Archive for February 20th, 2009

An exercise in realism

February 20, 2009

The striking quality of Green politics is that it strives to make the world a better place. A gratuitous clichè, one would say but, on closer inspection, a new and much-needed vision of society can be garnered, especially in the light of the unprecedented energy and financial crises we are facing today.

What distinguishes the Green parties from their political opponents is the search for innovative and sustainable solutions that can bring about real change.

Our detractors frequently describe our proposals as “unrealistic or unworkable”, something even Simon Busuttil has been harping on in the last few weeks (The Times, February 4).

The European People’s Party in the European Parliament is content to reach wide-ranging compromises with other political groupings, which water down ambitious initial proposals and end up keeping things as they are.

Many recent environmental measures were block-voted by the EPP and the PES, which succeeded in forming legislative measures that please industry and lobby groups but do not effectively address the concerns of residents and consumers.

Then again, of all political groups in the European Parliament, the EPP manages to place last when it comes to voting in favour of the environment.

The 1999-2004 Friends of the Earth study shows it; the voting pattern for 2004-2009 will surely confirm this.

For us Greens, this is a failure. When it comes to quality of life, a compromise favouring the strong is not a victory.

While parties like the EPP choose to pander to the pressure of industry, we see it in a different way.

And that is probably one of the choices which will be faced by the electorate come June 6. Our two candidates, Arnold Cassola and Yvonne Ebejer Arqueros, compliment each other.

Ms Ebejer Arqueros works with socially-oriented voluntary organisations. She is a mother who understands the challenges women face in trying to balance work and family.

Dr Cassola has garnered experience on the European political scene and has years of experience working at the centre of the European Union. They are the choice for those who value socially-oriented politics, a more ecologically-aware Malta and those who want Malta to be represented by people with a modern, citizen-centred outlook to policy.

What further distinguishes us is ambition. We are, however, not alone in our ambition: the world over, starting from Barack Obama’s US, is awakening to the need of a Green New Deal, which aims to create sustainable green jobs by putting people and the environment first. President Obama has, in fact, pledged, among many proposals, the generation of 2.5 million jobs in the creation of alternative energy technologies that will curb dependence on oil. The European Green Party will also be following suit with similar proposals for Europe.

We are not content with solutions cobbled up in the name of being workable and realistic. On the other hand, we are perfectly aware of our country’s particular characteristics and the election of an AD MEP will be fuelled by ambition but tempered by realism for the country’s sake.

In a recent public debate, Dr Cassola said that had we been in the EP in the previous legislature we too would have voted in conjunction with our fellow Maltese MEPs on the Working Time Directive. Aware of the fact that the Maltese workers commitments frequently mean they have to work more hours to make ends meet, we agree that the capping of work hours is detrimental to our labour force.

At the same time, this should be a clarion call to investigate low wages and the need to come up with an employment plan that aims at raising salaries in order to allow workers quality time, as was the original aim of the EU directive. Sitting pretty and grumbling about this measure while smugly proclaiming that our vote does not make us accomplices to it is not our style. We want to move on and propose a better solution.

The same applies to a spurious comment regarding Air Malta being bandied about by Dr Busuttil. AD is serious about climate change and believes that all industries should be treated the same.

Aviation too should be included in an emission trading scheme.

Had the emission trading scheme for airlines gone through, all airlines would have been on a level playing field, so the claim of Air Malta being at a disadvantage is dubious.

Dr Busuttil’s prophesying that this would have meant Air Malta closing down is preposterous. Air Malta’s problems stem from years and years of political interference and mismanagement by government appointees.

Emission trading schemes generate jobs and a source of funds for entrepreneurs and innovative business people and can also be applied differently to reflect the fact that some countries, such as Malta, are islands and, thus, isolated from the mainland where it is easier to use alternative means of transportation.

Some comments putting the environment and high standards on a collision course with economic growth give the wrong message that it is either jobs or a better quality of life when, in fact, the two go together.

It is very unfortunate that political ideology is used to create fallacious arguments that throw around doomsday scenarios and job losses for good measure. We Greens strive for a Green New Deal, which would increase job opportunities.

Mr Cassar is PRO of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.