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The Brief: Brussels swept by the Greens wave, Spain joins fighter jet project

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The Brief: Brussels swept by the Greens wave, Spain joins fighter jet project
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REUTERS/Yves Herman
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Brussels swept by the Greens wave

The Greens party emerged as the leading political force in Brussels after May's regional elections. This is the first time the environmentalists have done so well.

Citizens like Bertrand Wert living in the Belgian capital were instrumental in the swing towards green politics. Wert lives near main roads, and he uses a homemade device to measure emissions from the area.

"What's useful about this is that it allows me in real time on the internet to follow all the stations measuring air quality," he said.

Brussels has 11 public measuring stations, but Wert doesn't think it's enough.

"Air quality is very bad in Brussels and sometimes, several days, even weeks of the year, it is extremely dangerous," he said.

In the shared garden outside Bertrand's apartment, families from all different backgrounds contribute to a compost heap. Wert said the garden is not only a sustainable means of growing food, but also a way to bring people together.

"Often we don't speak the same language, but we swap recipes," he said.

"We can say, 'How this vegetable is used? Why don't you try it?' It's true that it creates links between people, making them closer."

Ixelles is one of the local councils in Brussels where the Greens did especially well. For Ixelles' mayor Christos Doulkeridis, the goals of the party align with living in a big city.

"The climate crisis has filtered down into the urban environment," Doulkeridis said.

"For the Greens, it's not just that climate is a priority, but also social affairs and living together. We are openly for living together, that doesn't fear the other, the foreigner, those who don't look like us. We are more towards openness and tolerance."

Although they did well in Brussels, there is still uncertainty over whether the new electoral strength of the Greens will translate into widespread political power in Belgium.

Spain joins fighter jet project

Spain joined a Franco-German project on Monday to build a next-generation fighter jet.

The warplane will be built by Dassault Aviation and Airbus, and it's expected to be operational by 2040. It's supposed to replace Dassault's Rafale and Germany's Eurofighter over time.

This European project could face competition from Britain, which launched plans for a new combat jet last year.

Strache gives up European Parliament seat

Heinz-Christian Strache, the ex-leader of Austria's far-right party, announced on Monday that he will not be taking up a European Parliament seat.

Strache, who quit as deputy head of the coalition government over a video sting, is forgoing a move that might have hurt his Freedom Party further. His party secured three seats in last month's European election.

Irish immigration officers' flights create controversy

Irish immigration officers have travelled on business class flights while returning home from deporting illegal immigrants out of the country.

Dublin’s government said business class flights were booked when it was deemed a security risk for an officer to leave an airport, according to the Irish TImes.

Several of the business class trips were to European cities, including flights to Frankfurt and Amsterdam. However, a Department of Justice spokesman said the vast majority of flights taken by immigration officers were economy class.