“Machen, was zählt” – “Do, what counts”

That was the slogan of the party conference of the German Grüne this week in Karlsruhe, and I was running for a place on the party’s European Parliament election list. That effort failed completely yesterday evening when I tried to run for position 14 on the list, and I was roundly defeated.

For me what counts is fixing Europe’s railway problems.

That is what I have sought to do as an activist for the past couple of years, and that was the central topic for me within the Grüne, and the main point of my speech. But despite some success improving the railway policy in the party’s European Parliament election programme, that did not translate into the party wanting the person who could make that change happen in the EU on their list. I was not doing this as a complete outsider – I have spent 4 years as the deputy chairperson of the party’s working group on EU policy (BAG Europa) and was running with the support of the working group on transport (BAG Verkehr).

I was not the only person running with the transport topic to struggle at the conference – sitting MEP Anna Deparnay Grunenberg ended up at number 17 on the list, so will likely not get re-elected, and Rosa Domm at position 21 (almost certainly will not get elected).

I could have run for a position even further down the list – somewhere between position 30 and 40 and hence unelectable – but decided against doing this. The party wants a team of candidates committed to the cause of the election campaign for the party, not someone motivated by a policy topic that struggled for resonance within the party’s ranks.

To put it another way, the best way I saw to make the transport changes Europe needs, was by trying to get the German Grüne not only take the topic seriously, but trust me to be able to deliver for them in Brussels. It did not work, so I need to change course accordingly.

I have no intention of changing topic – I know these railway problems need fixing. I also know that there is no political level other than EU-wide at which these problems can be solved – there is no point switching to Land or Federal politics. So my decision instead is going to be to change the means by which I can solve these problems.

In practice that could mean expanding my activism (I have the idea to do a #CrossBorderRail south east Europe for example), it might mean building research and intellectual capacity about transport policy in the EU (to build an equivalent of Allianz Pro Schiene or Agora Verkehrswende in Brussels), it might be to write a book about how to solve Europe’s railway problems (hell, I have enough examples more than one book), or it could be to build up a tool or website to solve the railway ticket booking problems (because the existing platforms like Trainline or Omio are not doing the job).

I will stay as a member of the Grüne, and will participate in both EU and transport policy debates in the party where it makes sense, but that will be it – I do not want and nor will I seek any other role. I will resign from my position in the BAG Europa at the next meeting in spring.

I still have this sort of nagging feeling the Grüne have never got the best out of me, never really seen what I could do for them, but that is it for now. I am not bitter, I am not angry. Just somehow a little empty, sort of not fulfilled. But now is the right time to move on.


  1. Keep going and continue pushing for improvements!

  2. Jon, es tut mir sehr leid, das zu lesen. Zum einen für dich persönlich, denn du hast für deine wichtige und gute Arbeit mehr Anerkennung verdient. Zum anderen für die Grünen, denn mir scheint, das ist eine vertane Chance. Und zum dritten für die Sache: denn deine Arbeit ist so wichtig, und es gibt so viel zu tun. Ich hoffe, du lässt dich nicht entmutigen. Deine Worte klingen jedenfalls danach, und das freut mich sehr. Bitte engagiere dich weiter. Und an dieser Stelle: danke für alles!

  3. Hi Jon,
    Gutted to read this. So sorry. All those who know you (even if only from a distance) will hope you’ll soon bounce back. We need your talismanic approach.
    Re the Euro elections. Most people know nothing about their MEPs. How about organising a template for a Europe-wide campaign whereby we ask all candidates where they stand on the key rail issues, and publish the answers, maybe this site logs and hosts the replies. I’d happily do that for the Czech MEPs.

  4. Matti Schneider

    Thank you for all your work on this important topic. It is frustrating to not get rewarded or recognized enough for it. Finding the right levers is unfortunately not only a matter of work, and depends way too often on stars aligning, way beyond our control. I am sure you will find alternative ways, perhaps more collective, to reach those goals 🙂 Happy to help where possible!

  5. Alfred Gliddon

    Sorry to hear that, Jon.
    But, like Churchill recommended, I am sure you will KBO.
    Keep up the good work!

  6. Jon, for someone with your talents, I am sure you will manage to have your voice heard and have impact. That is not necessarily from the front row in politics. Being stuck in party politics can narrow your impact also.
    Keep doing what you do best and keep kicking everyone a conscience and get them out of their comfort zone.
    All the best,


  7. Magdalena Burtscher

    I am sorry to hear! I became aware of your profile on LinkedIn and your policy focus resonated with me – we urgently need more investment in rail transport. Best of luck for your future efforts.

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