The Congress of the Party of European Socialists elected Sergei Stanishev as their new leader. The chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and former Bulgarian prime minister clinched the office with 91.3% of the votes cast in an election held Saturday (29 September).
The Congress, which is the major event of the centre-left European political family and is held twice every five years, also elected four vice presidents: Elena Valenciano (PSOE, Spain), Jan Royall (Labour, UK), Katarina Nevedalova (SMER, Slovakia) and Jean Christope Cambadélis (PS, France).
The new secretary-general is Achim Post (SPD, Germany), replacing long-serving Philip Cordery, who was elected to the French National Assembly. The new PES treasurer is Ruairi Quinn (Labour, Ireland).
The Party of European Socialists (PES) brings together the Socialist, Social Democratic and Labour Parties of the European Union. There are 34 full member parties from the 27 EU member states and Norway. In addition, there are 11 associate and six observer parties.
Stanishev took over the party leadership as interim president in late 2011 after his predecessor, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, stepped down at the last PES Council. Since the beginning of Stanishev’s presidency, the priorities of the PES have been to promote sustainable and fair growth, bring more democracy, transparency and accountability to the European Union, and call for a European Youth Guarantee.
Stanishev’ interim presidency was also marked by his strong position to ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement which ultimately was defeated in the European Parliament.
Kaisa Penny, leader of the Youth Socialist organisation ECOSY, gave Stanishev the floor before the vote, saying that he took his country into the EU, and has served as interim president so well that he ran for president unopposed.
Changing the discourse
Stanishev said that the 10-month period in which he was interim president has been a time of challenges, during which the European centre-left had managed to change the political discourse from austerity and fiscal measures to a new agenda, promoting employment and growth.
He also stressed that the defence of democracy would rank high in the PES priorities. Without directly referring to Romania, he said that when a sister political party makes mistakes, PES openly discussions the problems while fending off attacks from “the conservative circles”.
The PES leader stressed that when he took over as interim president, only two EU countries (Austria and Denmark) had centre-left prime ministers. Today, Belgium, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia also have PES-affiliated prime ministers, and it is widely expected that the centre-left will win the elections in Lithuania on 14 October and in Romania on 9 December, he said.
Stanishev also spoke in length about the 2014 European elections, which are likely to be the major challenge for his term. He said that a “strong team of committed” PES activists would work to prepare the elections, and make sure that the centre-left will win the hearts and minds of the Europeans.
He also said that the PES across Europe would be united with a common candidate for Commission president, and that the next year would be devoted to the process of selecting a candidate.
The PES Congress also adopted a general resolution - “Together for the Europe we need”. The document contains the PES priorities for a programme for economic recovery, for generating employment and “fair growth” throughout Europe, for developing a Social Union, for protecting the environment, for safeguarding democracy and for a stronger voice of Europe in the world.
Risk-free capitalism is the worst form of capitalism and only social democracy can deliver for the people of Europe, said Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, addressing the PES Congress.
“At present we are at loggerheads with the Council about capping bonuses and regulating credit rating agencies’ assessments of government bonds. This is being blocked by the conservative-liberal majority in the Council. They have learned nothing - and I mean absolutely zero,” he said.
“Lithuania, Romania. Malta, Italy, Bulgaria, Portugal, Austria and Germany - will all go to the polls in the next twelve months - and if we work hard, and set out our case for social justice, in all of these countries social democrats will be in government.” [Full speech]