April 22. 2024. 5:02

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Schmit elected as lead candidate for Commission top job, pledging respect, EU values and combatting the right

European Labour Commissioner Nicolas Schmit was elected with a large majority as the lead candidate for the European Social Democrats ahead of the June European elections at the Party of European Socialists (PES) congress in Italy on Saturday (2 March).

PES proposes that Schmit take over the leadership of the European Commission, replacing the incumbent President Ursula von der Leyen after this summer’s European Parliament vote.

During his speech at the congress, Schmit reiterated his defence of European values and said combatting the shift to the right in Europe is one of his main goals.

“The best answer to the far right is our vision and our project for Europe so that every citizen and every child can have a better life,” he said, adding he wants respect and not hatred.

He also discussed the importance of having a European defence and security policy as it is time “we as Europeans must take matters into our own hands.”

Schmit was Labour Minister in the Luxembourg government for several years before becoming the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights in 2019.

However, Schmit remains relatively low-profile, something that has caused concerns as the left continues to suffer and polls predict a far-right surge in the next European Parliament.

But Germany’s leading Social Democrat candidate, Katarina Barley, said Schmit was the candidate best suited to social democracy, adding, “he is a trained diplomat and someone who is absolutely sure-footed on the international stage.”

Centre-right wrestling Socialists for first place in Portugal, Romania: EU elections projection

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is close to overtaking the socialists in their two strongholds, Romania and Portugal, according to the latest EU elections projection by Europe Elects for Euractiv. And there are other interesting changes in party rankings in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.

But not everyone was convinced.

Schmit discussed the far-right and left division, stating, “We will fight those who propagate hatred and division in our societies, those who feed fears and prepare the return of nationalism (…) The normalisation of the extreme right, as we have seen in the Netherlands, is dangerous and irresponsible”, Schmit added.

From Fratelli d’Italia (ECR), Senator Michele Barcaiuolo spoke of ‘unacceptable’ words.

“Perhaps Schmit needs to find time to take a course, beginner level, in political history. He would start to worry once he realises that the only extremisms now in Europe are those ‘green’ follies espoused by his own Pes”, the senator replied.

The EPP was also not impressed with one official asking Euractiv, “What about the possible return of Joseph Muscat as a commissioner? Someone should ask them about that.”

Muscat resigned as Maltese prime minister in 2020 following nationwide protests over his links to individuals accused of involvement in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. He is also currently under investigation for allegedly receiving money from a fraudulent hospital’s public-private partnership.

He was awarded OCCRP Most Corrupt Person of the Year 2019 but is rumoured to be heading back to politics, this time at the EU level, via the Maltese Labour Party (PES).

(Alice Taylor | Euractiv.com)

Read more with Euractiv

Hunt for Baader-Meinhof fugitives intensifies in Berlin

Hunt for Baader-Meinhof fugitives intensifies in Berlin

German police briefly detained several people on Sunday (3 March) in Berlin during a manhunt for two members of the far-left militant Baader-Meinhof gang, who have been on the run for more than 30 years.

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