June 21. 2024. 5:14

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Why are French Greens losing ground in EU elections race?

With two weeks to go to the European elections on 9 June, the French Greens – and their allies across Europe – are in freefall in the polls. After the great success of 2019, has the wind changed for the Green lists?

Will the French Greens win seats in the European Parliament in the next term? The question arises as the head of the Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV) list, Marie Toussaint, obtains just 5% of voting intentions, the minimum score required to be elected to Parliament, according to a Toluna-Harris Interactive poll published on Wednesday (May 22).

A score all the more significant when the same list led by Yannick Jadot had garnered 13.4% of the vote in 2019, coming third, behind Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) and Emmanuel Macron’s party Renaissance.

Five years later, the Greens are in sixth place, behind the RN, Renaissance, the Parti socialiste (PS) – Place publique list, la France insoumise (LFI), and les Républicains (LR).

But for French Green Member of the European Parliament (MEP) David Cormand, there is no cause for alarm. “In 2019, we had polls that were very low, and the results were different,” he told Euractiv.

“With two weeks to go to the polls, we’re not worried, we’re fighting,” he insisted.

Are the Greens still attractive?

“In 2019, interest in the environment and global warming was high,” noted Vice-President of the Institut Jacques Delors, Christine Verger.

While Europe has been plagued by a series of crises in recent years – the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, inflation, energy prices – Europeans’ priorities seem to have changed.

The problem is that “the Greens are unable to find cross-cutting themes,” Verger told Euractiv, making the environmental cause the main theme of their campaign.

“The environmental issue has also been taken up by all the parties. They haven’t had a monopoly on this issue for some time now,” she added.

The Greens MEP, on the other hand, insists that ecology has been absent from the debates between the candidates, and the Greens are the only ones to take this cause seriously. “Either ecology has become an enemy, or it has been abandoned,” Cormand lamented.

Falling behind in Europe

The French Greens are not the only ones to be losing ground in the polls.

Their German and Dutch allies, for example, are at 15% and 3% of voting intentions respectively, according to poll aggregator Europe Elects. In 2019, the Germans obtained 20.7% and the Dutch 10.9%.

“The Greens are often quite dogmatic on issues, and not ready to compromise,” said Verger, pointing out that at the European level, “you have to compromise, otherwise you don’t move forward.”

For Cormand, however, it is necessary for the Greens not to cross certain boundaries, in order to distinguish themselves on certain issues from their colleagues in the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group – to which the Parti Socialiste-Place Publique list is attached – and those in the La Gauche group (GUE/NGL), to which La France Insoumise (LFI) is attached.

“There are fundamental differences between the three groups on issues of European federalism, ecology and migrant rights,” he highlights.

The latest example concerns the Asylum and Migration Pact, adopted in Brussels last April. While the S&D group voted in favor, the Greens and the Left group voted against.

“What about our values of humanity and solidarity? […] It’s better to have no agreement than a bad agreement, an agreement that would be a real civilizational failure,” said Saskia Bricmont, a Green MEP from Belgium, after the vote.

Another argument put forward by Cormand was the poor media coverage of the election campaign. This argument seems to be confirmed by a study published on Thursday (May 23) by the Fondation Jean Jaurès.

“Media coverage of the 2024 European elections is experiencing a significant downturn,” the study reads, with campaign coverage “30% less visible in volume than over the same period in 2019.”

He believes that “Macron and Mélenchon have nationalised the campaign,” and that the RN’s media coverage – which exceeds 30% according to the latest polls – is “demoralising the progressive electorate.”

With two weeks to go before the vote, Marie Toussaint and her fellow candidates, including Cormand, Mounir Satouri, Mélissa Camara, Benoît Biteau and Caroline Roose, face an uphill battle.