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Good morning. We finally have a new EU sanctions package. It includes a ban on Russian diamonds, various new measures to better enforce the price cap on Russian crude and sanctions against 120 individuals and entities. Member states will now argue over whether it should be amended before it’s adopted.
Today, our parliament correspondent meets the woman who will probably lead the Greens into next summer’s European elections, and with our Madrid correspondent questions why EU cash is funding an online shop for fascist paraphernalia.
Europe’s Greens need to win over working class voters in next summer’s parliamentary elections, the woman who wants to lead them into the vote told Andy Bounds.
Context: Terry Reintke, co-president of the European parliament’s Green group, is the sole contender to date to lead their list in the June elections. Polls suggest they could lose more than 20 of their 72 members, as voters grow sceptical about green policies over their economic costs.
Reintke, 36, who grew up in the industrial Ruhr valley in Germany, says social justice is as important as the environment.
“I have a clear profile on social justice, which I think will play a very important role in this election campaign because of the cost of living crisis, because of inflation, because a lot of people don’t know how to make ends meet anymore,” Reintke said in an interview.
“We are a leftwing party, but I don’t think many people realise it,” she said. “And I would like to change that.”
In Germany, green policies forcing households to swap gas boilers with heat pumps have sparked a backlash. Conservative parties have also turned against the EU’s policies to fight climate change.
Reintke admits mistakes were made, and says the Greens must help people adapt to the effects of climate change. “It is not only the global south that is going to be hit but people who are in financially difficult situations in Europe.”
She wants a law to limit working hours outdoors in hot conditions, better rights for temporary workers and a new fund to invest in green technology.
However, she rules out an electoral pact with the Socialist group, like one the Dutch Greens agreed ahead of national elections next week.
And she will continue to press for more ambitious regulation on climate and nature, even if it may cost some votes.
“My programme is not based on a survey done last week. My programme is based on what is necessary so that we and our children have a future on this planet and to create a more socially just society,” Reintke said.
“If the fiddle is playing another tune, I’m not going to suddenly dance to that. I’m going to stay on course.”
Chart du jour: Death toll
Western countries — led by the US — are under increasing pressure to rein in Israel’s high-intensity military campaign as the death toll in Gaza mounts.
Exit through the gift shop
Context: The EU has established a €800bn fund to invest in the green transition and reboot the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic. EU countries invest that money in domestic projects, but governments like Italy have come under scrutiny over how they use the funds.
A Spanish member of the European parliament is now asking why some of that cash went to Tienda Falangista, an online shop which sells products linked to the movement eventually headed by Spain’s dictator Francisco Franco.
The site sells Playmobil figures made to look like Falangist fighters in the Spanish civil war and children making the fascist salute, as well as clothes with the Falangist badge.
Idoia Villanueva, an MEP from the leftwing Podemos party, has asked the European Commission whether the funding complies with EU values. The funding was signed off by the Spanish government, in which Podemos is a junior coalition partner.
“The EU was born from the fight against fascism. Today, neither our country nor Europe can allow even one euro of public funds to end up in the pockets of those who defend [Falange founder] Primo de Rivera, Franco, Hitler or Mussolini,” Villanueva said, also referring to the German and Italian dictators.
Red.es, a body that distributes certain recovery funds, confirmed Tienda Falangista had received €2,000. An official said Red.es “cannot, at any time, discriminate for ideological reasons against a company that operates legally in the market”. They added that the company did not violate a Spanish “historical memory” law passed to deal with the legacy of the civil war.
The commission did not respond to a request for comment.
What to watch today
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell travels to Israel on a five-day trip around the Middle East.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at EU-China conference in Berlin.