If they really want to take up the challenges that they will face in this century, Europeans need to develop a common public sphere where their differences can meet. By helping to build a green European public space, the Green European Journal aims to make a modest green contribution to this broader project.
In 2008, the Green European Foundation was established in order to promote exchanges and cooperation between the national Green Foundations and, like other European foundations founded by the European Parliament, to foster the involvement of European citizens in the European political system. This project was based on the idea that there is no living democracy without a lively public sphere. Democracy cannot be reduced to the votes cast at the polling booths or to the ‘good governance’ of elites. Moreover, the aim of democratic debate is not only to reflect the diversity of opinions, but also about to exchange arguments on issues central to society – arguments, which (if they are well constructed and presented) can help to shape the political imagination and will of citizens. In other words, the organisation of open-ended debates where citizens not only assume their own values and commitments, but are compelled to integrate those of others, is a basic condition for the quality of democracy, both at national and at European level.
A new chapter in the history of Europe
In this uncertain period of European history, building a European democracy appears more necessary than ever. The post-war narrative – the promise of a peaceful and prosperous continent freed from nationalist and totalitarian nightmares – no longer appears convincing to millions of Europeans whose imagination has been swayed by returning nationalist ideologies.
The weakening appeal of the European project is of course not independent from the troubles the continent’s citizens are currently facing (with increasing helplessness). It has been said many times, but it is important to remind ourselves that what we are experiencing is not only an economic crisis. We are in fact confronted with the wavering of a model of society based on the idea of limitless growth (of both production and consumption) and on the conviction that the fruits of this growth will trickle down to the bottom of society. We Europeans have not yet found an answer to both ecological and social aspects of this crisis.
Therefore new perspectives are urgently needed and above all, they are needed at the European level. The nation-state is obviously not obsolete, but will not be sufficient to address the challenges presented by global problems and powerful actors outside Europe. We would also like to make clear that the apparently growing consensus on stronger economic governance within the European Union has not gone hand-in-hand with ideas and mechanisms for strengthening solidarity between member states and sustainable lifestyles all over Europe, without which there can be no sustainable solution to our problems. Nor has there been enough thinking on a new division of competences between an empowered Union and its member states.
A European public space where the differences can meet
Inside the traditional European political families, the lack of imagination goes hand in hand with the lack of political courage to seek a real democratic legitimacy for reforms, which are necessary on both the national and European level. The debt and euro crisis is not only the consequence of an unsustainable economy; it is also the consequence of the lack of democratically legitimated system of governance within Europe.
One of the main reasons for this situation is that Europeans are facing the same issues without the possibility of debating them in a common European public sphere. They are missing places where their different sensibilities and expectations can meet and where the bases of European citizenship and solidarity can be formulated.
Like the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, we believe that “ the real problem is the opening up of national public spheres to one another, so that in Germany, for example, we are informed about the most important discussions in Spain, Greece, Italy, France or Poland – and vice versa” . This is also true within the Green movement.
New responsibilities for the Greens
For the Greens, the time of prophecies is over. The crisis they predicted since the 1970s is here and the ecological emergencies are bigger than ever. They must be prepared to act in the European governments in order to support the emergence of a new European governance and in order to reinforce its democratic legitimacy. Their duty is not only to provide efficient answers to the current crisis. It is also to base these answers on an adequate understanding of the current situation and its roots. But if they want to improve their analysis of the crisis and the quality of the solutions they propose, they will need spaces to share their experiences, readings and vision both inside the Green family and beyond, with all progressive political actors in Europe.
On the one hand, we urgently need a new politicisation of the choices that we are facing. Therefore the Greens should help the Europeans to ban the TINA (There is No Alternative) syndrome from their political discourse. But on the other hand, if the Greens want to convince more and more Europeans, their proposals should rely on an accurate assessment of their technical and, above all, political feasibility.
Europe, a goal in itself
If the current context of crisis bears some resemblance with the 70s, there are also big differences. The growing awareness about the unsustainability of our economic system, the raising demand for a “real democracy” where everybody can participate in the political process look much like the left-libertarian protests and the new social movements that led to the emergence of political ecology. But there are novel phenomena too: the “indignates” movement shows a radical distrust of all kind of institutions and is – for the moment – completely opposed to the idea of starting “a long march through the institutions”, which led to the creation of Green parties and put them on a reformist trajectory.
Initially, the attitude of the Greens towards Europe was also ambivalent. Their commitment to grassroots democracy stood, at least partly, in contradiction with the institutional development of the European Union. But, as time wore on and as Greens were progressively “tamed” in the national political arena Europe became more and more perceived as an ally in the implementation of more stringent environmental legislation. Lately, it has also come to be perceived as a dam against nationalism (to which the Greens have always been opposed).
The construction of Europe was not often seen as having an intrinsic value, as being a goal in itself. As mentioned, Europe was initially rather identified as a source of problems; and later, as a platform where Greens had to combat economic and political players who were opposed to stronger environmental regulation. Now, at the end of 2011 we are realising that this platform has turned into the common ground of anti-nationalist economic and political forces struggling to save the European project. These changes have not been easy to cope with and Greens should be careful when choosing their allies and designating their enemies today and tomorrow. We certainly need a stronger Europe, but “More Europe!” will not be enough. We need a Europe which is also more fair, sustainable and democratic.
Transnational, diversified and innovative
All this will not come in the form of a “big bang”. It has to be seriously worked on in the European public space that we would like to help develop. In a certain way, we are only beginning to become Europeans, i.e. to acknowledge and to confront our national differences and their historical roots. Although they started very early with the creation of a European political force, this is also true for the Greens. Reinforcing their links at a transnational level, giving them the opportunity to meet and to debate are the main reasons for launching a “Green European Journal”.
The debt and euro crisis is not only the consequence of an unsustainable economy; it is also the consequence of the lack of democratically legitimated system of governance within Europe.
Its first goal will be to bring together quality articles originally published in national contexts into one European publication. Most of the “green” journals are only published on a national level. Some of them are closely linked to the green foundations; some are completely independent but are also close to the green idea. But one of their main problems is that they remain often completely unknown outside their national contexts, mainly because of language differences. Thus, the first mission of the GEJ will be to offer a place where nationally embedded ideas can meet. Therefore, we will publish translations in English of articles, which were initially published in other languages.
The GEJ will also seek to represent the diversity of the Green movement. Its editors come from different corners of Europe and bring with them a special intellectual and cultural luggage, which will not only allow the board to provide a voice for traditionally neglected regions (such as Eastern and Southern Europe), but also to create a space for fruitful engagement and dialogue. Our hope is that the group of editors and the national correspondents working with them will in itself turn into a “debating community”, which will become a source of new ideas.
This latter is especially important to us. The GEJ will aim to stimulate the development of new (sometimes controversial) conceptions, and not just to mirror mainstream positions within the green movement. To this end the board will strive to publish contributions from independent academics, intellectual and artists; and it will carefully look to maintain its independence, in order to fulfil its mission.
Networking the Green Journals and building an intellectual community
The GEJ will have three main types of output closely linked and ‘branded’ under the GEJ banner and logo: 1. A Website linked to the GEF site containing the articles and the quarterly editions – with a system of classification based on keywords. 2. Occasional articles on ‘hot topics’ distributed via an e-news, with a short summary of the articles and a link to the GEJ section of the GEF website. 3. A quarterly online journal containing a selection of papers originally published in national public spheres. Each issue will have two dominant themes: one “major” theme and a “minor” one.
The Green European Journal is a “work in progress”. It will evolve from edition to edition. Like all journals it has to be the result of a collective effort. The Editor-in-Chief and the Editorial Assistant will coordinate the work on the journal and liaise with national correspondents, chasing up contributions and translations. The Editorial Advisory Board will advise on the content of the journal, key themes to be addressed and achieving the necessary balance in each issue. One of our first priorities is to develop a large network of correspondents in the different countries whose role will be to monitor national publications (online and in print) for relevant articles and submit them to the Journal. As mentioned above, the development of this network will be a concrete first step in the construction of a “green European public space”. Their work and reflections should be reflected in the Journal. Like other transnational grassroots groups of green activists, the Green European Journal wants to help build a living democracy above the borders of the nation-states. By connecting people and ideas throughout Europe, it will seek to give birth to an intellectual community, which will support the Green project in finding its way in this century.