Molly Scott Cato - the Green Parlimentary candidate for Bristol West in the 2017 General Election and Green MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar - invited Bristol Green Society along to the Belgian capital for an exciting glimpse into life in European Parliament. Green Party members and Bristol students Amy Heley, Imogen Lois Robertson and Georgie Campbell discuss what this trip means in light of the pressing issues which face the environment and Britain's place in Europe.
Molly Scott Cato is a Green MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar. Since she was elected in 2014, her key areas of work have been on the issues of tax justice and sustainable agriculture. Furthermore, as a proud remainer, she has been working tirelessly in the European Parliament to minimise the destruction that Brexit would cause; one that guarantees the rights of all people, and one that maintains our social, environmental and economic protections. She is an incredibly inspiring and down to earth politician, who Green Soc were immensely proud to campaign for during the 2017 general election. As a ‘thank you’ for all our hard work last year, we went on a visit to see her and her work in Brussels for ourselves. Amy, our fabulous group leader, planned a number of activities for the trip.
Green Soc pose for a photo op with Molly in the Parlamentarium
We arrived in Brussels on the evening of Sunday the 18th, and spent the following day in and around the European Parliament. Visiting the Parlamentarium was an interactive and visual way for us to learn about both the history of the EU, specifically why it initially formed to unite Europe after the Second World War. It also showed us how the European Parliament works today, including a timeline of events up until the present day, and an opportunity to read about the work of every MEP. It gave us a thorough understanding of the context which became especially useful when we visited the European Parliament later in the day. When we first arrived, we were given a talk by a British civil servant, and although he was brutally honest about the unfortunate case of Brexit and its disastrous consequences, he gave us a good idea about how decisions in the European Parliament are made, and the influence it has on both Europe and the world. We then had a great discussion with Molly herself, as well as Terry Reintke, a German Green MEP. They spoke to us about their areas of work: Molly’s campaigning around sustainable farming, tax justice, her work on the Latin America committee, and of course, Brexit. Terry explained her incredible work on LGBTQIA+ and feminism issues across Europe, as well as giving a German perspective on Brexit.
the Greens are a global movement, working cross-border for social justice, environmental protections and economic fairness.
Amy, a Green Soc member, commented, 'Molly’s call to action was a bit of a wakeup for all of us. It’s all very well talking about how awful Brexit is, but now it is really the time to do something about it.the Greens are a global movement, working cross-border for social justice, environmental protections and economic fairness. Molly reminded us that it can, and should be, stopped - but only if we do something about it. We need to be out there campaigning, working with the Green Party as well as brilliant organisations such as ‘Our future our choice’ and ‘Bristol for Europe’. Molly highlighted that the Brexiteers are aiming to dismantle the EU, and even if we were to leave it, it is the job of the MEPs to make sure that this does not happen for the other 27 states. For me, this was the most poignant thing that Molly said, and is exactly why I find her to be such an inspiring politician.'
One of the most amazing things about the Green Party of England and Wales is the fact that it is not simply a bi-national political party; it is also part of the umbrella party of the European Greens. This means that the Greens are a global movement, working cross-border for social justice, environmental protections and economic fairness. We went to visit the European Greens, and sat around the garden table, drinking tea and learning about the work of the European Green Party. We also met with Teo Comet, Secretary General of the Federation of Young European Greens, who gave us an insight into what young people across the continent are doing for the Greens. It was amazing to find out just how connected the Young Green Party members of all the different countries are. The whole attitude of different Green organisations working alongside each other to solve problems was very uplifting. We found out about all the opportunities for young people to get involved, from workshops and trips to working groups around issues such as climate, migration, and gender.
'Our meeting with the European Greens was a much-needed injection of positivity amidst my real sadness over Brexit (having visited the European Parliament the day before and gaining a full appreciation of what we will be losing by leaving),' Georgie, another member of the excursion, added. 'Sipping on green tea in the garden of their Brussels office, it felt amazing to learn the extent of international cooperation that Green parties across Europe strive to maintain. This network is not limited to members of the EU, and was therefore a reminder of the prospect for continued international collaboration for UK Greens despite our possible exit from the EU. The visit served as a positive reminder that the reforms we seek require transnational collaboration, and to see such shared enthusiasm across Europe was an exciting and encouraging thing.'
The Greens enjoying green tea - what else! - in the garden.
As well as gaining political knowledge, we also took the opportunity to explore Brussels as a city. The imaginative scavenger hunt organised by Amy definitely got us interacting with the locals and discovering both the main tourist sites and some more obscure corners. After making friends with some friendly dogs and photogenic hipsters, many of us sampled the Belgian Waffle industry - with unanimously positive results - and we completed our evaluation of the city with several evening excursions to investigate the nightlife. It is safe to say that we made the most of the extensive range of Belgian beers, sampling them in many places - from a packed and lively bar to a small ‘Irish’ pub - and we all agreed that the quality was high.
Imogen gushed that she 'found the entire trip incredibly inspiring. I have always been passionate about conservation, the environment, and both animal and human rights, but until recently have known very little about politics. Learning about how the European Parliament works and hearing what both Molly and the other European Greens had to say made me realise just how crucial their roles are in making the changes that need to happen.'
Having practically formed a family over the course of the three days, saying goodbye at the bus station and heading back to our everyday timetables was heartbreaking - but our amazing trip has inspired us to keep working together in the fight to make politics Green!
All images credited to Bristol Green Soc.