Road to EU 2024

Socialists adopt manifesto and elect Spitzenkandidat for EU elections in Rome PES Congress

March 2024
By Sara Bellucci

Social, democratic, sustainable. These are the watchwords of the Congress of the Party of European Socialists (PES) that took place in Rome on 1-2 March 2024. Leaders, ministers and MEPs from all the parties of the socialist family have gathered to adopt the PES manifesto and to elect the common candidate for the role of Commission President. Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Danish PM Mette Frederiksen, Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, the former Green Deal Frans Timmermans and S&D President Iratxe García Pérez were among the speakers that took the stage to present the socialist priorities for the next legislative term.

«This Congress of the socialists is a significant energy boost. It’s wonderful to see the parties of our political family finally united and unanimous in envisioning a clear future for Europe and our shared future», said MEP Beatrice Covassi to The Watcher Post. A vision for the future that stands in sharp contrast to the bleak one offered by the far right.

«We represent hope for the future. The narratives of right-wing parties are rooted in fear and frustration, feelings that are understandable given the difficult times we are currently experiencing. However, we counter this fear and frustration with hope, offering a vision of optimism for the youth, for all those who feel sidelined, and for women who are all too often not treated as full-fledged citizens. We are presenting concrete proposals to build a Europe that truly fulfils the dream of our founding fathers and mothers», adds Covassi.

Hope, this is the socialist recipe, based on the concrete achievements that social democracy has achieved during the recent years. «There was a time in which people were convinced that social democracy had no future in Europe» said Sánchez, explaining how solidarity was key in responding to the pressing crises of our age – the pandemic and the war. «Once again it was the social democracy that saved us» he said.

The Portuguese Antonio Costa spoke of empowering people investing in skills and building real European industrial policy, while Commissioner Gentiloni proposed to establish a common financing mechanism of EU common goods, and Chancellor Scholz called for ending unfair tax competition inside the EU. These are some of the concrete solutions proposed by the leaders on stage.

The manifesto, adopted during the Congress, reflects this approach, proposing 20 commitments for the common candidate and the European socialist parties. Elected unanimously, it will be the Luxembourgish Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, to run for the Party of European Socialists.

In his speech, the Spitzenkandidat touched upon many of what will be the fundamental elements of the socialists’ campaign towards the elections. It took the moves from the war in Ukraine and Gaza, reinstating that Europe is a peace project, calling for increasing support to Ukraine and committing for peace in the Middle East region.

Schmit then emphasized the need for Europe to protect its citizens, helping workers, including farmers, in times of change and in the twin transition. The common candidate committed in practicing a strong dialogue with all the parts. «We will not let those workers alone» he said, recalling that climate change affect more severely the most vulnerable ones.  He stressed also the importance to offer high quality jobs and implement a green deal with a social heart. “Climate neutrality has to be a force for social and economic progress” stated the Spitzenkandidat.

To do so, Europe cannot embark on the path of austerity. In this moment of major changes the Union is facing, it is necessary, according to the socialist candidate, to reform the economic governance as to provide the much needed investments in tech, in people and social protection and in defence. To turn the threats into opportunities, Schmit claims it is necessary to increase EU investing capacity – “without EU investing capacity the EU competitiveness is at stake” he said – and to establish a permanent investment fund.

Lastly, he sent a message to the other parties of the governing coalition, the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). Schmit urged them to stay true to themselves and their history and to reject the cooperation with the conservatives – a clear stance that emerged also from the words of many other leaders, including Elly Schlein and Frans Timmermans.  «The centre-right believes that there is a future for them in allying with the far right. We will never form a coalition with them» said the former Green Deal chief.

Now that the Congress is over, the candidate is elected and the manifesto is approved, that campaign can really start. The priorities are clear and so is the idea of Europe the socialist will promote. Will these succeed in bringing people to vote for them at the polls?