Interview. Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the European Greens, spoke with us about the negotiations to admit the Five Star Movement into the EU party. The end of the Lega alliance was a step forward, but questions about the group’s Rousseau voting platform remain.

European Greens won’t let in Five Stars until it fixes its ‘internal democracy’

“What matters for us is consistency,” in both content and methodology, “about the policies that are being defended and the manner in which these are being defended.” This is the message coming from Philippe Lamberts, the co-president of the European Greens, currently engaged in a difficult negotiation following the M5S’s request to join the ecologist parliamentary group in Strasbourg. 

The 14 Five Star MEPs are still looking for a home in the European Parliament after the May 26 elections. The M5S delegation, led by Tiziana Beghin, has already met once with the leadership of the European Greens, and will have to answer a number of concerns raised by the environmentalists in the coming days. The first issue is the Five Stars’ “internal democracy,” according to the Belgian MEP Lamberts, who adds that “only when we will overcome this hurdle will we address the convergences and differences” regarding migration policy, the relationship with the European institutions, and, of course, environmental policies. 

All these differences have raised discontent within the Green party, particularly coming from the German delegation. The co-presidents of the Italian Greens, Elena Grandi and Matteo Badiali, have also expressed concern. On the other hand, the Scandinavian and French delegations are in favor of admitting the M5S.

What stage are the negotiations at?

We are having discussions starting from a list that we provided to the M5S delegation, consisting of a number of points that are raising concerns for us.

During the summer, you were reluctant about an alliance with the M5S. What has changed?

The end of their alliance with the extreme right has removed the first and most important obstacle.

What are the points of convergence?

It’s enough to look at how each of us has been voting. The real problem is the points on which we are in disagreement, starting from the structure of their party, or some of their choices, such as meeting with an enemy of democracy like Steve Bannon.

The Greens are a strongly pro-European party, while the Five Stars have repeatedly signaled their impatience with the European institutions.

This topic is definitely part of our discussion, but we are taking it step by step. The first step to be addressed is the internal democracy of the M5S. When we are reassured on this point, we will address other topics: the issue of the euro, immigration policies and so on. I must admit that we have good relations with the Five Star MEPs, but they are part of a political structure which is raising some concerns.

What is your opinion about the Rousseau platform?

I’m sorry to say that our impression is that this is a closed platform, not appropriate for a party that functions in a democratic manner.

Would it be different if the platform wasn’t run by a private company?

The Green parties work in a democratic manner, and while we can certainly debate the quality of this internal democracy, its internal structures are well known, documented and translated into statutes filed at democratic institutions. The M5S is a different kind of party: a private company owned by one particular person.

The co-presidents of the Italian Greens, Elena Grandi and Matteo Badiali, have expressed their concerns.

We have been in touch, and their concerns are also part of our reflections and our requirements.

The M5S voted in favor of EC President Ursula von der Leyen, while the Greens voted against.

Everyone voted in a legitimate manner according to their own convictions. The next step is the vote on the whole Commission. We’ll see how they will vote.

After the European elections, you told il manifesto that “green issues can’t find representation in Italy also because of the M5S, which has monopolized environmental issues and then forgotten about them.” What has changed?

It’s true. In its beginnings, the M5S brought some environmental issues onto the Italian political scene, and then it forgot about them. And I think some M5S voters are disappointed for this reason.

Is the date for the next meeting already set?

No date has been confirmed yet. I can tell you that we will meet soon.

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