On Wednesday November 6 a very significant event took place in Brussels. Martin Schulz was confirmed as the Party of European Socialists (PES) candidate designate for the European Commission President. So how does this impact on you? The answer is in a very big way.
Next May all the voters of the 28 nations that make up the European Union will go to the polls to elect the MEPs who will sit in the European Parliament. Now here comes the difference. In 2010 only the 488 MEPs voted for the European Commission and its President. Martin Schulz has stated: “In 2014 I want 390 million citizens to have their say.”
All the European socialist and social democratic parties that may up PES, the grouping that Labour Party MEPs sit under in the European Parliament, have agreed a common candidate for the Presidency and he will campaign in all 28 European Member States ahead of the May 2014 elections.
The fact that 28 national parties have been able to agree on a common candidate is a miracle in itself as those on the left are not noted for working together in such a way. However PES is the first and could be the only party grouping that actually presents its candidate for the EC Presidency to the voters.
This means that if you vote for a socialist candidate and if the PES group is in the majority across Europe after the elections there will be no stitched up backroom deals as in the past as Martin Schulz will be your EC President.
Over the next four months, Schulz will engage with Socialist and Social Democrat Member Parties before he officially becomes the ‘common candidate’ at the PES election Congress on 1 March to be held in Rome.
Speaking in Brussels after the meeting to adopt him as the PES candidate designate Schulz stated: “I am honoured and humbled to receive the confidence and support of PES” adding “I will travel to PES Member Parties to listen to members concerns and ideas.”
Schulz observed that many are reluctant to engage in this process adding; “They say that Europe ‘doesn’t need a face that people can vote for’, or that ‘the Commission shouldn’t be politicised’. To those complaints I have very simple answers. As millions of EU citizens who have felt the consequences already know, the European Commission has long been politicised. Unfortunately it has been the politics of the elite. It is time for a connection between EU institutions and EU citizens. And it is time to build a Europe that people can invest in because they know it invests in them. The best way to get the EU working for people again is to first involve them”.
It was back in 2009 that PES took the decision to deliver a democratically selected candidate for the 2014 European Elections. PES treasurer and Chair of the PES Working Group Candidate 2014, Ruairi Quinn, said: “Today we have taken a huge step. Now we must invest in and engage with our Member Parties to raise awareness among our grass root membership. Then we will be ready to bring a renewed sense of accountability to the electorate.”
Martin Schulz was nominated by his own party, the German Social Democrats (SPD). He is currently the President of the European Parliament and I briefly met him then heard him speak at the PES Conference in June in Sofia. In his early working life he was a trainee in a bookshop becoming a bookshop owner: my kind of politician. Next week, God willing, I will be at the SPD conference in Leipzig where Martin Schultz will speak. I will report on what he had to say in a future article.
(The above article was published in the London Progressive Journal on November 7 2013).