An opinion on the Brexit: A blessing in disguise?
Very hard at work on my farm, the result of the Brexit referendum nevertheless came as an immense shock to me. Having worked so many years for further development of the European Union the very idea that one does not want to belong to this audacious and immensely challenging project came as a surprise. Naïvité is still one of my characteristics. So I voiced my feelings and my opinion as a citizen, and share it with those who might be interested. Surprise again, I came to appreciate the awesome outcome.
All along our over 60 years as ‘European Project’ there has been a fervent discussion on its nature. If not at the treaty of Maastricht or Amsterdam then on the referenda on the EU Constitution in France and the Netherlands. And rightly so, the EU is not a static entity and its development, progress and support needs continuous attention. The Brexit, if anything, will force new energy into an ongoing discussion, on top it will sharpen the discussion because it makes clear what is at stake; What do we want out of this project, what is our common ground, is it the economy or is it a social and political cooperation between the Member States?
The growing EU scepticism was until now largely treated with fear, which is never a very trusted advisor, and the option of a Brexit paralysed an open discussion. This open discussion is so very much needed, and if not held in the European and national Parliaments, at the earliest possible moment, then the national populist leaders will have no problem in maintaining the lead in this discussion and there is no doubt about their intentions. Therefore the Brexit is the biggest opportunity ever to re-engage in this discussion and define our common future. Besides the definition of a commons, it will also confront us with the question of solidarity among the Member States. Do we want to continue as EU 27 plus, do we want to belong together, or do we want to revise that very principle of the EU? Are our Member States still motivated to continue the project and if so under which conditions. This might be a bit of a scary undertaking, but it is an essential one to re-engage our Member States.
Ah, the UK is not a single nation state, but a plurality. The Scottish reaction, voiced by its prime Minister, is illustrative in this sense. A new referendum on the Scottish independence might be needed, for sure to be followed, in case of a yes-result this time, by an application procedure towards the EU. I consider it progress that this discussion is organised by referenda and that the people have the chance to express their will at the ballot. In history processes like these have often fueled enormous violence. The concept of the nation state, let alone the EU, is only very young and we still need to define again and again what organisation is best for us in our rapidly changing and globalising world. We haven’t reached the final stage yet on how to organise our democracies and the organisation of our local, regional, national, European and global entities. But let’s talk about it and give the people a chance to out their voice on this. It is important for people to express their voice on where they feel they belong as you can see all over Europe, in the UK, in Spain and in Belgium to name three examples.
The EU seemed such an unmovable anonymous molog, not able to react adequately to the needs of the people, not able to correspond to the daily lives of its citizens, but a bureaucratic monster with incomprehensible rules and obligations that allowed free range to globalising industries and banks, but left its citizens dissatisfied. It made many turn away from this project. But the simple fact that the people now decided to leave the EU is a clear sign that our democracies work. And that is a major gain for this fragile form of government! The reaction from Brussels, is correct, if that is your choice than let’s work as fast as possible to make it happen. In my eyes this makes clear more then anything else that it is a free and a positive choice to be part of the EU, the fact that you can leave will probably do more in a psychological sense for the people to re-attach to it. The high participation to the referendum shows that people care and if given a voice in a vote that matters, make their voice heard.
Up until now the Britisch were mastering the breaks and that wasn’t very helpful to make the EU attractive to anybody. If the EU continues as before and will continue to look like a superior decision making body for prime ministers instead of a useful democratic tool for its citizens to achieve a better life, then, indeed, this is a first step to further disintegration.
Migration, or better said, unwanted immigration in the sentiments of some, seemed to be the overwhelming motive for the no-vote.Yes indeed, we need stronger leadership on this issue by our politicians and a better understanding of the migration issue. As a Green in heart and mind I am very open towards a fair asylum and migration policy. I am deeply ashamed by the current asylum practice that you can only get a refugee status when you come from Syria, or so it seems. As if there is no war elsewhere in the world. I also have a deep understanding for those people who do not want their neighborhoods invaded by people from a different culture, background or religion. It is a very strong sentiment, that many politicians have tried to ignore as much as they could, and has to do with the principal fact that we do not accept migration as an integral part of our European society. To much focus on the cooperation among ourselves, to little on the Global reality. Literally all efforts to come to a better, read more solidary, agreement on migration policy, coupled by a global investment policy, have not been supported by the EU Member States. One mustn’t be surprised that this creates immense social tensions and will backlash. Again the Brexit vote will force us into a new discussion about this issue. People have the right to voice their concerns around migration and it is not only indecent, but moreover counterproductive, to ignore the voice of so many.
The European Union, that so very precious project, that originated as a prevention for war project, but that has evolved far beyond it’s original scope is providing security, prosperity and freedom to so many. The Brexit referendum result means that we have to engage in an open discussion on where we would like to go and in which kind of EU and with which countries we want to proceed. I see this as a chance to get out of the eurosceptic trend, voiced by fearmongering politicians without a vision or an idea where to go, that has dominated that discussion until now. The Brexit result is a clear and straightforward call to further develop the way we want to live together, it is an enormous chance to try and make things work better!
I’m still flabbergasted, if that’s the word. Ever heard of the CAP? Or PAC as it is called in France? It’s the Common Agricultural Policy which is meant to support a divers agriculture in Europe. It happens to redistribute tax money to farmers, mostly the bigger ones that dominate with ruthless passion the industrial agriculture. Some farmers are more equal than other farmers.
2015 is the year of the new PAC, in May, when you have to apply for the subsidy nobody really understood the new rules yet. Thank God that there is an advisor at the agricultural chamber of commerce. Without him, we would for sure never ever succeeded to enter into this intricate system. Even for our seasoned professional this was a nightmare. But we managed and the dossier was put online just in time. Now you have to wait said our advisor. You will receive news around June and a first downpayment around that time.
So we waited, all through the canicule, the heatwave that came late spring, a period of severe draught that touched many of us throughout France, and we waited through the period of the grass that did not grow anymore after May because of the total lack of rain and which forced some colleagues to already distribute the hay that was meant for winter. And again through the period of the campagnol (a ravaging rat) that ruined most of the prairies and meadows above 800 metres, including ours, we lost more then 50% . We watched our colleagues on their tractors off to Paris because they want a fair price for their products. We learned about the blue tongue virus which brings to hold almost all trade and export for ruminants, this means no income for a lot of farmers for an indefinite while to come. It’s quite a year this 2015.
Finally, due to a special arrangement and after filling in some more incomprehensible forms, on October 1 some money arrived on our account, an early advancement. A what? We were thrilled. So I immediately called the administrative service that is responsible for the distribution what this money was about and what was the base of this amount. Because to be honest, the money was a lot less then we expected. The answer was simple, this is the money that you get and you will get more money in December. But we do not know why you received this amount, it is on the basis of the old PAC, we do not know how much money you will get, we have no access to the calculation module. The dossiers are not checked yet.
Yes, but, I said, we need to know how much money we will get… I mean, we want to know how much money we are entitled to. Unfortunately my request was irrelevant, yes they were the responsible service, yes, they should know, but they didn’t and did not expect to do so in the near future. So if more money was due for 2015, this would become clear most likely only in 2016 and then distributed. Yes, I said, but do you know when you will know and are able to inform us, I mean, we have counted with that money in our calculations, if we have miscalculated we have a problem, a serious problem which is called empty wallet. Well, we were not the only ones I was told. And with that argument (?) the phone conversation was ended.
Most of our colleagues, depend on the subsidies for a fair amount of their daily farm expenses, even more so with prices more unjust then ever and the current blue tongue crisis. I find it unheard off that the french administration is not able to calculate according to the new PAC rules. It amazes me, that only on special request one receives an advance in October and one more in December, I mean they could have done that in June, no? I find it a blunt insult to provide a first down payment in October to so many people who are entitled to this money. I try to encourage the farmers on the weekly market where I buy most of our food, but some of them are closer to tears then to talking. And once more I deplore my insufficient knowledge of French, because the minister of Agriculture deserves a solid letter of enquiry. It would as well suggest that we pay a third of his revenu and expense allowances also only next year.
As of January 2015 I am at home transforming from a administrative and managerial worker in the political realm into a farmer with a passion for ecology. It will take me years to accomplish this, but I am having an awful lot of fun getting there. Most, most urgent is starting the promotion of my new activity online. I noticed there were some overdue (deep sigh) online presences, and it is already October… Auch, that needs to change now. From this day on I will try and post on this site some of things that happen in relation to the farm we try to build and my new life. Life as a farmer is incredibly unpredictable, it is almost every day that the carefully planned schedule needs to be adapted because of the animals, the administration, the weather and I don’t know what else. My favorite expression is still more true than anything else: “never a dull moment“. I hope you’ll enjoy the process with me!
Politics of ecology for an ethical society
Bright and sunny day in Lyon! Your secretary general listens to Eva Joly who addresses a crowd of more than 2000 ! enthusiast people. For Joly the politics of ecology does not only mean an ecological sound Future, but moreover to define and guard what it means to live in an ethical society: an ethical society fights against poverty and defends the right to a decent and social just life and combats for the eradication of discrimination and inequality. That is what drives Eva Joly, une grande dame de politique ecology!
New movement on the way
We are near the heart of the city, in a huge Congress center. The screen is bright green, no new name visible yet, it is to be voted today. Green flags waving, people applauding, people united for this historic day. I see the faces of famous French Green politicians, I see many young people. I see many interested people listening to what representatives of civil society have to tell about the lost ethics in politics.
Populism is the opposite of ecological politics says Dany Cohn-Bendit
The politics of ecology is the opposite of the politics of populism states Dany Cohn-Bendit. It is neither left nor right and recognises that we are united in diversity. Ecological politics is a transformative and autonome force that can change our society. He calls for a unification of the left front in France to beat the right wing politics of Sarkozy that is exclusive and discriminative. Greens must appeal to all layers in society, to all the people that are suffer under the decisions that right wing politics make .
Reform project for 2012
Dany calls for a ‘grenelle’ on pensions, a true public enquete together with civil society, the trade unions and all the people concerned, for a project that will formulate a policy for reform before 2012.
Fight against nationalism
Europe is ill, nationalism is the name of the disease. The politics of ecology does not ask where you come from, it asks what you want to do with us. Those who want to change, are welcome to the club. For Dany the fight against the illness of an exclusive kind of politics, the fight against the illness of nationalism is pivotal for his work as Co-president of the Green Group in the European Parliament and he pledges his ongoing commitment towards this fight.
Now of for a coffee while dusks set in, recharge laptop and then hop hop hop back to this wonderful afternoon and evening in Lyon.
When I entered the office in January our basement was filled with papers and boxes and loose files. They have to go I said to Ann and soon! We need this room for office space.To Ann’s great reassurance I did not mean to throw them away, but archive the material, as should have been done long before. Johan Hamels suggested E-topia and I was really happy that I could hand over the archive to them. They carefully packed the material, made a list of what they took and have made plans to categorise it and make it available to the public. It will take a few years, but then we are up to date with that! For this relatively small institute it is special to have our European Greens archive, it is a true asset for their collection and it is centrally located close to the office in the heart of Europe. So far so good.
But there is more, Ann told, in England, a few boxes stacked somewhere in the buildings of the University of T-side in the UK. And she told me the story of the English delegate, Dick Richardson, who took, in 1996, some old material from the European Green Coordination (1984-1993) away to archive. In 1999 or thereabouts we received the message that Dick had died. The boxes with the material ended up in a shack we heard. Then the story ends, nobody knew why, how or what…
This year Johan offered to collect the material by car. Our archive would be in one place. Since Johan wanted to know when he could go, I contacted some person at the T-side University. Oeps, the message that I would like to make an appointment to collect our boxes with EGP material, created some ice-cold wind and I knew something was wrong.
A visit to this months’ UK Greens Conference seemed a good opportunity to have an appointment with the person who guarded these boxes during the last years. These boxes stacked in an old shack, appeared to be a full 25 meters material stored in one of the most sophisticated archives I have ever seen. Climatised room, special archived boxes and everything! Dick Richardson, former lecturer at the University, thought that our material should be saved from destruction and hoped to have the archive of the European Greens at his University.
I am most grateful to him and all the university staff, because the material in there is of our very first steps that we made to organise ourselves on a European level as European Greens. Furthermore there is lots of information on national green parties and some very interesting correspondence. Some of that very similar to that of today when it comes to applications and request to maintain voting rights despite not being able to pay membership fees (the answer is still the same: no!)
So there I am with one archive split in two locations with two institutions who are very keen and eager to archive the material and have it as a jewel in their archive crown. I will try to work out a solution to this problem and plan to have our archive in one place and electronically available with good cooperation between the two institutions.
And I think we may be for ever grateful to Dick Richardson for having the awareness that is is important to archive!
Last weekend I arrived in Nantes for the French Green Summer Study Days. I was invited to speak in a workshop about the Future of the EGP and to assist in a plenary debate concerning the future of Global ecology. Nantes surprised me, for more than one reason.
The city is clean, the public transport is clean, fast and has priority all over the city! At Saturday evening we had a party at the Island in the Loire and had a chance to watch an exhibition on http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/. A reference to Jules Verne, a makeable future and a good way to start a festive evening.
The atmosphere at the Nantes University itself was great and I felt at home with more than 2000 French Greens. I was deeply impressed by the support and respect for the non European Green representatives and moreover of the real activism that radiated from the French greens. Huge media attention! This is a party you want to be part of! I confess I have thought different on this in the past!
And no problem whatsoever for more than 1000 people to stay 4,5 hours, 2 hours longer than expected, in a very hot auditorium to watch the debates. Coming from the GroenLinks culture where everything is timed carefully and to finish at 5 PM means finish at 5PM and no later, this was a culture shock!
Up for discussion many issues, easy, nice, non controversial ones, but also the more difficult ones, on social security on migration, on unemployment benefits. It is the French Greens who dare to say that there are more creative ways to think on pensions than a lower pension age for all! Courageous, when you take the French system into account.
The hot issue on the table was the future of the French Greens. How they are to continue after the big electoral successes of the European and regional elections. And I am happy to report back that there is a large majority who supports the future cooperation in a more formal and structured way between the ecologist and the old French Green party members.
A survey among the participants revealed that most people saw this process as a challenge to think of new ways to organise party democracy and asked the leadership to come up with experiments for new and attractive ways of more direct involvement and democrac.y The respondents asked for recognition within the new structure of the activist nature of green politics and people.
The French Summer days inspired me and I have learned a lot. I will use my experience at our coming Council meetings and for our common future project. For now Chapeau for the French Greens who seem to be able to manage a very difficult process and come out stronger and more creative and inventive in the end.
You want to know more? http://www.journeesdete.fr/3935-les-journees-d-ete/
it was a very exciting weekend in Malmö! Would the EGP delegates choose me, a relative unknown women, from a small member state as their Secretary General? Oké, I know EGP allready for a very long time and have clear ideas on how to improve its functioning and organisation, but the last few years I was not there at the inner EGP circle. Therefore I am all the more proud to say that I was chosen by a two third majority of the votes. Thank you very much delegates for your trust in me! A big thank you also for my fellow candidates, Ari Heikinen and Juan Behrend. You always know that one has to loose when more candidates present themselves and it takes courage to do it!
From the first moment on that I was chosen I was deep down in EGP business. Difficult because my real start will be as from January onwards. I have to finish my job at the GroenLinks delegation first. So I will only do the most necessary things now. And there are lots of things that need urgent (or less urgent) attention. From a possible new office to the intricate situation with the Bulgarian and Spanish Greens. From banners untill the prepartion of a conference on effective cooperation between Green european organisations and foundations.
My focus points for the coming year will be threefold:
I will do my utmost best to strenghten our EGP organisation and make it future proof. And I will provide a platform for future development of our common green policy and vision.
I am very happy I am not alone in this. First there are 8 more great committee members elected in MALMÖ. Seewww.europeangreens.eu Second there is the wonderfull staff, Ann, Cecile and Graham! And third there is the Green Group in the European Parliament. Together with Vula Tsetsi (the female (coincidence?) General Secretary of the Green Group) I will invest and build, build, build on our common green European future.
Please keep me posted and lets keep in touch!
Hello, nice to meet you!
My name is Jacqueline Cremers, age 48. I want to build a stronger EGP organisation as well as further develop common European Green politics. I bring 10 years of experience in European politics by leading the bureau of the Dutch green delegation in the EP. That is why I want to be your next Secretary General. In this letter you will find my motivation.
Greens should become the third political force in Europe
More then ever we desperately need Green politics. Environmental, economic and social challenges need urgent action. Greens should use their power and influence to provide answers and alternative policies. To have more influence we have to work together and grow!
The biggest challenge for our common green future is to become the third political force at European level. We’ll need an EGP organisation that is ready and able to support this growth. We must use our successes to strengthen Green politics and politicians all over Europe, inside as well as outside the Union, at all political levels, local, regional as well as national!
Make EGP ready for the future
The EGP is first and foremost an organisation by and for the member parties. I want to strengthen the EGP by further professionalising the organisation and define the work that needs to be done through an action plan for the coming three years. Because we have limited resources we have to choose our priorities carefully and make sure plans are executed in time.
I want to build an EGP that is ready for the future. Strengthen its role as intermediary between the parties and unite the member parties in order to maximise our potential. We can use the wealth of knowledge and information that our member parties have available in a much better way, by bringing good national initiatives to the attention of other parties.
The EGP should become more attractive as well as efficient. It should be modern in its ways of communication, using new media and social networking. Professionalise means, besides the right people in the right places with enough means to carry out their work, the necessity to organise the work the best way we can.
It is by working together as a Committee that we can be effective in our drive for more efficiency and divide the workload that comes with an EGP that grows. The EGP Committee is our executive body. Our spokespersons are our political representatives. All Committee members should carry a specific responsibility and choose a priority of targeted action.
I do believe in common campaigning! Not ‘one size for all’, but build upon the modular approach, whereby national parties can easily integrate the campaign tools offered by the EGP in their own communication strategies.
I value the role of our individual members. They have a warm heart for the European Green movement. The EGP organisation can benefit from their energy, ideas and commitment. However our main structure is a party organisation.
Commitment for political representation in South and Eastern Europe
I deeply regret that we were not able to gain seats in Southern and Eastern Europe at the European elections. It must not happen again. Together we can change this. I will ask for your commitment and support to work together to establish Green representatives at all political levels as soon as possible and as many as possible.
I am well aware that we cannot achieve this overnight, nor everywhere at once! I will prepare, coordinate and execute an action plan for change. We must analyse where our electoral chances in the forthcoming national and local elections lie and the EGP organisation should coordinate support there where electoral gains are likely.
Of course the EGP organisation cannot do all this by itself. We have to enlarge our resources and work together with our green partners. Besides the member parties I want to work in close cooperation with the Green group in the EP, the European Green Foundation, the young and the (only a little bit) older Greens. We can make things better when we work together. And we should clearly define and respect each others competences.
A Green political force is not enough. We should work and build strong alliances with civil organisations. We should further propagate a European political debate where and when we can. We should try to reach out and bind to us those people that act in it. As Dany has done in France. Chapeau!
Make Europe a better place to live in
I have explained what my main goals are as regards the European Green Party organisation. And I will dedicate myself to accomplish these concrete goals. However for me the biggest challenge ahead lies in how we can make Europe a better place for people to live. We need to develop and define further what our common green values are and propose green alternative policies to the problems we face.
Why choose me?
With my ability to organise and make people work together I get things done. That, more than anything else, makes me the people manager that I am. Letting other people do what they do best makes me a very happy person. To be able to bring people together, to let them work together and make progress in their projects is a powerful gift. My passion is European politics. To be your Secretary General would mean I can do the thing I am most good at in the environment I like the best. I call that a win win situation for all of us.
Proud to be a European Green
I am proud to be a European Green and hope to work for you for at least the coming three years as your Secretary General. Please contact me when you want to know more about me, my motivation and my passion for green politics. I am looking forward to meet you in Malmö!