The European Elections and Social Democracy

Each month, 700 deputies travel from Brussels to Strasbourg. 8 trucks filled with files are carried all the way from Brussels to Strasbourg. This burocratic irrationality is caused by the attitude of France. Though we are facing a parliament who even has difficulties to decide where to meet, the European deputies claim to have improved their impact and force in the insitutionall system of the EU. Nevertheless, we can talk about a lack of confidence concerning the force and discourse of the parliament in the eyes of European citizens. Proof was the last elections of 2009 where the participation was about 43 percent.

Two Outstanding Candidates – Similar Discourses

For the first time in the history of the EU, European citizens will have a say in the election of the President of the EU Commission. This democratic development has been lead by social democrats. However, some experts raise concern about potential problems to occur with the new changes. First, they claim that the European Commission will develop a political identity. Second, Eurosceptic voices potentially will also have a say on the EU politics. Third, two outstanding candidates have close positions to each other on different topics that diminishes the democratic quality of the elections.

There are two important candidates for the presidency of the EU Commission: Former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Parliament President German Social Democrat Martin Schulz. In his last message to the electorate, Juncker has expressed that he’ll give priority to the unification of Europe. Schulz has declared that he’ll work on a Europe of citizens instead of a Europe dominated by banks and stock traders. Two favorite candidates have met in a TV discussion program for the last time before the elections on the 20th of May. Turkey was one of the most important topics during the discussion. The candidate of social democrats Martin Schulz has declared that Turkey won’t be welcome to the EU in the near future, European Peoples Party candidate Jean-Claude Juncker has also rejected the membership of Turkey to the EU; he has urged upon the fact that a country banning access to Twitter has not understood the future yet. Juncker has pointed out that until 2019, the EU will not accept new members, the EU has first to solve the debt crisis with its existing 28 member countries.

Social Democracy and EP Elections

The topics Martin Schulz has pointed out could be resumed as follows:

 The reduction of the unemployment rate of European youth in the next five years

 The reinforcement of the common currency and the global competitive power,

 The prevention of tax evasion,

 More investments on remewable energy projects, the support for nature friendly technologies,

 The increase of the productivity of economies,

 The increase of consumer rights and a Europe respecting personal rights.


Although he is a leftist candidate and should normally be bearer of social democratic values, he has not stressed the concepts of social justice, the reinforcement of trade union rights and social dialogue or a new economy for Europe. At this point, a short analysis of the change of social democratic discourse during the elections of the European Parliament could be explanatory: At 1979, the European Parliament was elected directly for the first time. Since than, the social democratic parties in Europe have opened their doors for neoliberal policies. The conception of Europe determined by SPD, the German Social Democratic Party has also changed. The election program of 1979 was “Social Democracy for Europe”. The programm emphasized social goals instead of economic interests. The main notions were freedom, justice and solidarity. The concept of democratic socialism was not expressed in the next election program 5 years after. Instead, the global competitiveness of the EU was part of the election program of social democrats. In 2009, the SPD, different from 1979, has not pointed out the importance of a social Europe in the European Manifest. In 1979 and 1994, the SPD has been demanding the democratisation of the economy and companies, in 2009 it made do with the rules of finance markets. Today, the general thought is that the claim for democratic socialism is not realistic. Mainly, social democrats respect the view that historical differences remain untouched instead of the concept equalisation of social systems in Europe.

From the social democratic point of view, it is undiscussable that the social consequences of the crisis shall be put weight on. Besides, it is necessary to focus on a new alternative political model. A program that will enable the economic growth of the EU again, that will increase social rights, diminish the center/periphery difference threatening in the EU and that will improve the democratic character of the EU is necessary. It is required to settle on a European discourse exceeding the borders of member states. Especially, the high level of unemployment of youth, unequal salaries, danger of poorness and the worsening of working conditions are subjects in the need of an urgent solution. The European social model must insist on a Europe in solidarity and present concrete economic and financial proposals. At the same time, long-term projects foreseeing structural changes must be part of the program. Social democratic parties must focus on the strategy of preventing crisis by solidarity. It it time to fight for a social Europe. It is highly important that binding goals are created in social areas, education, basic health, nursing for elderly and infants, shelter options, equal and fair share of wealth ,labor, education areas. The EU shall not only be an economic unity but also a social unity. Though it is hard to find a sign promising that Martin Schulz will be successing on this.

Is it possible to direct the EU to a politic mind supporting and promoting solidarity?

It is hard to claim that on the basis of existing contracts and discourses. A new beginning is necessary. The demand of the political left should be a parliament having a say as much as the European Council and possessing an own right for initiative concerning legislation. In fact the most important problem in the institutionall system is that the burocratic processes force the parliament to settle with the representatives of governments and states. In reality, there are only two candidates that have the chance to win during the elections. These two candidates do not show a severe difference in practical terms as seen on their discussions since now. Juncker and Schulz are politicians that are in charge for a very long time and it shall not be disregarded that they have played a role on the road leading to the crisis of Europe. In fact, both symbolise the Brussels bureocracy and they don’t have revolutionary thoughts that could establish a new democracy. Although Schulz expresses his desire for more democracy, transparency and disclosure during TV discussions, he is not considered credible by left intelectual circles in Europe. For example, he has declared that he would fight against the EU commission taking over regulatory precautions during the TV debate on ZDF. But it is not to forget that Schulz was involved in the power gaining process of the European commission. Such discrepancies can cause problems concerning credibility. The perception of Martin Schulz in the community makes it hard for him to get transformed into a leader fighting for citizens against burocratic devices. When it comes to Jean Claude Juncker, this possibility is lower. The former prime minister of Luxembourg has lost his position after the scandale of the intelligence agency. There are many questions waiting for an answer on this subject.

The main subject of this elections is not the political unity of Europe. On the contrary, the citizens living in Europe are highly interested in the economical situation of the EU. Citizens of countries like Germany, which are economically stable think that the crisis would touch them slightly. But it should be keep in mind that the policital persistence is very important. Not only for Central European Citizens. But for all European Citizens. The European Electorate shall not disregard that the economic austerity policy applied on Southern European Countries might have negative consequences also in Germany.

About Can Büyükbay

PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science Center for Comparative & International Studies, University of Zurich