Progressive Caucus’s* MEPs, Guillaume Balas (S&D), Georgi Pirinski (S&D) and Dimitris Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL, vice-President of the European Parliament), participated at the ‘Progressive Forum in Greece’ event, which took place in Athens (16-17 March 2018).
During the forum academics, representatives of progressive political initiatives and think-tanks, representatives of parties and the European Left, the European Socialists and the European Greens, exchanged thoughts and proposals. Among them were MEPs Ska Keller (co-president of the Greens/EFA) and Ana Gomes (Portuguese Socialist Party, S&D).
Guillaume Balas participated in a discussion about “The Pillars of a New Europe” during which he stressed the importance of restoring the values of “democracy, social justice and ecology” to a Europe “facing the dangers of its disintegration”. “Progressive forces in Europe must be the first opponent against Macron-Merkel plans“, he said, praising the Progressive Caucus’s actions in the European Parliament, “involving MEPs from three different political families, the Social Democrats, the Left and the Greens”.
The debate on “A Progressive Alliance for another Europe” was attended by MEPs Dimitris Papadimoulis and Georgi Pirinksi.
Dim. Papadimoulis, stressing the need to deepen the progressive forces’ cooperation, wondered “why not proceed to a large, leftist progressive group in the European Parliament that will be itself -and not the far right- the rival against neoliberalism?”. “I do not know if we will achieve it by 2019, but this goal must be put to ourselves”, he continued, calling “not through electoral goals but through a political, serious, ideological, organizational effort, to reinvent the term of the new Left“. “The idea of a political unification of Europe with democratic, social and growth-friendly characteristics is, in my opinion, the most left and progressive proposal“, SYRIZA’s MEP noted.
G. Pirinski called on the progressive forces “to find ideas that can work as unifying one that can convince the European citizens to vote in 2019“. “We need to do more than we can to be broadly represented in the next European Parliament”, he said. “On the one hand, Macron, trying to” reinvent neo-liberalism, on the other hand the forces of the populist center-right, starting to put social issues on their agenda, try to win the citizens. At the same time the extreme right tries to exploit citizens’ dissatisfaction, fear or anger”, he said.
At the same discussion, Ska Keller, co-president of the Greens/EFA, appreciated that the issue of Europe is the fundamental issue of politics and politicians today and continued: “Europe is the battleground for progressive politics, it is the battlefield for the progressive ideas we want to defend. All the broader left forces will have to turn to Europe, and has already chosen it as a battleground”, she said.
Socialist MEP Ana Gomes, in the meantime, referred to the experience of Portugal, where “there was a union of the Left and we put aside our differences“. “The right was wrong, there was an alternative and we showed it, while respecting the European commitments, giving many people what the right forces had cut off –wages, social benefits, and above all the certainty that also provokes investments and the creation of jobs in Portugal”. “We also have public investments, because of the security in the internal market”, she said.
The international conference followed the footsteps of the “1st European Forum of Progressive Forces” (Marseille, November 2017) and the Progressive Caucus (in the European Parliament).
The participants focused on the political axes of convergence for the progressive ideas in Europe, on the opportunities, challenges and limitations on the way to the next European elections, and on the overcoming of fragmentation of progressive forces opposing neoliberalism.
The conference closed with a keynote speech by the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras.