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Ce WE, l’équipe socialiste de Vincennes était au RDV de l’Europe et quel RDV ! Grâce au dynamisme de notre jeune secrétaire de section, nous avons organisé une réunion publique avec Pervenche Berès, Candidate n°2 de la liste PS en Ile-de-France et Présidente de la Commission des Affaires Economiques et Monétaires au Parlement Européen.

Entre 75 et 80 personnes étaient présentes malgré le départ en long WE de beaucoup de parisiens, le lundi 1er étant férié.

La grande salle que nous avons utilisée a été décorée avec les drapeaux des 27 pays d’Europe et un buffet a été dressé dans la cour avec des boissons et des snacks pour accueillir les personnes dont certaines sont venues des villes voisines.

Le thème de la réunion était « Que propose la social-démocratie européenne pour faire face à la crise? ».

Deux points ont été traités, le premier : Que propose le PSE pour faire face à la crise ? et qui mieux que Pervenche pour nous parler de ce sujet qu’elle maîtrise à merveille et pour répondre à la série de questions qui ont suivi. Ensuite un deuxième point sur l’Europe sociale, les actions effectuées au sein du PSE et les propositions de demain.

Les questions ont fusé et le débat a continué tard dans la soirée. Nous avons fini avec un pot et Pervenche a continué à répondre à beaucoup de questions sur différents sujets allant du problème du fret, au but du vote européen ou à la question du budget du parlement.

RDV donc après les élections pour continuer de parler des sujets qui tiennent à cœur de nos citoyens que ce soit à Bruxelles ou à Vincennes.

Posted by editor

Frankfurt is a city of contrasts. The shining towers that dominate the skyline house a major financial centre, an industry which needs to undergo major reforms if we are to avoid future financial crises. Over recent years, a handful of bankers and dealers in these skyscrapers have been able to play roulette with the jobs and livelihoods of millions of people. That’s why the PES is campaigning for more effective regulation, particularly on private equity and hedge funds. Don’t get me wrong: financial markets have an important role to play in the economy, but as the servant of real people, not their master.

But there is a different, social side to the Frankfurt too. The local branch of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) is impressively active and enthusiastic about taking Frankfurt, Germany and Europe in a new direction. They are working hard to make the local SPD MEP, Udo Bullmann, part of a new progressive majority in the European Parliament.

On Monday I went to Frankfurt to join Udo on the campaign trail. I laughed when I saw that all over the financial district, amongst the banks and investment funds, there were posters with my name on announcing the meeting on the social democratic answer to the financial and economic crisis which Udo had invited me to address. I don’t think the bankers will have been very happy to see that I was coming to town: the hedge fund and private equity industry has already decided that I am Public Enemy Number One for trying to regulate their activities.

At the Trade Unions House in the city centre we had an excellent discussion, involving Udo and around 70 local activists and covering a broad range of topics, including the role of the European Parliament and smart green growth. Udo tackled a number of the myths surrounding the EU, explaining that the right-wing regional government is using Europe as a scapegoat for its own failings. Over twenty activists had painted their faces with the flags of EU countries that have a minimum wage. The German flag was conspicuously missing: the SPD is fighting very strongly to change this, both in this European election and in the national election in September.

European conservatives and liberals often criticise minimum wages, saying they distort the market. And yet they remain strangely quiet when bankers in their skyscrapers pay themselves millions in ‘bonuses’ regardless of how well they have done. Why is it acceptable for unaccountable executives to earn thousands of times what they pay their workers, but unacceptable for ordinary people to be paid enough to live on?

In contrast, the PES manifesto sets out quite clearly “the need for decent minimum wages in all EU Member States”. We put people first.

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

I keep reading in the media that Barroso’s second term as Commission President is a ‘done deal’.

I disagree.

It’s true that that many Governments are supporting him and so his nomination by the Council for a second term looks likely.

But the Council’s nomination is not sure. It is due to make its nomination on June 18/19 – very likely before a majority in the Parliament has been finalised. A proposal to postpone the Council until later in the month, when a new Parliamentary majority is more likely to be in place, is being resisted by guess who.

Barroso has been lobbying capitals for months if not years to give him a second term and is now is trying ensure that the Council nominates him before they know the majority in the Parliament.
That’s not the behaviour of a man with a done deal.

And why the recent round of media interviews? Is this the behaviour of a man with a done deal, or the act of a man anxious to create the impression of a done deal?

Then there is the much more problematic question of the majority in the Parliament. The FT’s Wolfgang Munchau wrote “If the centre-right wins the elections to the European parliament, as everybody seems to expect, nothing can stop Mr Barroso’s bandwagon.” But whatever anyone expects the centre-right cannot ‘win’ the election. The European conservatives, who have nominated Barroso as their candidate, may say they are going to be the largest group – but even in their wildest dreams they don’t expect a majority. I can state as a matter of fact that on June 8 – the day after the European elections – the European conservatives will not have a majority on their own.

They need other political groups to support them or enter some agreement with them – and they do not have an alliance or a coalition lined up with anyone else for the next Parliament. Getting a majority is not a simple matter. It is hard to imagine the yet to be formed anti-federalist group led by British and Czech Conservatives being in a hurry to pledge their support for Barroso. And even if they were, that would still not deliver a majority. The future of other right of centre groups is uncertain.

I have already explained in a previous blog why we Socialists are much less likely in 2009 to enter an agreement with the Conservatives than we were in 2004. The Greens are supporting a campaign ‘anyone but Barroso’. And why would the Liberals rush into a deal to vote for Barroso? The Liberal former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, who is standing in the European elections, is being touted in some quarters as an alternative to Barroso.

The Parliament looks set to vote on the President of the Commission on July 15. Neither Mr Munchau nor anybody else knows what the majority in the Parliament will be on July 15 as it will be the outcome of negotiations between groups (some of which do not even yet exist, and will take some time to come into being) following the elections. There may not even be a fixed majority.

But I wholly agree with the admirable Mr Munchau when he describes Mr Barroso as “among the weakest Commission presidents ever”.

He says the likelihood of Barroso getting a second term is “very depressing”. I might join Mr Munchau in being depressed if I believed that it’s practically a done deal.
But thankfully it isn’t – it’s spin by Barroso and his supporters.

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

Few can doubt that the figures on the state of the European economy are grim. GDP in the Eurozone fell by 2.5% between January and March this year. In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, it fell by 3.8%; on an annual basis that is enough to wipe out the cumulative growth of every year since 1999. Make no mistake: this economic crisis is immensely destructive.

This should surely be enough to spur conservative leaders such as Commission President Barroso, Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy into action. But they, along with other conservatives who dominate the European institutions and lead most of the EU’s national governments, believe that Europe has done enough. They think that welfare payments to the growing number of unemployed represent a stimulus to the European economy. The Party of European Socialists strongly disagrees: we are calling for a new strong and progressive recovery strategy with real investments in jobs and new green growth. That is the alternative we are presenting to Europe’s people at the European elections of 4-7 June.

The appalling economic statistics are not just figures on a piece of paper. They represent the suffering and misery of millions of people who are in no way responsible for the economic crisis, yet are the ones paying the price. We are heading towards 27 million unemployed, 80 million in poverty, and millions more facing a deeply uncertain future. But this is not inevitable: we can make a difference. People are right to demand action to stop this devastating social crisis.

The stories of ordinary Europeans document the reality behind the statistics.

Take Wojtek from Wrocław, in Poland. Wojtek used to work as an accountant, but was made unemployed. Although he is 57 he cannot retire as has not been in work for a sufficient number of years, having never been hired on a permanent contract. His wife is already a pensioner, but her pension is not enough for the two of them to live on. He says there are few opportunities to learn new skills and he is afraid that he will not get a new job.

, also from Wroclaw, is a young professional working for a small company, and although she has not yet been made unemployed, her husband Robert recently lost his job in a shop selling household goods, meaning that the couple has had to move back in with their parents.

 

John is the Director of a Mental Health NGO in Dublin where unemployment has reached an unprecedented 10.4%. Local employment services report that their infrastructure is under enormous strain, with queues outside welfare offices, and delays of up to six weeks in processing benefits claims. John and his team are dealing with the effects of mounting job losses, debt and insecurity. They have recorded a 20% increase in calls to their help lines over the past year. John is campaigning for more government funding in this area, pointing to the Labour government over the border in the UK, which in March announced £175 million in additional support to help health services cope with the psychological effects of the economic crisis.

These are just three stories which reflect the desperate need for investments to stimulate the economy and create new jobs, the desperate need for intelligent work-sharing, and new retraining facilities, and for more support for the most vulnerable. But the conservatives in power across Europe are simply not delivering. Look at comparable economies: the US is investing 5.9% of GDP in recovery, China 8% and even Norway is investing 2.3%, The EU, in contrast – the world’s largest economy – is investing just 1%.

There is an alternative. The Party of European Socialists has a clear and bold plan: a seven-step strategy for the first 100 days after the European election, including a strong recovery plan, a European Employment Pact, a Social Progress Pact, effective regulation of the financial markets, new mutual solidarity between Member States and a European roadmap to a global new deal.

We want a Europe which fights for ordinary people, people such as Wojtek, Anna, Robert and John whose stories typify the hard realities of this economic crisis. It’s time for a new direction for Europe: it’s time to put people first.

 

By Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

President of the Party of European Socialists

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

A new majority in the European Parliament after the European elections is possible – and necessary.

The situation in 2009 is quite different from 2004, and there are many reasons for change:

One, the new Parliament will have a much more decisive role in the top post in the EU: the President of the Commission. It is true the Parliament won’t nominate, but it will accept or reject. And many are in the mood to reject Barroso. I have already made it clear that the PES does not support him. It is the most important post that the Parliament will determine – much more so than the largely diplomatic role of Parliament President.

Two, the crisis – and the political response to the crisis – has created a much wider and deeper gulf between progressives and conservatives. Our answer to the crisis is very different from the lack of action from the conservatives.

Three, we simply need a new leadership and better management of the crisis. We need someone who can deliver a serious response to the crisis – with a new employment policy and a strategic plan of investments in green growth. We need a clear line for Europe which can unite member states to act in common.

In this case, one, two and three add up to much more than six. The majority in the Parliament will determine the President of the Commission when the incumbent, the candidate of the European conservatives’ party, has been found lacking on the biggest issue for many years to so seriously divide conservatives from progressives. In 2004 Barroso was a compromise candidate, in 2009 he is a compromised candidate.

For all these reasons the issue of a new majority is firmly on the table.

It is too early to discuss the possible composition of a new majority, or new majorities. The voters must have their say first – we need to see how the numbers stack up after the elections. We also need to see who leaves the conservative group along with the British and Czech conservatives, and if others in addition to the Italian Democrats come into our tent.

It is also an issue that needs to be discussed in more detail by the PES and our MEPs.

It’s not just me that thinks a new majority is possible. Why else would the conservative President of the Parliament want to put the new Commission President to the vote as early as July? Despite their repeated – and arrogant – claims that they will remain the largest group in the Parliament, the European conservatives are all too aware that even if they were the largest group (and that’s far from certain) – it does not guarantee them the majority they need.

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

I used to admire Finland for its originality, its spark, its way of doing things differently. Finland was the country where people, sitting in their saunas, asked “Is this really the best way of doing things? Maybe we can do better.” They developed one of the most successful social models in the world. They developed the world’s best education system. They developed economic niches in which they became world leaders (just think of Nokia).

So why is the liberal Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, just copying the inaction of conservative leaders such as Merkel and Sarkozy when it comes to fighting the worst economic crisis for generations? As the Chair of the Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP), Jutta Urpilianen, has said, the tax cuts that he has enacted are just not enough. According to current estimates, by next year 250,000 people will be unemployed in Finland. That’s 250,00 reasons to be developing an innovative, green and ambitious recovery strategy. Jutta understands that well: she has already called for an additional 200 million euros to be invested in boosting employment.

Indeed, at the European level we are on track towards 27 million unemployed by next year. In the US the Obama administration has just launched the latest phase in its bold recovery plan. My question is: why is the second-largest economy leading global recovery efforts whilst the conservative-led EU, the world’s largest economy, complacently says it has “done enough”? Try telling that to the 27 million out-of-work.

Like Europe as a whole, Finland needs a new progressive direction to revive and renew its great social democratic model in all its originality, and a leader who follows in the footsteps of that radical Prime Minister and father of the Finnish welfare state Kalevia Sorsa. Jutta Urpilianen does just that, and the Social Democratic Party represents this wonderful country at its unique best.

That’s why it’s important that Finns vote social democrat in European and national elections to come; so that Finland once again can show the way rather than copy inadequate examples from elsewhere.

Today I am in Helsinki campaigning with Jutta for a progressive majority for the next European Parliament. And my message to Finland is: it’s time to go back to the sauna for a rethink. Be yourself: vote SDP.

 

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

We northern Europeans often complain about the blustery, rainy, windy weather that batters our shores, but this climate also offers us great potential to face the economic and environmental storms overhead. That’s because on our very coastlines we have a resource which can provide more energy than the Gulf oilfields and create thousands of jobs, but with zero emissions: wind.

Today the dark clouds of recession and climate change hang heavy over Europe, threatening both our economic present and future. Europe is not doing enough to tackle climate change or to tackle unemployment. Yet making the investments to switch to renewable energy and energy efficiency would create the new jobs that could help lift us out of the crisis.

Europe needs to be bolder. We need ambitious projects and decisive action to invest in ‘green growth’. One particular project has been arousing great interest recently, and affects some of our countries.

The six EU Member States which surround the North Sea – Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, the UK and France – and Norway – should look very closely and seriously at a plan developed by Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) of Rem Koolhaas, which proposes an electricity ‘supergrid’ to connect a series of existing and yet-to-be-built offshore wind turbines. According to the OMA, the Ring would enable fewer connections with the coast, avoiding the necessity of connecting every wind farm with the grid separately, and would massively increase storage capacity. It would cost 200 billion euros and take 40 years to build, and would leave Europe entirely energy self-sufficient.

This is a perfect example of the sort of ambitious ‘green growth’ projects Europe needs to be looking at, the sort of project which requires commitment from regional, national and European levels if it is ever to become a reality. It’s the sort of big thinking that Europe has been missing. It would be a huge mistake for any EU member state to think they can tackle either climate change or the recession on their own. The PES is calling for smart green growth in its manifesto for the European elections because the global scale of climate change, and the scale of the projects needed to fight it, makes European cooperation essential.

Such projects have the potential to deliver a massive blow to the recession. The North Sea Ring would, according to OMA, create 700,000 jobs, not to mention the economic benefits of energy security that it would create.

Despite the recession renewable energies and making houses energy efficient are two industries where production, profits and employment are still growing. In Germany ‘greentech’ already employs more people that either the car industry or the engine-construction industry.

So it can and does work. And green growth is not just limited to the North Sea ring or similar mega projects. Europe also needs to invest in making homes energy efficient, in building electric cars to cut emissions, store energy and renew the car sector, and in adapting and greening energy grids to transport wind and solar power to all corners of the continent.

But it wont happen on its own. It needs public support, it needs Government support at all levels including at the European level, and it needs political will. Today activists, candidates, MEPs and national and local politicians from the PES political family are holding the third in our historic series of European Days of Action, on the topic “Transforming Europe into the leading global force against climate change”.

That’s because we think a progressive majority in the next European Parliament is essential to get projects like the North Sea Ring, and the European cooperation it needs, moving.

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

The Party of European Socialists is planning to have a strong presence at the European Trade Union Confederation ‘Fight the crisis: put the people first’ demonstration in Brussels today.

Unfortunately I can’t be there in person but our Party’s Secretary General Philip Cordery will lead our delegation which will be joined by European election candidates and party members from Belgium, France and beyond for the march through Brussels city centre.

The ETUC, under the leadership of my good friend John Monks, has an excellent declaration demanding a ‘New Social Deal for Europe’. I completely agree that Europe needs a New Social Deal.

I have met many trade unionists from France, from my own country Denmark and from other countries in recent weeks who are deeply worried about their jobs and their future. The crisis is a devastating blow, and one which comes after many difficult years in which the gap between rich and poor has been getting bigger, and in which trade union and workers’ rights have been undermined in the name of competitiveness. Unemployment is set to hit 27 million next year across Europe. It’s simply unacceptable.

And what has the European Commission been doing? Under the conservative leadership of José Manuel Barroso it has refused to sort out the confusion about workers rights and collective agreements created by recent European Court of Justice judgements. It is not making the case for new investments to safeguard jobs and create new employment despite the fact that the current, and inadequate, European Recovery Plan was made last year before the economy started going into reverse. Instead Barroso prefers to make out that the Recovery Plan is much bigger than it really is! The recent EU so-called Employment Summit was a non-event that proposed no serious steps to safeguard jobs or to create new ones.

It’s about time Europe showed some leadership in tackling the crisis and acknowledged that workers rights and social justice should always come before the single market. That’s why the ETUC is right to call for a New Social Deal for Europe.

Many of the demands made by the ETUC, such as an expanded recovery programme, effective regulation of financial markets and equal pay for posted workers, are already in our PES manifesto for the European elections. Not only are the ETUC’s demands reflected in our manifesto but several of them are featured in the actions we demand should be taken in the first 100 days of the new European Parliament. That’s why we need a stronger PES in the European Parliament after the June 7 elections.

The European Conservatives have the cheek to claim in their manifesto that they stress the importance of workers rights and trade unions. They have a funny way of showing it! But I can tell you in all seriousness that at the Party of European Socialists we really do value our relationship with the ETUC.

As a former trade unionist, and as President of the Party of European Socialists, I am with you, and I am delighted that there will be many PES party members shoulder to shoulder with the trade union movement on today’s demonstration.

 

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

I want to clear up one thing.

We want the European Union to take a new direction. We want a European Union that does what is needed to create new jobs and tackle the economic and climate crisis in a decisive way. That is why the PES cannot support Barroso as President of the European Commission. He represents the conservative majority that has failed Europe over the last five years. He represents the Europe that puts markets before people.

I would have preferred the PES to have a candidate for the President of the European Commission, but we do not, and we will not before the elections. Who becomes President of the European Commission now depends on the result of the European elections. This is the one thing that everyone agrees – Governments are free to nominate who they like – the shape of the new Parliament will determine the next President of the Commission. If there is a new majority in the European Parliament Barroso will not become Commission President.

Until we know the outcome of the European elections it is too early to speculate on the composition of a new majority.

Our demands for the European Union are clear and are about tackling the crisis and putting social justice back at the heart of European politics. PES leaders, meeting last month in Toulouse, agreed seven steps we expect to be implemented in the first 100 days of the new Parliament:

1. A new, strong recovery plan for Europe, with coordinated investments in jobs and green growth.

2. A European Employment Pact to safeguard employment, create new and better jobs, fight mass unemployment, and strengthen workers’ rights, working conditions and equal pay.

3. A new Women’s Rights Charter to improve women’s right and opportunities.

4. A Social Progress Pact to tackle the full social consequences of the crisis, preventing a rise in poverty, inequality and exclusion.

5. Effective regulation and supervision of the financial markets, covering all financial actors and instruments, including hedge funds and private equity.

6. New mutual solidarity across European member states – between East and West, North and South.

7. An urgent, common European roadmap for a global new deal, to be agreed at the G20 before the end of 2009.

 

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

Today is Europe Day, the annual celebration of European integration.

It marks the day in 1950 on which the Schuman Declaration was signed, launching the Coal and Steel Community: the start of what we now call the European Union. The declaration included a commitment to "the equalisation and improvement of the living conditions of workers". It is this commitment to the welfare of all that makes our Europe unique in the world. Our welfare states, including European-wide rights for consumers and workers, offer a level of protection that exists almost no-where else.

But on Europe Day 2009 Europeans are in no mood to celebrate. The financial crisis threatening our savings and pensions has been superceded by economic crisis threatening our jobs. The rising food and energy prices we suffered before the financial and economic crisis came on top of years of attacks on our social and public services and a widening gap between rich and poor.

There is a growing belief among citizens that Europe, which has had a conservative majority in all EU institutions for the last five years, puts the market before people. I believe that we must put workers rights and social rights before competition rules.

With unemployment looming towards 27 million next year, and 74 million Europeans already living below the poverty line, Europe’s future is at the crossroads. There is a real risk of deep and permanent divides in our societies. We must put the fight for social justice back at the heart of European politics. We need to do much more to tackle the worst inequalities, protect and create jobs and actively support those without work.

The European conservatives say in their manifesto that a high level of social contributions "is a handicap for the creation of wealth". We disagree and we can prove it: the most competitive economies in Europe are Sweden and Denmark, with the highest levels of social protection and the highest taxes. According to the World Economic Forum, they are the third and fourth most competitive economies in the world. They are the first and third most income-equal societies in the world. They come fourth and seventh on the Global Innovation Index. They consistently top quality of life rankings.

Conservatives have made it quite clear that they think globalisation means we need to work longer hours, lower costs, slash spending and dilute social services. We disagree.

Our manifesto for the European elections promotes social justice by making 12 concrete proposals for a ‘New Social Europe’ including decent minimum wages in all EU countries, protecting public services, strengthening rights to collective bargaining, and fair tax policies to guarantee the financing of our welfare states.

It is not just a difference in rhetoric. Take a look at the votes in the European Parliament. When European Socialists voted to exclude social services from the infamous Services Directive, the conservatives voted against. When European socialists voted for an average 48 hour working week with no opt outs the conservatives voted against. When European socialists voted for a new directive against discrimination outside the workplace the conservatives voted against. Just this week Conservatives refused to vote for strengthening rights to maternity leave.

To highlight the need to put social justice back at the heart of Europe the PES is organizing, today on Europe Day, a ‘Day of Action’ across Europe on the theme ‘giving people a fairer deal’ with meetings, debates and street campaigning in at least fourteen. You can follow action via live blogging and twittering on our website http://elections2009.pes.org/

In the European elections in June you can express your choice of the direction you wish Europe to take. Our future is at stake …

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen