Green Party Makes Significant Gains In European Parliament Elections
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We've heard about the way that mainstream political parties have lost ground in Europe. The traditional parties were hammered in EU elections the other day. Now let's talk of one party that gained - the pro-environment Green Party. Group leader Ska Keller offered an explanation for its success.
SKA KELLER: I think this has to do with people wanting a positive vision of the European Union but also wanting change and people asking for concrete steps to fight the climate crisis.
INSKEEP: German politician Terry Reintke is an elected Green Party member of the European Parliament, and she's on the line.
Welcome to the program.
TERRY REINTKE: Hello.
INSKEEP: OK, so Keller calls it a positive vote, a positive vision. But isn't this really a negative message being sent by a lot of voters against the bigger parties? You're a beneficiary of that.
REINTKE: Not at all. There was a story going around that only with anti-immigration sentiment, with, you know, hardening laws on security, you can win elections. And this was also expected for the European elections that the far right would massively gain. And the exact opposite happened. People stood up for the environment. They stood up for social rights. They stood up for rule of law and democracy. And that's why the Greens have such a good result in so many EU member states.
INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about your central issue - climate change. Is there a consensus in Europe about what to do about climate?
REINTKE: Well, I think that we have concepts on the table. Now we need to find majorities that we can actually put them into practice. We are negotiating with all the pro-European forces in the European Parliament right now. And we'll have to see if what the other parties said in the election campaign actually boils down to having a consensus on moving there. But we are not only negotiating about environmental issues. We are also negotiating about strengthening fundamental rights, about strengthening social justice in Europe. And that will be a very, very difficult negotiation.
INSKEEP: We should remind people that multiple parties end up with large blocs of seats in the European Parliament after this election. There's likely to be some kind of coalition. Do you expect, then, to be in a governing position as a party?
REINTKE: Well, as you know in Germany, the Greens are already in government in a lot of states. So we have a lot of experience when it comes to governing. The situation in the European Parliament is slightly different. But, indeed, we hope that now after this election, where we have gained a lot of support, where we have gained a lot of trust, that we can actually boil that - make that into a real political action. And so we are ready to take that challenge, and we will see how the negotiations go.
INSKEEP: I want to circle back to the question of how far European voters might be willing to go because, as you know, I'm sure, far better than I, scientists indicate that dramatic, dramatic economic changes would be called for in a relatively short period of time to deal with climate change. Do you think European voters are there - that they will be fine with profoundly changing where they get their energy from - changing every car to electric, whatever needs to be done?
REINTKE: Well, you see right now, every single Friday in many European cities, we have hundreds of thousands and millions of young people, also older people on the street saying that we need to act on the climate now. We have about 10 years left to make this a successful story, to make sure that this planet will be livable also after 2050. And I think that it will be a global challenge. And I hope that Europe will lead the way in order to make the world more ready for the climate change and to protect the climate as we have it now.
INSKEEP: Do you still face factions in Europe that are something like, well, the Republican Party here in the United States, where they're skeptical of the science, and, entirely aside from the science, they're not really eager to put a lot of restrictions on the economy?
REINTKE: Yes, and if you look at the far right in Europe, they are climate deniers. They are people who still say humans don't have anything to do with that. Obviously, if you look at the scientific results of the very, very, very, very big majority of scientists, it's absolutely clear that we have to do something, that we have to work on how we produce energy, how we move around, how our economy works. And I hope that we will have a big coalition here in the European Parliament to make these changes happen.
INSKEEP: Ms. Reintke, thanks so much.
REINTKE: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Terry Reintke is a Green Party member of the European Parliament. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.