EU Parliament elections: Greens call for 'free and fair Europe' as think-tank warns EU must change

As the Scottish Greens new EU manifesto is launched, a new report from the Scottish Centre on European Relations maps potential futures for Scotland in Europe

  • Published today, Scottish Greens’ EU manifesto makes the case for strengthening the European Parliament “as the democratic heart of the EU”
  • Scottish Greens vow to fight for workers’ rights, freedom of movement and a green new deal within the EU
  • New SCER report advocates a citizens’ assembly on Scotland’s European interests, as well as similar assemblies on Europe to advise on EU policy
  • Report warns that the EU’s commitments on social justice, human rights and environmental standards have been patchy in implementation and require greater focus, while challenging the SNP to specify what kind of Europe they wish to be part of

THE Scottish Greens’ manifesto for this month’s European elections has made the case for “a democratic Europe united in peace”, following the publication of a report this week by the independent think tank Scottish Centre on European Relations, which challenged the EU that it must address issues of social justice and human rights.

Ahead of what party co-convener Maggie Chapman described as “the most important European elections we’ve ever had,” the new manifesto spells out the Scottish Greens’ hopes for an EU as a “peace project” which enshrines and protects human rights, as well as the party’s determination to increase the transparency of EU institutions and prevent the imposition of austerity.

Speaking ahead of the manifesto launch in Glasgow today, Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said: “We’re confident that with our positive message of stopping Brexit and tackling the climate emergency we can win Scotland’s first Green MEP, building on recent election success both here and throughout Europe.”

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The Greens latest defence of the EU as a potential vehicle for left-wing internationalism follows the publication of the SCER report ‘The Future of Europe: Disruption, Continuity and Change’, which urges Scotland to develop a clearer strategy for engaging with Europe while warning that the EU must do more to involve its citizens in policymaking.

The report advises that, regardless of Brexit, Scotland should do whatever it can to mirror human rights developments at the EU level; however, the report also notes that the EU should do more to strengthen its strategies on areas such as human rights and climate change, noting “patchy” policy implementation.

The report further advocates citizens’ assemblies as a means of both rethinking Scotland’s relationship with Europe and democratising the EU itself, suggesting an assembly on Scottish-European interests, and arguing that similar assemblies across Europe “should be held as one major contribution to revitalising the role of the EU’s citizens in shaping future EU policy.”

One of SCER’s clearest recommendations for Scotland is that, in part or in total, control over migration policy should be devolved, and that the “hostile environment policy must end given the damage it is doing to the UK’s overall image, to its economy, and to the cultural sector”.

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Regarding an independent Scotland’s potential future in Europe, Michael Keating of the Centre for Constitutional Change writes in the report that while independence within the EU was “the logical choice” for the SNP, given it would have once allowed for the retention of the single market with both the EU and the rest of the UK and ability to maintain open borders, the SNP “never really spelled out what kind of Europe they favoured”.

Reflecting on the 2014 white paper on independence, Keating argues that Scotland’s continued use of pound sterling, along with its UK-style opt-out from the euro, the Schengen free travel area and justice and home affairs, “would have left Scotland in the shadow of the UK, rather than staking out its own position in Europe.”

Director of SCER, Dr Kirsty Hughes, who helped write and edit the report, commented: “The Scottish Government must develop a stronger, clearer and consistent strategic framework for its European and wider para-diplomacy.

“Whatever happens next with Brexit, or with the independence debate, Scotland needs a strategic approach now to promote Scottish interests in, and Scotland’s contribution to, our shared European future.” SCER director Dr Kirsty Hughes

“Whatever happens next with Brexit, or with the independence debate, Scotland needs a strategic approach now to promote Scottish interests in, and Scotland’s contribution to, our shared European future. Brexit must not distract from this.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson also said: “The Scottish Government has continuously said that the best outcome for Scotland is EU membership, which is what the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly for in 2016.

“The EU has given the UK more time under the extension period, that time must not be wasted. It is essential that there is a credible choice given to the people in a second EU referendum.

“The Scottish Government offered compromise in the form of membership of the European single market and customs union, that compromise has been repeatedly rejected by the UK Government.”

The European Parliamentary elections are set to take place on 23 May, with Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party topping recent polls ahead of the vote.

Picture courtesy of the European Parliament

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