The new German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, the politician who has restored the sparkle in the eyes of European Social Democracy, is sitting in the front row of the stalls. Alone, cross-legged, oblivious to the hubbub and huddles and cameras and selfies. A voice asks the attendees to take their seats. Two presenters take the stage and boast: “Despite the pandemic, politically, for a family, this has been a great year.” And so begins the convention of the European social democratic group, swollen and driven by the recent seizure of power in Berlin, and accompanied by a favorable wind that seems to be blowing in many parts of the continent.
It is 8.30 this Thursday inside a glass cube in the heart of Brussels, where the first swords of this political family in the EU have gathered: there is the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, the recently released Prime Minister of Sweden, Magdalena Andersson, and Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, who will soon face new elections; Sanna Marin, who governs Finland, has also come; and a good roster of European commissioners, MEPs and upcoming contenders in general elections, such as the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.
But most of the eyes are on this man who is still alone, in the front row, calm and with a confident gaze: Olaf Scholz, who has given a second life to the great social democratic party of the continent, something like an older brother and spiritual leader who was in the doldrums until not so long ago.
The convention kicks off and the atmosphere is bubbly and festive, it has something of the pinnacle of a great company that has just released the stratospheric results of the year, perhaps the best of the last decade, and is confident that the corporation’s shares will continue to rise. Epic music plays with air to Game of Thrones, highly epidermal promotional videos are projected, highlighting key concepts such as “equal pay”, “quality jobs”, “promoting innovation”, “education”, “giving shelter” and “fair Europe”. And they speak with great words of victories, triumphs and opportunities.
After the first bars, Scholz is already on stage, along with five other heads of government, and the presenters ask first: “What is your vision of social democracy?” The German begins in English a detailed explanation of some keys to his electoral victory, focused on the challenges posed by globalization and changes in the industry. “People wonder if they will have a decent life.” And this, he adds, “is something we have to ask ourselves.” How to modernize the industry and how those transformations will affect employment in 30 years, he says, while trying to cope with climate change.
“The second issue is respect,” he continues. “We live in societies where people are no longer sure that there is social cohesion,” and where “too many people” look to themselves. But, in his opinion, the social machinery will only work if there is that same respect and the same rights between those above and those below, between a shopkeeper and an architect, for example. “And that implies having strong support policies”, such as the minimum wage. The key, he says, is to achieve industrialization “that works for the people,” and policies that make a country “stay together.” It highlights the role of European funds against the pandemic, so different from the reaction of 2008 and 2009 to face the financial crisis. “Solidarity works,” he says, and concludes by talking about digitization and industrialization that will have to be respectful of the environment while trying to create jobs.
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There is applause: play at home, no doubt. And now it is time to speak to the Swedish Andersson, who has been in office for just two weeks, and collects the concepts that the German has already sown, about the green transition and the challenge of making those who today have a job in the industry feel that they are part of the change and they will have a vital perspective: “This is the battle of our generation.” When Sánchez speaks, the microphones melt, and he has to speak a cappella. Single words are understood: “Vaccines […] solidarity […] renewable energy”. And when the sound returns it enters the “social and territorial cohesion”. And so some leaders are passing the microphone to others, all very briefly because the European Council is about to start in another corner of the city, and they will have to leave in a few minutes.
At the end, everyone wishes Costa luck, “who brought hope back” with his victory in Portugal, but he will soon have to fight again at the polls. They dedicate a few final words to him: “I’m sure he will be successful again,” Scholz tells his Portuguese colleague. “The time of social democratic policies in Europe and in the world has returned.” And then it is time for the photo or the “¡Family photo! ”, As Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, shouts, who seems very animated as he steps up to the stage. A good handful of socialists fill the stage, but there is no time for much more: the first swords, who fight at the head of European governments, rush to reach the top, while in the room inside the cube The sparkling frenzy of huddles and selfies is back. Anne Hidalgo, for example, asks António Costa to take a photo together, while the Executive Vice President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, speaks from the podium of a movement that emerged 150 years ago, but must continue to think about the future.