Greens, on the other hand, could be crucial to passing pro-EU legislation.
“This is confirmation for us that the topics we’ve been working on for years are the topics that matter to the public in their everyday life and for the future of their children,” newly elected Green member of European Parliament (MEP) from Germany Sergey Lagodinsky said, as The Washington Post reported. “We had times when we wondered: Is this a fringe agenda? Now we know it’s not. It’s the mainstream agenda.”
The fact that the Greens had their strongest showing ever in Sunday’s election suggests that Western Europeans, especially the youth, want more radical action on climate change.
“It’s a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, according to The Guardian.
The voting followed months of school strikes by young people across the continent, inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, and youth support was reflected in the polls. In France, Les Verts won the 18-24 vote with 22 percent, and, in Germany, Greens came out ahead with the same demographic with 34 percent of their vote, The Independent reported. However, Green parties did not make many gains in Central Europe and none in Eastern Europe, where, The Guardian said, other liberal parties tend to lead on environmental issues. In Southern Europe, Portugal’s People-Animals-Nature (Pan) won a seat for the first time.
But Green gains in Northern and Western Europe already mean the Greens have the attention of the historically powerful parties.
The conservative European People’s party’s lead candidate for commission president Manfred Weber said he would certainly consider the Greens as partners.
“We should sit down together and draft a mandate for the next five years,” he said, according to The Guardian.
This puts the Greens in a position to make demands, among them serious climate action, reducing inequality and protecting civil rights where they have been under attack in EU countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Malta.
“We aim to negotiate a pro-EU agenda in which climate change policy is front and center – and no longer just symbolic, but concrete,” senior German Green MEP Sven Giegold said, according to The Guardian.