2013 will be the year that Europeans decide that the EU is a democracy not a technocracy

Je, 03/01/2013 - 16:51

Happy New Year to everyone. The spirit of New Year is one of new resolve, new commitments and a new sense of optimism. As with New Year resolutions, often these sentiments fade quickly. But this year I think the situation will be very different. The resolve of socialists and democrats all across Europe is very high, as is our commitment to a new kind of European Union. I am confident that the progressives across Europe will follow through on their resolutions, not just for January, not just for the spring, but the whole year long. 2013 will be the year that Europeans decide that the EU is a democracy not a technocracy.

2013 is a vital year for the European Union and for all Europeans. It is also a year of crucial elections, the results of which may set the tone of EU development for a generation. The Italians will get a chance to exercise their democratic rights in February, followed in March by the Maltese. The Croatian electorate will have an opportunity to select their first members of the European Parliament at the start of July. My own country, Bulgaria, goes to the polls in a general election later the same month.

After the summer break there is a proverbial return with a bang, with September witnessing elections in Austria and, of course, perhaps one that could have the biggest influence on EU development, the general elections in Germany.

Outside the EU we will have general elections in Iceland, Albania and Norway. 

We cannot underestimate the impact of these national elections on the European political landscape. This is why I am honoured to lead our common project in the run up to the 2014 European elections. The EU is more than the sum of its Member States: it is a democratic and economic reference inside and outside its borders. This year, we need to work together at every level to ensure that the EU also becomes a reference of progress across the globe. Each national election, each battle won, must be a step towards 2014 and towards a more united, progressive and social Europe.

This series of elections, from Italy to Germany, will define our shared project, our European Union. One of the best advantages you can have in politics is to have momentum. With strong momentum each step becomes easier. The Italian elections will give us the momentum to make 2013 ‘the year of European progress’.

I have confidence in that momentum because I have confidence in Pier Luigi Bersani and his Democratic Party (PD). The Italian centre-left coalition composed of the PD, the PSI, Sinistra and Liberta for the next elections in February is a strong one.

In February Pier Luigi will give the Italian people a credible and democratic choice – a choice that has been missing from Italian politics for far too long. It is the democratic choice, because the bond between Government and people is the lifeblood of any system of governance - lose that bond and you lose the sense of accountability. And a credible choice because for too long Italians have been subjected to the politics of buffoonery - a diet of stale bread and empty circuses.

So in February we will see Italy turn to the Democratic Party for answers. No doubt, shrill voices in the markets will squeal and complain, as they always have, but the wiser voices, those who still believe that a financial sector should always serve the real economy, will prevail. We will prevail because of that new spirit of resolve to make the economy start working for ordinary people.

That spirit is reflected in all our candidates. Joseph Muscat in Malta, and my friend Peer Steinbrück in Germany. We all share that new drive and purpose.

That resolve will see us through the year, and with your help, will allow us to have a renewed progressive mandate in Vienna, in Oslo and new progressive Governments in Rome, in Valletta, in Sofia, and of course, in Berlin. These voices will come together in the European Council and join with friends from Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Slovakia, Romania and France to start building a foundation for a new European Union built on shared strengths.

With the renewed passion and belief of our progressive family, there is a real case for optimism that the concerns of millions of Europeans will finally be addressed. And those concerns must be addressed because Europe has reached crisis point. Five years suffering from economic crisis is too long. This has been a period that has scarred millions of lives. Unemployment has burdened a great many families and blighted a great many futures. People have watched with ever growing frustration as Conservative politicians have preached the same message of austerity, shrunken services, and unfair sacrifice.

Now is the time for each and every citizen who holds that burgundy coloured EU passport in their hand to say enough is enough. It is time for each person who has the right to vote to say; “Europe was built on united we stand and not divide and rule”. It is time for every European to remind those Conservative politicians who have literally ruined lives with their decisions, to say that, to work, the European Union must be a democracy not a technocracy.

Here is to a successful, and social democratic, year.