Who should be the next PES President?

This morning the news broke that PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen will step down after the PES Council and Convention this weekend. Poul has certainly moved a lot in the last eight years and deserves praise for that. But he has now decided to call it quits.

To me this announcement came as a surprise and the big question now is who should succeed Poul as PES President? I am unaware of people jockeying for position but one thing seems very clear: this will be an incredibly difficult job in times when the European Union is facing the biggest crisis since its inception and European social democracy is in difficulties too across the continent (only yesterday the Zapatero government suffered a crashing election defeat).

So who is capable and willing to take on the task of reforming European social democracy and the European Union at the same time? I haven’t heard any suggestions yet but if you have some ideas why don’t you leave some names and your reasons for why you think this person is suitable in the comment section below.


  1. Jack says

    It certainly needs to be a high profile figure. Former national minister or government leader. The way the EU goes at the moment I think a German would be best.

  2. Peter says

    What about David Miliband? He seems to be one of the last pro-Europeans in the UK and this would give him a platform to avoid the drifting apart of the non-Euro and Euro countries. Would be tricky with Ed though…

    • Henning Meyer says

      Interesting list Jon. Gusenbauer is certainly in the running. Frank-Walter Steinmeier will not want this imo. Any concerns about Euro vs. non-Euro country?

      • says

        A Euro country would be preferable. But more important than that it needs to be someone who has some vision, some ability to communicate. I don't think Gusenbauer has that. The non-Euro thing probably rules out Sahlin though.

  3. Peer says

    Martin Schulz should drop the idea of EP presidency for time being and become PES President .

  4. Brussels Insider says

    Gusenbauer would be a good candidate. But is it really feasible that two Austrians would lead the S&D group (if Swoboda gets it) and the PES?

  5. says

    So what we are looking for?

    Former Chair of PES member party?

    Former President/Prime Minister in an EU member-state? (from EU15 or EU 10+2)?

    Former European Commissioner?

    Former Leader of S&D/socialist group in the European Parliament?

    Experienced with international party structures through work in ECOSY, IUSY, PES, SI, ETUC?

    Maybe from a smaller member-state?

    I'd definitively recommend to look at Alfred Gusenbauer in this context:

    • Brussels Insider says

      Agree that Gusenbauer would be good candidate. But then Swoboda is toast for the group leadership…

  6. Henning Meyer says

    good suggestion via Henrik Nilsson Bokor on Twitter. What about Margot Wallstroem?

    • says

      Thought about adding her to my list. She has repeatedly ruled out any return to frontline politics, saying she is too old. I think she is stubborn enough to stick to that.

  7. tom says

    I like the Wallström suggestion, though would not normally expect a Swede to take over right after a Dane. Gusenbauer would be good, and that's one more good reason not to elect Swoboda as head of the S&D.. though that's another discussion.

    Spidla is a lovely guy and very sound, but absolutely lacks the ability to inspire people. D’Alema.. well.. the Italian member parties are a mess and have through their merger with the Christian Democrats a rather complicated relationship with the PES so I don't think that would work.

    Er… too bad that some of our former leaders sold out (Schroder, Bos) so they are no option either. I kind of like Brown.. but probably I am the last one to do so and strategically it would be only slightly less awkward than giving the job to Papandreou.

    More names anyone?

  8. Henning Meyer says

    Looks like some people in Uk want to push David Miliband. I could only see him running if this effectively means he will be PES candidate for Commission President in 2013.

  9. David Lizoain says

    Henning, I might start by first asking what qualities the PES President should have.

    I would like to see a President that could also double as the PES Candidate for the Commission presidency. In this case, I'd be searching for some that could credibly represent a new generation of social democratic leadership – and with a much higher profile than Lady Ashton. I think David Miliband best fits the bill.

    I think the much tricker question to answer is, "What will the project for 2014 be?"

    • Henning Meyer says

      agree (see my comment above). If he is not the candidate at the same time there is no chance he would do it. Not sure wether he is up for it even if this means he became candidate but the chances would be much better. Let's wait and see whether he says something…

  10. Fred says

    What do you think about Martine Aubry ?

    I think we firstly need someone very volonteer as a politics (like Rasmussen is), and not only in economy, like it happened in Italia and Greece these last days – and not only for managing the PES, but give a strong wake-up signal to european social-democrats and to european citizen, with the goal to come back to an Europe with real sense of european democracy – not a management board Sarkozy-Merkel.

    Also this role is certainly not to hold without thinking about the debt-crisis, and so I think a leader from an Euro-zone will be much more able to be and to be accepted on the same height of eyes with left european leaders – that we hopely will have in the next years. After Denmark, PS in France, SPD in Germany, PD in Italy, and other, have the chance to came back to power in less than 2 years !

    As I know them, Alfred Gusenbauer is certainly a good candidate !

    Margot Wallström I think so too.

    and I'm sure that someone like Martine Aubry will certainly fit to this role also perfectly – perhaps my favorite.

  11. Chris Peeters says

    Wouldn't it be nice to have a few (2 or 3) candidates and let all the members of the PES-parties vote on them by one-man-one vote?

    Let them campaign on the basis of their vision on the PES in the near future; that is a very nice way to discuss this important topic. I must confess I do not know anything about the visions of the names dropped on the future of PES, so I have no real opininion.

    It might also be a good way to improve the visibility of the PES in our party's.

    In my party (PvdA) the PES is nearly invisible.

    Of course here is a chicken-egg problem…

  12. Kostas Avgeropoulos says

    Perhaps Papandreou? He has felt the crisis to the bone and is also president of the Socialist International.

  13. John Palmer says

    Frankly I care far less WHO becomes the next PES President than WHAT strategic policy platform they would stand on. Is is essential that the PES President declares FOR the direct election of the Commission president in future and is willing top back major structural changes to the way our economic and financial system functions (or rather misfunctions). Listening to European Parliament leaders the best of them by far in responding to the crisis to me seems to be Danny Cohn-Bendit even though he is of a different political family.

  14. Desmond O'Toole says

    I think that there are only a small number of credible candidates for PES President, and i'm afraid that David Milliband isn't one of them. He appeals to certain UK comrades, but has little traction across Europe. His third way history counts very strongly against him as well.

    So, who are my candidates. Chief amongst them is Margot Wallström. A woman of exceptional ability with deep roots in the European party. She also has immense credibility with the grassroots, an increasingly important aspect of our European political family.

    Beyond Margot we have Alfred Gusenbauer, D'Alema, Persson and others … All very capable people, but all following the 'life after national politics' career trajectory. Do such people really cut it in the transformative way that Poul Nyrup Rasmussen does/did?

    Finally, I'm a convinced Martin Schulz fan. However, his commitment to the presidency of the EP, probably means that we'll be denied his unique kick-ass style at the head of our party. Shame, really … It would be such a rush with Martin as our party leader.

    • says

      There is no way that Margot will go for this. Since stepping down as Commissioner she has repeatedly said there is no way back into frontline politics at EU level. Desmond – you should bear that in mind before so strongly saying she's viable!