July 6, 2009
We had a disappointing result in the European elections – but we’re not giving up, with unemployment shooting up we have plenty to fight for. We now face the least progressive European Parliament in its history, with a far more eurosceptic and nationalist right-wing than ever before, and risk seeing a more assertively right-wing European Commission – but we are fighting back! We have already ensured that there will be proper consultation, as we demanded, with the Parliament in the nomination of a European Commission President.
Our group in the European Parliament has consolidated its position as the second biggest force in the Parliament by bringing in the new Italian ‘Partito Democratico’ – creating a new group: the “Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament”. This is a good decision which I fully support and have been working for over recent months. To clear up one thing that seems to have caused a bit of misunderstanding among some PES activists: the Group’s decision will not in any way compromise the name or identity of the Party of European Socialists. We remain committed to building a stronger PES with the support of PES activists and defining a clear and strong political project to meet the ever greater challenges facing citizens. As I have said before we need more PES, not less PES.
I don’t accept that the European elections result are proof of some terminal crisis for social democracy, but there is no doubt that social democracy must renew itself. The values on which we have based more than a century of political struggles and achievements must remain our inspiration. We must learn how to reach out better to people, to those who feel excluded and disenfranchised by today’s politics, connecting to their fears and dreams. We must work closer together than we ever have done before among social democratic and socialist parties across Europe. And we should be open to progressive ideas and people beyond the formal limits of our parties. See my article which was published in the French newspaper Libération and the Flemish paper De Morgen.
A first step on the road to renewal, after bringing on board the Italian Democrats, is our PES activists forum in Dublin where more than 250 grassroots party members from all over Europe will get together to debate the future of the left in Europe, including how to build up PES activists. I cant stress enough how important PES activists are for a progressive future. PES activists are a foundation on which we must build a stronger European party.
Another step will be taken at our Congress in Prague in December where we will launch a new phase of thinking for the PES and strengthening our PES party.
But there are more immediate battles to fight right now. The economic crisis is getting worse: growth is being revised downwards month on month, and unemployment is rising dramatically. Talk of green shoots is premature. Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt used the first day of his EU Presidency to say there should be no further fiscal stimulus to fight the recession. We will see 27 million unemployed next year – 10 million jobs lost in two years! Our priority must be jobs, jobs, jobs. We must focus on recovery, and campaign and argue for a stronger European recovery plan.