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The party of European socialists and the identity of European social democracy

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  1. Introduction: Background and brief historical overview of the PES' development
  2. PES' function as a catalyst
  3. It's role in the emergence of a common social democratic identity at the European level
  4. Tony Blair: Success in driving a major turnout for the European social democracy
  5. A role constrained by the institutional features of the EU party politics
  6. The evolution of the PES
  7. Case study: An attempt to shed light on the French Socialist ?no? to the Constitutional Treaty
    1. Europeanized campaign
    2. Pro/Anti-EU or Left/Right cleavage?
  8. Conclusions
  9. Bibliography

The question wether there is currently something that can be called the crisis of social-democracy is arguable: after all, social-democractic and socialist parties are still the counterpart of Conservatives and Christian-democrats, sharing alternaltively government responsibilities at national level as well as in the European Parliament. Nevertheless the major transformations of the last 25 years, namely the acceleration of both globalization and Europeanization has upset the core of both the Social Democratic ideology and policies: the central role of the Welfare State. Thus, socialist politicians have to face the hegemony of the neo-liberal ideology and the fundamentally liberal nature of the European project based on the single market. Besides, the ideological debate on the political meaning of choices made for the economic governance in Europe tends to be watered down by the genuine weakness of party politics in the EU institutional constellation. Regarding this background, how has the social-democratic movement developped at European level?
The first step draws back to 1974 with the creation of the Confederation of the Socialist Parties (CSP) of the European Community related to the coming first direct election of the Assembly of the EC in 1979. At this early stage, the CSP was a very weak entity: on the organisational level, its was little more than appendices of the national parties ; while on the ideological level it was devided on the issue of European integration as a consequence of the Northern enlargement and the membership of the British, Danish and Irish Labour parties . With the introduction of Article 138 A in the Treaty of Maastricht and the recognition of the positive role of European political parties regarding the progress of integration, the CSP became the Party of European Socialists (PES): the new orgnization was meant to perform a better linkage function between all the components of the Social-democratic movement in Europe on the one hand, and to provide for a common ideological platform on the other hand . In 1995, the statutes of the PES changed again to bring more supranationalism as accounted by the introduction of decision-making by qualified majority voting. Given the PES' ambitions, this paper will try to explain to what extent the PES performs the function of a catalyst for a common identity of European Social Democracy. In this respect, it will first enlarge on the elements accounting for the emergence of a common ideology, going then to the institutional constraints affecting the role of the PES; finally, there will be an analysis of the meaning of the rejection of the Constitutional treaty by the left-wing of the French Socialist Party and its electorate for the topic at stake.

[...] Conclusions This paper argued that the PES is playing an increasing role in reflecting an emerging cohesive identity of the European Social Democracy, without being able to shape it, though, because of its institutional weakness and the strong intergovernmental dimension of EU party politics outside the European Parliament. The case of the division of the French Socialists on the Constitutional Treaty last year seems to confirm these assumptions. First, on the institutional level, the French campaign exhibits a new European dimension with the involvement of European Socialist leaders and even of other European parties. [...]

[...] Party of European Socialists (PES) brings together the Socialist, Social Democratic and Labour Parties of the European Union (EU). Its aims include: the strengthening of the socialist and social democratic movement in the Union and throughout Europe; the development of close working relationships between the national parties, the national parliamentary groups, the Parliamentary Group of the PES, PES Women, ECOSY, and other socialist and social democratic organisations; the definition of common policies for the European Union; the adoption of a common manifesto for elections to the European Parliament?. [...]

[...] The PES as an actor fostering the move towards transnational politics and a European Social Democracy : As accounted for by its statutes, it is clear that the PES plays a role in the emergence of a common social-democratic identity at European level. Indeed, one of its primary functions is the agreement on policy orientations in manifestos for the European elections (see footnote 3). The 1999 PES manifesto was prepared by the Brit R.Cook together with the French H.Nallet and puts four main issues forward: Europe for jobs and growth, a Europe that puts citizens first, a strong Europe, a democratic Union that works better?. [...]

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