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Socialist ex-leaders call for a PES candidate vs Barroso

by DoDo Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 07:50:13 AM EST

 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 

In three recent stories (EP Socialists voice opposition to Barroso by me, Socialists Adrift by afew, Are socialists the problem? by Jerome a Paris), we discussed the woes of the EU Socialists ahead of the EP elections -- with focus on their failure to put up a candidate for EU Commission President against a the incumbent Barroso.

However, it seems centre-left elder statesmen have got enough of the lack of ambition and strategic vision of their successors among the reigning national leaders (in particular those in Portugal, Spain and Germany). Here is the story (first called to our attention by Migeru) as reported by Le Monde:

Conflit de générations chez les socialistes européens - Elections européennes Conflict of generrations among the European Socialists
L'éventuelle reconduction de José Manuel Barroso vire au conflit de générations au sein de la "famille" socialiste européenne. Trois premiers ministres en exercice membres du Parti socialiste européen (PSE) ont d'ores et déjà apporté leur appui au président sortant de la Commission européenne, par ailleurs soutenu par la droite. Mais la stratégie du Britannique Gordon Brown, de l'Espagnol José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero et du Portugais José Socrates n'est pas du goût de huit de leurs prédécesseurs, dont Lionel Jospin et l'ancien chancelier allemand Gerhard Schröder : "Une nouvelle majorité peut naître au Parlement européen, créant une vraie chance pour un candidat du PSE", écrivent ces personnalités dans un appel rendu public mardi 2 juin.The eventual renewal of José Manuel Barroso's mandate turns into a generation conflict within the European Socialist "family". Three acting prime ministers who are members of the Party of European Socialists (PES) have already given their support to the outgoing President of the European Commission, also supported by the right. But the strategy of the British Gordon Brown, the Spanish José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the Portuguese José Socrates is not according to the taste of eight of their predecessors, including [Former French PM] Lionel Jospin and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder: "A new majority may be born in the European Parliament, creating a real opportunity for a PES candidate", these personalities wrote in an appeal made public on Tuesday, 2 June.
C'est Mario Soares, ancien président et premier ministre portugais, qui a piloté l'initiative afin de trouver, dans les rangs de la gauche, un candidat alternatif à son compatriote. L'appel a aussi été signé par Felipe Gonzalez, l'ancien chef du gouvernement espagnol, qui préside un groupe de réflexion sur l'avenir de l'Europe. Dans leur pays, les deux hommes prennent ainsi le contre-pied de leur successeur. Tony Blair n'a en revanche pas signé le texte. L'ancien premier ministre britannique, dont le nom circule pour prendre la présidence stable du Conseil européen en cas d'entrée en vigueur du traité de Lisbonne, n'a même pas été sollicité par M. Soares.It was Mario Soares, former Portuguese President and Prime Minister, who started the initiative to find an alternative candidate to his compatriot among the ranks of the Left. The appeal was also signed by Felipe Gonzalez, former head of the Spanish government, who presides over a reflection group on the future of Europe. In their countries, the two men take the opposite corner to their successors. Tony Blair did not, however, sign the text. The former British prime minister, whose name is circulating for taking the permanent Presidency of the European Council in case of the Treaty of Lisbon entering into force, was not even asked by Mr. Soares.

LOL... A bit more below the fold.


After a defeatist note on Barroso being the likely winner, Le Monde quotes the ex-leaders:

Les ex-dirigeants socialistes ne s'avouent pas battus : "C'est (aux socialistes) de se battre pour le leadership au niveau national, européen et international", écrivent-ils, sans avancer de nom alternatif : la crise "exige une Europe plus forte, capable d'éviter le chômage de masse, de coordonner la relance économique, de réformer le système financier, de promouvoir une croissance verte et intelligente et de s'affirmer comme un véritable acteur global dans la réforme de l'ordre mondial".The former socialist leaders don't give themselves beaten: "(Socialists) have to fight for leadership at the national, European and international level", they write, without proposing an alternative name: the crisis "requires a stronger Europe, capable of avoiding mass unemployment, coordinating economic revival, reforming the financial system, promoting a green and smart growth, and confirming itself as a real global player in the reform of the global order".

Now, the governments are one thing, but how did the PES faction in the EP end up without a candidate? According to a profile in FTD (the German edition of the Financial Times), the culprit is the faction leader, Martin Schulz. Which would re-interpret his interview (which I diaried) in a combative tone on the need of a Commission President chosen politically by the EP -- and the unfit-ness of Barroso -- as a readguard action.

Ginge es allein nach ihm, würde er sich nach der Wahl mit der EVP auf den Fortbestand der informellen Großen Koalition im Europaparlament verständigen und Barroso unter Auflagen zu einer zweiten Amtszeit verhelfen. Alternative Allianzen wie etwa eine Regenbogenkoalition aus Sozialisten, den Liberalen mit FDP-Frontfrau Silvana Koch-Mehrin, den Grünen und Europas Linksparteien mit Altstalinisten aus Portugal hält er für eine Illusion, die keine stabilen Mehrheiten sichert. "Schulz hat panische Angst davor, dass rechnerisch eine Mehrheit links der Mitte möglich wird", sagt Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Fraktionschef der EU-Grünen.If it were up to him alone, after the election, he would agree with the EPP on the continued existence of the informal Grand Coalition in the European Parliament, and subject to conditions, help Barroso get a second term. He thinks alternative alliances, such as a rainbow coalition of Socialists, the Liberals with FDP frontwoman Silvana Koch-Mehrin, the Greens and Europe's Left parties with the unreconstituted Stalinists from Portugal, are an illusion that do not secure stable majorities. "Schulz is terrified of the emergence of a mathematical possibility of a majority left of centre," says Daniel Cohn-Bendit, faction leader of the EU Greens.

Others among his own faction are paraphrased with suspicions of other motives: personal career advancement. Schulz is said to have prevented a specific candidate: the current PES President.

"Barroso steht für neoliberale Politik, er ist mitverantwortlich für die Finanzkrise", sagt die EU-Sozialistin Zita Gurmai aus Ungarn. "Wir hätten mit dem ehemaligen dänischen Regierungschef Poul Nyrup Rasmussen einen exzellenten Gegenkandidaten gehabt, der mit seinen Ideen strenger Finanzmarktregulierung sehr glaubwürdig ist.""Barroso stands for neoliberal policies, he is responsible for the financial crisis," says the EU Socialist Gurmai Zita from Hungary. "We would have had an excellent candidate with the former Danish PM Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, who is very credible with his ideas of strict regulation of financial markets."

(I shall note the sad irony in Gurmai blasting Barroso for neoliberalism while the last two PMs of her own party were/are wannabe neolib 'reformists'.)

Dabei bestätigen viele Parlamentarier, dass Rasmussen zur Kandidatur bereit gewesen wäre. "Schulz wollte nicht", sagt ein Abgeordneter, der nicht genannt werden will. "Der König hatte wohl Angst, dass neben ihm ein Kaiser heranwächst." Zur Verärgerung vieler Parteifreunde gab Schulz sogar zu verstehen, die Sozialisten würden selbst dann für Barroso stimmen, sollten sie die EVP bei der Wahl überholen. Französische Genossen verdächtigen ihren Fraktionschef, der Schmusekurs mit der EVP solle nur seine Karriere absichern und den ohnehin großen deutschen Einfluss im Parlament mehren.Yet, many MEPs confirm that Rasmussen would have been ready for the candidacy. "Schulz didn't want it," says an MP who does not want to be named. "The king was apparently afraid that an emperor is growing up beside him." Angering many party friends, he even indicated that the Socialists would vote for Barroso even if they overtake the EPP in the elections. French comrades suspect that the cosying-up to the EPP is only meant to secure the career of their group leader, and to increase the already strong German influence in Parliament.

(As for Schulz's career advancement goals: as he himself said in the interview I diaried, he wants to become industry commissioner in the Commission.)

Now, what if Schulz gets his way? He is said to want concessions -- again an opportunity for a sharp retort from Cohn-Bendit:

Seine Parteifreunde will Schulz dadurch hinter sich halten, dass er Barroso eine politische Kapitulation aufzwingt. Die Stimmen der Sozialisten soll Barroso demnach nur kriegen, wenn er seiner bisherigen liberalen Politik abschwört. Stattdessen soll er sich darauf verpflichten, dass soziale Erwägungen künftig über EU-Binnenmarkt- und Wettbewerbsregeln stehen.Schulz wants to keep his party friends behind him by forcing Barroso into a political capitulation. Accordingly, Barroso is to get the votes of the Socialists only if he renounces his previous liberal policy. Instead, he should commit himself to a primacy of social considerations over EU internal market and competition rules in the future.
Grünen-Chef Cohn-Bendit beobachtet all das mit Skepsis. "Schulz", urteilt der Politikveteran, "neigt dazu, so komplizierte Manöver zu machen, dass er sich am Ende oft selber ausmanövriert."Green boss Cohn-Bendit observes all this with skepticism. "Schulz," is the judgement of the veteran politician, "has a tendency to make maneuvers so complicated that in the end he often out-maneuvres himself."

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Of these ex-leaders, I know Schröder also intervened in the EP campaign of his party, because he grew impatient with their timidity. Where the irony is: it is his Old Guard that is in power (Müntefering, Steinmeier), and anyone who'd have been able to lead a fresher campaign was discarded.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 07:52:28 AM EST
In addition to the traditional party rivalries and personal rivarlies within parties, you have to add the dimension of national rivalries... This whole article is a great exemple of such tri-dimensional manoeuvering.

Maybe you had the same with large regional, or industrial representation, groups inside parties in the past.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 08:37:34 AM EST
We discussed a few times how the EU (or, at least, how federalist Europhiles want it to become) resembles Germany -- and indeed what you say exists there. It is particularly obvious with the CDU+CSU. But, non-bavarian regional potentates and networks also sometimes followed their own policy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 12:58:09 PM EST
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