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Europe

Socialists Aim to Win Big

The Socialist political group lost ground to conservatives in 1999 European Parliament (EP) elections. They’re determined to once more form the largest parliamentary group in the body after polls in June.

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Hoping the Socialists come out on top: German EP member Schulz

They share many of the same principles, but when it comes to details the Party of European Socialists (PES) find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. The PES, the second largest political group in the European Parliament with 232 members (MEPs) of 786, is made up of Social Democrats, moderate Socialists and traditional workers' parties. Their individual party platforms range from backing the market economy to espousing nationalizing means of production.

That means they don’t always agree on issues and even end up supporting opposing standpoints sometimes. Germany's governing Social Democrats, for example, have implemented savings and reform policies similar to the ones pursued by the conservative French government that the Social Democrats there oppose.

Keeping the discordant PES parties together is difficult, German MEP and deputy PES leader Martin Schulz told Deutsche Welle. Still, he said the group does manage to act relatively cohesively, although the right and left wings of the PES must often make compromises. They do, however, agree on essentials: that competition and growth should go hand in hand with social responsibility, that the EU needs a constitution and that European integration should be improved. Though the MEPs themselves are also must resist pressure from home to further integration.

"In the various political groups the national governments still influence the MEPs, who are often not seen as European Union parliamentarians committed to integration but as envoys from their countries," Schulz said.

Getting back on top

For more than 50 years the European Social Democratic and Socialist parties have been aligned, and, until the last EP election when they were surpassed by the conservative European People's Party, they had the most seats in the parliament. Now the PES group aims to once more become the largest in European elections in June.

The group is hopeful that the EU expansion will help tip the scales in their favor during elections. But PES member parties are campaigning separately, since MEPs are elected representing national parties instead of EP groups. Thus the PES’ platform is limited to general principles to which all the members agree.

That means it's difficult to predict the results of the elections. The German Social Democrats, who are suffering from low popularity, can expect to do worse in the election. Spain's Socialists, on the other hand, are likely to gain seats thanks to their recent victory in Spanish parliamentary elections.

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