Andrew Duff, a liberal MEP who is steering negotiations in the European Parliament over the establishment of the first transnational list at the next European elections, said he regretted the Socialists' "reservations" on the matter.
The Socialists & Democrats (S&D), the second largest group in the European Parliament, are "not in the vanguard" of the project, said Duff (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – ALDE; UK), a leading member of the Parliament's constitutional affairs committee.
Duff, who is rapporteur on a proposal to introduce transnational lists at the next European elections, lamented that the Socialists were "reserved" regarding the proposal.
Speaking at a public event organised by Jacques Delors' think-tank 'Notre Europe' yesterday (8 November), Duff called for the next EU elections in 2014 to be "galvanised" by adding a transnational list of 25 candidates to the usual national lists.
As he previously explained in an interview with EURACTIV, the list of 25 candidates would be set up by the existing political groups. 25 MEPs would be elected on top of the 751 MEPs already provided for by the Lisbon Treaty.
The treaty changes would be agreed by an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in order to make room for both the 18 'phantom MEPs' and the potential 25 additional members.
If the changes are adopted, European voters would have the possibility to vote for their national MEPs, and if they so wished, cast a ballot for the transnational list as well, Duff said.
Asked what obstacles remained, Duff said the Parliament's four main political groups – the European People's Party (EPP), S&D, ALDE and the Greens – were generally in favour of the transnational lists, but admitted that it was not realistic to expect all their members to approve the proposal.
"The problem is not so much in the groups of the European Parliament, but in national political parties, and the PES is the most reserved," Duff said, regretting that the European Socialists were "not in the vanguard" of the initiative.
In contrast, he said that Wilfried Martens, president of the centre-right EPP, was very supportive of the initiative. The proposal also ranks highly among the priorities of Duff's own Liberal group and enjoys "enthusiastic support" from the Greens, he said.
Sir Julian Priestley, a long-serving former secretary-general of the European Parliament (1997-2007), who has also held high positions in the assembly's Socialist group, spoke in critical terms about the way decisions are made within the Socialists' ranks.
He described as "a shocking betrayal" the Socialists' refusal to present a common candidate to run for the European Commission presidency after the 2009 European elections. It was "a shocking, cynical piece of work," he added.
Socialist MEPs present at the event did not object to his strong-worded statements.
Grassroots socialists across Europe are pushing for primary elections to be held ahead of European elections, by means of blogging and web campaigns, with the ultimate goal of identifying a leftist leader capable of becoming the next European Commission president.