The Brief – Socialist schism

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

The Party of European Socialists is meeting in Lisbon in an apparent show of unity. Unlike the EPP, the liberals or even the greens, socialists don’t need to choose from competing candidates – they only have one. Frans Timmermans will be their Spitzenkandidat, and Sergei Stanishev will be re-elected for a third time as PES president, without competition.

But the calm is only at the surface.

The real issue is that several sister parties, especially from the East, no longer share the political correctness of the Brussels bubble socialists. A clear example is the conflict between Stanishev, who left his home country Bulgaria to lead PES from Brussels seven years ago, and the current leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Kornelia Ninova.

Ninova and Stanishev are worlds apart. The divide between them is much bigger than between PES and EPP. Stanishev is against Orbán, while Ninova supports and admires the Hungarian strongman. Ninova is against the Istanbul Convention, Stanishev calls on EU members to supports this UN convention against domestic violence. The same goes for the Global compact for migration.

The populist temptation among socialists is strong in several EU members from the east, where the most striking example is Romania. In this country, the social democrats are clinging on to power by all means in spite of growing popular resentment.

The EPP is very happy to point the finger at the Romanian socialists. For the centre-right, it’s such a rare opportunity to divert attention from their support to Orbán.

But what happens then?

In comes Frans Timmermans, the Dutch social democrat. Not only does he not pay lip service to his Romanian party fellows, quite the contrary, he is leading the Commission’s punitive actions against this country.

The outrage is such that some in the Romanian PSD reportedly envisage moving to the ECR group, founded by David Cameron’s Tories. If this materialises (realistically, after the European elections), their example could be contagious and unravel the S&D group.

On issues such as gay marriage, the definition of family, migration, climate change or attitude toward the EU, socialists in many EU countries from the East are getting dangerously close to the extreme right, to Marine Le Pen or Matteo Salvini.

Too many socialists from the East don’t recognise the ultra-liberal Timmermans as their candidate. Or more precisely, many don’t recognise him at all, while others identify him as the villain rather than their European leader.

This European election won’t be an easy one for the socialists.

The Roundup

by Alexandra Brzozowski

Which way forward for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU? The CDU delegates have chosen and the winner is Annegret-Kramp Karrenbauer.

In Hamburg, the party delegates chose her to the helm of the party out of those three candidates. She won against her fellow contender Friedrich Merz in a second ballot with 517 to 482 votes.

One thing is also true: rarely has a national party convention been followed so eagerly in Brussels corridors.

UK’s Theresa May rejected the plea by MPs to delay the Brexit vote scheduled for next week, but left open the possibility to give lawmakers a vote on whether to enter into the Northern Ireland backstop. In case of no-Brexit, there is the prospect of dead men walking.

Back in Brussels, Europe should be “worried” about Huawei and other Chinese companies, given the mandatory cooperation they have to maintain with Chinese intelligence services, the Commission said.

In the council, ministers backed plans for that will allow law enforcement authorities to bypass EU member states when making judicial orders for electronic evidence in criminal matters abroad. Germany’s Justice Minister Katarina Barley was one of the most vociferous opponents to the plans.

In other digi-news, yesterday, EU ministers clamped down on online terrorist content despite a wave of opposition from industry associations representing internet companies.

To avoid a major crisis in the Belgian coalition government, Belgian PM Charles Michel will go “in personal capacity” to the intergovernmental conference in Marrakesh. Why does the hysterical reaction of some countries to the UN migration and refugee does compacts matter?

The Bulgarian socialist leader announced she will snub the PES forum in Lisbon, which is meant to endorse Frans Timmermans as the common Spitzenkandidat for the European elections.

Tackling climate change will require ‘transforming the whole economy’ in the coming decades, financiers have warned.

As COP24 gets underway in Poland, leading oil and gas players – countries and companies – are confronted with the challenge of mapping out their share of the new energy economy, writes Robin Mills. In our COP24 diary day #5 edition, we have an update on the negotiations, climate denialism, South America, costs of global warming, and more.

The EU and France ramped up their funding for the G5 Sahel anti-terror alliance to €1.3bn at a two-day donor summit in Mauritania.

Our weekly edition of Tweets of the Week features Article 50 in the ECJ, Selmayrgate that just won’t go away, and Gilets Jaunes protests go seriously astray.

Look out for…

A major crunch time week. On the menu: Strasbourg plenary week, Brexit vote in the House of Common on Tuesday  and the last EU summit of this year.

Views are the author’s

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