Why The Green Party Won Big In Last Week's European Elections
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Elections in Europe over the weekend saw a big victory for the Green Party. The so-called Green Wave saw voters turning out to support a climate-focused agenda, especially younger voters. The German Green Party made an especially large impact. They finished in second place in that country. Sergey Lagodinsky is a newly elected Green member of the European Parliament from Germany, and he joins us now from Berlin.
SERGEY LAGODINSKY: Hi. Good evening.
KELLY: Hi. And I suppose I should say congratulations.
LAGODINSKY: Yes, thank you. It's exciting.
KELLY: Exciting, as you say, but what was different this time? - because the Green Party has been around for a while in Germany.
LAGODINSKY: Well, on the surface, the topic of climate change and the demonstration of young people - the so-called Fridays for Future, where students skipped their classes and went demonstrating, demanding that the politicians start listening to them in terms of climate policies - this got traction among their parents, among their grandparents.
KELLY: What about beyond the environment? - because your platform goes well beyond just issues...
KELLY: ...Of climate. What else do you stand for?
LAGODINSKY: Well, having a clear attitude against racism through our diversity, not flirting with populist parties but confronting them. This is something that the Greens have been always good in. And I think that resonates with the population. And also, the Green Party has always been most pro-European party, longing for United States of Europe as a vision.
KELLY: Although, you are going to, of course, have to work with other parties in the European Parliament. And you mentioned confronting far-right parties. They also made gains in these elections. Will you work with them?
LAGODINSKY: No. If you mean the populist parties, the authoritarian parties, this is something where we cannot imagine working with them. But we can work with conservatives, the European People's Party - so, basically, party of Merkel - those are not our natural enemies. And if we see that we can at least further our green agenda with them, I think it would be possible to cooperate also in terms of supporting the new commission, which is kind of the European government that we have here.
KELLY: I was reading that the Green Party did very well among - we mentioned young voters but young, affluent, urban voters, not as well in places that are maybe more poor or struggling economically. Does that lead to a perception that your party is for the privileged of Europe? And if, so what do you do about it?
LAGODINSKY: Look. I've been campaigning in Brandenburg - very rural, very similar to Rust Belt in the United States. It's much easier to talk to them when we explain that our vision is not just environmental. It's a social policy vision. We are in the middle of a transition and transformation of our society and of our economy, so we need to make our society, our cities and towns fit for it. And this includes social support.
KELLY: And how does that message register? I mean, that sounds like a hard case to make to those voters.
LAGODINSKY: It's not an easy case to make, but it's important to listen to people. And it's important to tell them that we don't have answers to all the questions. But we have a vision. When they hear that, many of them open up because there are plenty of stereotypes about the Green Party. And one of those stereotypes is precisely what you said, you know, that this is a party of those who are better off. And I think we are moving away from that by marrying Green innovation agenda with the social policy, so I think the future will probably be Green even there.
KELLY: Sergey Lagodinsky, thank you for your time and congratulations again.
LAGODINSKY: Thank you so much.
KELLY: He is a newly elected Green member of the European Parliament, speaking to us there from Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.