Greens seek to exploit opposition to war

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Voting Green in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament will send a clear signal to Tony Blair that British troops should withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible, the Green Party said yesterday.

Voting Green in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament will send a clear signal to Tony Blair that British troops should withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible, the Green Party said yesterday.

Launching its election manifesto, Caroline Lucas, a Green MEP, said the party was the only one consistently to have opposed the war, which was "illegal, wrong, and utterly counterproductive".

While the poll on 10 June should not just be seen as a referendum on Iraq, she said, it was legitimate to use it to convey people's opposition to the war in a "very clear message" to Mr Blair. "We want an end to the occupation. We would like to see a transitional UN force, including troops in the region, who would oversee a handover to real democracy in Iraq in as short a time as possible," said Ms Lucas, MEP for South-east England and vice-president of the Stop the War Coalition.

"There were no weapons of mass destruction. The humanitarian rhetoric has now been undermined with stories of torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The world is certainly not a safer place; it's infinitely less safe as a result of the invasion," she said.

The Greens sense that many voters disillusioned by the backing for the war from all three major parties may turn to them in significant numbers, and perhaps provide the highest national Green vote since the European elections of 1989. Then, the party captured 15 per cent of votes cast ­ but because proportional representation (PR) had not been introduced, secured no seats. This time, with PR in place, they hope to add four more Euro-MPs to the two they already have ­ Ms Lucas and Jean Lambert, MEP for London, both elected five years ago in what was a significant national breakthrough for the party.

"We are going into these elections with a good deal of optimism," Ms Lucas said. "Crucially, we now have a proven track record at European level."

But the party, whose campaign slogan is "Real Progress", is keen to stress that it is not just about opposition to the war ­ or even just about defence of the environment, for so long its major selling point. It sees itself as promoting a series of radical causes, including peace, the environment (especially involving opposition to GM crops and food and to nuclear energy), defence of public services, social justice and social inclusion.

Ms Lucas insisted that in the European Parliament the Greens exercised real influence in their opposition to GM crops and nuclear power, while promoting action on climate change.

Ms Lambert said the party was part of a growing international movement committed to changing the world. "Elected Greens are making real progress in the European Parliament," she said. "We're really listened to and are seen as having expertise."

She said the party opposed entry into the euro because of concerns about the transfer of power to the European Central Bank and the imposition of a single interest rate across the EU. She also indicated her own opposition to the proposed European constitution, although party policy will be decided later this year.

Ms Lambert said that the party had exercised influence on issues including amendments to European law that have allowed local councils to introduce GM-free zones, and the EU Working Time Directive, in an effort to bring the UK working week into line with the rest of Europe.

THE MANIFESTO

  • Zero-waste Europe by 2020 (Everything recycled, composted or reused. Nothing incinerated or placed in landfills)
  • Thirty per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Oppose most road-building and airport expansions
  • EU-wide tax on aviation fuel
  • Complete ban on genetically modified organisms
  • Oppose the drift towards a European superstate with a continental army. Oppose the single currency
  • Decriminalisation of cannabis
  • More support for organic food and for small farmers
  • Call on the EU to use its full diplomatic weight to "restrain US and British warmongering"
  • Massive investment in renewable energy and the phasing out of nuclear power stations
  • Support for UK and EU manufacturing industry, in a bid to stop the export of industries abroad
  • To shift responsibility for arts funding, where appropriate, from national to regional levels
  • A complete ban on the private ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic firearms
  • Refugee and asylum policy should be extended to use the 1969 Organisation of African Unity definition of a refugee which extends the definition as any person fleeing "external aggression, occupation" or events seriously "disturbing public disorder"
  • To achieve a birth-rate consistent with the goal of long-term sustainability. This would be countered by removing the compulsory retirement age
  • All permanent seats on the UN Security Council should be abolished; all nations should take a seat in turn; continents should be represented in proportion to their populations; and decisions should be made by a two-thirds majority

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