The Brief: Europe’s socialists need to reinvent themselves

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Ever since World War II, European democracy has walked on two legs. That’s why it is regrettable that both in Germany and in France the centre-left is in such a bad shape. The French socialists are knocked out, while the German social-democrats have chosen to be in opposition, in an attempt to resurface again.

In other EU countries, the socialists face problems too. In Austria, the SPÖ is ready to break a long-standing taboo on forming political alliances with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).

In Belgium, hit by series of corruption scandals, the socialists in Wallonia are in free-fall. “Socialism never dies!” exclaimed the President of the Socialist Party, Elio Di Rupo, as the drama unfolded. If this is not death, it is certainly a very serious disease.

In many countries the electorate sees no difference regardless of who is in power, the ‘traditional’ socialists, the EPP or both: there is little to choose between their economic policies.

Which is why the left camp is gaining new force and former fringe movements are becoming powerful.

In Belgium, the Party of Workers (PTB/PVDA) is getting stronger. In Spain, Podemos is almost as big as PSOE, judging by the 2016 election results. In Greece, PASOK has been dwarfed by Syriza, and the situation remains unchanged, despite the wear and tear of power. In France, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s force “La France insoumise” has similarly dwarfed the Socialist Party.

But traditional centre-left voters disappointed by the “mainstream left” are also finding other political options. Some of them have turned to far-right or populist forces, such as Marine Le Pen’s Front National. Many voted for a new political project, Macron’s En Marche, a pro-European centrist force seen by some as the embryo of a new European political family.

A bottom-up change, new ideas and new faces are needed. The European centre-left urgently needs to reinvent itself to remain relevant. Although this may be difficult as the electorate is losing confidence in the current leaders.

The Roundup

Cutting fuel subsidies could tie Europe to fossil fuels for decades to come, new study warns. Perverse incentives at work?

Not all gas comes from underground: wind and solar could synthesise it at times of slow demand. With a huge potential. We interviewed gas lobby chief Beate Raabe.

Member states water down food waste proposal – 84 tonnes of eggshells, coffee grounds and onion peels could go unaccounted for.

Overfishing is not just bad, it is also stupid. The EU is letting go of €4.9 billion per year due to pathological short-termism.

The ‘chip ban’ that troubled Brussels is not so bad after all: regulation on cancerogenic acrylamide helps consumer protection, advocates Monique Goyens.

But one MEP may overturn the vote to protect small businesses, arguing it is “excessively prescriptive”. The vote is on Thursday, meanwhile, eat as many cancerogenic frites as you like.

If trucks changed their tires and used 15-year-old turbo technology, they’d save 18% of fuel expenditures – and ensure CO2 savings.

Swedish snus, the tobacco stuff that stains your teeth (but doesn’t lead to cancer, apparently) is attempting a comeback at European legislators to lift the ban.

France said no, and it repeats it: French veto on Glyphosate renewal will upset many farmers.

GMOs are not needed for feeding the planet but we should be open to plant breeding technologies, says FAO official. Read our interview.

Before popping expired pills down the toilet, think twice: increased drug use threatens drinking water, new study finds.

The October deadline is approaching and Britain enters the last round of talks to “achieve significant progress”. But no deal is still better than a bad deal, according to Mrs. May.

No ‘nuclear option’ for Poland, as Warsaw and the EU seek to lower tensions.

E-commerce companies are up in arms against Commission proposal to introduce security checks above €30 purchases.

Everyone in Europe was typing on their tiny keyboards this summer, as Eurobarometer shows phone use increased after roaming charges were abolished.

Look out for…

Commissioners meet on Wednesday to discuss the migration package, online threats, and the Schengen area.

Views are the author’s

Subscribe to The Brief

Subscribe to our newsletters


Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Click here!