French socialists wager on bringing together the left after European elections

EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON [EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

The French socialist party has approved the outline of its plan for the European elections and is reaching out to the other parties of the European left, against the backdrop of its own internal divisions. EURACTIV France reports.

The French Socialist Party’s (PS) plan to bring together the European left within a broad cross-party group following the May 2019 elections comes at a time when the party is more divided than ever.

In the first draft of its European plan, entitled “the left is the future of Europe” (“La Gauche est l’avenir de l’Europe’), the PS outlined its proposals for the elections, which will be crucial following its rout in the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.

The approved text will be made available online for ten days so that supporters can propose amendments, which will then be considered. Voting on the final text will take place at the national office on 2 October and then on the part of the activists on 11 October. Finally, the results will be approved at the national council on 13 October.

Bringing together the left in the future European Parliament represents a central measure proposed by the PS. “Following the election, we will propose the establishment of a cross-party group at the European Parliament to the entire left and the ecologists in order to fight common battles together,” the text stated.

“We, French socialists, advocate for the construction of a European left which assumes a break with liberal and austerity policies and builds a progressive and ecologist alternative,” the manifesto specified.

In the European Parliament, the socialists current represent the second largest political group (189 members), behind the centre-right (218 members). However, the radical left (GUE/NGL) – including La France Insoumise (“Unbowed France”) and the communists (51 members) – together with the ecologists (52 members), also occupy a significant proportion of the hemicycle.

During the current parliamentary term, the socialists have entered into more political agreements with the centre-right to build a broad legislative consensus than with the other elements of the left. This method of working was suitable for the way of thinking in the European Parliament but “led us onto paths that were too far from our ideals,” the manifesto said.

The PS hopes this outright rejection of the “grand coalition” approach should be translated into the establishment of a cross-party group of the left. The head of the PS, Olivier Faure, confirmed that this offer would extend from the ecologists to La France Insoumise.

Currently, the polls do not predict any upturn for the French socialists. Attributed 6% of voting intentions, the PS is currently in line with the results of the 2017 presidential election. Moreover, it will be overtaken by La France Insoumise and EELV (“Europe Ecology – The Greens”).

But the proposal to establish this cross-party group, if accepted, would not radically change the political situation. This is because cross-party groups traditionally allow MEPs from various political groups to be brought together around topics of common interest.

In the course of the last parliamentary term, 28 cross-party groups were established on topics as varied as children’s rights, creative industries, sport and Western Sahara. Despite acting as a forum for debate, these cross-party groups do not have any political significance because, unlike parliamentary groups, they do not allow access to committee chairs, parliamentary reports or speaking time.

In addition to the proposal to establish a cross-party group on the left, the PS also unveiled 17 proposals which it intends to support during the campaign. On trade policy, the French socialists are promising to vote against CETA [the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada] and to advocate a trade policy that is subject to European standards.

On migration, the PS recommends the establishment of a “European OFPRA” (the French office for the protection of refuges and the stateless) as well as an agency working on anticipating and regulating migratory flows, similar to the work done by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on the climate.

Regarding social matters, the socialists would like to see a European enterprise model, the establishment of a minimum wage and strengthened safeguards for young people. However, further ambitious proposals, such as the creation of a European right to abortion, will be hampered by the framework of current treaties.

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