The EU as a good neighbour
To promote stability and prosperity at the EU's borders, we need to extend the EU’s influence in fostering democracy and the rule of law beyond countries considering joining the EU. The ongoing changes in the southern Mediterranean and the instability and frozen conflicts in the EU's eastern neighbourhood highlight the problems the EU needs to address.
Eastern neighbourhood, Ukraine, Belarus and the South Caucasus
The S&Ds believe the EU should use its influence to promote democracy and democratic processes in its eastern neighbourhood, especially on transparent electoral financing and protecting media freedom. This is a difficult task which requires creating a platform for dialogue in the spirit of friendly partnership.
Our position on Ukraine is balanced and constructive: highlighting concerns over selective justice and breaches in the rule of law while at the same time defending the European aspirations of the Ukrainian people. The association agreement that has been negotiated should be signed without delay. We are similarly supportive of the ambitions of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, and want to see them anchored more firmly through EU engagement.
The S&Ds took the lead on the EU's approach towards Belarus. The immediate goal is to get political prisoners released and rehabilitated, and to improve the human rights situation in the country. We believe that the EU should strengthen interpersonal contacts and communication with opposition forces and civil society in Belarus. We fully support the European dialogue on modernisation with Belarus and hope that this initiative can deliver.
We championed a more active EU role in the South Caucasus. The 2008 war between Georgia and Russia clearly showed that tensions in this region can no longer be ignored. We fully backed Euronest, the newly established parliamentary component of the eastern partnership, which has helped build confidence between Armenian and Azerbaijani parliamentarians.
Southern neighbourhood, Syria and the Middle East
After the Arab Spring, the S&Ds reached out to like-minded social-democratic parties and movements in the Middle East and North Africa. We continue to support and share our experience with those who need it, particularly with Arab democrats fighting to ensure that the fruits of the Arab Spring are not monopolised by Islamic conservatives. We helped to create the Arab Social Democratic Forum established in January 2013 to foster co-operation on important issues such as democratic transition, economic development, visa liberalisation for students and recovering assets stolen by former dictators and their regimes.
We are deeply concerned about the civil war in Syria, the brutal crackdown of the al-Assad regime against civilians and the subsequent militarisation, sectarianism and extremism. The S&Ds are calling for the international community to provide effective humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Syria and to refugees in neighbouring countries. We continue to oppose external military intervention and the delivery of arms into Syria, which can only increase the suffering of civilians and repeat past mistakes. We continue to put pressure on the international community and the UN Security Council – paralysed by Russia and China – to live up to their responsibilities.
The S&Ds strongly believe in both the right of Palestinians to have their own state and the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. We spoke out against the EU-Israel trade agreement (ACAA) and voted against it in the European Parliament because of the continued settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli breaches of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. We will continue to encourage the EU’s High Representative for foreign affairs and national governments to make sure the EU plays a serious, proactive role in finding a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinians and must be a key player in the Middle East peace process.