Socialists hopeful of a majority in the European Parliament

Socialist leader Hannes Swoboda praises Joseph Muscat's leadership in tackling irregular immigration, but refuses to comment on government policies such as the controversial citizenship scheme.

S&D president Hannes Swoboda interviewed by ILLUM.
S&D president Hannes Swoboda interviewed by ILLUM.

The European Socialists are hopeful of surpassing the European People’s Party, leader Hannes Swoboda said in an exclusive interview with Sunday newspaper Illum. This contrasts with the last European Parliament results in 2009, where the conservatives beat the socialists in almost every EU member state.

“The projections are quite good at the moment. Apart from our performance, we are closely following what is happening on the right. The EPP are likely to lose seats and votes to the far-right wing due to the recent economic and migration challenges. This means that we will cut our gap with the EPP or even surpass them!” Swoboda said.

The Austrian MEP expressed his concern on the possibility that the electorate will be attracted to extreme parties and said that both the socialists and the conservatives should ensure presenting alternative policies. However, Swoboda refused to delve into detail when pressed on what the socialist’s alternative vision entailed.

Asked on whether socialism lost its identity in recent years, he admitted that the left wing had to adapt itself to address current challenges.

“I say that we regained our identity to be a political movement which is socially orientated, fighting against social inequalities. Everything has to be seen in a historical perspective, communism went too far and we needed to regain a clear social direction. The situation varies in every country, but we are aware that perhaps our identity and what defines us is not promoted enough in all the countries.” 

The leader of the European Socialists concurred that the way the EU tackled the economic crisis endangered social rights, saying that they did not believe in austerity, but rather in long-term measures such as the ‘youth guarantee’. 

“Poverty increased in many EU states despite Europe being considered as a rich continent. There are some who play down poverty statistics and point out that people still go out, dine and go on shopping sprees. They do not acknowledge that this is only the result of a split society that we’re living in. You cannot ignore the working class’ difficulties just because someone else is not affected,” Swoboda underlined.

He had words of praise towards the Maltese delegation, headed by Joseph Cuschieri and formed by MEPs Marlene Mizzi, Claudette Abela Baldacchino and John Attard Montalto.

He noted that the current delegation is continuing on what previous Maltese socialist delegations pursued and described their work as ‘excellent’. 

“Malta’s delegation has important qualities especially in the sphere of policy-making within the S&D. During the years we lost some Maltese MEPs in order to serve as Prime Minister, their deputy and finance minister. We welcome this with satisfaction because we know first-hand what their qualities are.”

Regards irregular immigration, the Austrian endorsed Joseph Muscat’s leadership saying that “he acted in the national interest but pushed for a European solution.”

However, Swoboda declined from commenting on Maltese government’s policies such as the controversial citizenship issue, arguing that European political groups had no discretion on domestic matters. In contrast, the EPP pushed this issue to be discussed in the European Parliament by mid-January.

We talk about poverty, however, it would seem that politicians are being ineffective in delivering on their promises, unfortunately. Why is this?