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Watch: 'EU should put climate above trade,' says Ska Keller in bid for Brussels top job

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Watch: 'EU should put climate above trade,' says Ska Keller in bid for Brussels top job
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Green MEP Ska Keller kicked-off Euronews’ series of interviews with those in the running for the EU’s top job.

Keller is among those hoping to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission after May’s elections.

There is a host of other candidates also in the running, like Frans Timmermans, currently the EC’s first vice-president, who is nominated by the socialists. We’ll be interviewing him on Friday (April 26), followed by: Violeta Tomic, candidate of the Left (April 30), Guy Verhofstadt, representing the Liberals (May 13) and Jan Zahradil from the Conservatives (May 14).

Here is an overview of Keller's answers to European citizens who took part in the discussion on Thursday (25 April).

Climate change

"Climate change is now on the top of the agenda where it belongs," Ska Keller told Euronews with reference to recent climate protests that have dominated the news agenda in recent weeks.

Asked whether she supported direct action - such as blocking streets and subways, Keller answered: "Every protest always needs to be very peaceful and we must not forget that climate change causes a lot of disruption. many people are losing their homes, are losing their livelihoods we are already starting to see a lot of droughts all over Europe so this is the real disturbance."

Social justice

Valentine Dantec from France asked Keller why the greens are so strongly associated with the left.

"The climate issue is totally connected to the social issue," Keller said. "It's the poorer people who suffer most from climate changes and its the poorer people who actually have much less CO2 emissions than richer people. So what we need to is we need to make sure we get the bigger polluters to pay more, that's companies and the richer people and also talking about a CO2 price that we want to repay per person so that means lower incomes have more from it and people with lower CO2 emissions have more from it."

Gender equality

"We never had a female EU commission president, I think it’s about time," Keller said as she took a question on gender equality by Maria Isabel Soldevila from Belgium.

"We want to put women into the forefront. That's why as Greens we always have a double leadership. We have two group presidents, we have two lead candidates and so on," she said.

"We want to have a law on pay transparency to make it transparent how much a company pays to men and women so that you would detect inequality because it's quite amazing that we still don't know how much companies are paying so a lot of inequality goes undetected," Keller continued.

"We in the party have a quota. I'm here because we have a quota. The thing is right now we have almost 100% male quota so I think if we reduce their part a bit it's not a problem to have a bit more of a female quota."

On the next Commission president being a woman, Keller said: " We've been proposing for a long time already that countries should nominate a female and a male commissioner so the Commission president herself could then make a pick about having a gender-balanced Commission. And a lot more needs to happen in policies as well."

Immigration

"How can the EU manage migration?" Maman Lawal from Niger asked Keller.

"First of all we need to make sure that we do everything possible so people don't have to flee and it's sure that not every problem can be solved by the European Union tomorrow like the war in Syria, probably not, " Keller said.

"But member states are still exporting weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia in conflict areas. Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen, that's not the only conflict area where we are sending weapons to," she continued.

"We should also make sure that no one is drowning any more in the Mediterranean because I cannot accept that in 2019 we're living in an EU where people are drowning in the Mediterranean. We know where they are, we know where they are drowning and we are not helping at all. We're even stopping people who want to help and this is something I don't' want to see in the European Union."

Keller slammed the EU/Turkey immigration deal. "It's not even a deal -- it's just a common signed press release without any human rights guarantees, so it's basically just making sure that no one is coming here without any regard to their human rights, to their refugee status to nothing, so we very much reject that," Keller said.

Keller said she was against setting quotas for refugees.

"If someone is in need you cannot say 'you're the one thousand and first person, No, we're not taking you.' On refugees you cannot put a limit; on migrants, you can. Migration is a whole different subject. Refugees are people in need and you cannot keep them out," she said.

Far-right

Answering a question on how to deal with populists and the far-right, Keller said she wouldn't seek an alliance with these parties.

"I wouldn't want to engage in a personal discussion with someone who doesn't respect the rights of a refugee. There are people in this house who think that refugees should drown and I'm not discussing with those persons," she said.

Trade policy

"How do we encourage Trump to go greener?" a member of the audience asked Keller.

"We should make sure that we are doing trade agreements only with countries that have signed the Paris agreement and the US are going out of that and that is a problem. We should be saying: wait, "for us, those things are interlinked, trade should not contradict our climate targets."

Plastic packaging

Keller took a strong stance on limiting plastic packaging.

"We need to make sure that plastic is only used in places where it doesn't have a replacement, for instance in medical appliances because, there, plastic can be useful but it doesn't have to be around a supermarket," she said.

Cannabis

Keller told Euronews she was in favour of legalizing cannabis.

"If it was up to me we would make it legal, so I think it should not be [illegal]," she said.

"The obvious question is how do you control potentially harmful substances," she continued. "We should have a close control, we should make sure that for example, minors don't have access to cannabis and by the way the same goes for alcohol which is much more harmful and by the way it is open and free and you cannot imagine a societal event without a really dangerous drug on display and in usage."

Read more: Who is Ska Keller? And what does she stand for?