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Foundations for Democracy: A Special Role for GEF

The Green European Foundation aims to provide a platform for Green foundations to interact and collaborate at a European level. The diversity among these partners is both a strength and a challenge for the task of steering Europe towards a Greener course in the future.

Colleagues from national foundations composed the articles collected in this section of the ninth edition of the Green European Journal.  Based on my reading of them, the majority share a common set of findings – three in particular, stand out.  Firstly, a general ‘crisis’ is afflicting democratic representative political regimes, as much in terms of popular legitimacy as in terms of their ability to ensure social justice.  Secondly, political parties suffer from a common and structural shortcoming when it comes to producing different policy initiatives, as confrontation is essential to a healthy democracy. Lastly, the social and cultural dynamics of existing civic initiatives are portrayed as complementary elements of a parliamentary democracy, needed to effectively adapt policy to current environmental challenges.

To overcome the EU’s democratic and environmental crisis, the articles emphasise that independent, national political foundations associated to green parties can and must play a role in renewing political practices. As activist contributions, the readings are based, implicitly or explicitly, on the assumption that the struggle for a more democratic society and efforts aimed at making lifestyles more sustainable are two sides of the same coin. Andreas Novy’s contribution in particular exemplifies this approach.

The ancient, though fundamental debate on the transformation of democratic regimes taking place, and its compatibility with the societal imperative of an ecological shift in our lifestyles still remains inconclusive.

Most of our authors would likely concede that this assumption is highly debatable, as Ingolfur Blühdorn excellently put it in his article, republished in the first part of this edition of the GEJ. The ancient, though fundamental debate on the transformation of democratic regimes taking place, and its compatibility with the societal imperative of an ecological shift in our lifestyles still remains inconclusive. Beyond this theoretical analysis, the full political spectrum of activism still exists: from democratic optimism to eco-political skepticism. I would venture to say that our authors are biased towards a willful yet pragmatic approach to social interventions and innovations: a novel application of the precept “one need not hope to undertake, nor succeed to persevere”. There’s certainly wisdom in recognising that the future remains open and uncertain.

Naturally, the mission of national foundations falls within different national histories and different contemporary political tendencies within European political ecology, not to mention unequal human and financial resources.  Nevertheless, as we mentioned before, the chief concerns remain the same. One of the tasks of Europeanpolitical foundations is, thus, to disseminate knowledge regarding social innovations taking place in EU countries in order to enrich and reinforce new democratic experiments.  This, in any case, is the mission that the Green European Foundation has chosen for itself since the beginning of its recent creation.  All of the activities and programs that the GEF financially supports are spurred by network dynamics, be it websites dedicated to the ‘Green New Deal’, executive training courses, the journal itself, or consortium projects, such as the reindustrialisation initiative.  Thus, in spite of its limited financial and human means, we can expect that the GEF will actively participate in the journal publishers’ call for a Green democratic reboot.

One of the main focuses of GEF’s work, however, is only marginally addressed in this edition’s contributions. Geopolitical and civilisational in nature, the focus has to do with the future of the European Union’s process, as a democratic regime at the heart of the European continent and other regions of the world. GEF’s ambition here is to ensure that this topic remains present in the development of environmental thought and political practices. National foundations, and particularly the Heinrich Böll Foundation, have dedicated research, publications, and seminars to this subject. However, efforts aimed at denationalising perspectives should be continued.  In other words, the goal should focus on a Europeanising of ecological political thought and projects, including the question of the EU’s future.

Linking back to the principal theme of this journal’s issue, the future of the European process, of ‘unity within diversity’, is arguably fundamental to reinvigorating democracy.  Thus, referring back to Blühdorn’s article again, a partial answer to the ‘sustainability of democracy’ question is to actively participate in the European Union’s construction by developing policy alternatives in opposition to the status quo conformity.

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