Jean Lambert biography

Working for a greener and fairer society

Over her 20 years as a Green Party MEP Jean Lambert developed close working relationships with parliamentarians, community groups, NGOs, trade unions and policy makers in the UK and around the world. 

During her tenure in the European Parliament she has fought hard to improve the life of ordinary people in the UK, and indeed the lives of  500 million people in the other European Union (EU) countries.   Also, Jean aimed to craft policies and encourage strategies that treated the Global South fairly, promoted democratic values as well as universal human rights.

Through visiting projects, organising and speaking at conferences, responding to public consultations Jean ensured that London’s voice as well as a Green voice was at the front of European Policy making on key issues ranging from social security and social inclusion, to asylum and immigration, from energy and sustainability to human rights and peace. 

In addition to being the Chair of the European Parliament (EP) Delegation to South Asia, Jean was an active member of committees in the European Parliament. These committees play a crucial role in policy-making as they are responsible for preparing the Parliament's positions, notably on new laws.  MEPs enjoy more powers in law shaping compared with their UK MP counterparts. 

Jean was a member of The Employment and Social Affairs Committee working on issues including immigration, social inclusion, workers’ rights and social security and Vice President of three cross-party Parliamentary Intergroups including; the Intergroup on Ageing; the Intergroup on Anti-poverty and The Children’s Rights Inter-group (which she co-founded)  and was also Co-President of the Intergroup on Anti-racism and Diversity.  She is also a member of the Intergroups on Disability and Gay and Lesbian rights.

The very first item Jean worked on as an MEP was a revision of the co-ordination of social security schemes, which helped ensure that those working elsewhere in the EU don't lose out on their entitlements.  She later played a part in the establishment of European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), which ensures it is easier to access to emergency medical care when visiting another EU country. 

As a member of the Civil Liberties and Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Jean has focused in protecting the rights of migrants and asylum seekers and she brought concerns from the European Network on Statelessness before her colleagues, making it a priority for the cross-party group on children’s rights to ensure no child is left stateless. She also worked to achieve more rights for family members to accompany migrants from outside the EU, as well as being a rapporteur on the regulation that set up the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which assists EU countries in implementing their asylum system properly.  Jean was also Rapporteur for the Asylum Qualifications Directive, concerning the right to humanitarian protection and shadow-rapporteur on the Returns Directive .

In recent years Jean worked to win a consensus in the European Parliament for progressive reforms to the EU’s Dublin Regulation. Though these were rejected by The Council (relevant Government ministers from each EU member country), they will hopefully form the basis of discussions on this issue in the new European Parliamentary session 2019-2024.  Another major step forward in this area made by Jean was introducing ‘gender identity’ as grounds for consideration in asylum law for the very first time.

Jean spent many years campaigning for paid carers’ leave across the EU and she played a key role paving the way for this new piece of legislation, which gives carers five days of paid leave each year.  She has also helped to defend the Working Time Directive, helped to negotiate the law on protecting temporary agency workers and was instrumental in the establishment of EHIC cards and the ability to pool state pension rights from all 28 countries who are members of the EU. 


Most recently Jean worked to make sure Brexit doesn’t undermine citizens’ rights.  Since the EU referendum in 2016, she has sought to raise the concerns of the five million citizens - both UK nationals in the EU and vice versa, whose lives have been thrown into disorder by potential changes to UK immigration law.  In March 2019 Jean co-led on the creation of a new law which will ensure that the social security contributions made by EU citizens in the UK or EU prior to Brexit will still be recognised in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Jean has championed increasing transparency in the garment and textile sector.  Since the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, which killed more than 1000 people, she used her position as Chair of the Parliament’s South Asia Delegation to push for textile and fashion companies to make their supply chains more transparent.  This has involved pressing for labour and factory inspections, and drawing attention to the poor conditions and pay of factories that make garments for businesses who are from fellow EU countries.

Jean was one of the first politicians to highlight the growing risk of climate displacement due to the climate emergency, and produced a report on the link between refugees and the environment back in 2002.  The six countries she worked with as Chair of the South Asia Delegation - Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - are particularly vulnerable to climate change.  And over the years, she helped to give this region a voice at European Union level to raise concerns about climate-related issues such as rising sea levels, which put millions at risk.  While we still have a long way to go on this issue, climate displacement is at least now recognised as a major global issue and is included in the United Nation’s climate framework.

Jean used her position as an MEP to campaign for a raft of clean air initiatives - responding to consultations at London, UK and EU levels, producing London-focused materials, and raising air quality issues with The Commission, (the administration arm of the EU).  The Commission has now referred the UK Government to the European Court of Justice for its failure to uphold the EU air quality standards the UK had signed up to.  She also joined her fellow Greens to take a strong stand against Heathrow expansion, which will only accelerate the UK’s contribution to climate change!

Jean also has expertise on the area of Green Jobs which is the best chance of building lasting, decent employment prospects for future generations and consistent with sustainable development. In June 2015, Jean helped to raise these issues and many more in the European Parliament through her role as rapporteur on the ‘Green Employment Initiative: Tapping into the job creation potential of the green economy’. 

On top of her responsibilities as an MEP in 2018 Jean was involved in promoting democracy and was the Chief Observer of the European Union's Election Observation mission to Sierra Leone as well as Head of European Parliament election observation delegation for the Pakistan election. In 2017, she chaired the EP election observation delegation to The Gambia, and was part of the EP mission to Zambia in 2016 and Nigeria in 2011.

In 2005, Jean was recognised for her work and was selected the top MEP for Justice and Human Rights by Parliamentarian Magazine. Jean was also nominated for the prestigious UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, awarded annually by the  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in recognition of outstanding service to the cause of refugees, displaced or stateless people. In 2017 Jean was selected and stood as the Green EFA group’s candidate in the election for the President of the European Parliament.

Together with former Green MEPs colleagues earlier this year she published a book entitled Greens for a Better Europe: 20 years of Green Influence in the European Parliament, a testament to what UK’s elected representatives can achieve when they work together with our European partners and friends. The book gives an insight into how the Greens have worked with colleagues, across party lines, to make Europe a safer, healthier and greener place. 

Jean regularly speaks at conferences in her key areas of competency and has spoken at institutions including UNHCR and Harvard University and the Greek Parliament.

 Jean began her career as a teacher of modern languages at a secondary school in Walthamstow, East London.  She continued to teach for more than two decades, until leaving the profession in 1999 to concentrate on her Euro election campaign.  Her career as a teacher stood her in good stead for managing outspoken politicians in the European Parliament.  Jean speaks French and (rusty) Italian and regularly appears on French national television commenting on EU developments.

Jean has been an active member of the UK Green Party since 1977 and was Principal Speaker for the Green Party of England and Wales from 1992-93 and 1998-99.  She was chair of the Green Party Executive in 1994.  Jean continues to be the Green Party spokesperson on Migration.  Jean also has an interest in constitutional affairs, she set up the London Green Party and has been involved as a senior figure at national level setting up the constitution of the Green Party of England & Wales. 

In the 1990’s she was an active member of Charter 88, the British pressure group advocating constitutional reform, including measures which led to the Human Rights Act and devolution measures.  She is a long-standing advocate of proportional representation and was the Green Party representative on Make Votes Count.  Jean has also argued for the engagement of civil society in decision making, through such measures as the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) and other work in the EP – such as the inclusion of the Consultative Forum within the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

Jean continues to be involved in politics and remains committed to pushing for bold responses to the planet’s climate emergency and for greater social equality.  She remains firmly in support of a People’s Vote and will continue to advocate for UK's membership of the European Union, one that works for ordinary citizens and the planet, rather than for big business or banks. 

Jean is a member of the council of Liberty, sits on the board of the European Citizen Action Service, is a patron of Hackney Law Centre and human rights theatre group Ice & Fire, is a trustee of Dalit Solidarity UK and president of the Waltham Forest Race Equality Council.  

July 2019