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10th Dec 2016

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French socialists launch EP campaign

  • EP chief Martin Schulz - The French Socialist party is keen to frame its campaign within the wider European debate (Photo: Koerber Stiftung)

The French Socialist Party launched its EU election campaign on Monday (3 March) with jobs and fighting tax evasion as key issues.

The launch date was not chosen by chance: it was two days after the Party of European Socialists (PES) made European Parliament chief Martin Schulz its top candidate for the European Commission presidency.

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The socialists are polling poorly in France with just 16 percent of voters saying they will vote for the party, according to a recent poll. This would put them in third place behind both the opposition centre-right (UMP) and the far-right National Front.

So they are trying to frame the political debate on the EU fortunes of the pan-European socialist party – where a recent prediction saw the centre-left winning the EU vote – rather than on the politically less hopeful domestic arena.

The Socialist Party's First Secretary, Harlem Desir, underlined the centre-left's ambition to win the most seats in the European Parliament, therefore providing leverage for getting a politician from its own ranks into the European Commission presidency.

Europe "must turn the page on Liberal and Conservative governments, which for years have harmed the European dream," said Desir.

"Their blind support for deregulation, widespread competition, fiscal and social dumping, has only led to austerity, unemployment and soaring populism across the continent," he said.

"This is why, with Martin Schulz, we will fight for a new Europe, another Europe, our Europe."

The French Socialists also want their campaign to be participative and announced the launch of a website where voters can put questions to both French candidates and Martin Schulz.

Desir said that jobs would be the party's "priority". The unemployment rate in France is 10.5 percent, the highest rate since 1997.

Also high on the party's agenda is the creation of a European energy community, the fight against tax evasion, the regulation of banks, and an EU financial transaction tax.

The socialists are fielding few candidates who are well-known outside France. Desir, who has faced criticism within the party, is running in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris.

Others running include Edouard Martin, a charismatic former trade unionist, and Vincent Peillon, minister of national education in the government.

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