Photo by Joan Carles Claveria – Own work
Mar Garcia Sanz is a Catalonian and Spanish politician. As Secretary General of the European Green Party, she notably fought for gender equality and equal rights for LGBTQI+ people and, regarding environmental policies, divestment from fossil fuels. She is an enthusiastic European fighting for social and environmental justice.
The interview was conducted by Sam Murray, member of Ecosprinter Editorial Board (2019-2020).
Sam: Thank you for an inspiring virtual council that was a great technological achievement. What do you feel were the successes of the council?
Mar: My assessment of the first ever EGP On-Line Council is highly positive.
First of all, I would like to reiterate my gratitude to DOM, the Greens of North Macedonia for the effort they made in preparing the face-to-face Council in Skopje, frustrated by Covid 19. I also want to thank you the EGP staff, for their ability to organize an online council in such a short time, and in those very difficult circumstances.
We have now held our first ever on-line Council. Both the costs and the ecological footprint of such an event have been much lower than if we had had a face-to-face Council. Important factors to be considered in the future.
But it cannot be denied that an online meeting is much colder. When losing the physical contact, we lose the opportunity to discover new people, the warmth of the exchange of impressions, as well as recognizing ourselves as part of a political community. This is much harder to do.
Of course, in the future we will have to analyze which are the most convenient formats taking all this into account.
But what is true is that once again, the Greens have been able to carry out a participatory, democratic and plural political debate that has allowed the free expression of the opinions of the delegates. We have also demonstrated we have the political maturity to find the necessary points of consensus to adopt widely shared resolutions in difficult and extreme times. Free debate and will to agree are the levers that allow us to adopt resolutions of the shared green thinking and strategy in those difficult moments.
We have adopted resolution on very actual issues, present on the national, European and world-wide political agenda, on all of them we have been able to stand our shared viewpoints!
Sam: In your closing speech you talked about a concept of New Globalism how would you define what this means?
What do you feel green parties should be doing to make the necessary changes for this new form of globalism to be achieved?
What do you think are the first steps we can make within our recovery COVID-19 to change the direction of globalism?
Mar: I strongly believe each generation has its historical challenge, this current generation, our generation’s one, is that of facing globalization.
If it had to summarize in one simple sentence the most negative aspect of the current globalization, for me it would be: the misgovernment of the interdependencies that globalization generates, of all kinds.
On the other side, and allow me to simplify, if I had to summarize what needs to be addressed in order to fix what this misgovernment brings, this would be: the government of these interdependencies.
And that is exactly, for me, what is the biggest challenge we have ahead of us.
The misrule of the interdependencies has very negative effects on the economic, social and ecological order.
As we are already on vacation mood, which somehow implies reading time 😉, I am going to allow myself to carry out a series of ponders/considerations on an issue as new and complex as the government of globalization.
The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman differentiated between the power, that he defined as the ability to make things happen; and the politics, that for him have the ability to decide what should be done.
With globalization, the divorce between power and politics is total. As Manuel Castells affirms (another sociologist, and now also Spanish Minister): the power resides in a space of flows, the global space; and politics in a space of places. Concrete limited places.
To correct this divorce, we must be aware, first of all, that we do not have an adequate theory of democracy able to accommodate environments of greater complexity than the national states.
The political categories linked to the universe of the industrial society, and to the space articulated by self-sufficient national states, are not transferable to a global society based on knowledge. Nor can these new global spaces respond, exclusively, to the logic of the traditional international relations between states.
The global Covid19 crisis has reopened the debate about deglobalization.
For the national-populists, this crisis indicates the beginning of the end of globalization, claiming false protection at the hands of closed walls and borders.
For me, that is a mistake. The road is not an impossible deglobalization, on the contrary, the first lessons of this crisis are that it is necessary to move towards a new model of globalization. In that sense, an inter-estate logic would not suffice to guarantee global governance either. Those who believe that, are just the same ones that are committed to an intergovernmental Europe which we do not agree with.
I, personally and sincerely, believe that the current global interdependencies can no longer be governed with the logic of internationality or inter-estate logic.
Globalization questions concepts and orders that have been so far mainstream in our societies. Concepts and orders that could be easily applied under the nation-state framework, but that do not longer fit in a globalized one. We need a new governance.
The very concept of sovereignty is no longer an absolute concept. Today, it is measured by the intervention capacity that it held. Being sovereign means nowadays being able to intervene in a reality of mutual dependencies.
In the past, the delimited territories established the powers and competences of the nation-estates. The current globalization is characterized, instead, by the fact that we are crossed by logics and flows that contradict the principle of territoriality.
Helmut Willke, another sociologist, writes that in global processes “there is little room for democracy, but much room for legitimacy.” In that sense I think I can state that in the near future we will not have a world government. Our effort should focus on implementing a governance system that allows for the interdependent convergence of needs and interests. A governance in which multiple institutional and non-institutional actors will participate.
New debates are opened, new democratic challenges have to be faced if we really aspire to achieve the government of interdependencies. The governance of globalization.
The Greens can contribute a lot to these debates. In our political culture the criterion of global responsibility is very much present. We are aware that the republican principle of non-domination can only be respected if we also consider those who, while not forming part of our national “demos”, are affected by our decisions.
Our experience in the process of building the European Union has enabled us to understand how to deal with the government of complexity. We analyze the EU as a polyarchy, with its values and limitations. As a complex model of government where unity and diversity are combined. European practices are heterarchical, authority is not centralized or decentralized, but shared.
All those are concepts and experiences that should allow us to advance towards the legitimization of the global processes. Our main big challenge.
Finally, as I have stated many many times, our best window to globalization is Europe, the EU….
We are aware that within the main challenges that humanity needs to face nowadays, the most serious one is climate change, only by major international agreements will that ever have a chance to be addressed.
Sam: What do you feel have been to main failures of the current model of globalism? Has the response to COVID-19 demonstrated this?
Mar: Although each one has its own concept of what globalization is, its definition is complex since it affects a series of changes in many different spheres; economical, cultural, social, political and technological, and on a planetary scale.
History has experienced different forms and periods of globalization, the current Covid19 pandemic is not the first global pandemic humanity has been faced with. In that sense, I would like to appoint the terrible pandemic of the so-called “Spanish flu” in 1918.
To my humble understanding, the concept of globalization cannot be reduced into a certain narrow conception: the neoliberal economic globalization. And although it is an economic process, mainly; conceptually it must be related to the specific field is being talked about.
There is an economic perspective of globalization, a social one, a cultural one, a political one. And the most remarkable, as it is considered the engine of the take-off of the current globalization, there is the technological perspective.
We can nowadays state that the current globalization has brought human, material and virtual interaction to its maximum level, and in real time. The world of today is a network.
Globalization represents, especially in economic terms, international competition without rules. And in this setting, winners and losers can be identified. The winners are known by everybody. As for the losers, those are countries, companies and people who did not develop the capacity to operate in the new resulting global economic and technological reality. In the prosperous and protected western world, broad social sectors suffer the consequences of this globalization and can be clearly identified as the ones suffering the consequences of the international competition without rules.
The dominant neoliberal idea that has managed to shape the current form of globalization has been that: in a global scenario our economies are not competitive if they have to endure: taxes, the welfare state, labor rights, environmental and health limitations. The neoliberal remedy has been simple, let’s remove these obstacles.
When 2008 crisis arrived, in that setting, austerity policies worsen it even more.
Somehow, we found our continent, Europe, instead of exporting a welfare society model, importing precariousness into our societies.
It is not surprising that certain sectors of our societies, hit and frightened by the consequences of this type of globalization, support national-populist proposals loaded with economic protectionism, authoritarianism and xenophobia.
Sam: As we start to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis what do you think are the key lessons to be learnt from how Europe has dealt with the pandemic?
One of the trends of this crisis has been that more authoritarian leaders (Trump, Boris, Bolsonaro et al) have failed to deal with the pandemic whereas more compassionate leaders have lessened the impact of the virus, would you agree with such an assessment and what are your thoughts on the styles of leadership we have seen throughout this crisis?
Mar: A Spanish philosopher, Daniel Innerarity, affirms in his last book that “history is full of people who could not imagine that the stability we enjoyed could ever have a chance to be ended.” The philosopher’s statement serves to describe the shock that the surprised outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has represented in our societies.
The virus at the individual level has disrupted our daily lives, the normality of our lives. It has caused a serious health, economic and social crisis, globally.
It is not the first time that we have faced a global pandemic, that of AIDS at the end of the 20th century and SAR at the beginning of the 21st were also pandemics that had a global dimension. But humanity has never suffered a disease that has spread so rapidly and aggressively. And with such effects on our social life of all kinds.
The speed, severity, intensity and globality of the crisis generated by COVID 19 highlights the disembedding between three fundamental dimensions of the current historical moment.
The first dimension is a globalized world with a globalized economy and with an enormous capacity to mobilize resources.
The second is the existence of international institutions, I am thinking of the World Health Organization (WHO), but without real capacity for autonomous action. WHO, like other international organizations, is highly dependent on the will and resources of nation-estates.
And a third, nation states politically overburdened with demands that in too many cases they cannot meet because they are dragging fiscal crises and have suffered the dismantling of their public protection services.
This disembedding, which I have briefly described, has reopened the debate on deglobalization. Have already commented on that in the above paragraphs.
But the path is not an impossible deglobalization. On the contrary, the first lessons of this crisis are that it is necessary to move towards a new globalization, different from the one we have experienced so far, which allows new ways of coordinating actions at the three levels mentioned above, the global, the international and the national.
We need strong international organizations that allow us to govern globalization in all its forms, including the globalization of contagious diseases.
We affirm this in the resolution adopted in the last Council. The coronavirus crisis is a global crisis. The responses to this crisis must be global. The European Union has the responsibility to lead the way forward with the aim of practicing global solidarity.
A second reflection is the role of the European Union in this crisis. I am one of the people who became alarmed at the passivity of the Commission at the start of the pandemic. I followed with concern the debates on the mutualization of debt and the positioning of certain governments.
The Union was in danger of being split in two by the pandemic and its economic consequences.
It has to be remembered that the countries of southern Europe did not come out of the financial crisis well. And this pandemic has affected much more strongly in the south. A response in the line of austerity would have accentuated the asymmetries between northern and southern Europe with very serious political effects for the Union.
In that regard, the agreement reached last Tuesday 21 by the Council is an historic milestone. Yes, not perfect. Undersized. Far from what we Greens would have designed if we were to do so.
But the differences with the EU responses to the 2008 financial crisis are very large.
In 2008 the banks were rescued, and the bill was paid with cuts. In 2020 a stimulus and productive transition plan is approved.
Many analysts state the EU has had its “Hamiltonian moment” with this agreement, referring to Alexander Hamilton. I agree, having a shared debt reinforces the process of European integration.
And we Greens should congratulate ourselves on the role played by the parliamentary group in the EP (Greens/EFA). I invite you to read their evaluations, as well as to learn about the green proposals that the Group made in the plenary Parliamentary debates on the substance approved by the Council (EUCO).
I want to reiterate, a great agreement for the EU has been reached. While reading it, please avoid falling into the mistake of getting confused between what should have been done – the principle of will – and what can be achieved – the reality principle.
What has been achieved is very positive despite the many shadows of the pact.
I would like to finalise with a reflection that for me summarizes very well the green principles that inspires our policies. Again, stated in the EGP resolution adopted during last Council. We affirm that combating the effects of the pandemic will lead to an increase in public spending and debt. This debt is stated as a negative inheritance for the future generations. We owe them, thus, that this indebtedness guarantees the necessary green transition and the strengthening of social protection instruments.
Our commitment must be that the debt those future generations will inherit must be destined to guarantee social and ecological sustainability.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of caring for people. This effort has fallen mainly on women. In that sense, public social protection policies are necessary in order to allow women to be relieved of this overexertion. A new mentality is necessary in our societies so that men also feel responsible.
Covid 19 has rocked our lives, our societies, the economy. It will affect our ways of life and work. I doubt that there will be a return to the normality we were living in the immediate past. The question to be answered is to which world do we want to return?
The pandemic is also a very serious effect caused by the unsustainability of the current civilization model. Hopefully sooner rather than later a vaccine will be discovered to fight the virus. For unsustainability, to reverse climate change, no vaccine is possible, only perseverance in achieving emission reduction goals and the transition towards a sustainable development model.
Voices have already been raised that prioritize the relaunch of the economic activity over any other concern. We cannot allow it, it would be the worst solution.
It is time for the Green New Deal. A new political reorientation of the economy is necessary.
This is and will be the political battle for the present and the future, not only at European level but also at national, regional and local levels. The political reorientation of the economy.
Once the recovery fund is approved, the different states must submit proposals indicating that they will invest the resources they will have. It is time for Green parties to open debates and make proposals so that these funds are destined to the necessary ecological transition of our economies, and for social sustainability.
We Greens have the will, the strength and the capacity to do so. To win this battle. We must establish the necessary alliances, and above all, support ourselves in the increasingly broad social sectors sensitized by the fight against climate change and social equity.
Sam: What can activists do to call for the changes needed in our approach to international politics?
Mar: Connectivity today allows the synchronization and mobilization of global activism in response to different causes, be it the “Friday for future”, the “Me too”, or the most recent “Black lives matters”.
Connectivity allows essential spaces for debate and mobilization to generate the necessary social energies to combat the effects of globalization and to be able to correct its course. And there are not only sectoral spaces.
The World Social Forum, with its slogan that “Another world is possible” or “Other worlds are possible”, is surely one of the pioneering organizations and most representative of the social response to inequality and unsustainability of the current model of globalization.
The importance and political significance of global activism has been demonstrated over the years by its capacity for awareness and mobilization on a global scale. Claims originally raised by the multiple protagonists of alter-globalization activism are now part of the political agendas.
For the Greens, the participation and empowerment of these movements is a strategic matter, since it is difficult to change reality without the necessary social support.
The Greens are an organization with an institutional and government vocation, yes, but this is not contradictory with also being a fighting movement.
As Pier Paolo Pasolini said “dobbiamo essere in piazza and in palazzo”, on the street and in institutions!!!. There is where you will find us!
Dr Sam Murray is a former member of the FYEG EC and former YGEW co-chair. He is currently a lecturer in Music Business and Arts Management.