Greens pick veteran MEP duo to lead EU campaign

Lyon: The European Green Party on Saturday chose two of its most prominent EU lawmakers to steer its campaign for the European Parliament election in June.

German MEP Terry Reintke and Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout both received robust backing from delegates at the Greens’ party congress in Lyon — getting 55 percent and 57 percent of the votes, respectively.

The leadership choice is not a surprising one, as both Eickhout and Reintke are senior figures in the Greens’ group in the European Parliament.

Eickhout spearheaded the faction’s efforts on the Green Deal legislative package, notably pushing for stricter Euro 7 emissions rules and a ban on the sales of new combustion engine cars by 2030. The EU eventually settled on a 2035 end date.

Reintke, who became the political group’s co-leader in 2022, has been particularly active on issues like the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, as well as the protection of minority rights and gender equality.

Reintke, 36, is running for her third term in office, while Eickhout, 47, is seeking his fourth.

During a debate between the candidates on Friday, held as protesting farmers rumbled across Europe, Reintke called for revamping and greening the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy — Brussels’ main vehicle to subsidize farming — to guarantee farmers fairer wages. Meanwhile, Eickhout insisted that the conservatives, not the Greens, are responsible for “the inequalities in our farming system.”

The Greens’ choice of veteran lawmakers fits into a broader election strategy to stay the course and continue to back an ambitious Green Deal despite mounting backlash against Brussels’ environmental agenda.

But picking lead candidates from the party’s traditional Western European home turf also opens the party up to criticism that it is not doing enough to diversify membership and boost support in Southern and Eastern Europe.

Elina Pinto, a member of Latvia’s social-democratic party, The Progressives, who was the only Eastern European candidate to compete for a campaign leadership spot, said expanding eastward represents “an opportunity for the Greens now to become more inclusive.”

She told POLITICO ahead of the congress that “these heartlands of Europe have a credible claim for showing how green policies have entered the mainstream of policy.”

“But the green story doesn’t end there,” she added, “and these policies can have strongholds also in the east and in the south.”