Vivien Lichtenstein
Image credit: Creative commons, Vivien Lichtenstein

As the government continues its negotiations over Brexit – both with the European Union and the UK parliament – the possibility of the UK participating in the forthcoming European Parliament elections is becoming more and more likely. In light of this, regional Green Parties have begun the process of selecting candidates to fight those elections.

Bright Green is inviting all those standing to be Green candidates for these potential elections to write a short article, outlining why party members should select them. One of these candidates is Vivien Lichtenstein, and this is what they had to say:

I have been a firm supporter of the European project since the early 1970s, believing it reduces the likelihood of armed conflict. Our Green MEPs have made essential contributions to laws on human rights, animal welfare and the environment and, if elected, I would certainly continue their vital work.

The rise of the far right

Up until this year, in all my work in the party, in all my campaigning for peace and human rights re Israel-Palestine – both within the Jewish community and the wider UK community – I didn’t bring up my family history, nor my own experiences of antisemitism, unless the issue had already been raised by someone else.

So, why is now different from before? Because now we are living in dangerous times. Now we are seeing the rise in the far-right.

Austerity and rising inequality lead to scapegoating which in turn leads to xenophobia.

Why is that important to have someone like me representing London in the European Parliament? Because state members of the EU are increasingly joining the far-right movements gaining force around the world. They need reminding where scapegoating and xenophobia can lead.

The far-right movements gaining power is hardly conducive to democracy and that’s what we need to fight climate change and protect the environment; they’re hardly conducive to human rights and that’s what we need for migrants and refugees.

Aside from ‘moralising’ within, the EU, being a massive trading block, should be stricter in enforcing human rights clauses in all its trade agreements.

Loving London, loving Europe

I love Europe for the same reason I love London. (I don’t use ‘love’ as in ‘patriotism’, rather as in ‘appreciation’)

Multiculturalism is very important to me – allowing people to live according to their culture, unless of course, it contradicts our own human rights, civil or criminal laws.

I love that London is essentially made up of different villages, each with its own atmosphere, even culture in some places.

I love that each of these ‘villages’ is made up of a mixture of economic classes – that social housing is a hop-skip-and-jump away from expensive properties (unlike Paris for example, with the more expensive properties within and the deprived banlieues without). That mix doesn’t only benefit social cohesion, it also helps maintain the local environment. We Greens might very well wish it weren’t the case that the better-off have a stronger voice, but we must deal with the world we live in, while working towards a better one.

This vague separation though does result in major issues – within London, the UK and Europe. Where different cultures / communities don’t mix sufficiently it can lead to lack of knowledge about the ‘other’ resulting in mistrust of the ‘other’.

What can the EU do about it? Fund cross-cultural programmes in schools for example, not only educating about the ‘other’, but also learning to appreciate each other.

For the sake of people, for the sake of the planet, the European Parliament needs someone like me to keep banging this particular drum.

Since 1982, apart from a break in the 80s when Vivien worked for a charity on hunger-related issues, she has been very active on Israeli-Palestinian peace and human rights issues in various Jewish (including European Jews for a Just Peace) and joint Jewish-Palestinian organisations; this included lobbying MPs and MEPs. Vivien’s parents were holocaust survivors which  influenced her approach to universal human rights and welfare. Shortly after joining the Green Party in 1997, Vivien co-founded West Central London Green Party and is now its Chair.

All articles from those seeking to be Green candidates for London in the European Parliament elections can be found here.