In the European socialist political family, important decisions are not made by the president or the most influential national leaders, as is the case with the centre-right European People’s Party, President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Sergei Stanishev told EURACTIV.com.
In an interview with Nea Selida last week, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his leftist party was ready to open a dialogue of cooperation with the progressive political forces of the country after the end of the bailout programme.
“We would be sincerely delighted if the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) could again find its progressive orientation, but also the courage to open a frank and unprejudiced dialogue with the ruling leftist Syriza party on the prospect of a progressive government after the end of the memorandums,” Tsipras said.
“We will be there […] but I think Pasok has very serious problems to solve to get there,” the Greek leader warned.
Tsipras also called on Pasok’s leader, Fofi Gennimata, to take a specific position on the neo-liberal agenda of the main opposition right-wing New Democracy party.
In the government, they believe that a number of socialist lawmakers are now closer to the right than the centre-left and wish to cooperate with New Democracy.
“We need to know at least whether we are on the same page or not,” Tsipras said.
“Not even with a gun pointing at our head”
But Pasok, which is an official member of the PES in Greece and saw its rates significantly drop after it signed up to the country’s first bailout, seemed to reject the proposal.
Party leader Gennimata replied that her party would be a “complement to no one” and that it will be the main player in the political developments of the country.
“The change of political balances with a decisively strengthened [Pasok] is the key,” she noted.
Andreas Loverdos, an influential lawmaker in Pasok, went further and rejected any kind of cooperation with Syriza.
“Not even with a gun pointing at our head,” he stated.
Dimitris Papadimoulis, a leading Syriza MEP, tweeted that Pasok’s stance is inconsistent with the line of the European socialists.
Parties decide by themselves
The European socialist parties have clearly backed the Syriza-led government during the economic and migration crises.
They always invite Alexis Tsipras as an observer to the pre-summit gatherings of the centre-left leaders together with Pasok leader Gennimata.
Moreover, in an effort to differentiate from the rising centre-right political forces, the EU centre-left parties have adopted a pro-leftist rhetoric and have promised to work closer with the “progressive” powers of the political spectrum.
EURACTIV contacted several socialist officials and asked their opinion about Pasok’s stance, given the general political orientation of the EU centre-left.
PES President Sergei Stanishev stressed that the question of political cooperation at national level is a decision for the parties involved.
“The Party of European Socialists has a much more democratic structure than, for example, the EPP. In our political family, important decisions are not made by the president or by the leaders of the most influential countries,” he noted, adding that the member parties take decisions on their national activities by themselves “as it should be in a real democratic political organisation”.
Stanishev made it clear that the socialist family speaks with one voice when it comes to important issues such as social justice, equality and more opportunities for every European citizen.
“The need of more social justice in Europe was the topic of the last PES European Council preparation meeting in Brussels, where I had the opportunity to speak to both the leader of our member party from Pasok, Fofi Gennimata, and the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was invited as an observer,” he said.
An ideological deadlock?
At European Parliament level, Antonio Tajani’s election as president led to the collapse of the so-called “Grand Coalition” between his EPP group and the Socialists, and the birth of a “leftist alliance” between the latter, the leftists and the Greens.
The S&D group have also been supportive of a government in Athens, which would consist of the progressive parties of the centre-left part of the political spectrum.
When Syriza decided to partner the centre-right Independent Greeks Party to form a coalition government, Gianni Pittella, the S&D chief in the European Parliament, reacted strongly and called the decision a “strategic mistake”.
During a visit last year to Athens, Pittella also stressed that the pro-EU left and socialist forces could work together for the benefit of the EU.
“I’m here to tell Alexis and the other progressive forces that we have to work together”, the Italian MEP said.
EURACTIV also contacted three high-ranking S&D MEPs but all declined to comment on the Greek case.