Breaking Europe’s left-right ‘grand coalition’

Carl Schlyter, a Green MEP from Sweden, has battled in the European Parliament over nanotechnology, internet freedoms and unfair trade agreements with developing countries. Unlike many Greens, however, he is a firm opponent of the Lisbon Treaty and backer of EU democratic reform

May 30, 2009
3 min read

Many people think the parliament has no real powers compared to the council or the commission. What is the reality?

It’s not at all true that the European Parliament has no powers. Indeed, Europe decides 60 to 70 per cent of your domestic agenda, so if you are comfortable with 60, 70 per cent of what affects your life being decided by people who have wildly diverging interests to your own, then go ahead and ignore the parliament. Otherwise, it’s not a very wise choice to remain unengaged with what happens here.

What are some of the victories that have been achieved in the parliament then?

One major victory was stopping the corporate idea of software patenting – we managed to stop it completely. We won improved regulation for food additives; we won some demands on energy savings. But our main success in this period has been stopping worse disasters. This last parliament has been a very difficult one because progressives do not have a majority, but we have blocking minorities that at least prevent things from being utterly dreadful.

What are the obstacles to greater change?

The problem is that for so many issues, we have the joint EPP-PES conservative-‘socialist’ majority, so on the services directive [which undermines public services and workers’ rights], for example, we weren’t able to do anything good. It’s very difficult to overcome the EPP-PES grand coaltion – it’s part of the system.

The lack of the right to propose legislation is a key problem. It is not acceptable that the commission both has executive power and is the sole institution with the power to suggest things.

What can be done to tackle the lobbyists?

The most important thing, even beyond structural changes, is to regulate lobbying better, with painful punishment for not following the rules. Have every lobbyist submit their written proposals for consideration and listed within a public register so that we know who is behind every different idea and suggestion to the parliament – one third for industry lobbyists, one third for NGOs and one third for trade unions and other public interests.

How is the make-up of the parliament changing?

Traditionally the parliament would come up with some of the most progressive positions out of the three institutions and still does at times, but tragically this is not always the case any more. After enlargement, we have seen a conservative shift, with the commission from time to time being more radical than the parliament. One has to recognise, however, that in these new countries there was an understandable reaction to communism, and people wanted to vote for something that appeared very different. This means then that progressives need to more successfully organise in the east. The Greens are growing in eastern Europe now, but still not enough to win seats.

But my biggest concern is that the European Union has power over too many issues. EU legislation should be the exception and not the rule.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out