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European Greens Gain on Mainstream Parties Over Climate Change

Politics
CC-BY-4.0 / © European Union 2019 / EP

Europe's Green parties have emerged as potential kingmakers following the European parliamentary elections last weekend that saw Europe's center right and center left parties lose their majority in the EU's governing body, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The Greens came in second in Germany and Finland and third in Luxembourg and France, The Guardian reported, raising their total numbers in the 751-seat body from 51 to 70. Far-right nationalist parties also did well, but not well enough to influence the agenda of the European Parliament, since the pro-EU parties are unlikely to ally with them. The Greens, on the other hand, could be crucial to passing pro-EU legislation.


"This is confirmation for us that the topics we've been working on for years are the topics that matter to the public in their everyday life and for the future of their children," newly elected Green member of European Parliament (MEP) from Germany Sergey Lagodinsky said, as The Washington Post reported. "We had times when we wondered: Is this a fringe agenda? Now we know it's not. It's the mainstream agenda."

The fact that the Greens had their strongest showing ever in Sunday's election suggests that Western Europeans, especially the youth, want more radical action on climate change.

"It's a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more," Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, according to The Guardian.

The voting followed months of school strikes by young people across the continent, inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, and youth support was reflected in the polls. In France, Les Verts won the 18-24 vote with 22 percent, and, in Germany, Greens came out ahead with the same demographic with 34 percent of their vote, The Independent reported. However, Green parties did not make many gains in Central Europe and none in Eastern Europe, where, The Guardian said, other liberal parties tend to lead on environmental issues. In Southern Europe, Portugal's People-Animals-Nature (Pan) won a seat for the first time.

But Green gains in Northern and Western Europe already mean the Greens have the attention of the historically powerful parties.

The conservative European People's party's lead candidate for commission president Manfred Weber said he would certainly consider the Greens as partners.

"We should sit down together and draft a mandate for the next five years," he said, according to The Guardian.

This puts the Greens in a position to make demands, among them serious climate action, reducing inequality and protecting civil rights where they have been under attack in EU countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Malta.

"We aim to negotiate a pro-EU agenda in which climate change policy is front and center – and no longer just symbolic, but concrete," senior German Green MEP Sven Giegold said, according to The Guardian.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.