The European Elections: Greens to go all out on tariffs

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The Independent Online
The dirty word 'protectionism' could creep back into the vocabulary of the European Parliament if, as polls predict, there are more Green MEPs. Even starry-eyed Greens are not expecting to win any seats in first-past-the- post Britain, but across the rest of the EU, with more proportional electoral systems, modest gains are expected.

A Mori poll for the European last month predicted the Greens would win 43 seats in the 567-seat Parliament compared to 28 out of the existing 518 seats. According to Green maths, the group could become the third largest in Parliament and under fortuitous electoral circumstances hold the balance of power.

Green MEPs will be pushing their ideas on protectionism as the way to tackle unemployment. The common platform on which all Green parties are fighting the election rejects the Europe of the 'single market, blind competition and an unaccountable central bank'.

Opening a press conference yesterday, John Cornford, the Green Party's principal speaker, said the single market had allowed Europe to be hijacked by banks and multinationals. 'Faced with the realities of spiralling unemployment across the EU, the grey parties are calling for more competition. Yet blind competition, as we've already seen across Britain, merely means more job insecurity allowing huge firms to push small businesses and workers on to the scrapheap,' he added.

The Greens want trade barriers to protect European firms from low-wage competitors. Tariffs would be redistributed to help improve the quality of life in poor countries whose exports were hit. They would like to see the development of regional and local economies, not only providing jobs but reducing pollution and removing the need for new roads

Colin Hines, co-author of The New Protectionism and co- ordinator of Greenpeace International's economics unit, said: 'Protectionism has been made a dirty word by the free trade zealots. It's understandable in the context of the old communist and fascist regimes which used protectionism to oppress and abuse their peoples. However, the free- traders have used their tactics to stop protectionism in any form.'

Most gains will be from Germany, where the party has climbed back from its strife- ridden low in 1990 to between 19 and 22 per cent in the polls. The French group of eight could be wiped out. Luxembourg and Ireland could elect their first Green MEPs and Italy is expected to return Carlo Ripa di Meana, former EC Environment Commissioner.