S&D Vice-President Enrique Guerrero told EURACTIV Spain that he acknowledged the “political errors” made in the past that have contributed to populism’s rise across Europe at the expense of socialism.
Guerrero, who represents the PSOE at national level, said at a Prague meeting that “the issues that citizens are worried by superimpose themselves on the issues they are interested in and it is much easier to construct a political narrative on these fears”.
At the Czech meeting, the Spaniard criticised the Visegrád group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) for “only working on two areas of concern: immigration and security”.
Guerrero added that the group of former communist countries is “practically a defence block against the arrival of refugees”.
The S&D VP added that “it is a very negative scenario for the socialists”, but acknowledged that it was a mistake on their part to rely on “similar liberal policies to the last century and the early years of this one”.
Due to business relocation and changes in labour contracting, the Socialists have not been able to get across their point that they are “trying to protect the electoral base from the social changes that are going on”, insisted Guerrero.
The result has been that “the traditional working class in many countries is now the keystone of populist party support and have been lured by false promises of solutions at a national level, which are simply not possible”.
The S&D group, which has 189 MEPs out of a total of 751, argues that social rights have the same value as economic freedoms within the EU.
Guerrero explained that the group wants to “avoid an exclusively economic approach that sidelines social rights, like the right to collective bargaining”. He added that “unionisation of workers and equal pay for equal work in the same company” are also important objectives.
On the rising wave of populism, the Spaniard voiced his regret that such forces “are present in all EU countries and that in some states are a part of government”. He also regretted that, at times, members of his own part of the political spectrum have been tempted.
Guerrero insisted that if Hungary and Poland were to try and join the EU today, they would “find it difficult to comply with the democratic requirements”.
He also added that current European populism goes hand in hand with anti-EU feeling and proposals to quit the bloc that have gained, most notably in the UK, traction across the Union.