S&Ds to European Council: Put citizens' engagement at the heart of European democracy

European Parliament

Socialists and Democrats yesterday debated on the future of European democracy with students, professors, civil society representatives and mayors at the College of Europe, in Bruges. At this occasion, which formed part of the S&D's series of Together Events, they adopted a declaration on Democratic participation in the upcoming 2019 European Parliament elections.

The S&Ds are committed to a strong democratic European Union with transnational lists for candidates to the European Parliament and an open process to select the president of the European Commission through the common candidate (Spitzenkandidat) system. 

S&D acting president Udo Bullmann MEP said:

“The Party of European Socialists is a major political force in Europe. Our daily work would not be possible without its organisational and political know-how. We have to further strengthen the PES. Many members of the national parties are committed Europeans who wait for an opportunity to become more active on a European level. The PES should think about becoming an actual members party that gives all its activists the opportunity to take part in its political work. Introducing double-memberships in the PES and the PES member parties could be a way to achieve this goal.

"Electing a common candidate and having transnational electoral lists is important, but definitely not enough. You cannot have democratic participation without social inclusion, and you cannot have social inclusion without a sustainable economic model. This is the revolution that we S&Ds are ready to start.”

S&D vicepresident for sustainability Kathleen Van Brempt said:

"We have to innovate our traditional values of redistribution and social justice, making them fit for the challenges we face. We've always been the ones who stand with the weakest in our societies. Now we have to update our vision to make it fit to new vulnerabilities.

“Therefore we need a new socialism, a new social democracy on a new level: An EU that transcends the economic logic to become a Union of shared values, shared welfare and shared risks. The place where we do our work, in parliament or government, should be transparent and citizens should be able to hold us to account. And last, if we choose to organise democratic participation we must ensure that forums of direct engagement are representative and meaningful and not fake exercises that are organised for their own sake."

Sergei Stanishev MEP, president of the PES and co-chair of the Global Progressive Forum, said:

“European socialists and democrats should be once again the leading force in the common candidate process. We were the one who started it in 2009 and defended it in 2014 – we should be the torchbearer in 2019 again. The European ideal is currently threatened by the rising tide of populists and nationalists.

“Asking people to be directly involved, giving them the opportunity to decide who will be president of the European Commission is democracy in action.  And for the EU elections in 2019 we need the common candidate more than ever.  The Party of European Socialists will go one step further by selecting in advance its  Common  Candidate  through  a  democratic,  open  and transparent process.”

Speakers included Italian journalist Adriana Cerretelli; Jo Leinen, S&D MEP who co-drafted the parliamentary report on the European electoral law; Margaritis Schinas, chief spokesperson of the European Commission; Daniël Termont, president of EUROCITIES & Mayor of Ghent; Professor Michele Chang, department for politics and governance, College of Europe; Yoomi Renström, the Mayor of Ovanåker (Sweden); Tuulia Pitkänen, Secretary General of YES (Young European Socialists); and several students from the College of Europe.