Poul Nyrup Rasmussen
For Social Democrats, it is not only a question of responding to the effects of globalisation but also of managing globalisation for the benefit of everyone. Our societies need reform—and so does globalisation. Here European Social Democrats have a unique role. Our ability to combine a free market economy with a caring society in the coming years and decades will be watched carefully throughout the world. Workers from China to Brazil are hoping that the Social Europe will prove to be a dynamic model that brings them hope and eventually benefits. The European Union itself is in danger of being seen as part of the threat of globalisation—if it liberalises markets without bringing new social guarantees. We are convinced, however, that Europe has the potential to be a central part of the answer to the challenges of globalisation. One precondition is the closer integration of our political families. There is a growing danger that the integration process will be adversely affected when citizens are confronted with the results of European policies. Political parties need the coordination of answers, of strategies, of ideologies. What are the challenges Europe as a whole faces today? How can European Parties help to meet these challenges? Some of them are effects of fundamental global change: the ever closer integration of the global economy, which clearly calls for strong and democratic elements of global governance; the new threats to security such as terrorism and organised crime; environmental threats, and in particular, climate change; and the increase in poverty and in the unequal distribution of wealth worldwide. There are at the same time internal European challenges: in particular, the rapidly changing demographic structure of most European states; the effects of the structural change from industrial production to a knowledge based economy; the social, economic and political consequences of the political revolution of 1989/90; and sluggish economic growth.
European citizens can expect clear choices for Europe’s future In Europe there are many people on the Left who have resigned themselves to the effects of globalisation and demographic change. Nation states, it seems, can no longer protect their citizens against social dumping and the sellout of their social standards. National policies, however, can clearly make a difference. Sweden, for instance, has a much better record in fighting unemployment than Germany. Denmark’s labour market is more flexible than France’s. Globalisation should not be an excuse for a lack of political imagination and initiative. It is true that the ability of nation states to manage globalisation and demographic change is limited. There can be no doubt that the single European market offers a chance to maintain the European social model, while being competitive and dynamic at the same time. Europe is sufficiently strong to deal with the effects of new challenges like globalisation. Yet it has to act in a united and effective way. Europe has to deliver on jobs, growth and stability. It lacks, however, the means of achieving these objectives. Neither its current institutional structure nor the political objectives of the European Union favour coherent policies. Reform might prove difficult after the referenda in France and the Netherlands. The ‘No’ to the draft European constitution demonstrated unmistakably that without its citizens’ support, reform of the European Union is impossible. Here European political parties come into the picture. I am convinced that strong political parties at the European level are essential for overcoming the European Union’s current problem of legitimacy. Europe can only work if a sufficient number of citizens understand and support the way it works. This is not a question of information or communication. It is about democracy, about choice, about transparency and about familiar lines of political arguments. Political choice is essential for a democratic institution. This is what transnational European parties have to ensure: Europe’s citizens have to
Volume 3 - Spring 2006
European View_Transnational parties and european democracy