French socialists cast off Timmermans as EU election candidate

Raphaël Glucksmann.

The joint list of the French Socialist Party and the leftist Place publique party is differentiating itself from the Party of European Socialists (PES) by insisting on ecological issues. EURACTIV France reports.

Frans Timmermans, the PES’s official candidate to become the next President of the European Commission, did not receive the blessing of joint list leader Raphaël Glucksmann, who prefers Belgian Paul Magnette, a former political science professor who is currently mayor of Charleroi.

Rather than high treason, Glucksmann’s move appears more like a desperate attempt to stay in the race for the European election.

According to polls, there is currently a 40% chance that the socialists will fail to reach the 5% voting threshold and won’t obtain a single seat in the next European Parliament.

But list leader Raphaël Glucksmann remains unconvinced by the polls. Presenting his  election programme on Monday (6 May), he called on socialists to pair ecological and social issues and rejected the socialists’ official EU Commission candidate Timmermans, favouring the Belgian socialist Paul Magnette instead.

“I am not convinced that we will not have any representatives in the next European Parliament,” Glucksmann said at a meeting to present his programme, which links social and ecological issues.

Putting the bar towards the left

The French socialist’s project is putting the bar resolutely towards the left compared to the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament, with which Glucksmann does not necessarily relate.

“We need a candidate that represents the left and the Greens at the same time, like the Belgian candidate Paul Magnette,” he said, distancing himself from the Social Democrats’ official candidate Frans Timmermans, seen as too liberal on the economy.

Fragmentation of French left in European elections sharpens appetites

From Ségolène Royal to Benoît Hamon and citizens’ pressure groups, the ambitions of the French left are multiplying in the run-up to the May 2019 European elections, with the risk of cancelling each other out. EURACTIV France reports.

The French socialists’ move deals yet another blow to the so-called “Spitzenkandidat” process where every political family nominates a front-runner for the European Commission’s presidency. On the right, the European People’s Party (EPP) candidate Manfred Weber is challenged by dark horse Michel Barnier. And in the centre, the liberals have presented a “Team Europe” of seven leaders instead of a single candidate. And even if other smaller parties play the “Spitzenkandidat” game, they have little chance of commanding a majority in the next Parliament.

In France, the liberal left close to Timmermans was significantly beaten in the Socialist Party’s internal contest for the European election, as they did not take social issues into account. French socialists have firmly rejected any alliance with the right in the next European Parliament, distancing themselves from a tradition that saw the EPP and the social democrats take turns at the EU Assembly’s presidency.

“Social democracy has been killed off, we have to acknowledge that. And we have far too many fundamental problems to make an agreement with the far left possible,” Glucksmann said.

Previously married to Eka Zgouladze, who was Deputy Interior Minister of Georgia, then of Ukraine between 2014 and 2016, Glucksmann is very eager to defend Europe, even regarding less popular issues.

“We want a European tax and more European officials. It is political suicide just before the European elections, but it is our idea of Europe: we are truly pro-European,” said the candidate who claims to have seen Ukrainian citizens hang on to the European flag while being shot by snipers in the streets of Kyiv.

Europe at the heart

If the European flag is a symbol for which people are prepared to die for, Glucksmann is aiming at the “engine’s heart: the European Parliament.” Because according to him, the future can only be saved at a European level.

He wishes to work on the issue of education, which he, like François-Xavier Bellamy, deems to be crucial for the European project. He thinks the same for agricultural, social and ecological issues.

Glucksmann also defended the S&D’s group’s results in the current EU Assembly, praising their votes on fishing and climate issues in the second part of the Parliament’s current mandate.

Among the 119 ideas laid out in his campaign programme, Glucksmann insists on establishing a special European bank for the climate that could respond to the climate emergency, notably by financing home insulation renovation at a rate of €400 billion a year.

On social issues, the French left are calling for a fund that would make it easier to retrain people based on the German model, where workers are sent for training instead of being laid off.

They are also in favour of imposing a minimum wage for all EU member states, which is currently far from being the case.

Timmermans calls on all EU members to adopt minimum wage

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans on Monday (6 May) called for each EU member to have a minimum wage equivalent to 60% of its median salary to reduce the bloc’s growing wealth gap.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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