Wednesday 15 April 2009

European Parliament elections 2009 (81): PES without vision and without tact

You know from previous posts that I like the way the Party of European Socialists (PES) has managed to develop a European campaign.

But when I see the open letter PES leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen has written to "attack" the European Liberals and Democrats (ELDR) which start their European campaign today with an event in Brussels, I feel kind of lala.

The positions expressed in the letter may sound social democratic or socialist, but in general they sound rather anti-European and anti-EU.

This is what the European Socialists have to offer? Arguments against the European Union? Amazing. Where have they been over the last 20 years?

The letter doesn't present answers, and it is backwards looking, without much good reasoning. Jon Worth, a social democrat and European blogger, puts forward many good arguments against the propositions of Mr Rasmussen and I don't have much to add besides repeating that this letter sounds deeply anti-EU and is a huge minus for the European Socialists in my eyes. If ELDR campaign people are intelligent enough, that's an easy target...

And another issue regarding campaign strategies:

I have received the open letter in advance yesterday evening from the PES, together with other EU bloggers like Nosemonkey, Kosmopolit or Jon Worth. We were told that we would get this letter in advance exclusively because we were top 10 bloggers for the PES. Still, we were asked not to publish the letter before this morning and to keep an embargo because it would be published in some main(stream) media and would cause great interest.

It's "sweet" (quote from Nosemonkey on Twitter) to be among the top 10 bloggers, and I like to get background information directly from the source instead of living with hearsay. But to be treated like a campaign tool ("You may have exclusive information, but you may only publish them when we want to.") is not very pleasant. And this with a letter of this quality - a letter that didn't cause any great interest so far, at least I haven't seen anything.

If I am among the top bloggers for the PES, I would like to get the exclusive information that Mr Rasmussen will run against Barroso, that he stops beating about the bush, and to do what you expect for a true democratic campaign: To offer a choice to the citizens.

And if I may publish the information exclusively, why not with other bloggers, then I would feel privileged as a blogger. But more important: I would feel happy as an EU citizen - more happy than with a lame letter without good arguments!

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

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Jon Worth said...

Agh, come on, this is a bit harsh... No other party is even going to bother mailing bloggers I reckon.

Problem (or advantage) with bloggers is that getting them to do what you want them to do is like herding cats - it doesn't work very easily.

Ralf Grahn said...


Your blog post was good. Despite your affiliation you retained your critical faculties.

Actually it wasn't that far fro Julien's, although he chose another angle.

I liked the parable on herding cats. Perhaps a red herring would do the trick(?)

Julien Frisch said...

Jon, it's not that harsh. As you know, I am having a rather strict European angle on this campaign, and when I read this letter yesterday and I didn't feel any European spirit, not even a very good political spirit as you have made clear in your post that I like and fully share.

Regarding bloggers: It's true what you say about the herding of cats that twitter; the more I was surprised by getting this thing yesterday. I was about to blog on this right after I got it - it would not have made a big difference - but I didn't see much sense. Only after your nice argumentation I thought I should say some words about it.

In the end, the perceived harshness of the post is just directness with a dash of provocative language.

Julien Frisch said...

And about other parties not bothering to contact bloggers: Okay. And I have praised the PES for their approach before. But not every mail to me in my function as blogger makes me happy. I've also received some press releases that I didn't like in particular, but I didn't react because I wasn't addressed as a "top 10 blogger".

Aloys Rigaut said...

For your info, here is the ELDR answer to the PES letter:


Julien Frisch said...


I have already twittered and blogged about it.

Nils Wörner said...

Dear Julian,

as I finish a little bit earlier tonight, I have a few minutes to comment on your post. Please be aware that even if I work in the PES secretariat I am expressing my exclusive personal opinion here.

I know about your and the other EU bloggers enthusiasm about Europe. But even if enthusiasm on Europe is an important driving force, it is not alone going to build Europe.

At the contrary you might have noticed that many citizens have lost confidence and trust in Europe. There must be a reason, don't you think?

In my eyes the reason is that our societies have become much richer in the last 20 years but people don't participate. A lot of people have the same or less than 20 years ago. There are many reasons for it and I will not go into details here.

But what if Europe played a role in that? The set-up of competences that Europe has? Is it the fault of the PES that fairness and investment in education is a national competence while competition and the market is EU competence. Is it the fault of the PES that trade and market are EU competences while social security and investment in good infrastructure WHICH IS AVAILABLE TO EVERY EUROPEAN CITIZEN is a national competence?

I have the feeling that you - and also Jon Worth - are making it too easy for the Liberals to play the piano of being European, because they can use (and abuse?) European competences to promote their ideology and bare with it the national societies of their social achievements.

I am convinced that with the financial crisis most people (and many even before) have realised that a market wich is not the servent but the master of the people is not good for their societies, for their lives. That there must be a counterbalance. That there must be fairness and a society which gives everyone the chance to participate in basic services.

Dear Julien, it is not the fault of the PES that the measures to saveguard fairness and public services available for everyone are not decided on European level yet. They are national, regional or even local competences.

If you want to change that then promote the change of the EU treaties and EU competences. As long as this is not done it is simply unfair to attack the PES on this.

In my eyes the PES - especially with the letter to the ELDR - is doing Europe and the further development of Europe a great favour in ensuring that Europe's societies remain fair and full of chances and full of rights for everyone. This has to be decided and promoted on the competence level where it currently can be decided and promoted - and like it or not - at the moment these issues are mainly a national competence.

Or should we give up all achievements of the past decades just because they belong to a policy area which is no European competence yet? I am a convinced European but - like it or not - as a consequence of the current competences, an EU-wide trivial solution simply cannot be the answer to everything. And certainly not to the question of public services.

With kind regards,


Julien Frisch said...


thank you very much for your comment, I appreciate the open debate and the fact that you take the time to react on my post.

I don't blame the PES for the problems our Union has, that is not my goal.

I am not even one of those ideologically driven supporters of markets just for the sake of having a market.

But I am convinced that the idea of a European market is closely connected to the ideal of a European society. The European market encompasses the four (since 2007: five) freedoms, only because there are these freedoms (with a lot of shortcomings, still) across borders I can feel European, because it means I am free to go around, to send things around, to offer my hands, my brain, and my heart to other places within this Union, for the better of my personal life and for the better of the EU.

Everything that hinders cross-border movement, business, education, healthcare, transportation etc. is against these freedoms, and I had the feeling that your letter seemed to ignore this basic success (again: with a lot of shortcomings) of the European Union.

I have no problems to discuss a more social Europe, a Europe that doesn't leave those behind that are not (yet) favoured by the possibilities it offers. But I also don't want to play Europeans against Europeans, because the well-being of Romanians in not less and not more important than the well-being of the French, so if a company wants to move production from one country to the other or if an individual person wants to change her/his residence, than no worn-out idea of national pride should prevent them to go where they think they can develop the best.

Yes, this has to be done under human conditions - you might say on the basis of solidarity - and I would have expected that you'd say something more elaborated on this in your letter.

So to finish my comment: My reaction was not based on a critique on what PES has or hasn't done in the past, it was rather disappointment because your letter was not enthusiastically European and positively social, but it was negative and without much concrete proposals on how a social Union should look if you are against what ELDR proposes.

With high appreciation,