"We all must fight for our democracy"


The Europe that will go to the polls in June 2024 is very different from that of 2019. Pandemic recovery, the climate and energy crisis, war in the continent, and the rise of the far right are all driving the narratives of the electoral campaign, but also mobilising progressive forces. Roderick Kefferpütz interviews MEP Terry Reintke, Co-President of the Greens/EFA Group and Spitzenkandidatin for the European Greens, on Green solutions for Europe in uncertain and volatile times.



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Roderick Kefferpütz: The next one will be your third mandate as a Member of the European Parliament. How has the EU changed and how has it changed you throughout these 10 years?

Terry Reintke: During the last decade, the Union has changed a lot; especially the last five years, which were marked by multiple crises that were, and still are, very challenging for the European Union: the Covid-19 pandemic, with its socioeconomic and societal impact, and Putin’s war against the Ukrainian people, with its deep geopolitical impact, but also on our European energy market, where we saw a global shift towards nationalist regimes and right-wing ideologies. These were, and still are, crucial challenges, but they do also make the EU stronger, because it reinforces European integration. The threat to democracy today is a real difference compared to 2014, when I first got elected. We see a clear shift to the right in the public discourse when it comes to topics like migration or fundamental rights of minorities. At the same time, we have achieved a lot. Ten years ago, I would never have thought we would get a minimum wage directive, or that the EU would join the Istanbul Convention to abolish violence against women. The Green Deal is real, and now we must fight for its continuation. What I especially like: the European Parliament has become greener, younger and much more diverse. I want us Greens to get a strong result to shape European policy in the upcoming legislature in the European Union.

The threat to democracy today is a real difference compared to 2014, when I first got elected.

How do you want to shape European policy?

In the face of flooding, droughts and extreme weather incidents, we need to keep up the struggle against climate change, and we need a Green Deal that is fair and just for European citizens, and that empowers our economy financially and structurally to invest in the Green transition. We must protect our biodiversity, and at the same time, we must reform the agricultural subsidies system towards more support for small-scale farmers who are struggling today. We need to not only talk about a Defence Union but actually build one based on an efficient common procurement union and common command structures. Most importantly for me, personally: we must defend our democracy that is based on the rule of law. Autocratic forces do everything to erode trust in our European Union, to ridicule democracy and public institutions. We must stop them by setting clear boundaries and by regaining back people’s trust.  

Current projections see a rise of far-right populists in the European Parliament: what does that mean for future EU policy-making, and how can Greens build coalitions against this?

The current polls are very worrying in this sense, and the danger of the far right becoming a big anti-European force in the European Parliament is real. This is why the European People’s Party (EPP) has to be very clear that they will not cooperate with the  far right, which includes Meloni’s Brothers of Italy. In the European Parliament (EP), a strong far-right group would impact how the EP debates Russia’s war on Ukraine, it would block or try to reverse legislation on a Green Deal 2.0, legislation on minority rights and women’s rights would be in danger, and resolutions on Hungary’s hollowing out of the rule of law would be difficult to pass. We currently see a very encouraging development: citizens in the political centre have started to understand what is at stake. Look at the many hundreds of thousands of people who have been taking to the streets against the far right in Germany for many weeks now. We all must fight for our democracy, and we can do it together. When you look at the elections in Spain or in Poland, where citizens voted clearly in favour of democratic pro-European parties, it gives me hope. Together we can protect our democracy in the European Union.

The European Green Deal is under increasing pressure. Why is that? And what should be the next steps for the Green Deal?

When the EPP and parts of Renew Europe started getting frightened of the far right, they obviously decided to copy its narratives. Instead of protecting nature and climate for future generations, which should be at the heart of conservative politics, they now promise to worried citizens that we can just go back in time to a situation where climate change and loss of biodiversity did not exist. This is a dangerous game, because we cannot close our eyes and pretend everything is OK. We Greens want to look up and take responsibility and work out solutions. The industry needs clarity on how we want to manage the transition to a climate-neutral industry. Entrepreneurs must decide on their long-term investments today, and if the EU changes its course every five years, it is very counterproductive and might push companies abroad, where they get subsidies and clear policies. We urgently need a Green Deal 2.0 to tackle climate change and achieve climate neutrality in industry by 2040, and we need to phase out fossil fuels by 2035. Citizens who don’t have the financial means must get support to invest in new heat pumps or to insulate their houses. Again, this is not for the Greens, but for us all; we want to leave a liveable planet to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This is a responsibility that all parties should acknowledge.

We urgently need a Green Deal 2.0 to tackle climate change and achieve climate neutrality in industry by 2040, and we need to phase out fossil fuels by 2035.

Enlargement and reform are two big and inextricably linked projects the EU is expected to deal with in the next legislative term. What is the green perspective on both processes?

We want enlargement, and at the same time, we need to work on necessary reforms to secure the continued functioning of this enlarged Union. The enlargement process is a geopolitical necessity; we clearly see that with Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine and his gaining influence in the Western Balkans. The EU must be prepared for this historic moment and must make the necessary internal reforms to welcome new Member States as soon as they fulfil the accession criteria. But we may not risk that one or two Member States block decisions of the entire Union, as we have seen several times with Viktor Orbán. We need to enhance the (qualified) majority vote. At the same time, the accession process must get clearer timeframes and tangible, gradual benefits for candidate countries before full EU membership. The process must, however, remain merit based. It is time for the EU to protect its strategic interests by broadening European integration for the benefit of the entire continent.

Two key dates for Europe: 1 May 2004 and 24 February 2022. Twenty years have passed since the largest EU enlargement, and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has changed many dynamics: more countries joining NATO, EU countries providing weapons to Ukraine and a new impetus for collective security. Is Europe ready to defend itself against major aggressions?

After the Cold War, in Europe, military conflicts had been mainly considered as being something of the past. In 2014, many people in Germany and elsewhere chose to not understand the real meaning of Putin’s attack on Crimea. Now we know. War has become a reality again for the European Union and its neighbourhood. This is why we need to finally breathe life into the Defence Union, making it an operative union and not only one on paper. We need a common defence shield, common procurement and common ammunition production. Two years of war against Ukraine show that we must walk our talk.


The views and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union.