Speaking to EURACTIV in an interview, Ernst Stetter, secretary-general of a newly-launched political foundation affiliated to the Socialists, urged EU politicians to adopt a different political discourse based on values to engage citizens in the European project.
Ahead of the European elections, the head of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies said political parties needed to portray a European Union with which citizens could identify. The manifesto adopted by the Party of European Socialists (PES) in Madrid is a good start, he said.
Elections will focus heavily on different concepts of society, according to Stetter. The different political families will have to present themselves as real alternatives, he said. “In the past, politicians explained the EU, rather than demonstrating a real political commitment,” Stetter argued, but “what citizens want to hear is not how the EU works, but what it can do for them”.
The political foundation chief noted that Europe had to promote progressive policies to reconnect with citizens and stand up to the challenge of adopting coherent policies to alllow the EU to compete with the rest of the world. “We are all convinced that the economic crisis can be used as a chance for Europe to put forward smart green growth policies,” he said.
The financial crisis brought a number of issues to the fore, including regulation, transparency, fair distribution of wealth, social justice, solidarity and internationalism, all of which are social democratic values, noted Stetter. “We want to be an incubator of ideas and proposals [to tackle the problems of the 21st century],” he stressed.
To come up with viable solutions to tackle the financial crisis, Stetter joined forces with Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate and professor of economics at Columbia University, who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Clinton and chief economist and senior vice-president at the World Bank.
In conjunction with Stiglitz, the foundation prepared a paper on the reform of the world financial architecture. “This paper provides a number of recommendations that focus on regulation, transparency and prudence, and stipulates that monitoring financial markets is a public good and public responsibility,” said Stetter.
Bringing social democratic values back to the heart of Europe and putting the welfare of European citizens at the top of the agenda will be a key priority for the foundation, summarised Stetter, who launched the foundation on 10 December.
The other European political families are also expected to launch their own foundations. Menawhile, the European Parliament adopted reform of EU political party financing and guidelines for the establishment of party-affiliated political foundations in November 2007. MEPs hailed the initiative at the time, noting that the new rules would create a true European political landscape less determined by conflicting national interests (EURACTIV 30/11/07).