Interview. We spoke with the co-president of the European Greens. The group is willing to form an alliance with leftists, but only if they agree to a course change. ‘We are where we are today due to the policies that these groups have enacted to this day.’

After Green success, an alliance will require a course change

“To agree to sit down at the negotiating table, we want a sign of a course change”—this is the message that the European Greens are sending to the Socialist, Liberal and Popular parties regarding a possible alliance in the European parliament, according to Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the Green group together with their Spizenkanditat, Ska Keller.

Born in Brussels, with a degree in civil engineering, Lamberts, a committed pro-European, has been a Green member of the European Parliament in Strasbourg since 2009, and has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the decisions of the current head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, in the outgoing legislature.

A possible alliance could be achieved only if issues such as social justice and the ecological transition are put on the negotiating table. Lamberts is still cautious regarding how these principles might translate into concrete proposals, and is waiting for the Popular, Liberal and Socialist parties to take the first step toward a dialogue, with a confident attitude based on the strong electoral performance of the Greens.

How do you explain the success of the Greens?

We got a good result because we’re in a climate emergency, and it has become necessary to bring the topic of social justice onto the European political agenda. In a context in which many people chose to deliver a protest vote, we managed to offer a credible political answer for change. We managed to motivate the voters to give us a show of support for an ecological transition towards a more just society.

Are you considering an alliance with the Socialist, Liberal and Popular parties?

No other alternatives are possible. But let me be clear: we can be part of such a coalition only if there are clear signs of a break with the past. It cannot be done without the Popular, Socialist and Liberal parties seriously questioning their previous actions. Because we are where we are today due to the policies that these groups have enacted to this day.

What issues do you want to put on the negotiating table?

I don’t want to start a negotiation through the media, although everyone already knows our program: an ecological transition and social justice. I am waiting for the right moment to put our proposals on the table.

Will you ask for a review of the free trade agreements already negotiated, such as the CETA?

This is an interesting subject, which would question what has been done until now. It also clearly shows the divisions and contradictions within the Socialist family, for example. Clearly, this is an issue that should be on the table.

In what state of health does the left find itself, and what role can the Green Party play?

I am wondering what “the left” is nowadays. Is the Italian Democratic Party of the left? Sometimes I find it hard to believe. Are the Spanish Socialists of the left? It can be argued for and against. Today, the left is going through a period of ill-health. We can give it an impetus and reorient it towards the issues that properly belong to it, such as social justice.

The Greens are doing well in central and northern Europe, but are not doing well in the south. Why?

There are several reasons, from poor management on the part of the leadership to the divisions that have been created at the national level. In Portugal, the Greens used to be a branch of the Communist Party. In Spain and Greece, there have been too many internal divisions, which did not allow environmentalist groups to emerge. And then, there are cases like the Italian one, where there was poor management on the part of the leadership team, and I would point to Pecoraro Scanio most of all.

But there have been climate demonstrations in Italy that were among the largest in the world.

And this shows that there is a desire to make the themes of ecology and social justice into priorities for political action. Unfortunately, in countries like Italy, these issues do not have proper representation. This is also due to the fact that the Five Stars Movement monopolized environmental issues at first, and then forgot about them, preferring an alliance with the extreme right.

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