Former student revolt leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s has sought to follow an alternative path throughout his political career. The leader of the left and greens group in the European parliament has enjoyed mixed fortunes recently. He led the Greens in France to their best ever performance in last month’s elections, but it was a bad night overall for the left. He spoke to Euronews about the challenges facing his group.
Kirsten Ripper, euronews “How do you explain the Greens success in the European elections. Is it, as your brother said, down to you?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit President of the Greens/EFA Group. “No, it’s not as simple as that. We had three ideas: to bring together the political ecology family. To succeed in uniting rather than dividing is very rare in France. Secondly, we had a project for Europe and (thirdly) we had a project to transform the ecology movement across Europe. It was on these three fronts we were able to advance, because we had a European-wide campaign and we had the personalities. Kirsten Rripper “It wasn’t because of a sudden awakening of conscience in France.” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “No, there was always an ecological conscience in France but, such was the behaviour of the ecologists that the ecology movement lost credibility, and we regained that credibility.” Kirsten Ripper “And now there’s a loss of credibility in the Socialists.” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “Socialists are going through a crisis not just in France. Social democracy in Europe is sick. Take Germany, take France, take Italy, take England, even Mr Zapatero is in a bad position. So I think there is a crisis in the socialist project, in European social democracy and that crisis is made worse by a lack of peronsalities in many countries.” Kirsten Ripper “A lack of personalities?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “Yes, in the socialists, yes.” Kirsten Ripper “But Mr Zapatero…” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “But Mr Zapatero’s popularity is falling. He was successful for a time, but today…, he himself is a victim of the socialist tendency to authoritarianism and Mr Zapatero is perceived as very authoritian. When you see the way he treats his deputies, it’s incomprehensible. It was Mr Zapatero himself who drew up the European election lists three weeks before the vote. It was he who put down all the names and if, for example, Mr Zapatero decides to support Mr Barroso, all the socialist deputies will have to support him.” Kirsten Ripper “If you campaign against Jose Manuel Barroso, what’s wrong with him in your view? Daniel Cohn-Bendit “Mr Barroso was incapable of leading an independent Commission which held its own against the Council,.and that’s the problem. You know, Europe is an institutional triangle: a Commission, a Council and a Parliament. If the President of the Commission is simply the Secretary General of the Council, meaning the governments, European democracy cannot work. And that’s my biggest problem with Mr Barroso. Mr Barroso, when he needed to take a position… the Commission has the right to take initiatives without going to the Council for permission, the Council should respond to its initiatives, to launch a debate so that real European politics can emerge…and Mr Barroso did not do that.” Kirsten Ripper “And who would be the best candidate?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “There are lots, there are lots. There isn’t just one best candidate. You could turn to the left. You could start with Mr Joscchka Fischer, or the Danish Social Democrat, Mr Rasmussen, or Mr Monti, Mr Verhofstadt. You also have Mrs Mary Robinson or Chris Patten. You have a choice of possibilities who would be very capable peronsalities to lead an independent Commission. I know there’ll be a centre-right majority, but there’ll also be a lack of personalities of the same stock as the heads of government.” Kirsten Ripper “Your preference would be Joschka Fisher?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “My preference, I think Mr Joschka Fisher would be a very good president of the Commission, but I know that he wouldn’t have a majority, it’s not that…. I mean, we’re led to believe that there’s only one man in Europe today capable of being the Commission President and that’s Mr Barroso, and that’s absurd.” Kirsten Ripper “Are you tempted?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “Me, personally no, it’s not my cup of tea.” Kirsten Ripper “If Angela Merkel wins Germany’s general election in September do you think a coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Greens would be possible, or even desirable?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “No, that will not happen. There’ll probably be a coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Liberals and if it doesn’t happen we’ll all have to think long and hard. But the Christian Democrats and the Greens, that’s the most improbable.” Kirsten Ripper “Could you explain the “Green Deal” you wrote about in your book?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “The big question is these crises, the financial and economic and crisis and the ecological crisis. Looking at these, we need to have an ecological transformation of our economy, meaning we have to respond at the same time to both the ecological crisis and the economic crisis, it needs an intergrated response.” Kirsten Ripper “Do you really think we could have success quickly?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “What do you mean by ‘quickly’? There’ve already been successes. Since Germany decided to turn away from nuclear energy, renewable energy has gone up from 2 percent to 20 percent. That’s incredible success. The development of renewable energies, all the ecological modernisations, they’ve created half a million jobs in Germany. That’s a real success.” Kirsten Ripper “But at the European level, eastern Europe, for example is way behind?” Daniel Cohn-Bendit “What do you mean ‘way behind’? Germany was way behind once. We have to invest in renewable energies in Eastern Europe. We must launch a huge programme of tramways there to use less energy. A lot of programmes need to be developed. We need to start down that road rather than moaning about it being too difficult. We don’t have any time to lose, we have to start now.” Kirsten Ripper “In your last meeting with the French President the TV pictures gave the impression you were getting on very well with Nicolas Sarkozy. Aren’t you afraid this will alienate your voters? Daniel Cohn-Bendit “When you have a laugh with someone, when you’re friendly, you can say you’re getting on well. It’s simple. He was making jokes, we were making jokes and we can do that. And I didn’t put the voters off; there are a lot of subjects on which we disagree and I made myself clear. I find this way of doing things in politics very uptight. it’s not something I’m into. When I look at the election results I don’t think we put voters off. On the contrary I think we attracted a lot because we have our own style of politics, not this uptight way. That’s my enemy. We are opponents, we have different positions. I criticise Sarkozy’s radical immigration policy and his justice policy. And in other areas like the environment, he has moved and he is moving. We can see he’s moved.”