Green economist Molly Scott Cato makes the case for harnessing the power of a united Europe to endorse environmental improvements
It's true that most people don't wake up every morning and wonder what's the latest news from the European Union.
If we hear much of anything at all it's usually a crusty old guy from the shires rambling on about Europe as a pestilence, as Lord Dobbs rather unhelpfully commented last week. As a Green candidate for the European elections, obviously I find this rather disappointing. The more so because European elections are held under a fairer electoral system and therefore Greens stand a much better chance of winning them.
It's also a shame because the lack of interest in Europe means that people don't understand how our lives are improved by policies and protections that members of the European Parliament negotiate on their behalf.
The Green Group has been particularly active on fracking, stopping it from becoming a sudden Wild West free-for-all as it has been in the US. And in a whole range of policy areas Europe is working for the common good much more effectively than our Westminster Government.
In just the past week the Green Group has been active on issues from protecting us against electronic snooping to protecting bees and keeping genetically modified organisms out of our food chain.
One of the most frequent complaints about the European Union is that it is stuffed full of faceless bureaucrats. To make the EU more human, the European Greens are organising a primary vote so that everybody across Europe can choose two people to be the face of our European election campaign.
It is a unique Europe-wide experiment in e-democracy and, in keeping with Green policy to include more young people in democracy, those aged 16 and 17 are also eligible to vote. You don't have to be a Green member to join in; you just have to sign up to basic Green principles.
So who are the candidates? My favourite is José Bové: for reasons that I am going to explain later, I am publicly endorsing him to represent our campaign.
But you also have the choice of Monica Frassoni, of the Italian Greens, Rebecca Harms, of the German Greens, and Ska Keller, of the European Federation of Young Greens, who is the official choice of the England and Wales Green Party. José Bové is an MEP for Europe Ecologie / Les Verts and, like many Greens, he became involved in politics after campaigning against injustice that he just could not tolerate. In Bové's case it was the power of McDonald's and the way he felt that the company destroyed farm livelihoods in his region of Tarn in South-West France. He is a passionate supporter of the rural way of life and earns his living as a sheep farmer and by selling the Roquefort cheese he makes from his sheep's milk.
José Bové has shown courage in standing up to the US economic model and its powerful corporations and he might indeed have been the original cheese-eating surrender monkey so despised by George Bush. Such political courage is now more important than ever as we see the EU and US negotiating a new trade treaty that would undermine the high levels of animal welfare and food safety that we have gained through the European parliament.
We must resist this economic model of profit at any cost and challenge the orthodoxy that says more trade is always to our benefit.
Like many Greens, Bové is not a conventional politician. He is a working man who has seen his own livelihood threatened by globalisation and a courageous campaigner who is not afraid to stand up to power and corruption. He has joined the European Parliament to shift the balance of power away from corporations and their lobbyists and back to the citizens of Europe. As a candidate in next year's European elections myself, it is this that I find so inspiring.
If you would like to find out more about the European Green Primary or the candidates you can vote for, they are travelling across Europe meeting citizens and will be in London on Saturday. All the debates can be watched online and several are organised as teleconferences where you can join the debate via your computer. Our future lies in Europe so let's make Europe ours and get involved in debates about the policies that will guide all our futures.