The Party of European Socialists (PES) held a forum for PES activists from the 8-10 March in Budapest. This was rescheduled from the cancelled forum in Bucharest in September last year and it was good to see that they kept the location towards the east of Europe. It was my first time in the city and it was certainly a pleasant experience being there with the beautiful scenery and sights.
The forum consisted of a number of different workshops, the outcomes of which will be fed into the PES fundamental programme. The format of the workshops consisted of a number of speakers outlining their perspective on the topic following with questions from the audience. Lively discussion ensued, with thought provoking questions at all of the sessions and provided valuable insight on how PES activists could play their part in fighting for a stronger and more progressive Europe, in line with the theme of the forum which was ‘together for change’. The session topics were very pertinent and practical and you could see that the programme had been well thought out. The workshops included a variety of topics. Two notable ones were an alternative message to the far right, which I spoke on giving my experience of beating the BNP in Barking. It was interesting hearing about the different experiences and tactics used to stem the rise of the far right across Europe. The second notable workshop was about effective online campaigning and one of the speakers Tomas Spragg a UK delegate as well as Erika Mann, former German MEP and now managing director of public policy at Facebook gave very practical and useful insights into the importance of social media in campaigns and having a cohesive communications strategy.
The first PES fundamental programme will outline the PES progressive vision for the EU and will be the base of the manifesto for the European elections of 2014 and is scheduled to conclude in June 2013. This PES forum brought together more than 100 participants from over 20 countries.
As part of the weekend PES activists were invited to attend a rally of the Socialist party in Hungary MSZP. The rally highlighted a need for change from the current governmental regime. Personal accounts from Zita Gurmai MEP (President of PES Women) and other Hungarian colleagues highlighted the difficulties being faced by people who are living in extreme poverty as well as the lack of job prospects, especially for those who were known to be members of the MSZP!
There was a session with Sergei Stanishev (PES President) and he was asked a number of questions including whether the PES structure would be reformed. He also outlined that PES activists should link into their national parties who would be making recommendations for who should be the PES candidate for president of the European Commission. He also stated that leading up to the 2014 European elections the PES were looking to put forward a slim line manifesto, with a few key points that would be accessible for the public. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and useful forum.
Sanchia Alasia is a Labour Councillor for Alibon Ward in Barking and Dagenham, Equality Manager for Brunel University and a member of Labour Movement for Europe’s executive committee. Follow her on twitter: @sanchia46