As the European electoral period approaches, the different political groups are preparing to submit their programs. The first to do so was the Greens’ Group, also known as the European Free Alliance (EFA), which approved its new manifesto titled “Courage to Change” on Sunday, February 4. The political group is made up of 41 political parties from different Member States, and currently represented by 72 MEPs in the European Parliament.[1] The manifesto will be essential not only to the electoral campaign, but will also serve as a guide for the Group’s representatives over the new mandate.[2] The EFA is, however, facing an unprecedented wave of resistance to its ideas and policies, auguring low vote numbers in the polls. Before these challenges, it is worth observing and following the propositions, goals, and priorities of the different political groups. This article will briefly outline the main points of interest in the Greens’ program, present their new leading candidates, and assess the challenges faced by the group in the upcoming June elections.

Having won a record number of seats in the 2019 election (72), the Greens now face a starkly different prognostic ahead of the elections.[3] The support earned throughout Europe during the climate protests led by Greta Thunberg in the run-up to the last elections has now turned into a backlash and resistance. This is especially true when considering the recent farmers’ protests demanding exemptions from environmental rules.[4] In addition to this localized resistance, there is a general antagonistic sentiment towards green policies, with a surge in right-wing seats being expected in the elections. The preliminary expectation is, therefore, that significant cuts to climate protection regulations will be adopted, and the implementation of the European Green Deal will slow down.[5]

The newly nominated leading candidates for the party are Terry Reintke (Germany) and Bas Eickhout (Netherlands). Reintke has been an MEP for the group since 2014, while Eickout since 2009. In addition, Eickout is currently serving as Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety in the European Parliament. In their statements after nomination, both leaders promised to fight for a more sustainable and greener Europe, while placing a special emphasis on the role of the Greens as defenders of social inclusion and diversity. [6] Most importantly, the EFA is positioning itself at the forefront of the pushback against the far-right. In this quest, the leaders have extended their hand to all “progressive parties” who agree to work towards the group’s goals — carrying out the green transition while promoting social justice, rule of law and democracy.

Election polls predict the loss of a third of the number of seats now held by the Greens in the European Parliament. Due to these preliminary forecasts, the need to carry out an effective and persuasive campaign has certainly played a key role in formulating the measures presented in the manifesto. One of the demands being proposed, for example, is the call for the EU energy system to rely solely on renewable sources by 2040. This is closely tied to another call for the phasing out of oil and gas, also by 2040 at the latest.[7] These targets challenge the consensus at EU level. Specifically, this pertains to the European Green Deal aiming towards climate neutrality by 2050. In addition to these measures, 11 priorities were identified, 6 not being directly related to environment protection and climate-neutrality goals.[8] These 6 points of focus are:

  • Good Jobs and Fair Pay for All
  • Ensuring Affordable Housing for Everyone
  • Pesticide Free Food for Fair Prices
  • Protecting Democracy, Fundamental Rights and Freedoms
  • Uniting Europe for Peace and Security
  • Building a Feminist Europe

Given the current pushback by the European public, and amidst predictions of right-wing surges, doubts about the course taken by the EFA are not unreasonable. Ignoring the public’s grievances and, in turn, redoubling the restrictive measures that have been so taxing on many Europeans, may exacerbate the backlash already being felt.[9] The recent farmer protests and claims combined with the voting intentions may require a more tailored and diplomatic approach towards meeting climate goals. On the other hand, and as reiterated by the group itself, this decade is crucial for addressing the ecological crisis and halting planet warming. The Greens claim that their plan is a practical and timely response to an urgent situation, promising to deal with the challenges within a ten-year timeframe.  As such, the response of other parties to the proposed measures and, in turn, the counterproposals must be analyzed side by side. In the following weeks, as the other manifesto will be presented, the extent to which the efforts and urgency placed on green policies by other groups will help to determine how extreme the EFA manifesto is.