Road to the European elections: interview with D. Lundy, head of communications of GUE/NGL

Interview by Sara Bianchi and Francesco Chiappini
Special correspondent in Bruxelles: Yauheniya Dzemianchuk
Translation: Giada Deregibus

With the European elections two months away, it is time for us to look at the main players of the European representative democracy: the political groups of the Parliament. We have interviewed some of their leading figures in order to understand who they are, what values they defend and also what they think about the main questions of European political debate. This is what they told us.

Today we introduce to you another European group: the GUE/NGL (Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left). The group is the result of the merging between the greens of Northern Europe and the socialists and communists. Another element in the name appears to be really important: the word “Confederal”. The confederalism is indeed one of their main values since it means “respecting and preserving the diversity of identities and opinions” of all their components.

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We had the honour to speak with Mr. Daniel Lundy, head of communication of this group. 

Which political strategy are you going to use to succeed in these elections?

First, just few things on the practical side. As a group GUE/NGL so we don’t campaign in the European elections together. A lot of our MPs are members of the European left party and affiliated with the European left party, and that’s a proper European party, that conduct European campaigns and they have Spitzenkandidat, and they run the campaign on EU level. GUE/NGL won’t be running a campaign as such. It’s just a group in the EU Parliament.

Do you think that increasing turnout should be a priority for European political forces?

Yes. I think if that’s the general aim that would be good and positive. I think the way to do it though is to engage people and not kind of shame people nor blame them because they stayed at home and not voted. I think the disillusionments that people have with the politics, and lots of our parties are saying the same thing on the national level, that the disillusion has been created by a system that doesn’t work for people.

In which way are you/the Greens going to mobilize new voters into political debate?

I think we will, I suppose, we have .. Again we don’t campaign GUE/NGL but I imagine that our parties in their own campaigns will focus on their target audiences which is the audiences that they manage usually to get to vote. Which last time in 2014, when young people, working class people, majority female, this tend to be audiences, but again of course we’re moving to new areas all the time. The last time we managed to attract new parties into our group like Animal Rights parties. We got the Podemos movement from Spain into our group, which came out of the street protest movement. So, yeah, we have our traditional electoral base. Most parties have their own bases but they continue to move into new areas.

What do you think about the problem of migrants that the Union is facing?

So we have a completely different approach from all of the mainstream groups, certainly from the far right. We are pro migration, we see it as positive. We’re especially concerned that Europe is abandoning its international duties. There’s this international law, this is not something of a question of politics, this is something that was set up after the 2WW to protect people who are in danger, fleeing for their lives. So under international law, under humanitarian law, and European union law, we have to protect people whose life are threatened like situations like the one we had in Syria, and other countries.

Which do the Greens think is the best way to handle the problem?

We have argued for a proper resettlement programme throughout European union. We have been pushing hard along with the majority of the European parliament. So this is not a particularly left-wing position. This is something mainstream that we should have: a proper refugee resettlement programme at EU level.

Which are the Greens/your positions on EMU functioning?

We are a confederal group, and on that issue I can’t really speak. It’s not something that we have broad consensus as group. We have parties that have different takes on that, unfortunately.

Which reforms are you going to propose in sectors as Eurozone governance and budgetary rules?

Again on this issues it’s not something that I can give a group position on. We have had discussions on this, and different parties have different takes. In general the monetary system and its failure to reign the power of the banks, to reign in the financial sector has impact really negatively on working classes peoples ability to afford the daily life in Europe. That kind of is our.. Our parties share that view, in every country in Europe. That’s pretty much a standard case across the borders. So we’re seeking policies that aid the redistribution of wealth from to one percent to mega reach financial elites that are sucking money out of the economy and are making like more unaffordable for forking people.

On which kind of strategy and priorities should be based the next Multiannual Financial Framework?

It would be more on redistributive theme. Things like in our country we see a lot of money going to a big landowners and big farmers, on cohesion policy and the regional policy maybe a lot more of those coins go to the smaller community. To people who need us rather to being the cream of the top.

Which is for the GUE/NGL the future of the Union?

We think that the European union will only survive if it starts properly serving the majority of its citizens. This involves the massive overhold of the economic doctrine that has been promoted by the EU institutions. The last 10 years had done a lot of damage to the EU’s credibility since there of the crisis, because it did answer the crisis with a response that really damaged people’s lives and damaged public services and really brought confidence in the overall project. So we need to come back, it need us to start helping the people’s lives.

Do You/the Greens think that the integration should be accelerated throughout a new Treaty or that it should be slowed down by resorting to intergovernmental agreements?

It depends on what kind of integration. I mean we had fiscal compact for instance. It’s a form of integration that we were really much against, because it enshrined austerity as a kind of constitutional need of the European union. So we’re against that type of integration. Integration that meant more distributive policies. Fair distribution of income across different classes would be something we would welcome. Integration that mean more democracy and left of a disconnect of here institutions in Brussels and people in member states. That would be welcome. Just depends on what kind of integration. We’re not like the other groups that see any other kinds of integration as possible. That’s not our approach at all.

Do the GUE/NGL believe that the future of the Union is within a Multispeed-Europe or within an Eu+27?

I think it depends multispeed on what. Things like the financial transaction tax, if that’s multispeed Europe if some countries go ahead and sign up for a transaction tax, I think that most of our MPs would be very supportive of that. And as a group I think we’d support that. It depends of hat types of policies it implies afterwards.

When we talk about GUE/NGL, we often refer to the locution “left-wing populism”. This usage has grown in the political and journalistic language, especially with a negative connotation as concerns  statistic of the growing of populism in the European scenario. What do you have to say about all this?

I hate that, I think it’s really unfair, because when you call someone a populist, especially now in 2019 you’re associating them with something that in the last few years is extremely negative and extremely ugly and far right usually. When we talk about populist, we see Marie Le Pen, and Matteo Salvini, Viktor Orban, and that has absolutely nothing to do with our politics. We’re profoundly anti-racist, profoundly xenophobic. The lefts, the socialists’ movements are the first political families who went international long-long before certainly the far right, long before the liberals, the greens, any of those groups. We were doing this in the 18th-19th centuries, our trade unionists have always had an international approach and anti-racist, anti-xenophobic approach to politics in general. It’s always been at the heart of our movement.

So to be associated with those on the far right, it’s I think really unfair. And if we were populists, what is populist mean? Is like you seek simple solutions to things.

Is it wrong to refer to GUE/NGL as populist groups? Why?

Because we’re not about simple solutions. Challenging capitalism is not simple. Simple solutions are saying things like it’s fault of migrants, it’s the fault of foreigners that you have a shitty job or whatever is, it’s fault of someone from another country. We never say that, it’s the easy way to say things, and that’s the doom way to do things and we always rejected that.

It’s always really funny because we’re accused of being populist which is the simplest solutions. We get accused of saying simple solutions, but at the same time we’re accused of being too complicated. That the left doesn’t use the simple language, that it doesn’t have good slogans. We’re are accused of being too abstract, too wordy, too long to explain things, and the right is like, they’re so simple.

So it’s weird to be accused at the same time of being simplistic and overcomplicated.

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