The time of the 'Grand Coalition' with the centre-right is past and Europe needs a radical change in policy, with a new economic and social model that does not only work for the few, the head of the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament Udo Bullmann said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) correspondent Christina Vasilaki.
The interview was given ahead of an event planned by the "Progressive Caucus" (Socialdemocrats, Greens and the Left) next Tuesday to analyse the differences and build bridges between the progressive allies in the European Parliament, entitled "European Integration: The role of Progressive Forces".
Participants will include the leaders of the European Parliament's S&D group Udo Bullman, of the Greens/EFA group Ska Keller and the GUE/NGL group Gabi Zimmer. The opening speech will be delivered by European Parliament Vice-President and head of SYRIZA MEPs Dimitris Papadimoulis.
Collaboration between MEPs in the three groups began approximately two years ago with the formation of the "Progressive Caucus" but is taking on added significance ahead of the European elections in 2019. In the interview, Bullmann extends an open invitation to the other groups to support the S&D candidate Frans Timmerman in the race for European Commission president.
The full interview with Bullmann follows:
What are your expectations from next week's event in the EP between the S&D, GUE and Greens ahead of the European elections in 2019?
This is a good opportunity to discuss key issues and questions, which all political groups are facing. There is the threat of massive digital interferences in the European elections, there is the rise of populism and nationalism in and outside of Europe, there is the issue of growing inequalities, the question of how to finally get big tech-giants to pay their fair share of taxes, the reform of the Economic Monetary Union – I could go on and on. The European elections 2019 will take place in only six months and they will decide about which direction Europe takes. I am sure it will be an interesting debate.
Do you think that the "Grand Coalition" between the S&D and the centre-right is now broken and would that create an opportunity for the collaboration between the progressive forces?
What was called a "Grand Coalition" for a very limited time has never really worked and lies in the past. Conservatives who accept someone like the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in their rows and who imitate populists, for example by spreading lies and causing hysteria about the UN migration compact, must ask themselves what they can contribute to Europe’s future. We Socialists and Democrats focus on our own agenda. We want to see a radical change in Europe. The current development model is bringing more inequalities, concentrating power and wealth in the hands of the few, ignores the limits of our fragile planet and does not take account of the complex and interrelated challenges of our time. We need a new economic and social model that works for the many – not just the few. We welcome every democratic force that wants to support us in this goal.
Is a common candidate (even not in the context of spitzenkandidat) excluded for the presidency of the Commission?
We Socialists and Democrats are proud to have a very strong designated lead candidate with Frans Timmermans, whom we will elect on our Congress in Lisbon on December 7 and 8. Frans Timmermans has been at the forefront of the fight for the protection of Europe’s core values and he will continue to be as our common candidate. We invite other forces to support him as the next President of the European Commission.
How important this new alliance would be for counties like Greece that have suffered much in the past from austerity policies?
Our Group has always been the leading force in the fight against the short-sighted dogma of austerity. It is thanks to the work that we were leading that European fiscal rules have been made at least somewhat more supportive of public investments. Most of all, the European Fund for Strategic Investments that has been operating very successfully for more than three years by now is our brainchild and the result of our relentless pressure. Now we need to build on projects like this. If you take a close look, you will find that excellent cooperation among progressive forces was part of their success. I am sure that this kind of smart and sustainable economic policies will continue to figure as a priority for my Group and the progressive family.