As the dust is settling after May’s European Parliament elections, some signs for change and opportunities for concrete progressive action are becoming visible. But despite these reassuring signs of progress towards building a more sustainable world, we are still missing essential pieces to the puzzle.

Tanya Cox,
Director at CONCORD Europe

Let’s start with the good news: after years of increasing apathy towards EU politics, voter turnout has risen to almost 51% – the highest rate in 25 years. In the run-up to these elections, CONCORD has continuously raised its voice on the importance of active political participation for our progressive cause. This increase in voter turnout is a most welcome sign that people understand that we can only solve the most pressing issues of our time – be it growing global inequalities, climate change, divisive politics or economic instability – if we collaborate from the local to the global level. And an important element in this process is voting for progressive politicians.

So, which direction did voters take in trying to solve these issues? Who did they put their trust in choosing the way forward? The significant losses of both traditional centre left and centre right parties, and the loss of their combined majority, shows that voters do desire politics to leave the beaten path and take a new direction.

One such new direction is green: as the Green Party gained votes throughout the EU – most notably in the industrial powerhouse Germany – we see that a large demographic calls for finally pulling the emergency cord on the high-speed train of climate change. The Greens’ success also shows an increasing desire for gender equality, tolerance and inclusiveness. All those trends are more than welcome.

The other direction is more worrying: even though at EU level the far-right did not achieve the landslide victory occasionally predicted, the situation in for example Italy and France must not be relativised. When going forward in implementing progressive policies in the European Parliament, it must be with the consideration of those people who have felt behind by globalism, urbanisation, elitism, digitalisation or neoliberalism, those who do not believe that European solidarity can be the solution to their individual struggles. Some of these people’s attention may have been courted and captured by nationalist populists and it is on progressive leaders to now convince them that the European Union’s policies can be beneficial for everyone.

Which brings me to my last point: in order to leave no one behind, we need to stop this trend of rising inequalities within and outside of Europe – and for that, we need a radical paradigm shift in our economic system so that it actually puts people and planet first. Unfortunately, none of the parties are openly espousing that – just like the hopeful spitzenkandidaten. A nod to inequalities, but no radical re-think.  Despite the discrediting of the myth of (GDP) growth being the answer to all our ills , neither the electorate nor the elected are openly challenging the growth-paradigm. For some reason, the illusion that the well-being of all people could be achieved through economic success of a handful of CEOs persists.

Tackling climate justice is crucial, but let us not stop there. Let us take on an overarching sustainable development strategy and through it create an alternative social and economic system that provides a level playing field for all people worldwide. Only in that way can we ensure ecological and political stability.

Tanya Cox,
CONCORD Director