One of my favourite things about green politics has always been the knowledge that my own group in Northern Ireland is just a small part of a movement spanning Europe and beyond.
So it was particularly inspiring to join activists from Green parties and other green-minded groups from 20-plus countries in Brussels for the Green European Foundation’s Greening Europe 2012 workshop over the last few days.
GEF assembled a great line-up of speakers including MEPs, officials from the European Green Party and other pan-European green groups, the European Commission and the European Federation of Public Service Unions.
With their help, the group tackled issues ranging from the future development of the EU, reform of the common agricultural policy, how citizens can influence policy and the continued impact of the economic crisis. There was even a chance to get a brief taste of the tortuous legislative process and a glimpse behind the scenes of the European Parliament.
As the 2014 election draws closer, it was particularly instructive to get a sense of what the Greens are doing in the Parliament and in preparation for the poll. The likely success of the Green/EFA group’s campaign against the proposed ACTA online copyright treaty shows, not for the first time, a relatively small (but fast-growing) group punching above its weight.
All too often, European elections in Northern Ireland are fought with scarcely a mention of any actual European issues – with a common Green manifesto for the whole of the EU in the pipeline, we will be aiming to change things this time round.
The best part of the trip was not so much what the professionals brought to the table, but meeting so many dedicated people who gave up their time voluntarily to make spending the hottest days of the year talking politics in a windowless room a genuine pleasure.
If you are not familiar with the Green European Foundation, please click here for the latest debates within the green movement on the future direction of European politics. More of my own musings on the Brussels trip will follow shortly…