Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his close ally, senior Syriza MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis, are launching a number of initiatives to build bridges among Europe’s fragmented progressive political forces and create a broad alliance ahead of the EU elections.
“The left-wing and progressive political forces that were the initiators of European unification cannot be non-united in the next European elections, especially when the ghosts of the past reappear to break the European project […] when the extreme right is on the rise,” European Parliament Vice-President Papadimoulis told EURACTIV.com.
“Let’s just not forget that Altiero Spinelli was the author of the first constitution of Europe,” he added. Spinelli was an Italian communist politician and European federalist.
EURACTIV has learned that Tsipras, who was the Spitzenkandidat of GUE-NGL in the previous EU election, will coordinate this effort “centrally” while Papadimoulis will focus on a European Parliament level.
The main objective of this push is to bring leftist and progressive political forces closer both before and after the EU election. Syriza also aims to create a broad alliance, “from Tsipras to Macron”, especially when it comes to the protection of EU values.
For Syriza there is no way to join another European Political group, EURACTIV was told. Cooperation with progressive forces is envisaged in a greater degree after the European elections than before.
Asked by EURACTIV to comment on Papadimoulis’ proposal for a broad coalition, S&D leader Udo Bullmann replied that Papadimoulis was a respected member of the south and a pro-European democrat, and that “all Europeans have to defend EU values when it comes to the campaign and forming a new system of governance”.
Tsipras in Germany and France
Next weekend, the Greek premier will be in Berlin and Paris, where he will meet with European Social Democrats and the Greens, who have gained significant momentum in Germany.
On 10 November, Tsipras will attend a conference of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), where he will talk to the SPD and the Greens. Greek media reported that he would also hold a private meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Costa (S&D).
On 11 November, at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron, he will participate in the events to celebrate a hundred years since the end of the First World War.
On 27 November, the Progressive Caucus, an informal group of MEPs from GUE-NGL, the Greens and S&D, are organising an event in the European Parliament. For the first time, all presidents of the groups will take part: Udo Bullman (S&D) Ska Keller (Greens/ EFA) and Gabrielle Zimmer (GUE/ NGL).
The progressive political forces in Europe have faced a number of electoral defeats across Europe as well as internal divisions. “The circumstances are not favourable and we need to take action to join forces,” a source said.
Conversely, the Greens have gained momentum in Germany and Belgium but are not expected to repeat that in other EU countries.
The European left remains fragmented as the leader of La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, does not seem ready for compromises.
In an interview with EURACTIV in September, GUE-NGL chief Zimmer referred to Mélenchon’s case, saying that he has created some “problematic” situations.
Socialist Bullmann also hit at Mélenchon, calling him “a backwards-looking nationalist”.
EPP uncomfortable with Macron’s silence
Macron, for his part, has not yet made his intentions clear about the next EU election, however, his political rhetoric also focuses on a “progressive coalition”.
Speaking to EURACTIV about the next EU election, an EPP source recently lashed out at Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the European liberals and democrats (ALDE), and the French president.
“He [Verhofstadt] goes with the wind, he is blinded by numbers,” the EPP source said, suggesting that the ALDE leader is ready for any compromise to increase the size of his group.
Currently, Macron has no political group in the European Parliament and has publicly opposed the Spitzenkandidaten process, which is supported by the EPP and was applied in the last EU election. Macron has backed the idea of transnational lists, which the EPP rejected.
Regarding Macron, the EPP source said, “With his non-participation in the democratic debate ahead of the election, he disqualifies France from having an EU high-level post.”
In the event of a new Macron-led political group in the EU House, analysts expect he will be able to attract members from the EPP and S&D.
In the meantime, the picture is still unclear on the right side of the political spectrum.
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is selecting its Spitzenkandidat on Thursday (8 November). Analysts suggest that the result of the match between conservative Manfred Weber and liberal Alexander Stubb will also affect the political developments on EPP’s right space.
Weber presents himself as a “bridge builder” and suggests EPP leaders to listen to populists like Hungary’s Orbán or Italy’s Salvini. On the other hand, Stubb recently told EURACTIV in an interview that populism has no place in the EPP family.
For Zimmer, the EPP must decide whether it wants to be a conservative party belonging to the centre or move closer to the right of the political spectrum.
“The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) used to be part of the EPP some years ago and they left. If this kind of political force is coming back because of a new orientation, then the EPP will go further right,” she told EURACTIV.