Wednesday, 17 April 2024
WorldTerry Reintke: "The protests are the result of decades of misguided agricultural...

Terry Reintke: “The protests are the result of decades of misguided agricultural policy”

Terry Reintke (Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 1987) is the European candidate for the upcoming June elections of the Greens, who have drawn two recognized MEPs: she and the Dutchman Bas Eickhout, who was already MEP five years ago. Reintke has been co-president of the group in the European Parliament since October 2022, where she was one of the visible faces of the Me Too movement. MEP since 2014, and previously an advisor to a parliamentarian, her approach to social movements and politics occurred with the mobilizations in the mining basin where she grew up. She now has an important weight in her German political family, where she was one of the tripartite negotiators with social democrats and liberals.

He represents the most left-wing wing of the group and has asked his people to leave the “comfort zone” of environmentalism during the campaign to approach population niches that are foreign to them, such as heavy industry workers, for example. “We have to put an end to the dogma and ideology of austerity,” he said during the congress that the Greens held in Lyon, where farmers’ protests largely against the European Green Deal and the rise of the extreme right were the big ones. ghosts for a party that obtained the best results in its history in 2019, but now faces a significant decline.

Would you say it’s easy to be Spitzenkandidaten’green’ in these elections, for which the polls say that they may lose some seats in the European Parliament?

I certainly think it will be a difficult electoral campaign. But I have a very strong fighting spirit, especially when things get difficult. I am willing to accept the challenge.

Are people fed up with the European Green Deal? We are seeing farmers in the streets, we are seeing some industries asking for regulation to stop. Do you understand that position?

The protests are the result of decades-long misguided agricultural policy. The challenges that farmers face today are not predominantly due to Green Deal policies, because most of them have not yet been implemented. But many farmers are struggling because subsidies go mainly to large farms. Supermarkets put a lot of pressure on farmers by imposing low prices. This means that the protests may be aimed at the “Green Deal”, but the real reasons for these problems go much deeper. The Greens have been trying to change that for a long time.

Of course, there is anger, there is frustration, but now we have to talk to the people protesting in the streets. We need to talk to them about how we can change our Common Agricultural Policy so that farmers can live off what they produce and, at the same time, we protect the climate and biodiversity. I think this is possible.

How is it possible?

We have to change the European Union’s agricultural subsidy system. A third of the European budget goes to agriculture, and rightly so, because we need to ensure food security and we need to directly support farmers. However, this has become a system in which large agribusiness complexes receive a lot of money, while small farmers struggle. We have to reform that system and distribute subsidies so that small farmers can live off their land and their production. The Green Deal may be part of the solution, but it is not the problem.

Can the EPP thwart the European Green Deal in the next term?

There is no doubt that they will try to dilute the Green Deal and roll back some of its parts. From an economic point of view this is fundamentally wrong, because our companies need clarity on future legislation to be able to adapt their long-term planning and investments. When our goal is to build a climate-neutral economy, companies need to know that in ten years they will have to apply new rules. If every five years they receive completely different signals from Brussels, not only will we not achieve our climate goals, we will lose business. Europe will lose competitiveness, because climate neutrality is the economic future. With its current course, the EPP is not only going against the climate, it is also endangering our European economic competitiveness.

The crucial political question will be: Will we be arguing with an EPP loyal to Ursula von der Leyen or will we be arguing with an EPP loyal to Manfred Weber?

What do you think about Ursula von der Leyen being the next president?

He has not yet presented his candidacy, so let’s see if he actually does. Ursula von der Leyen’s policy over the past five years was clearly inspired by the green wave of 2019, although it was not as ambitious as we Greens would have liked. If she ran again, we would support her continuing down this path. But her own political group and her own political party, the EPP, are now going head-on against her programme. In my opinion, the crucial political question will be: Will we be arguing with an EPP loyal to Ursula von der Leyen or will we be arguing with an EPP loyal to Manfred Weber? This is the starting point of the possible negotiations that we are going to hold with other democratic groups in the European Parliament.

Will the Greens be in the next majority? Let’s imagine that the EPP, the socialists and the Renew liberals do not have the numbers, will they be in that majority?

Majorities will be formed throughout the negotiations, and yes, we are willing to negotiate. If I compare 2019 with 2024, the Greens are now an integral part of the spectrum of political power in Europe: we are represented in many European government coalitions, and also in the European Parliament we have shown that we are willing to negotiate. We fight for our main goals, but we don’t necessarily insist on 100%. But let’s be clear: we have our priorities as a basis, and then we will negotiate. If we get enough, we are willing to be part of a majority. Yes No No.

It would be great if Sumar MEPs joined our group

But is it better to be in that majority than in the EPP with the extreme right?

The urgency of forming a pro-European democratic majority in the European Parliament will be crucial. I hope that the elections will be decisive in the direction Europe takes. It could be a very destructive path if the far right gained big numbers and was able to block legislation in the European Parliament. At the same time, the pro-European democratic groups in the European Parliament have the opportunity to build a more progressive, greener and more socially just European Union, which the Greens obviously defend. These would be the points we would fight for if we became part of a majority.

What do you think of the conflict in Gaza, that Israel is attacking again and that the United States attacks some points in Syria and Iraq?

We live in very dark times. We increasingly see an escalation of conflicts around the world. On the issue of Gaza, we in the European Parliament have called for a ceasefire. We are very clear in condemning what happened on October 7. Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization and what they have done to civilians is unacceptable and must be condemned. At the same time, we see that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is horrendous, and we have strongly called for increased humanitarian aid. Obviously, we are going to continue asking for it because this horrible situation in the Gaza Strip cannot last. People need access to food, water, medicines and healthcare. As the European Parliament, we will continue to call for a ceasefire and try to improve the situation of the many civilians.

There is a debate within the Green Party about being more ambitious in sentencing. Do you agree, for example, with the arms embargo on Israel, or do you believe that Israel has the right to defend itself?

We have been very clear in saying that we want the bloodshed in Gaza to end. That is why we ask for a ceasefire, and that means: no more weapons, no more bombings. The work we have been doing in the European Parliament, in the negotiations, was always aimed at this immediate measure: the ceasefire. At the same time, Hamas must immediately and unconditionally release all hostages and stop its rocket fire at Israeli towns. We must do everything possible to work for a long-term solution that brings peace to the region. Obviously it is not going to happen tomorrow, but it is urgent and it is the most realistic and only way to end this conflict. We Europeans have to work and promote more political initiatives to create a two-state solution. In the long term, we can only maintain peace if both Israelis and Palestinians can live in dignity and security. These will be the guiding principles of our work in the European Parliament for now. And, of course, both sides have to respect international law. This is what the group will continue to ask for.

What do you think of Sumar’s integration into the Green Party? Is it a hope or is it realistic?

Spain has given us a lot of hope in recent months. Before the Spanish elections, many in the European Parliament expected a majority between PP and VOX, so that Spain would become one of those European countries with a far-right government. The way Yolanda (Díaz) and Sumar and many others turned the tables by offering a very strong and progressive alternative to voters, so that they have now become part of the new government, is an inspiration for all of Europe. The government program contains many points that the Greens also demand.

Ernest (Urtasun) was at our European Green Party congress, a highly esteemed former colleague who is now minister in Spain. This shows that there is a great openness towards us. As for the how and when, well, let’s see what the June elections have in store for us. In any case, we share fundamental political objectives. We have many different member parties in the European Green Party, and it would be fantastic if Sumar MEPs joined our group and made it stronger so that we can build our common European future together.

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