Cohn-Bendit’s rhetoric not matched by clues for a Green candidate-Commission President.

Article published on April 2, 2009
community published
Article published on April 2, 2009
From the UEF Action ‘Who is your candidate?’ at the EGP Congress in Brussels, Nico Segers reporting for the Union of European Federalists (UEF) Submersed in a buzzing atmosphere of green, a small yet tenacious delegation of UEF spearheaded an awareness-raising action on the 28th of March at the European Parliament.
During this second day of the European congress of the United Green parties of Europe (EGP), the European Federalists tried to entice the Green delegates to reflect about the fact that they’ve neither considered nor presented their own Green candidate to run for the seat of European Commission President.

With over three hundred flyers dispersed amongst the seats, both in the hemicycle as well as those on the elevated debate stage, the political bait was in the water. Left and right, there were attendees who curiously examined the flyer and a lone group of five was even noticed discussing and finger-pointing to the pamphlet with lowered voices. Unfortunately, there were no substantial hints indicating that EGP delegates present were compelled to take UEF’s explicit call for a lack of demand in contenders for the office of President of the European Commission serious enough. Also, neither did any reference to the Lisbon Treaty, either positive or negative, make it into the ultimate version of the EGP manifesto, which was voted upon that morning. This is a very deplorable decision, one that undermines the democratic principle underlying the European elections and blatantly ignores the voter’s right to a fair procedure amongst a broader list of candidates in line for succeeding the incumbent President of the Commission.

One firm call that challenged the complacent, biased attitude in support of a new ‘Barroso term’ came from invigorated German MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit. He conveyed a strong message that “to make these politics of social security and ecological transformation work, we need new people and a new Commission” and added that “we can’t accept that the heads of state, (...) the Christian-Democrats and the Conservatives in Europe already decide before the elections that the next Head of the Commission will be Barroso. We say: no!”. Cohn-Bendit’s main argument why Barroso’s legitimacy had been tainted for a re-election, was that he allegedly allowed CIA-chartered planes to covertly transport terrorist suspects residing in Europe and extradite them to U.S. detention facilities. He also promised that if the European Socialist, Liberal and/or Communist parties would ally against Barroso’s third term, the EGP would join their cause, that they indicate their intentions plainly in the European Parliament.

Unfortunately, such adamant and charismatic rhetoric did not match expectations, as not even a mere suggestion for a proper counter-candidate transcended from EGP ranks. Just as Samuele Pii has indicated, the Greens clearly missed out a great opportunity to make the elections of the Commission president essentially more transparent and democratic, as would be beneficial for the public interest of all European citizens. So the Greens scored big on rhetoric but failed to do more than adopt a manifesto and presenting their campaign heavyweights, about to enter the EP election arena.

In fact, EGP’s common policy stances touched upon a variety of pressing and critical topics outside the ecological concern as well. There even was a ‘realist’ consensus that the current economical recession will necessarily invoke government deficit spending. All amendments patched to the lengthy EGP manifesto were swiftly adopted, even the initially contested one concerning a common approach to actively repel the increasing levels of organized crime within certain European countries. The scope and tone of this latter proposition was ultimately softened and survived a Green dissident fraction by a minor majority in the voting outcome.

Three serious proposals calling for reform or innovation on an institutional level emerged out of the ‘Green New Deal’. First, the desire was reiterated for the European Parliament to be granted the right to draft legislation by its own initiative. Secondly was the demand for the creation of an European Renewables Community (ERENE), to facilitate the advancement of an energy policy towards zero-emission renewables. Thirdly, more closely related to the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP) was their proposal to establish a European Civil Peace Corps, much like the ‘European blue helmets’ mentioned in the JEF Manifesto.

Despite the high level of self-confidence boosting amongst the ranks of the European Greens, who proclaim themselves as being the most closely cooperating political family at their 15th anniversary in the European Parliament, they failed to unite altogether in support of a single candidate who could ‘democratize’ the selection of the next Commission presidency.