Sergei Stanishev is president of the Party of European Socialists and Zita Gurmai is president of PES Women.
For a Party such as ours, an anniversary is always a moment to assess. It is a time to balance well-deserved tribute with honest appraisal. It is an exercise in historical and political memory that reminds us who we are and from where we have come. It allows us to draw the lessons that will help us to build our future. For our progressive family - our full, associate, and observer member parties and organisations - the 20th anniversary of the Party of European Socialists (PES) is above all an occasion to mark our successful coordination and our togetherness.
The PES of 2013 is very different to the PES of two decades ago. Since its birth, the PES has experienced a constant process of renewal: we have strengthened our cooperation between parties, we have refined and defined our common vision and – election by election, country by country and day by day – we gain citizen’s trust. We are ready to welcome Italy back into the progressive fold next week. Over twenty years of changes, sometimes tumultuous, of ups and downs, victories and defeats, one thing remains constant: our principles.
Those principles were much in evidence at our celebration as we heard from former President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen on just how far we have come, and we heard from SPD candidate for Chancellor in Germany, Peer Steinbrück on our progressive plans for the future – celebration of our heritage and building for the future the constant theme.
Of course, the principles of our family predate the PES by a considerable margin. The European project is older than these two decades. Socialism and social democracy is older than these two decades. Later this year, Peer Steinbrück and our friends in Germany will celebrate 150 years since the foundation of the SPD. So you see, our shared tradition is a long one. It is also a proud one. Our call for a welfare state, for universal access to education and healthcare, our demands for fundamental rights, equality - including gender equality and women's rights - and freedoms are the very basis of our society because they are the very basis of our history. We will always remember our roots and the lessons learned from our founding mothers and fathers, the women and men who have fought for these principles so that no one ever gets left behind.
The PES is part of the European chapter of that history, a chapter that is most evidently still being written. Although the landscape of our journey may have changed, the values with which we travel remain the same. What most concerns European citizens are that their fundamental rights and freedoms are protected along the road. What most troubles those citizens is that they and their families will have sufficient opportunity in the good times and sufficient support in the lean times.
Today we are facing one of the most difficult challenges to the European idea. The ‘austerity only’ policies imposed by Conservatives over the last five years are destroying the very fabric of our societies. Confidence and trust in the EU is diminishing, solidarity is fading away. Our core values are threatened by the Right and by ‘technocratic’ policies.
In the face of this, our shared mission is to continue to listen to people’s aspirations, hopes and concerns and to shape them into a European project that reflects the best of progressive values and which will bring back hope to the citizens of our union.
As we celebrate our anniversary, the PES family is already building towards the challenge of the European elections 2014. These shared strengths – our togetherness and our values – will be successfully reflected in these elections.