There was a lot of enthusiasm and hope in the air, but also willingness to fight for a more progressive Europe as over 1,000 Party of European Socialists (PES) delegates gathered in Lisbon on 7-8 December, rallying behind Frans Timmermans, the PES leading candidate for the presidency of the next European Commission. The PES Group of the European Committee of the Regions (PES Group) participated with a delegation of local and regional progressive leaders in the PES Congress, which was hosted by Portuguese Prime Minister and former European Committee of the Regions member António Costa, and kicked off the campaign for the 2019 European elections and re-elected Sergei Stanishev, Member of the European Parliament, as PES President.
Together we can build a more #ProgressiveEurope for cities and regions too!
— PES Group CoR (@PES_CoR) December 7, 2018
The Congress was preceded on Thursday, 6 December, by the PES Women annual conference, focusing on violence against women in politics. The PES Group President Catiuscia Marini intervened, sharing her experience: “Every woman who decides to leave politics midway, not to stand for an election again or not to dare standing for an election for the first time, is a huge loss for democracy. The first weapon to respond to violence against women in politics is zero tolerance to any discriminatory or intimidating behaviour, expressed covertly or overtly, towards women. The second is to contribute to a cultural change by investing in the younger generations.”
During the debate on Friday, 7 December, President Marini and Fernando Medina, PES Group member and Mayor of Lisbon, spoke about the role of cities and regions in taking forward a truly progressive European agenda that restores peopleʼs confidence in the European project. “Truly progressive policies are clearly understood at local level as the only ones that can solve problems for our cities. Cities know that we can achieve fair, free and sustainable Europe only through a progressive agenda!” said Medina in his opening speech.
“As progressive local and regional authorities, we made a difference by promoting solidarity, equality and sustainable growth. Next year’s European elections are confronting us with two challenges: First, to convince our citizens that a strong, democratic and cohesive European Union is the best way forward. Second, to persuade them that the PES political family is the best electoral choice for them because we can make a difference in their lives. To address these challenges, progressive local and regional politicians can be fundamental,” argued President Marini during her intervention.
“Europe is not only Brussels and Strasbourg. Europe is in our cities and regions, wherever we can meet with citizens. We need to think European policies together with local and regional representatives because they are the closest to citizens,” added Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions.
On the last day, Saturday, 8 December, Frans Timmermans was officially nominated as PES leading candidate for the European elections. With a passionate speech, he set out his vision for the future of Europe, saying that only a social democratic victory at next May's European elections would secure a free, fair and sustainable society for people across Europe. “These are not ordinary elections. These elections are about the soul of Europe. We need to adapt to a changing world. We are the political force with the willingness and capacity to do this. We need to write a new social contract with Europe’s citizens.”
His ideas were also echoed by Prime Ministers António Costa and Pedro Sanchez. For António Costa, the three words that can best represent the progressives’ idea of the European Union are free, just and sustainable. Indeed, these will be the keywords guiding the PES campaign for the 2019 European elections.
The next appointment for the PES family will be in Madrid in February 2019, where the Manifesto for the European elections will be adopted. The elaboration of the Manifesto, in which the PES Group will be closely involved, will be based on the eight thematic resolutions adopted by the PES Congress and covering the following themes: economy, social Europe, youth, the environment, democracy, migration, gender equality and the international dimension.