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Symbolfoto: Olaf Scholz
19.04.2023 | Lissabon

Rede anlässlich des 50. Jahrestags der Partido Socialista

Dear António Costa,
dear Carlos César,
dear Jaime Gama,
dear Felipe Gonzáles,
dear friends,

I could talk at length about the achievements of your party, the PS, in the past 50 years.

  • About the visionary, indeed heroic role, that it played in re-establishing democracy in Portugal.
  • About the history linking our two parties – about former prime minister and president Mário Soares who founded the PS in exile in Bad Münstereifel and about his close ties to former chancellors Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt.
  • I could talk about the PS shaping the future of Portugal and leading the country longer than any other party  in its democratic history.
  • I could also talk about your more recent successes. About you, António, the longest serving EU Head of Government from our party family . 

Or about your third re-election last year, where you won an absolute parliamentary majority. That alone is impressive. 

After that election you said: “An absolute majority is not synonymous with absolute power.” 

What an example of democratic leadership! 

Dear friends,
These are just some of your many achievements to be proud of. 
Achievements we are rightly celebrating today.
And yet, others might be better placed than me to put them into perspective. After all, I am not a historian, but a politician.
What I find remarkable though is that all these successes have one thing in common. They might lie in the past. But they are all linked to the future.
Mário Soares, Jaime Gama and their supporters didn’t fight for Portugal to remain what it was. 
They believed in what Portugal could become: a free and democratic society, an open and prosperous economy, a country firmly anchored in the family of European states. 
And they delivered. 

The same can be said about the PS under your leadership today, Carlos and António. 
We are experiencing a turn of tides. 

  • The world of the 21st century will undoubtedly be multi-polar – with new powers emerging – or rather re-emerging – in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  • And at the same time, the transformation towards a digital and a climate-neutral world calls for nothing less than a second industrial, economic and technological revolution.

And yet, there is nothing to be afraid of, if we are willing to embrace the future. 
When we opened the Hannover fair together last year, António, you said: “The twin transformation is the first structural change for which we are well prepared.” 

And you are right. 
The European Commission tells us that Portugal is the best prepared EU country to meet our climate goals in 2030. 
You pioneered the transfer to renewable energy. Because you realized the enormous potential it bears for a country like Portugal.
Far-sightedly, you invested in projects such as the port of Sines [sprich: Sinesch] that can play a critical role in Europe’s hydrogen future.
You also embraced the digital economy early on. 

I referred to it last year in Hannover when I mentioned the perfect combination between “surfboard and smartphone”, but also the good investment climate that attracts digital nomads and start-ups from all over the world to come to Portugal.
This is what turned your country into the fastest growing economy of the European Union last year. 
Those achievements are no random coincidence. 
They are the result of progressive political leadership. 
Leadership from a party that embraces the future. That doesn’t perceive change as a threat, but as an opportunity to improve things and to grow.
This, dear friends, is what turned the history of the PS into a success story for Portugal and for Europe as a whole.
This promise – that the future is open, that we can improve it – is what unites us as Social Democrats across Europe and the world.
And at the same time, it sets us apart from those who are in love with the status quo. 

And even more so from those who try to sell our citizens some nostalgic dream about the “good old times” which weren’t so good after all. 
Nostalgia doesn’t win the future.
And that is why our progressive parties are needed more than ever in the big transformation that we are embarking on. 

Dear friends,
one more element is crucial here.
No matter how hard the wind of change blows – we are leaving no one behind.
That is where “hope” meets “change” – and that is the part the neoliberals never understood. 
Part of your party’s legacy is the creation of a functioning welfare state, of rising wages and good educational opportunities. 
Our job today is to make these achievements future-proof. 
Because solidarity is not an impediment to the transformation ahead. But its very foundation. 
This is true for our individual countries. And this is also true for Europe and the world.

  • When the pandemic hit Europe, we agreed on the “Next Generation EU” package. 

Today, we can say that our economies have been stabilized, indeed they bounced back – thanks to this great display of European solidarity.

  • We also won’t forget last fall, when Russia suddenly cut most of its gas exports to Europe. 

Back then, all EU members agreed to reduce their energy consumption – including Portugal, even though you didn’t even import any gas from Russia at the time. 

  • And, of course, we stood united, when Russia brutally attacked its neighbour, Ukraine, and violated the principles, peace in Europe and the world are built on: sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-violence, the right of self-determination and the respect for human rights and international law. 

Europe’s reaction was to move together even closer. 
Portugal – geographically further apart from the war zone than any other EU country – welcomed more Ukrainian refugees than many others. 

We also didn’t shy away from taking difficult decisions. We are delivering powerful arms to help Ukraine defend its freedom against the Russian invader. 

(And I won’t forget who walked the talk when we decided to deliver battle tanks in January, António.
 Once again it was your country that stood by our side, that led by example .)  
And so, it comes as no surprise that it is also a Portuguese social democrat who keeps reminding us of our global responsibility to address the consequences of Russia’s imperialistic war.
We owe it to António Guterres’ commitment that the initial blockade of grain exports from Ukraine has been lifted. 
This literally saved thousands of people from starvation.
For many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America Russia’s war translates into food and energy scarcity as well as rising debt levels. 

If we want these countries to help us defend the rules-based world order against the return of the law of the stronger, we need to take their concerns as seriously as our own.
Or as Willy Brandt famously put it in his Nobel Lecture in 1971: It is our task to move “from sacred national egoism to a European and global domestic policy which feels responsible for ensuring that man everywhere has an existence worthy of human dignity.”
This task might be even more relevant today – in our multipolar world – than it was back then.
So, as a token of 50 years of friendship between our parties,
as a reminder that progress and solidarity go hand in hand,
and with the kindest greetings also from the presidents of my party, Saskia Esken and Lars Klingbeil, 
I would like to hand over this picture of Willy Brandt to you, António. 
Thanks to all of you for our positive, trusting cooperation!
Thanks for being allies in facing and embracing the future!

This is what makes the PS one of the most successful and strongest social democratic parties in Europe!

Congratulations and “os meus parabéns”