22 February 2018
Progressive local leaders are key to engaging citizens in EU politics

Progressive local leaders are key to engaging citizens in EU politics

'TOGETHER' event, Bruges

The PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions participated today in the  event on 'Democratic participation in the 2019 European Parliament elections', organised by the European Parliament's S&D Group at the College of Europe, in Bruges and held within the framework of the S&D's TOGETHER initiative, a fundamental reflection process on the future of the EU.

The event was opened by Kathleen Van Brempt MEP, Vice-President of the S&D Group, John Crombez, leader of the Flemish Social Democrats Party (sp.a), and Sergei Stanishev, President of the Party of European Socialists (PES). Among the key speakers were Jo Leinen MEPMargaritis Schinas, chief spokesperson of the European Commission, and Tuulia Pitkänen, Secretary General of the Young European Socialists (YES), as well as several students from the College of Europe.

The debates focused on two main topics: Improving democratic participation in the 2019 European Parliament elections, and Better protecting EU values in the era of fake news and growing populism.

Intervening on behalf of the PES Group, Yoomi Renström, Mayor of Ovanåker (Sweden), made a clear case for a bottom-up driven progressive Europe: "We strongly support the call for transnational lists for candidates to the European Parliament and an open process to select the president of the European Commission through the Spitzenkandidat system. However, in order to strengthen citizens' participation in European democracy, we need to start at local level: mobilising, creating channels of participation, proposing and discussing new ideas starts in our cities and regions. We therefore need to make sure that local politicians and local media get more knowledge about how the EU works and why it matters to citizens' daily life". 

She was joined in her call by Daniël Termont, president of EUROCITIES and Mayor of Ghent (PES/Belgium), who underlined: "Cities are in the front-line when it comes to facing a series of challenges, such as migration and growing populism, and Europe can learn a lot from them. By openly discussing with our citizens, we can lead the progressive change from the ground up and be an important driver for change."

At the end of the event, a declaration on ‘Democratic participation in the upcoming 2019 European Parliament elections’ was adopted. 

TOGETHER is a joint project by the S&D Group and its partners, including the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions, the Party of European Socialists (PES), social-democratic representatives of national parliaments, the Socialist Group in the Council of Europe, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), Global Progressive Forum (GPF), SOLIDAR, civil society and progressive NGOs. Building up to the European elections in May 2019, it encourages citizens through a series of events across Europe to contribute to this new direction for Europe.