By Allan FauldsThis July the very first Inter-Isles Young Greens Summer Gathering was held in Gloucestershire, with the support of the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) and the Green European Foundation. Organised by a highly motivated prep team including the Scottish Young Greens’ very own Johannes Butscher (President of Stirling University Student Union), this event brought together Young Greens from Scotland, England & Wales and Ireland for a weekend of workshops and discussions on what role Young Greens can play in improving conditions for those affected by social inequality and the brutal austerity regime being imposed across Europe. Presenting a left alternative was seen by many as particularly important in light of the rise of far right parties like UKIP and there was broad agreement that Greens should be making very clear our support for a fair welfare system, immigrants’ rights and sustainability. In putting forward ideas for the FYEG’s common manifesto, we also tried to think of ways in which public understanding of the EU could be improved, believing this to be one of the reasons so few (only 34% in 2009) people actually turn out to vote for the European Parliament. Despite the crisis in youth employment, young people have become particularly disengaged and it is crucial that Green parties reach out to them, something highlighted by German Green MEP Ska Keller, who has the backing of the FYEG for the Green Primaries to select the European Green Party’s lead candidates for next year’s elections.
“Greens should be making very
clear our support for a fair welfare system,
immigrants’ rights and sustainability.”
Another key aim of the gathering was to promote communication and co-operation amongst the various Young Greens groups in the UK and Ireland. Although it remains early days, we are already beginning to see the realisation of this aim in the form of a Young Greens’ Working Group on LGBTQ+ issues, a hastily assembled protest after the birth of the royal baby and the leading role that Young Greens, particularly Benali Hamdache, took in issuing a rebuttal to members of the “Population Matters” group and their stance on immigration in a recent letter to the Guardian. On a personal level, I found the international feel of the event to be its most exciting aspect. The presence of Young Greens with roots in countries as far apart as Canada, Finland and Mauritius, combined with the attendance of representatives from the FYEG executive, really reinforced the idea that being a Green is about being part of an exciting global movement with a positive vision for the future as opposed to an insular party whose sole concern is managing economic growth within their own country. As this first gathering was such a success, we are hoping that we can turn this into an annual event.
With the unique political climate in Scotland in the run-up to the independence referendum, we in the Scottish Young Greens are already pushing for the next gathering to be held here with a focus on local democracy, something we view as being particularly important given the UK remains one of the most centralised states in Europe. Whatever the shape of the next gathering, it is sure to be a fantastic experience and one that I would recommend to all Young Greens.