We believe in the European Union: a different kind of European Union

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Conservative parties in Europe are instituting an agenda of austerity and xenophobia, verging on a new "tyranny of the majority" in Hungary, argue leaders of the Party of European Socialists and the social democratic parties of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland.

This op-ed was authored by Poul Rasmussen, leader of the Party of European Socialists, and Attila Mesterházy, Victor Ponta, Sergei Stanishev and Grzergorz Napieralski, leaders of the social democratic parties of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland respectively.

"As we witness the European Federation of Trade Unions (ETUC) demonstration in Budapest (9 April) there is a growing realisation among European citizens that the situation today is not 'politics as usual'. In the last two-and-a-half years the continent has been shaken by the biggest economic crisis for two generations. An initial honeymoon period of neo-Keynesian policy was soon washed away by a conservative-driven 'austerity-only' agenda. Now people all over Europe are feeling the pain, the social exclusion, and the injustice of this agenda. Nowhere is this more evident than in the 'new' EU member states.

In Hungary, but also in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic, we are seeing a dramatic halt in job creation and growth, increased social exclusion and an erosion of basic essential services. A nasty symptom of this situation is a significant rise in the activities of far-right parties. From Warsaw to Sofia and from Prague to Bucharest we have witnessed the politics of fear and discrimination. What is even worse is that we have also witnessed silent complicity from many of the so-called 'mainstream' conservative parties.

Chief among these offenders is the Fidesz party of Viktor Orbán. The Hungarian prime minister has instituted a series of constitutional amendments that bring to mind political philosophers' warnings of the 'tyranny of the majority'. He has thickened this mix with a series of highly provocative statements. The latest of these was delivered by Mr. Orban to the Hungarian Parliament this week, during his mid-term report on the EU presidency. There he stated that, 'we believe in Hungary, not the European Union'. Such a statement in his current European position is highly irresponsible and potentially highly damaging.

This is why the Hungarian trade unions and the European Trade Union Confederation are marching today to confront these policies of social destruction. As our good friend Martin Schulz, European Parliament Socialist Group leader, said, 'we need the courage to commit to long-term public investment. Instead Conservative Europe is cutting itself to death'.

These is also why we as 'new' member state socialist and social democratic leaders wanted to send this unified message. Our message is one of cooperation, one of new ideas and one that recognises the value and the rewards of working together beyond national and nationalist constraints.

We represent a new generation of progressive leaders that are ready to move our countries towards a growth and jobs agenda. We are the ones who will rebuild the essential services that conservatives have dismantled. The standard of schools, hospitals, day-care and retirement homes are a reflection of each of our countries' standards. Our way is one that puts your welfare, and your right to quality services, at the heart of our programmes. The simple reason for this is our belief in the principle of solidarity.

One would have to look hard to find the word 'solidarity' in the plans of Fidesz or indeed the other 'mainstream' conservatives. It is a phrase that, even if it exists in their speeches, it does not exist in their mindset. Their policy is to set people against each other, to exploit feelings of insecurity to create a climate of fear. It will lead us back to a nationalist past that we all know can only have disastrous consequences.

Under the banner of the Party of European Socialists, we will show that our alternative is not just socially responsible, but is also economically credible. We are calling on you to join us and to echo our joint call. Our message is that there is a clear, strong alternative to the right-wing agenda of fear and austerity."

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