Zimmer urges leftist parties to escape from ‘self-isolation’, seek majorities

The Die Linke politician warned that after the May’s elections, the composition of the EU Parliament would change in a dramatic way. [Sarantis Michalopoulos]

The president of leftist group GUE/NGL in the European Parliament urged left-wing parties across Europe on Friday (9 November) to be open-minded and respect mutual differences in order to come up with a joint strategy for achieving majorities in the next EU House and fighting “neoliberalism and racism”. EURACTIV.com reports from Bilbao.

Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the European Forum of Progressive, Ecological and Leftist Forces in Bilbao, Gabriele Zimmer said GUE/NGL had managed to break the grand coalition in the European Parliament between the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).

“We learnt that if you want to achieve a majority and move towards a progressive leftist way, then you need to seek cooperation and go together,” the German politician said.

Zimmer referred to a number of legislative issues on which GUE/NGL had collaborated with the socialists and the Greens in the European Parliament, following the break-up of the Grand Coalition.

“We can only see something moving on if the public pressure is visible and people can be heard from the streets,” she added.

The Die Linke politician warned that after next May’s elections, the composition of the EU Parliament will change dramatically.

“In order to be stronger, we have to be broader and come out of our isolation that we create for ourselves,” Zimmer emphasised.

She acknowledged that there are different approaches among leftist parties on the EU vision, but noted that those parties needed to get over their differences through dialogue and mutual respect and set up a joint strategy ahead of the election.

“I’m expecting from this forum to able to find out what EU vision we all want in order to fight the rise of neoliberalism and racism,” she added.

There is a growing number of GUE politicians who see in a positive light the collaboration with other progressive forces from the left side of the political spectrum, such as the Greens and the Socialists.

EU lawmakers from the GUE-NGL, the Greens and the S&D have even formed the so-called Progressive Caucus, an informal group, which aims to build bridges among the three political families and in the long run, form a “progressive” front.

Zimmer praised the role of Progressive Caucus in facilitating the dialogue with the socialists and the Greens in the European Parliament and emphasised that the enemies of the left are not the social democrats. “We have to criticise them but they are not our enemies. The enemy is the far-right,” she said.

Syriza in quest to unite progressive forces ahead of EU elections

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.

Mélenchon’s sabotage

But the European left remains widely fragmented, as seen in the case of the leader of La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who does not seem ready for compromises.

Mélenchon was not present in the forum in Bilbao and, according to the organisers, did not even reply to the invitation.

“We sent them a reminder even two weeks before the conference but no answer was provided,” the organisers said.

In an interview with EURACTIV in September, Zimmer commented on Mélenchon’s case, saying that he has created some “problematic” situations.

“He has to understand that the way he chooses damages other left actors and this is problematic. I expect him to do more together with the other leftist leaders and not attack others [just] because he disagrees.”

Socialist leader Udo Bullmann has also been critical of Mélenchon, calling him “a backwards-looking nationalist”.

Unlike Mélenchon, Benoît Hamon, a former French socialist party official and current president of the Génération.s movement, attended the conference.

Asked by EURACTIV if he would be ready for a collaboration with the S&D and the Greens before or after the EU election, he replied: “Any discussion about future collaboration will take place after the election.”

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