Two and a half years after the last European elections, the European Union is suffering from multiple crises. Among them, the democratic deficit requires attention and action. The European Parliament...
2016 POLITICAL REVIEW
Check out the pdf version HERE.
TOWARDS A BRIGHTER 2017
2016 has been a difficult year for youth and progressives. Brexit and Trump consolidated the rise of the new far-right across Europe, with refugees being its first victims. The climate negotiations in Marrakech have been a welcomed change from bad news, with most countries remaining strongly committed to tackle global warming and cutting emissions.
2016 has been a difficult year, yes, but it should not plunge us into helplessness or existential crisis. Young people have repeatedly expressed their discontent with the current situation, be it in the Brexit referendum, the US election or in the protests that already brought TTIP to the verge of collapse.
2016 should be a strong motivation to fight for a Greener and more progressive 2017 and future.
#itsourfuckingfuture after all!
1: YOUTH EMPOWERMENT MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER!
If 2016 has shown anything, it’s the progressive and Green mindset of young people. In the UK, the US and in elections and protests across Europe young people took to the ballots and the streets to call for a just, inclusive and progressive society.
Nonetheless, they were often overruled by a large number of old conservatives, whose votes often have severe implications for us, as the next generation. It is our task as young people to empower our generation to demand change and justice. FYEG had several educational activities in 2016 that aimed for just that: to give young Europeans the tool to fight for their future.
1.1 “FROM SOCIAL WRONGS TO SOCIAL RIGHTS”
FYEG Summer Camp in Serbia
During one week 60 of our activists met on the Serbian-Romanian border to learn and exchange about social rights. Often overlooked, the new right is not only curbing the rights of refugees, but also increasingly attacking the welfare state including housing, education and healthcare. Hence, we provided a one-week training on these crucial and substantial rights that everyone needs to know in order to defend them against neoliberal onslaught.
As FYEG’s biggest ever summer camp, this was an opportunity to try out new formats and ways to strengthen our network. In cooperation with GEF we had a great success with streaming a panel debate on basic income in a talkshow format to our followers on social media life from Serbia. Scavenger hunts, group work, presentations, role plays and performances enabled the development of a deeper understanding of the complex topic in a relaxed summer camp atmosphere.
General Assembly and Spring Conference in Prague
We held our annual General Assembly (GA) from the 26th to the 30th of May, in Prague, the Czech Republic. Around 100 representatives of FYEG’s Member Organisations and other Green activists gathered to debate the political situation in Europe and make plans for the upcoming year. The GA adopted policy papers on basic income, climate justice, refugees, and democratic developments in Central and Eastern Europe.
The newly elected Executive Committee, together with the new Secretary General and the FYEG staff will implement an ambitious and thrilling Activity Plan adopted by the GA. FYEG will during the upcoming year focus its political work and activities on three priorities - climate, migration, and the future of Europe. FYEG also welcomes a new Member Organisation, MODOM from Macedonia.
A Spring Conference was held in connection with the GA. Prominent activists, academics, journalists and politicians discussed and debated the state of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe together with the delegates and local citizens.
2: A GOOD YEAR FOR THE CLIMATE — AND STILL A LOT TO BE DONE!
COP22 in Marrakech did not bring any huge novelties. However, it was an important step into the right direction and we are relieved to see the affirmation of the vast majority of states to remain committed to their obligations under the Paris Agreement, with or without Trump’s United States.
COP22 was an embarrassment for Europe. Instead of being a leading force in the development of emission-free technology and climate-friendly policies we even got the “Fossil of the Day”. With COP23 taking place in Bonn, Germany, FYEG will certainly be pushing on the spot for a progressive, fair and sustainable solution to the Climate Crisis.
2.1 FYEG COP22 Activities
Our take on COP22 in Marrakech
For the first time FYEG followed the COP beyond Europe’s borders. Together with the European Green Party, we gathered a whopping 50 of our activists in Marrakech to critically discuss the events at COP22 from a Green perspective and develop strategies to keep up the fight for climate justice.
Hosted by the Moroccan Green and Left Party, the Alter-COP climate camp welcomed panel discussions, group work, as well as many exchanges opportunities with our Green partners and civil society organisations from both Africa and Europe. In parallel a dozen of young green activists participated in a professional media training on documentary making, which they took as an opportunity to approach local struggles and activism in the Moroccan context.
2.2 INSIDE COP22
FYEG’s 2017 observers to COP22
As every year, we had gave several of our activists the opportunity to monitor COP22 from the inside as part of our COP22 delegation. This year eight young Greens followed the negotiations and side events inside the Blue Zone. Over two weeks they were our eyes and ears inside the UN compound and kept our followers updated about the events inside.
Follow our social media to get notified of the soon to come call for the 2017 Bonn COP delegation!
3: RECLAIM EUr FUTURE!
Europe has seen its crisis escalate in 2016. Brexit sent thorough shocks through the very foundation of the European Union. Despite the hard work our fellow Greens in the UK alongside others campaigning hard to vote “REMAIN”, the British electorate decided to leave the EU ― following a campaign unprecedented in racism and lying.
In general, we have seen the value of the truth and facts eroding throughout 2016. The far-rights rise ― in some states almost to power ― is based on a dangerous political game that is already having very real effects for marginalised people and groups. With a Green candidate assuming office in Austria, positive events have happened, but in 2017 we need to fight even harder to make Europe an inclusive, progressive and open society, as well as to protect the union that guarantees this.
Little more than half of the British decide to leave
The premise of the vote itself was skewed. A split in the Conservative Party has been transposed to a referendum that will define the lives of generations to come. A rigid, two-party system manifested its inability to deal with internal party matters in a way that does not put an entire country's future at stake. The field has been cleared for right-wing populism to hijack the political agenda and show its hostility towards living together and towards taking care of our common future.
This vote should serve as a wake up call for leaders across Europe. It’s what happens when successive governments blame their shortcomings on something else than their own policy failures. The EU is not responsible for the state of health care, housing, public transport and education in the UK. But the Leave campaign has shamelessly repeated this deceptive mantra, and the result is a campaign ridden by cheap clichés, blatant lies, and racism. The murder of Jo Cox cannot and should not be separated from the context of nationalist hysteria created by parts of the political class and the media.
The polls showed one thing very clearly: we, young people, want to stay together. We know that there are powerful politicians and corporations that dictate the conditions of our economic and social policies. We know better than believing the demagogues when they try to blame migrants and Brussels for the shortcomings of our societies. We believe that unity and solidarity is our strength. It is the only way for us to build the UK, Europe, and the world we want to leave to future generations.
We stand with our progressive friends in the UK. No matter the obstacles, we continue our struggle for a fair, just, democratic and sustainable Europe with you ― together!
3.2 SPANISH ELECTIONS
2016 has been one of the most complex in terms of politics in the Spanish democracy. 2016 has closed, with the second general elections in June, a electoral cycle which is characterised by the citizen’s movements, confluence and political agreements.
2016 has allowed us to observe in the Spanish big cities ― such as Madrid, Valencia or Barcelona ― that a new political style is possible, which return the cities to the people and make them more sustainable.
The beginning of the XIIth and XIIIth term of democracy show clearly that the two party system has died. However, it is still producing a new alienation around two political axes: the neoliberalism or the “big coalition” (PP-PSOE-C’s) and the progressive or “Unidos Podemos” (Podemos-IU-EQUO) and their regional allies in Catalonia, the Valencian Country and Galicia. The division of the political landscape can be an opportunity for the Green politics of EQUO and both Iniciativa parties (in Catalonia and the Valencian Country). This legislature can solve the delay in environmental politics between Spain and the European Union. This time will be the moment for the definitely growing of the European Green Party in Spain.
In the June elections the confluences gave us the opportunity to have Green representation in the parliament which would have been difficult by ourselves under our unfair electoral law. The fascism has not increase like in Europe perhaps its never leave (PP was founded by an ex-minister under Franco). Now is the moment in which EQUO and both Iniciativa parties is having the visibility to grow up and appear as a relevant political option in the future. But it is no to be easy and it’s open to greens new challenges.
If one European country historically has had a good relationship with their environment and that is suffering from the effects of climate change, it is Spain. We have a greener future and the Greens will fight for it.
― by Francisco Sánchez [Red Equo Joven] and Enric Juan [Joves amb Iniciativa]
3.4 CETA IS TTIP THROUGH THE BACKDOOR
No to corporate-centred trade deals
The pressure is mounting on resolving the ongoing debate over the European Parliament's stance on CETA, the trade agreement between the EU and Canada. Despite a clear message from civil society and citizens against the agreement, CETA is being pushed through the EU via undemocratic means, showing clear bias towards corporations instead of citizens.
Europe's leaders are preventing the big decisions of our time from being taken after broad political deliberation and a basic democratic process, and rather push them through when they think no one is looking. The problems that have led to mounting opposition to TTIP - to the point that government ministers from several leading EU member states are now opposing it - persist with CETA.
CETA has been called TTIP's "precursor" and "cousin". It is generally considered by civil society to be a Trojan horse for TTIP. CETA's proponents are attempting to make it easier to pass the widely criticised provisions of TTIP by already making these a fait accompli through the EU-Canada treaty. A crucial example is the so called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions, which TTIP has faced harsh criticism for, and which is also included in CETA. It looks increasingly likely that TTIP will fail, but CETA would give multinational corporations similar leverage over states and democratic legislation processes through their Canadian subsidiaries. According to US-based think tank Public Citizen, 81% of US corporations that would be able to use ISDS under TTIP would be able to do so under the EU-Canada agreement. CETA is TTIP through the back door.
We demand transparent and democratic trade regimes. Trade agreements must not have detrimental effects on our environmental, health and social standards. We therefore call upon all EU citizens to pressure their elected representatives on national and European level to dismiss CETA.
4: HUMAN RIGHTS UNDER ATTACK - WE STILL NEED #SAFEPASSAGE
2016 saw a shocking erosion of human rights on a large scale. Governments across Europe did not care about their commitments under international law and sneaked out of their responsibility by letting few countries handle the refugees from Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, while the far right shamelessly exploited this human tragedy to their own advantage.
It was a sad year for those of us working on refugee rights. The shameful deal with ever more autocratic Turkey turned the country into a bulwark between the EU and the Middle East, forcing more people than ever before into wet graves in the Mediterranean. Away from public scrutiny more repulsive deals turned North Africa and the Sahel into refugee traps, including in war-torn Libya and Sudan. 2017 we all need to work even harder to return to a human rights-based European foreign and migration policy.
4.1 SHAME ON YOU!
EU-Turkey Anti-Refugee Deal
We condemn the EU-Turkey anti-refugee deal as both blatantly illegal and profoundly immoral.
Returning refugees to Turkey is a clear breach of the principle of non-refoulement. There is no guarantee that refugees will enjoy even minimum standards of protection in Turkey. The human rights situation is deplorable and deteriorating in Turkey, including for refugees and migrants, as there are reports of refugees being shot on the border between Turkey and Syria by Turkish authorities. Turkey is thus not a so called safe third country.
Human rights are not negotiable and shall not be the object of arbitrary deals of selfish European political leaders. What Europe needs now is political leaders who stand up for European values, for the safeguard of human rights, and for a Europe that lives up to the commitments not to turn inwards when people are in need of help. Do Europe’s current leaders want to be remembered as those who caved in to populist and racist demands of indifference, even hostility, towards the refugees? Or do they want to be remembered as those who defended human rights and dignity at a time of crisis? The refugees are mostly women and children, who are in need of particular protection.
Europe’s leaders are applying the wrong solutions to real problems. This means that the problems are not going to be solved. The heads of state are saying that this scheme will destroy the business model of the smugglers. But people are still going to be on the run - only now taking more risky routes to get to safety, such as the deadly crossing from Libya to Italy. The smugglers will find ways for their business to thrive, unless Europe’s leaders come to their senses and start providing safe passage for the refugees.
FYEG is in favour of a common European migration policy, but it must be based on solidarity and the common good, which we cannot see much of this time around. Giving the authoritarian president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a set of political and economical concessions only makes him appear stronger, which is bad news for all of his perceived enemies, who are ruthlessly repressed. We look forward to increased integration between the EU and Turkey, but not at any cost. What the EU’s leaders have done today is a disgrace.
Month after month, summit after summit, we think that we have reached a new low, that things must get better from now on. But we are running out of optimism. Europe’s leaders obviously lack a vision for Europe as well as a commitment to the European project. Deals like this only makes things worse, as Europe’s fundament - a set of progressive values - is crumbling.
We are Europeans, committed to solidarity, human rights and democracy. These are not empty words, despite our selfish and narrow-minded leaders’ attempts to make them void of content. We will not let that happen.
Shame on you!
FYEG field visit to Idomeni and Brenner Pass
In March a handful of our activists witnessed the outrageous situation in Idomeni first hand. Driving down the Balkan Route shortly before it was closed to meet refugees and social movements, while sharing the experience with a large audience on social media was a new, and successful format for FYEG. Not only did our activists get the chance to personally experience the topics of our political discussions, but also to join forces with other organisations fighting for the same goal.
Over 1000 activists from across Europe gathered at the Brenner Pass to demand open borders, safe passage and an end to Europe’s shamefully inhuman border regime. FYEG, along with our member organisations from Germany and Austria, as well as Melting Pot Europa, social centers of north-east Italy and plenty of other activists, protested and tried to cross the Austrian-Italian border without showing identification ― as it should be the right of each and every one of us in a Europe in the year 2016.
While the Italian police was letting our march pass, the Austrian authorities were determined to keep the border shut and use force against the first rows of the march trying to pass the border. A short episode of violence broke out when Austrian police, in an act unworthy of modern-day Europe, used tear gas and batons against our comrades, who had to retreat to the Italian side.
Violence is not the solution. It is the logical consequence of closed borders. Human movements are a natural part of our history as a species and society, people will not stop moving just because selfish, coward governments would like them to. Shutting borders is violence, not primarily against us: those who experience this violence each and every day are the refugees.