"We need to convince people that a progressive European Union can be the answer to their problems. To do this we need to be a confident, relevant and visible political force. We need to create the conditions for our own success. Revitalised active democracy is needed to move the European Union forwards. Since the beginning of the crisis we have seen that despite feeling alienated from the establishment people do want to engage with what is happening in their societies. They want their voices to be heard. We must listen to what women and men across Europe are saying."
What is the PES alternative?
A Financial Transaction Tax is still the centrepiece of the PES economic programme as far as defined policy goes. The general economic strategy focuses on longer periods for budgetary consolidation and greater investment at the European level. The PES mention a European redemption fund as a possible measure to help solve the crisis, but it's merely referenced as a possibility so it looks like there's not a consensus on this point within the party yet.
Along with advocating stronger regulation of financial markets, the PES supports measures against tax evasion and avoidance (no defined policies are name-checked here). When it comes to the EU budget, the PES says:
"A long run solution to the crisis would entail tackling the strong divergences of the economies in the euro area through common economic policies and common investments in innovation, growth and decent jobs. We need to implement effective policies in order to halt the fiscal race to the bottom."
It's a good aspiration - I hope to see some policies on this coming out for the 2014 elections.
Here the PES is more radical, calling for a €10 billion EU programme to aid employment and a Youth Pact to ensure that young people have access to further education or training:
"A European youth guarantee must be gradually implemented in all Member States, giving a state guaranteed right to every young woman and man to a new job, training or further education at the latest four months after leaving the education system or becoming unemployed. A European Employment Programme of at least 10 billion Euros must be introduced immediately, financing the creation of new jobs and supporting better education and training. A strong gender perspective must be included in this programme in order to prevent bigger gaps between women and men in the labour market and across society at a later stage. Improving the competitiveness of European companies is essential for Europe’s economic success. Instead of the Conservative recipe of weakening social protection and lowering wages, the following structural reforms must be pursued:The Social Pact is another key policy, aiming to fix Member State and EU spending on education and training at 6% of GDP for Member States, and 6% of the EU budget, and preventing a race to the bottom on social standards within the EU. There are quite a few ambitious aims under the Social Pact heading.
- Investment in education, training and active labour market policies should be increased.
- Europe´s industries must play a central and dynamic role in transforming our economies and developing our regions by fostering world-class innovation and green growth. Therefore, a reindustrialisation process must be launched. The manufacturing sector, especially Small and Medium Enterprises, as well as microenterprises - which represent a motor of the European economy, need to receive more support and a high-quality infrastructure must be built, for example on access to clean, reliable and affordable energy, broadband networks and transport. To this end, a growth-oriented review at EU level of the relevant state aid schemes is necessary.
- Energy and resource use must be reduced with an emphasis on reducing carbon emissions.
- More efforts are needed to support all dimensions of innovation and more resources need to be invested in research and development.
- The representation of male and female workers in companies must be strengthened, giving them an active role in the economy. We need to remove barriers to women's entry to the labour market. Furthermore, we have to provide women with equal opportunities to access decision-making positions within companies."
The PES wants to strengthen the European Emissions Tradings Scheme and the introduction of an EU Carbon Tax. They also note the need to ensure that the EU's biofuels policy does not harm food security.
Institutional Reform and Democracy:
The PES wants the European Parliament to be strengthened along with Economic and Political Union, and wants an effective European monitoring of democratic standards not only for candidate countries, but also for Member States. The PES has promised to produce concrete proposals for strengthening the European Parliament.
The PES supports enlargement of the EU in the Western Balkans, and wants to extend its domestic policies (FTT, climate change, etc.) to the EU's multilateral relations, dubbing it a "Global New Deal".
As a political programme, it's surprisingly ambitious for a European political party in some areas. It's a good statement of principles, and it gives us a statement to track PES policy development with. Personally, I think that there needs to be a more social alternative presented at the next election - too often, the EU is seen just as a mix of the internal market and CAP payments, as if there should be not social dimension to the EU (and as if the internal market is not a social and political project in itself). The challenge for the PES is to produce a more detailed manifesto for the 2014 elections along with choosing a candidate for the Commission Presidency, and to present it through a credible European campaign - after all, the programme is only credible if the national parties are selling it on the doorsteps as a programme that they stand for on a European level.
The PES confirmed that it would select a candidate for the European Commission Presidency for the 2014 European Elections through party primaries.