The divisions that have rocked the Socialist Party in France will strike a familiar chord in leftist numerous parties in Europe. After years of enjoying varying degrees of success, notably in the UK, European socialists are facing difficult times. And that malaise is not helping the French opposition. Dominique Moisi at the French Institute for Foreign Relations said: “They have given a terrible image of themselves by giving precedence to personal rivalries over national unity and the party. Whoever is secretary general after these elections is extremely weak, extremely discredited, and is confronting a very strong French president.”Many of the parties on the left in Europe have been having a hard time in the polls, with internal disputes making headlines. Labour in Britain, the SPD in Germany and the Democratic Party in Italy have been among those struggling. 33 Socialist, Social Democratic and Labour parties make up the Party of European Socialists, which forms a parliamentary group in the European Parliament. Here too, though, the left has been accused of not uniting in the face of the financial crisis. MEP Thijs Berman, who is in the Socialist Group at the European Parliament, said: “Clearly it’s a problem to do with European socialism. There are those in Europe – and here I’m simplifying a lot, using caricatures – who believe that we can use national solutions to attack global problems. And there are those who say no, there are European solutions. We must cooperate. We have to have flexible laws to attack concrete problems. There’s a kind of socialism that’s stuck on radical ideas, in the face of a kind of socialism that’s trying to modernise, and the French socialist party is not in the clear.” In 2000, socialists or social democrats led 11 EU governments. But now there are just four – Spain, Britain, Portugal and Austria.
Challenging times for European socialists