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Green questions

As the European election approaches Caroline Lucas MEP reflects on a campaigning record

In the five years since I was elected as one of the UK’s first Green Party Members of the European Parliament – five years that sometimes seems to have gone in a flash. In those five years issues, campaigns, debates and directives have come and gone, but one thing has remained constant: serving as an MEP has allowed me to introduce the Green perspective – the twin goals of social and environmental justice necessary for a sustainable society – into debates on everything from animal welfare to xenophobia, agriculture to economics.

With 42 MEPs, our collective Green voice can be an influential one, a voice that is respected and often considered. The Parliament’s inquiry into the Government’s disastrous handling of the foot and mouth epidemic, on which I served as vice-President, is a good example. Despite Labour MEPs’ attempts to block the inquiry, I was able to ensure scientific evidence on the folly of the Government’s cull policy and arrogant bullying of rural communities was heard, considered and acted upon.

Being an MEP also helps in other areas of my campaigning work: by asking the right question I secured a ruling by competition commissioner Mario Monti that the Government’s £650m bail-out of failing nuclear generator British Energy constituted ‘unlawful state aid’ – a ruling which the courts may now use to order repayment of the loan and force the firm into financial meltdown. The cash should have been used to invest in renewable energy production - £650m could have built enough offshore wind turbines to power 15 per cent of the country – if it is repaid to the public purse it can be.

I also continue to actively campaign against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Greens at Brussels were able to defeat Government calls for the onus of labeling GM content in foods to fall on the very producers who refuse to use them. I supported the European ban on testing cosmetics on animals; commissioned a scientific report on the health effects of mobile telephone masts and have intervened regularly on debates on human rights violations as well as the illegal and immoral UK-US calls for war on Iraq. For me these are all campaigns which work towards a sustainable society that is both socially and environmentally just.

I’m also busy trying to get the Green message onto as many platforms as I can. Last year, for example, I spoke to thousands of anti-globalisation activists at the European Social Forum in Florence. I debated the failure of globalization to meet the needs of the world’s poor with billionaire financier George Soros and I have contributed to the hugely well-supported Stop the War demonstrations in central London.

We’ve had some notable successes, but there’s much more to be done. And one thing’s clear: we need more elected Greens at every level to build on this momentum and ensure the principles of environmental sustainability and social justice inform the debates that shape the world in which we live.

Dr Caroline Lucas is Green Party MEP for South-East England