"Green wave" sweeps across Europe: Climate concern drives Green surge in EU elections

Green parties had best-ever result in European parliamentary elections, driven by younger voters, high turnout

Published May 28, 2019 6:00AM (EDT)

Bas Eickhout of the Netherlands (left) and Ska Keller of Germany celebrate their victories in European Parliament elections this week. (European Greens)
Bas Eickhout of the Netherlands (left) and Ska Keller of Germany celebrate their victories in European Parliament elections this week. (European Greens)

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Underscoring the growing demand for bold climate action that has found expression in global youth-led strikes, marches and civil disobedience over the past year, Green parties across Europe had their strongest-ever EU parliamentary election performance after running on a platform of transformative environmental change.

"The Green Wave has swept across Europe. We want to thank everyone who has voted for change and climate action," Ska Keller, a German MEP and one of the Greens' leading candidates for European Commission president, said in a statement Sunday following four days of continent-wide voting.

"This trust given to us by voters is both a task and a responsibility to put green polices into action," said Keller.

As the Guardian reported, the "Greens' surge was strongest in Germany, where Die Grünen finished second behind Angela Merkel's center-right CDU with almost 21 percent of the vote, according to provisional estimates — nearly double their 2014 total."

Greens also had strong showings in Finland, France and Ireland on the back of higher-than-usual voter turnout.

"Finland's Greens ... came second with 16 percent of the vote, while in a major upset, Europe Écologie-Les Verts, led by a former senior Greenpeace figure, came third in France with 13.3 percent, up from 8.9 percent," according to the Guardian. "Against all expectations, a Portuguese Green Party won its first European parliamentary seat."

Projections Sunday indicated that, overall, Greens secured 71 seats in the European Parliament — up from 52 seats five years ago. According to exit polling, the Greens' surge was bolstered by strong support from young voters.

Bas Eickhout, vice president of the European Greens, said the election outcome gives the party a "mandate and duty to drive change in Europe."

"Any new Commission should take this into account, as our program of climate protection, social justice, and defense of rule of law and democracy gave the Greens this important win," Eickhout said in a statement. "It's time the European Union puts all its efforts into a sustainable future and starts caring for its citizens."

With much of the media's attention centered on electoral gains by far-right parties amid Brexit chaos, observers argued that gains by the Greens — particularly as the climate science becomes more grim by the day — should be the focus of headlines across the globe.

"The best news of the night is Green parties winning more seats than ever in EU elections," tweeted environmentalist Madalina Preda. "The people know we need climate action now."

Bill McKibben, author and founder of 350.org, said the European election results make Green parties important leaders in the global fight for a livable future.

"A substantial share of the world has finally decided climate action is necessary now," McKibben tweeted.

By Jake Johnson

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