The Green party of England, Wales and Northern Ireland: Green Europe? A green view on European integration

The Green party of England, Wales and Northern Ireland: Green Europe? A green view on European integration (1993)

Morgen entscheidet die Bevölkerung Großbritanniens über den sogenannten Brexit, den freiwilligen Austritt aus der Europäischen Union. Passend dazu haben wir heute einen Text der Grünen Partei von England, Wales und Nordirland ausgewählt: In der Broschüre “Green Europe? A green view on European integration” aus dem Jahr 1993 listet die Green Party auf, was ihrer Meinung nach falsch läuft auf europäischer Ebene.

Shortly before his death, Jean Monnet, the father of the European Economic Community, confided to a friend that if he were beginning all over again he would aim for the Community to be founded not on economics but on culture.

Außerdem entwirft die Green Party die Vision eines “grüneren Europa” – ein Auszug daraus heute im Blog – und beschreibt die Maßnahmen, durch die man dieses Ziel erreichen kann. Übrigens: Die britischen Grünen sprechen sich heute – mit dem Slogan “we’re fairer, safer and greener in Europe” – für den Verbleib in der EU aus.

A new future

When confronted with the vision of the politicians’ Europe, it is difficult to imagine how the momentum in favour of the European superstate could ever be arrested. The scale of change that needs to take place if communities are to be protected and our ecology preserved is immense. Heads of State will agree with the need for change towards “sustainability” in principle when it is discussed in an abstract way at international conferences, but they will not allow it to interfere with their traditional concerns for increasing economic growth in the blind belief that in this way the national interest is best served.


What has the EU done for the environment? (2016)

What’s the EU done for the environment? (2016)

Current economic priorities such as the control of inflation and the creation of economic growth will have to take a back seat to the goal of ecological sustainability. A sustainable economy is, quite simply, one which can continue indefinitely; it is an economy which does not consume resources faster than they can be replaced; which does not produce emissions in greater quantities than can be safely absorbed; which has a stable level of population. Each of these features are self-evidently necessary, without them our survival systems will eventually break down. Their achievement fundamentally questions traditional notions of economic growth and technological progress, and therefore the rationale behind the policies which are consequently pursued.

The introduction of sustainability as an economic target would require the development of new economic indicators designed to measure success or failure of government policies. The exact nature of such indicators is by no means an easy question. The deterioration of the environment, and the aspects of human behaviour which exacerbate it, are not always easy things to measure or define. Some organisations advocate the production of a new, single “quality of life” index that would take the form of an adjusted measure of Gross National Product (which is the total value in money terms of all the production in a country in a year) with figures included to take into account such factors as resource depletion. The Green Party published a report in 1992 which stated its preference for a basket of twelve key indicators which, taken together, would provide a more reliable measure of the state of the economy and environment. Such indicators would be appropriate for all the nations which make up the European Community, as well as most of those likely to join.


Quite clearly, continuing poverty for many millions of people across the world is unacceptable and threatens a future of increasing tension and conflict. Moreover, poverty is one of the major global causes of environmental destruction as longer term considerations are sacrificed to the need for short term survival. The question of wealth distribution needs to be put firmly back on the political agenda. It is only since World War II that European mainstream politicians of all colours have built a consensus around increasing economic growth as virtually the sole means of eradicating poverty and want. In the achievement of this goal such policies have conspicuously failed. The gap between rich and poor, both within nations and between developed and developing countries, has widened. Even those countries which have enjoyed prodigious economic growth over the last century, such as the USA, are still plagued by large areas of desperate poverty. The tragedy is that all that extra growth has inflicted a savage cost on our environment and, all too often, to our communities. Most of the improvements which have taken place in the last couple of centuries in the standard of living of ordinary people have come about through the introduction of social policies designed to provide economic security and to erode income differentials between rich and poor. The prioritisation of market forces above all else has only served to reverse some of the gains which had been won. The nations of Europe should face up to the reality that competition with Japan and the USA in the race to increase the size of the “economic cake” is quite simply not sustainable.

Responsive government

If there is a huge gap between the vision of the politicians’ Europe and the hopes of ordinary people, it is because Government is too centralised and out of touch. The old centrally planned economies of the former Soviet empire demonstrated clearly that centralised decision-making is chronically prone to bad judgement. The mistake that Western politicians make, is in believing that allowing market forces to operate where they will constitutes decentralised decision-making because the market place is made up of millions of consumers exercising choice and making individual decisions. In actual fact markets only operate efficiently in one function, the economical (but not equitable) distribution of goods and services. The fact that Government has decided that such a consideration is the only economic priority in spite of growing unemployment, the erosion of communities and the destruction of the environment, is as stark an example of centralised decision taking as any supplied by the Soviet bureaucrats. A sustainable society is likely to devolve power to the lowest appropriate level of government because it must be possible for decisions taken to be informed by local experience and in the fullest possible knowledge of consequences. This does not mean that there will be no place for European level policy. Where the scale of an issue is such that it affects the whole European Community, then the appropriate level of Government is likely to be European. However such policy should be developed in a democratic forum where the voices of all its constituent units can be heard.

A people’s Europe

Opinion polls across the member states have shown that popular feeling is against the “new Europe” that is being created by Maastricht. Such polls reflect the view that the EC project is being shaped exclusively for the benefit of large corporations and the banking systems: the needs and concerns of ordinary people are being sold short. The politicians have interpreted this lack of support among the population as being the result of presen-tation difficulties, believing that if only Maastricht is explained better then people will naturally come around. They believe that the interests of industrialists and bankers, and the general population are exactly the same, and that there is no real alternative way forward.

Of course a unified, wealthy Western Europe and an impoverished and unstable Eastern Europe is just one of a number of possible futures for the continent. It would also be possible to create a Europe which represents a union of all its peoples, gaining strength through co-operation as well as retaining national and regional identities. Although this is not often presented as a complete political vision on the part of the populace, it is surely the logical conclusion of the widespread reaction against central command from Brussels that forced the EC to suddenly stress its commitment to subsidiarity. Politicians have been made aware that people want more, not less, control over their own lives. They want a Europe for people, not a Europe for business. Shortly before his death, Jean Monnet, the father of the European Economic Community, confided to a friend that if he were beginning all over again he would aim for the Community to be founded not on economics but on culture.

A Europe for the future

It might justifiably be asked whether a people’s Europe can also be an ecologically sustainable Europe, since it is generally believed that popular sentiment would not tolerate for long the consequences of serious policies to protect the environment. This is a mistaken belief.

We're fairer, safer and greener in Europe (2016)

We’re fairer, safer and greener in Europe (2016)

Concern for the state of our world is now widespread. Although the onset of economic recession pushed such concern down the list of immediate priorities for many, people understand that action needs to be taken. In terms of local policy making, European citizens have demonstrated time and again that they will oppose measures that threaten to damage their local environment or harm their quality of life. The effect of making more decisions locally is that people become more aware of the hard choices which need to be made.

In terms of global environmental concerns, there is considerable scope for building tolerance and agreement behind tough measures to preserve our planet. Cynics argue that environmental issues are too technical and complex for ordinary people to comprehend, and damage to the global ecosystem is too far removed from the everyday experience of those people for them to remain concerned about it for long. And yet Governments have disproved this argument by successfully implementing long and painful policies to contain inflation. It is only because the Government has consistently sold the idea that inflation needs to be controlled that people have been prepared to put up with punishing levels of interest rates. Economic questions are just as complex and indecipherable to the lay person, and inflation is just as abstract a threat. Such policies have been tolerated because people have recognised that long term self-interest can sometimes mean short term pain. The protection of the future for our children is a piece of long term self-interest that is a great deal more saleable than price stability. But it requires the political will on the part of governments to go out and sell it.

Reform of institutions

The size and role of the European Community should determine what sort of institutions are developed to run its affairs. A Europe which is made up of strong regional governments, with a light coordinating hand at the European level for specifically European concerns, should expect to develop very different organs to one which is a stepping stone towards a European superstate. In actual fact, it would be difficult to claim that the current institutions are appropriate for the Community’s current functions. Whether the EC continues to gain in power or whether its powers decrease, the lack of democracy in its institutions is unacceptable. The European Parliament remains the most democratically accountable institution of the EC, and yet holds very little power. Within a Community where the powers and respon-sibilities of the centre are strictly defined, the Parliament should become the main focus for European legislation. European jurisdiction would include environment, huMan rights, trade and transport. The European Parliament provides a forum where no single national group has a majority and yet all nations and regions can be heard, and whose sessions are held openly and accountably. This makes it a better organ for the exercise of limited powers on a Europe-wide level than the unelected Council of Ministers or Commission, or an unaccountable European Central Bank. In these bodies national governments are too likely, cloaked in complete secrecy, to make deals according to priorities and interests which remain unaccountable and invisible.

The role of Europe

The aim for the European superstate is that of a new economic and military superpower, able to compete and win in the competition for growth with the USA and Japan, as well as to protect its interests in the rest of the world. Such an aim is utterly blind to the changes in our understanding of the world that have taken place over the last decade. We need a new vision for building a global consensus that will deal with the growing divide between rich and poor, the degradation of the ecology of the planet and the increasing instability of the global economy. To provide this the European Community will need both to redefine its own role as a major actor on the world political stage as well as to deal with conflicts currently taking place within its own borders. For the latter of these two objectives it needs to decide whether the EC project will strive to unite Europe or divide it.

Widening the Community

The question of enlarging the European Community has recently been posed more as a counter to those intent on creating a single European state. The larger the Community gets, it is argued, the less likely it is that economic and political union could ever work. In fact, this is already the case in some ways. When the Mediterranean countries joined, the cultural compatibilities between the EC’s component parts was largely ended. Jean Monnet’s original dream of a single European political entity was difficult to sustain in the light of very different attitudes and priorities between the south and the north. Nevertheless, it remains perfectly possible for the Community to grow considerably, especially if it is to become more limited in its powers and purpose. The EC started, after all, as a group of six. It is now twelve. Britain and two other EFTA countries joined, followed by Spain and Greece and Eire. When Britain first applied to join, its membership was vetoed by France because De Gaulle suspected Britain of being the Trojan horse of the USA. Other members supported the UK’s application because they saw her as a potential counterweight to domination of the Community by the powerful alliance of France and Germany; the same alliance that is now the engine behind European union. Interestingly, when Portugal, Spain and Greece applied, their application was supported by the general feeling of Community members that they should accept democratic regimes in European countries which had recently been dictatorships. Eire was accepted because it also was a democratic country, in spite of the political challenges that country’s neutrality posed. Having adopted such criteria in the past, it is difficult now to see good reason why the newly democratic nations of Eastern Europe should be excluded.

Promoting stability


The EU was founded to make war in Europe unthinkable (2016)

The chronic economic problems of the Eastern European countries, along with the recent growth of nationalist tensions, makes the goal of a coherent European identity, stretching across the entire continent, a crucially important one. The stresses imposed by rapid economic transformation on societies unprepared and unequipped for change can be explosive. Given that the experience of the populations of the East is, that the wealthy West exploits their inexperience and erects barriers against the few products with which they could compete — while exhorting them to embrace the free market — their frustration and anger might well teach them to see the West as the cause of their problems. The fledgling national identities have to be brought into a stable, continental political framework, otherwise the consequences for peace could be devastating, as former Yugoslavia has demonstrated only too clearly. In this context, it becomes quite obvious that NATO has become completely irrelevant to the European security needs of the coming decades. What is needed is a security structure that is far more inwardly focused, seeking to resolve conflict between its constituent states, stretching across the entire European continent. The starting point for this structure is the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The danger we face is that as the Community continues on the road to Economic and Monetary Union it will take on more and more the character of a fortress Europe, with half of Europe and the rest of the world left on the outside. Foreign industry certainly sees this possibility; the run up to the completion of the Single Market has seen a rush of inward investment, principally from the USA and Japan. Companies are taking steps to ensure that they are on the inside before the drawbridge goes up. In the wake of the Second World War, a shattered Europe needed help to rebuild after six years of trauma and destruction. Then, the US responded with extraordinary generosity correctly gauging that its own interests and the interests of world peace would be served by early action. Now a similar programme is necessary for the ex-Soviet empire. The self-interest remains just as acute, and the resources that could be liberated due to the end of the Cold War are considerable. But the vision of building for peace has been lost after so many years of preparing for war. The original vision of a more united. Europe came about because of the need to prevent future conflict between its component states. The division down the centre of the continent promised by European union will threaten future conflicts that will be with us for a very long time indeed.

Tackling trade

As well as nationalist conflicts within its own borders, the EC has to confront the tensions that exist on a global scale in the field of trade. The major trading blocs have been hovering on the edge of a trade war for several years, as negotiations to extend “freedom of trade” through the GATT Uruguay Round have been dragged down by acrimony. The problems largely hinge on EC protection of its own agricultural production, a practice which the USA contends discriminates against their farmers. With unemployment rife across the world at the moment the politicians on all sides are tempted by the popular appeal that more protectionist policies might have. The Clinton administration has already dipped a toe into such waters to court the approval of skilled workers in threatened industries. In actual fact, the major blocs already have intensely protectionist policies in that they discriminate quite brutally against the products of the Third World. “Free trade” is only beneficial to those players who have the economic muscle to compete in the first place; it is proving a disaster to those who have spent the last twenty years trying to catch up only to find themselves falling further and further behind. The world will not stand forever the tensions created by the rich living side by side with the desperately poor. Restrictions on immigration, and even more inhumanely, on asylum agreed by the EC states serves to remind the people of the South and of Eastern Europe of their exclusion. Neither will the environment bear forever the consequences of the production and trade that takes place in the scramble for economic growth. Measures to tackle this situation will include adding the real cost of transportation through environmental taxation to the price of imported and exported goods to encourage local production and discourage the unnecessary wastage of fossil fuels. They would also involve removing the discrimina-tory policies against the manufactured goods of the developing world, as well as cancelling the overhang of debt that conspires to keep the poorer nations within a spiral of decline. They would involve reversing some of the moves towards financial deregulation that were taken during the 1980s which have left the global economic system increasingly fragile and unpredictable.

nfortunately, many of these policies would provoke deep hostility from the other major economic players so long as they remain devoted to old-style economic thinking and priorities. Environmental taxation would be seen as import tariffs by another name, particularly since the stimulation of home production would be amongst its intended effects. It is difficult to predict what would be the consequences of a full scale trade war fought with unrestrained ferocity between the major powers. It falls to the EC, as a key player, to use its position to prepare the climate of opinion for a positive change in direction. There needs to be a “new protectionism”; the restraint of trade through co-operation as part of a strategy for global sustainability. Such leadership is perfectly possible, although the process of arguing for change would be a long one, and would make the Uruguay GATT round seem like a model of good humour and consensus. The recent United Nations Environment Summit in Rio de Janeiro showed that enough understanding of the problem is there to justify such a move forward, but world leaders are not yet prepared to face the implications of those problems for their economic ambitions.

Conclusion – campaigning for change

The Green Party has campaigned in favour of a different vision of Europe and in favour of the right of the British people to have a direct say in decisions which affect their future. The Party organised a streetside referendum in December 1992 around the issue of the ratification of Maastricht, and confirmed the opinion pollsters findings that the clear majority of ordinary people are against it. The European economy and the Single Market will be a key theme of the Green European election campaign in 1994. It is crucially important that as many voices as possible are raised in favour of a change of direction for Europe. Such voices need to be heard as part of a direct challenge to the political process which is currently so out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.