Monday 15 December 2008

European Elections 2009 (30): PES and ELDR manifesto - updated

For the thirtieth article in this series, I have invested some time to read the manifestos of the Party of European Socialist (PES) and or the European Liberal and Democratic Party (ELDR) - the other parties have not yet published theirs -, and well, how to say it, they are... interesting.

The first thing that is striking is the difference in length: the Liberals seem to have tried to keep their tradition of (fiscal) restraint and to limit themselves to three pages, while the Socialists and Social Democrats have written a small booklet of fifteen pages. In fact, something in between would have been much nicer, because the PES manifesto takes way to much time to read, while the manifesto of the ELDR seems to end as soon as you start reading.

So let's start with the ELDR manifesto. In general, I would prefer the shortness of the text to the length of the PES manifesto, but in this case the shortness is not an advantage. The manifesto is divided in an introduction and the four sub-categories
  • Civil liberties
  • EU Single Market, Growth and Employment 
  • Environment and energy policy
  • Enlargement, foreign, security and defence policy
with 15 policy statements in total which could be summarised as
  • Yes to civil liberties and co-operation in criminal matters
  • Yes to a single market and privatisation and No to nationalisation
  • Yes to a "measured" migration through "blue cards"
  • Yes to an environment policy if it doesn't burden business
  • Yes to a reduction of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
  • Maybe to future enlargement
  • Yes to a single foreign policy and a stronger common defence policy
All these points are very technical, very general, not very ambitious. It looks more like a compromise text than a document that encourages voters to vote for the Liberals. Not one single emotional appeal, no vision, and despite the fact that the Liberals start with "Civil Liberties" almost without values. I have no idea whether the Liberals plan to use this document, or whether they will hide it behind national campaigns.

Quite different the PES manifesto (UPDATE: see the video of the adoption during the PES congress). Despite its excessive length, and despite the criticism I have expressed towards the manifesto slogan "People first - A new direction for Europe", the first page of the document would be enough to run a decent political campaign. It starts with an important message:

"The voters of Europe face a fundamental political choice in these European elections."

There is no single reference to the voters in the ELDR manifesto, and for the PES to start with this sentence is very pertinent on the European level. The first page, after identifying challenges and problems of the European Union, ends with the six main policy commitments of the European Socialists:
  • Relaunching the economy and preventing new financial crises 
  • New social Europe – giving people a fairer deal 
  • Transforming Europe into the leading global force against climate change 
  • Championing gender equality in Europe 
  • Developing an effective European migration policy 
  • Enhancing Europe’s role as a partner for peace, security and development 
However, instead of directly getting into these issues, we have to read a general assessment of the situation in and around Europe and about the alleged shortcomings of the Conservatives (apparently the only opponent of the Socialists). Quite boring, and nothing for the general voter. And afterwards we get, along with the six main commitments, 71 single sub-issues and sub-proposals, which probably nobody but some journalists (i.e. bloggers) and lobby organisations will read. In line with the general subtitles heading these 71 proposals, I would summarise/quote the manifesto like this:
  • Yes to reforming the financial markets to serve the real economy, jobs and growth
  • Yes to a European strategy for Smart Green Growth and Jobs
  • Yes to ensuring workers and businesses benefit from economic transformation
  • Yes to a European framework legislation for social policies
  • Yes to the protection of citizens' rights including more transparency of EU lobbying
  • Yes to the EU leading international negotiations for a global climate deal, inter alia through more internal ambitions
  • Yes to more gender equality
  • Yes to European standards for legal migration and integration
  • Yes to a balance of peace and security issues, including a development of the European defence system in coordination with NATO
  • Yes to enlargement (including Turkey), as well as Yes to the Black Sea Union, the Union of a Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership
  • Yes to active poverty reduction
I know that there is much more in the manifesto, but it would exceed the limits of a blog article to get into more details.

I don't share a number of the policies proposed, but at least the documents is quite clear on a number of very concrete issues (although some, including the position on nuclear energy, clearly are compromises [update: see also the comments]). I don't think that it was the best choice to have a document of this length, but the first and the last page are short and clear enough to present to European voters the choice they make when voting PES, without the need to read through all single issues.

As a conclusion, I might say that the ELDR does not present many controversial issues (which might make them electable), however it does also not present a vision or any concrete policy proposals. It is short to read, but when I finished reading it just thought: So what? The PES manifesto is ambitious, it is detailed, it is comprehensive, but it is too long. The many details offer much more room to find points of disagreement, and anyone who takes the time to read through the document will most probably find a number of positions that might not be shared. The political opponents and journalists will also find enough food for attack. Yet, this is the essence of a political document, so why not. 

Altogether, I prefer the PES manifesto. Would I vote for them because of this manifesto? Maybe. Maybe not.

Under the category "Tracking: European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.


Anonymous said...

Good post Julien.

In case you didn't catch it, Charlemagne at the Economist has some (not very complimentary) words to say about the Manifesto:

Julien Frisch said...

Thanks for this link, which is interesting indeed. Most relevant for me, who is interested in the process a bit more than in the result, is the following paragraph from this Economist article:

"First, Europe’s centre-left parties are split over how best to protect jobs. At a meeting in Madrid to draft the PES manifesto, some west European parties wanted language about limiting the free movement of workers within the EU, says Denis MacShane, a British parliamentarian who represents the Labour Party in the PES. But representatives from new, lower-cost EU countries like Hungary, Poland and Lithuania rejected these ideas, insisting “free movement is one of the best things about the EU.” In the end, PES leaders fudged it, with a clause saying merely that reduced social standards and wage cuts should not give one country a “competitive advantage” over another “at the expense of workers”."

Far less interesting is the article from EUobserver: