2016 London elections and EU referendum campaign, Southwark
I’m a Londoner, an EU citizen, a Dutch national, who arrived here more than a decade ago, with bags of curiosity and a heavy Dutch bicycle. Already an active Green, having chaired the GroenLinks national Europe working group and having helped foster cross-border links between Green activists, I was immediately drawn into the 2008 London elections campaign, and have felt at home in London and in our Green Party ever since.
Activist without borders
Over the past 15 years, as an activist and delegate in the European Green Party I have built links and friendships with politicians and campaigners of green parties from across Europe, and together we have strengthened and deepened our radical politics: it is now completely normal that as European Greens we go into the EP elections with a common manifesto and with our jointly elected Spitzenkandidaten.
When the 2016 EU Referendum came along, as a through-and-through European, I campaigned my socks off for Remain: I volunteered to coordinate the ‘Greens for an Better Europe’ campaign for the London region and an hour before the close of the polls on the 23rd of June, I was still handing out our leaflets in the South Bermondsey rain. And no matter how the result and the aftermath have affected EU nationals like me, I’ve continued to be active in campaigns for a People’s Vote and a citizens’ assembly.
Climate action triggers radical reform
Look up, Brussels and Strasbourg: a Green wave is coming. It’s coming from Germany, France, and the Benelux, where Green parties are surging in the polls because people know that climate breakdown needs a serious political response.
And it will come from London: I look forward to campaigning together with the excellent other candidates on our list to increase our numbers. We can take great inspiration from campaigns like the school strikes, Extinction Rebellion, and the Green New Deal – and we will take the fight to the centre of European politics.
Climate action also holds the key to badly needed economic and democratic reforms. I will work with Green colleagues and other progressives to force a break from an economic system that prescribes that GDP growth is good and inequality inevitable, and campaign for a universal basic income and taxes that encourage social and environmental justice.
All of this can only succeed if we do it with people and communities, and I will use my professional experience of deliberative democracy to make the case for citizens’ assemblies, collaborative action and cross-border initiatives.
The beauty of free movement
At a time that Brexit and right-wing populism are appealing to nationalist instincts, we Greens continue to defend the human rights of refugees and migrants and to celebrate freedom of movement. We are clear that free movement is not a condition for a competitive single market, but a way for people to be open and free, to learn, and to meet amazing people from different countries – every Londoner can relate to that.
As a migrant myself, I stand proudly for these values. Without freedom of movement we cannot be truly European citizens, able to see beyond the artificial boundaries that national borders represent. With my fellow Green MEPs, I will tirelessly rebuke those who want to withdraw into intolerance, and every time they propose a measure to erode free movement, we will respond with two proposals to help more citizens experience the beauty of a Europe without borders.
This article was published on BrightGreen.org on 12 March 2019.