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Symbolfoto: Olaf Scholz
02.03.2024 | Rom

Rede anlässlich des PES Election Congress

Dear Comrades,
Dear Socialists and Democrats from all over Europe,
Cari Amici,

Thanks for the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you. But first, I would like to thank our host, Elly Schlein, for having us here in Rome today and for bringing us together at a challenging time for Europe.

These days, much of what we thought was safe in Europe is at stake. The far right is on the rise – in almost all of our countries and throughout democracies around the world. Right-wing populists are running election campaigns against our united Europe and its core values. What they try to undermine is that our national states can and will only be strong in a united Europe!

We live in a world of 8, soon 10 billion people. Economies in Asia, Latin America and Africa are rising. These continents demand more political influence – and they have every right to do so. In order to maintain our impact, in order to be heard in this changing world, Europeans must act together.

The strongest national interest of all member states is a strong European Union.

The European economy must prove its competitiveness in this rapidly changing world. The European social market economy remains a unique model of success in the world. However, the rising cost of living is hurting many people. And the pace and depth of the ongoing transformation leads many of our citizens to ask themselves: Where is my place in all of this? Will this end well for me and my family?

The war in Ukraine adds to this uncertainty.

The largest country in Europe attacked the second largest country on our continent – based on pure imperialism. Two years ago, I called this a Zeitenwende.

But: Borders must not be changed through the use of violence

This core principle of international law, this cornerstone of security in Europe was a result of the hard work of social democratic leaders like Olof Palme, Willy Brandt, François Mitterand or Helmut Schmidt.

And this principle must be uphold. We must uphold it. This is our task.

The war in Ukraine ends the moment that President Putin decides to withdraw his troops. However, he will only take that decision if he realizes that he can’t make any gains on the battlefield – that he can’t dictate an unjust peace. Therefore, our ongoing support for Ukraine is key to restoring peace in Europe.

And I am grateful that many European leaders heeded our calls to do more so that Ukraine doesn’t run out of money, weapons and ammunition.

At the same time, everyone at our meeting on Monday in Paris clearly reaffirmed that NATO and none of our countries will become a party to this war. We will not send European soldiers to Ukraine! We don’t want a war between Russia and NATO – and we will do all we can to prevent it.

This requires us to invest more in our own security and defence – jointly, as Europeans – so that no one dares to attack us. Jointly also means that we must put narrow self-interests aside and build a strong and truly European defence industry. This will be one of the major tasks for the EU after the upcoming elections.

At the same time, we must not lose sight of the world around us.

I already mentioned the tectonic changes that we are currently experiencing.

They are calling for a new cooperation between Europe and the Global South. Citizens in Asia, Africa and Latin America have every right to enjoy the same level of prosperity that we are already enjoying, here in Europe. However, we all know that building that prosperity with the fossil technologies of the past will make our planet uninhabitable.

It is in our best interest to establish true partnerships with countries of the Global South to help them transform their energy systems and grow their economies in a sustainable way. We have what it takes: the knowledge, the technologies, and the political will.

A new partnership between North and South could also help us restore the belief in multilateralism and a rules-based international system. A belief that has been shattered – here in Europe and elsewhere.

For this to succeed, we must remain focused on our generational goal – namely to create the conditions for a strong European economy free of fossil fuels.
The entire world invests in new technologies and production processes, in clean energy and a digital future, but also in better infrastructure such as railway networks, roads or hydrogen pipelines.

And it is good that Europe doesn’t watch this from the sideline.

During one of the biggest economic crisis, we invented the greatest common European investment program ever. We held Europe together when the pandemic struck - in contrast to what conservative leaders did when the Euro was put into question ten years earlier. Hence, we have to build upon this experience and finish the job: Primarily this means unlocking the full potential of our common financial market to finance the transformation towards climate neutrality.

We have to become serious to complete the banking and the capital markets union. Doing so in a social democratic manner means that we need to put an end to unfair tax competition and avoidance by large companies in our common market. The deal on minimum taxation that we already achieved needs to be the basis for a future common corporate tax base throughout Europe!

And, of course, we will continue our fight for fair wages, for workers’ rights and for affordable housing in the EU. 

A few weeks ago, we also made progress on an issue that has divided us for far too long: We agreed on a European Pact on Migration. It combines solidarity with responsibility, it ensures better control of our European borders and at the same time, we are not losing sight of those who come to us in need of protection.
That is what makes a difference between us and many other parties in Europe.

We keep fighting for humanity and solidarity – worldwide and within our own borders. Because these are our European values. Values that make Europe a unique place in the world.

Humanity and solidarity are two traits that I also associate with our Spitzenkandidat – with you, Nico Schmit.

Unforgotten is Nicolas’ resolve to protect jobs during the pandemic.

  • Thanks to him, we have a directive on fair minimum wages in Europe
  • Thanks to him, we have we have an action plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights.
  • Thanks to him, we have a European Child guarantee that gives every child in Europe access to basic social services.

Such improvements that we, as social democrats, are fighting for have one common denominator. And that common denominator is called respect.
Respect for the people who go to work every day. Respect for people who rely on a functioning and secure welfare state in times of need. Respect for different lifestyles, beliefs, origins and cultures that make up the diversity in which we Europeans live.

As social democrats, we are united in the certainty that we can shape a better future. Let us fight for that future and against those who want to take us back into the past. Let us fight for our vision of a fair and peaceful future. A future that lies in a united Europe.

Grazie mille!