Socialist front-runner Martin Schulz launched his European campaign on Thursday (17 April) in front of 1,600 socialist activists in Paris, promising to tackle taxes and social dumping. EurActiv France reports.

At the meeting in Paris, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, announced his priorities for Europe.

"I want to be the first elected president of the European Commission", he claimed. Indeed, the 2014 European elections will mark the first time that the President of the European Commission will officially be chosen from the political group with the highest number of seats in the European Parliament.

"If I were President of the Commission, I would prioritise the fight against social and fiscal dumping," he stated at the start of his speech.

The day the European Parliament approved protection for posted workers, Schulz promised to "rewrite the law" if he wins the elections.

>> Read: MEPs approve 'imperfect but improved' protection for posted workers

Tackle social dumping

Martin Schulz also promised to campaign for a European minimum wage. "It is not an impossible goal, look at what we achieved in Germany".

Martin Schulz can count on the support of Pervenche Bérès, head of the socialist list for the Ile-de-France constituency. Pervenche Bérès, who chairs the European Parliament's Committee for Employment and Social affairs, was given a standing ovation as she defended the European social model and promised a European minimum wage. "Economic freedom cannot and should not prevail over social rights," she claimed. 

In relation to taxation, another casus belli of the European social democrats, Schulz reaffirmed his commitment to tax financial transactions.

In order to fight against tax evasion within and outside the European Union, Schulz promised a simple principle: "the country of profit will be the country of taxation!"

Anti-austerity campaign

The main priority of the socialist campaign for the European elections remains shifting Europe's austerity policies, which were put in place during the crisis by a centre-right majority among European leaders.

>> Read: Juncker and Schulz struggle to find differences in first TV debate

Only a day after Manuel Valls announced a plan to save €50 billion, Schulz's anti-austerity message was hard for some activists to swallow.

During the meeting, Elena Valenciano, second in command of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, was interrupted by protesters accusing her of being partly responsible for European austerity measures. A banner displayed during her speech stated: "Austerity was also your mistake."

Schulz emphasised the importance of redirecting current European austerity policies. "We cannot clean up a budget without economic growth," he stated. However, he remains more cautious regarding the eventual easing of the Maastricht criteria, which many members of the French Socialist Party demand.

"I am currently in talks with Jean-Christopher Cambadelis concerning the Maastricht criteria [to cap public debt and deficits]. However, for the time being, we must live with the 3% and 60% thresholds," Martin Schulz explained. The day before, the new First Secretary of the French Socialist Party declared that the Maastricht criteria, which were decided on before the crisis, had to change.

Support in numbers

Prominent French and European political figures attended the meeting. The French Minister for Justice, Christiane Taubira, the State Secretary for European Affairs, Harlem Désir, and even the Czech Prime Minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, were present as well as all French socialist candidates for the European elections.

The former minister Pierre Moscovici and the President of the French National Assembly's Committee for Foreign Affairs, Elisabeth Guigou, who are competing for the French seat in the next European Commission, were also present to show their support for the German candidate.