So far, Alexis Tsipras is the sole official candidate for the presidency of the European Commission – the Party of the European Left has accepted during its convention the relevant nomination. It is all but certain that the Socialists and the Democrats of Europe (it’s a funny distinction, isn’t it?) will be appointing their own candidate on 1 March, namely the German, current president of the European Parliament, and leader of SPD’s European ballot.
On the other hand, the conservatives, who are also scheduled to reach a decision in March, are having a row because Merkel does not support Juncker, while Barnier (the other available nominee) is a very weak candidate. It’s being speculated that Schulz’s name is part of the agreement between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats for the formation of a coalition government in Germany; if confirmed, the likelihood of his appointment as president is strong, coming as it will be with the support of the German government.
The citizens of the member-states in the Union will this year have for the first time the opportunity, in addition to the election of the members of the European Parliament, to express their opinion regarding the president of the Commission by voting for the list of the party supporting each candidate. This is going to be a non-binding opinion, however, since the actual person will be selected through inter-state and inter-party bargaining, even though its expression on the part of hundreds of millions of citizens is not without any political significance. The reason, you see, is that the different candidates also represent different political trends and points of view on the question of Europe’s future course.
To the Greek voters, what might be of importance is that for the first time one of them, a fellow Greek, is running for such a key Union office. Still more important will prove, however, and only more fairly, what each candidate represents regarding the Union’s course as well as its policy towards our country. So, Martin Schulz has visited here a number of times and has stated his opinions about the Union’s Greek policy. The first time that his statements were given ample publicity was in the spring of 2012. He had at the time made an appearance as an agent of the Troika and the Memorandum. One of his arguments then, during a meeting with Alexis Tsipras, was that he had personally defeated the objections within his party during the time of voting in the Bundestag of the “assistance package” – the lifesaver made of lead, as it was characterized by a Die Linke member of parliament. Indeed, they say in Germany, he spent great and successful energies in order to contain the objections raised by social-democrat members of parliament who argued, in tune with the European Left, that the package amounted to a salvation deal for the big European bankers and not for the average citizens of Greece. At the time, his statements, made right at the entrance of the Greek House of Parliament, had with great clarity expressed the position that any resistance against the policies of the Memoranda was in vein – statements which the pro-Memorandum parties made use of against the Left. Currently too, when even the president of the European Socialists, Austria’s Swoboda, in a delayed fashion, as rightly pointed out by Nikos Houndis, is talking in terms of a “phased” (meaning when, exactly?) cancellation of the Troika on the grounds that it is under no democratic control, Martin Schulz has avoided to support that request. He is, therefore, a tested Merkelist, and any speculation that he will be in the end endorsed by the iron lady in Berlin is anything but unfounded.
In all likelihood, in the European elections there will be, viz. the office of the president of the Commission, two ballots. On the one hand, the Schulz ballot, signifying the continuation of the same disastrous course to both the construction of a united Europe as well as the Greek policy of the Union. In Greece, this ballot will be represented – both if they end up running together or separately – by PASOK, DIMAR, and the newly founded ‘Progressive Democratic Camp’, with the stipulation to be joined by New Democracy if Social Democrats and Conservatives actually form a pact in Europe. Opposite that will be the Tsipras ballot, represented in Greece by the ballot of SYRIZA, making a 180-degree turn: an immediate termination of the crisis-recycling austerity, an orchestrated re-invigoration of the Euro-zone economies, a growth combined with the ecological transformation of production, and the leading role given to the working people and not to the bankers; this latter is to be accompanied by full, steady and decently rewarded employment, democracy and complete political equality for the member-states of the Union, a European immigration policy based on the framework of a “double European solidarity.” i.e., outwardly, via an enhanced assistance for the indigenous growth of the countries of origin, and, at the same time, inwardly, via a fair distribution of all economic immigrants and refugees in the European Union, and their smoother integration into the countries of destination, beginning with a revision or recast of the Dublin II Regulation. Finally, the SYRIZA ballot implies a new European system of security, based on negotiation, on a methodic decrease in armaments, and on a peace-loving, non-milititarist policy towards third-party states.
That is the dilemma. And when the Secretary of DIMAR, by amending a previous statement, announces that his party will not be supporting the Tsipras candidacy because it has decided to participate with the European Socialists and Democrats, meaning the party of Martin Schulz, he should be taking sides regarding that dilemma, instead of jockeying with Venizelos in the race for earning Schultz’s favor.
The text was published in Greek at Avgi on 28 January.