Interview: Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the PES

Poul Rasmussen, President of the Party of the European Socialists (PES), advocates a strong focus on education, research and innovation to keep Europe competitive and avoid delocalisation.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen is the President of the European Socialists’ Party. He was formerly Prime minister in Denmark from 1993 to 2001.

What are the most important outstanding issues in the Constitution for the European Socialists? Are you in favour of qualified majority voting in taxation and social issues?

To get a new Constitution which gives a firm ability to act, to decide, to focus and which underlines our common, universal values, which strengthens the EU’s capability of talking with one voice – not least as far as foreign policy is concerned – and which gives Europe a better chance to meet our goals in the Lisbon process.

As far as taxation is concerned, I am in favour of creating minimum standards for corporate taxation to ensure an income to finance the welfare state. As far as social issues are concerned, I think that QMV should be used in cases which are about ensuring and protecting for instance workers’ fundamental rights and the working environment.

Talking to EURACTIV, Pavol Rusko, the Slovak Minister of Economy and leader of the liberal party, said that the low taxes and wages in the newest Member States will push the EU-15 Member States to reform their welfare systems. Do you think this will be the case?

No, no. I don’t think so. We will not look positively at a new, unfair competition of the lowest tax rates which will undermine our welfare state. Without high employment, common publicly-assured education and security, Europe cannot compete. It is about ensuring the best-educated labour force in the world instead of competing on the lowest taxes in the world.

What solutions do you advocate for avoiding delocalisation to low wage / low tax countries – such as the new Member States and in Asia? Is a harmonised tax system at EU level the way to avoid delocalisation within the enlarged EU?

The answer is education, education, education, research and innovation. It’s about being number one in the added value chain all the time. The knowledge contained and the added value in our products should be the highest ones all the time. This can be reached through a proactive education and training policy combined with research and innovation.

One of the means to ensure competitive strength in Europe and more jobs and better jobs is combined effort by the public and private sectors. We have a common interest in avoiding a race to the bottom as far as tax is concerned and therefore I think we should consider ways of establishing a common minimum level of corporate taxation.

Many different stakeholders talk about a ‘social Europe’. What is your definition of a social Europe?

Our definition of social Europe is the Lisbon process and our three fundamental pillars – better employment and social security, better environment and sustainable growth, and a strong, competitive economy.

Which candidates do you propose to head the Commission?

The best qualified. As a party, we have many qualified people. The new Commission leader should be a true leader who knows the European system and organisation, has experience, is a strong negotiator and reformer, who prioritises constructive relations and co-operation with the European Parliament and its parties as well as the governments and who has a coherent vision based on respectful cooperation. I think it could be an open contest in which the European Parliament could have hearings so that we get the best man or woman for the job.

Do you think the Commission should pursue a clearer political agenda and become the EU government?

What is that? Let us not be unclear. It’s about strengthening at one and the same time the European Parliament, the Council and the Comm ission.

Are the European Socialists in favour of further enlargements? Do they want Turkey to become a full EU member

Yes. We confirm that Turkey is a candidate country but there is a long way to go for Turkey as far as fulfilling the demands of the Copenhagen criteria is concerned.

What are the issues on which the different socialist parties speak with one voice and what are the issues on which you find it hard to unite?

Our manifesto, which we agreed upon at our Congress in April, is our common basis and my strong basis for concrete policy for the European Socialist Party. I am very optimistic. I feel among all of our member parties a common wish to modernise, to strengthen, to push the European Socialist Party as the strongest political voice for a Europe with more and better jobs, security and sustainability, and as a strong player on the world scene.

Do you see major differences in the EU-15 socialist parties and the ones from the newest Member States? What are their priorities?

No. That is not my experience. I see much more that unites us than splits us. Their priority is: jobs, jobs, jobs!


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