Socialists have nominated Martin Schulz for European Commission president. The German SPD member vowed to restore jobs, optimism and fairness to Europe.
At the Party of European Socialists (PES) congress in Rome on Saturday, delegates voted 368-2 in favor of Schulz's candidacy, with 34 abstentions. The 58-year-old German SPD member will now vie to replace current European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
"My first priority as European Commission president will be jobs, good jobs," Schulz, currently the parliament's speaker, said after the vote. "I want to reduce the gap between rich and poor and between big countries and small countries," he added. "We have lost optimism about our future. I want to put fairness back at the heart of our policies."
In 2012 Schulz became speaker of the parliament, putting him on par with Barroso and European Council head Herman Van Rompuy among EU leaders.
The PES had chosen Schulz as its candidate months ago. Saturday's congress only formalized that decision. The conservative European People's Party bloc has not yet chosen a candidate.
After the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, member states must now take into account the results of the May 25 EU parliamentary elections when they pick a president for the European Commission.
"I want to become the first commission president who is not the result of a backroom deal," Schulz said.
Socialists from across the conference appeared at Saturday's congress, including new Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, at 39 the youngest EU leader, and politicians from from Austria, Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Malta and Romania. The Socialists say their program "will bring back job creation, a productive economy, a sense of community and respect for people" and call the struggle against unemployment "our first and main priority."
The platform adopted by the PES on Saturday accused the current parliamentary majority of fomenting "fear and austerity."
In an address to the congress, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said: "We have to stop the failure of the conservatives from prompting disillusionment in Europe."
mkg/dr (AFP, dpa)