Please see here the report by Francisco Roa Bastos reports that 23 young PES activists from 13 different European countries have just returned home after two weeks in Madrid, Spain, where they were supporting the PSOE and its leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Hailing from Belgium, Estonia, France, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, their efforts in support of local Spanish activists campaigning for the recent general election (9 March) were warmly received by the PSOE. The local party achieved excellent results in the election, and the experience of campaigning proved extremely valuable for the European activists themselves.
These 23 activists, coordinated by Rodrigo Parra of PSOE, took part in various activities over the course of the two weeks and were always identifiable as members of PES. Their presence was cause for much interest and goodwill from the local people.
The main expression of their support came in the form of attendance at rallies great and small, and as such they had the chance to hear speeches given by Zapatero himself, Felipe González, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega (Vice President), Pedro Solbes (Vice President), Miguel Ángel Moratinos (Minister for External Affairs), Elena Valenciano (International Secretary of PSOE), and various other ministers of Zapatero’s first administration. These events varied greatly in size, with some boasting crowds of thousands while others attracted but a few dozen residents of the surrounding neighbourhood. It was in this latter kind of gathering that the presence of the PES activists was most obvious, often drawing applause from the audience.
Besides these rallies, the European activists were able to attend various trade-specific events, such as the Zapatero’s address to the UGT union, as well as talks given by the Minister for Education, Mercedes Cabrera, at the Autonomous University of Madrid, and by the Minister for the Environment, Cristina Narbona, at the Complutense University. They also had the chance to attend events held by the Zapatero Supporters’ Group (PAZ) and by the Vice President. This second event, concerning cooperation and development initiatives, even saw one of the European activists address the audience on the importance of PSOE’s policy in this area, a gesture greatly appreciated by those in attendance.
Apart from these events, the group also participated in more concrete activities like handing out leaflets in various neighbourhoods and towns on the outskirts of Madrid. This proved to be an excellent experience, because it allowed for direct contact with the locals, who often expressed their surprise and delight that people would come so far to support Zapatero and Spanish socialism. The group left these neighbourhoods with memories that will not soon be forgotten. Thanks to the minibus made available to them, they were also able to visit numerous towns in the surrounding area in order to deliver senate ballot papers that would otherwise have failed to arrive in time for the elections, exploring at the same time Madrid’s rural periphery. Some of the European activists also helped out by calling citizens to remind them of their right to vote on election day.
Overall, these two weeks represented an enriching and memorable experience for all of those young Europeans involved. It allowed them to gain greater insight into Spanish politics and to make contact with their colleagues from the PSOE. But beyond that, this collective project involving activists from all over Europe also gave real substance to the gradual emergence of European socialism.
“Going to Spain to campaign with my colleagues from the PSOE and the PES was a really good experience. It allowed me to reaffirm my support for Zapatero and for his government, who serve as a model for every member of the PES, given that they represent a modern and efficient version of socialism. It was also very interesting because it allowed me to participate as a European in a national campaign: me and the other European youth activists were able to work together in a country that was not our own, helping a “brother” party of the PES to win in national elections. I don’t know how much we were able to contribute, but we did learn a lot, not least that Europe is constructed step by step, in part through initiatives like this one. Of course, this in itself isn’t enough, and there’s a lot to do, like maintaining the contacts we have in our own countries while creating others, especially with those Europeans that live in our home cities. But the European activists of the PES do exist, and they have shown that once again.” (Francisco Roa Bastos, France)
“Before arriving in Spain, I was unsure of what exactly to expect from our two weeks in Spain as part of the Europeans with Zapatero division of the Zapatero Supporters’ Group, but in retrospect the experience was definitely a positive one. Despite the inevitable teething problems that come with any new initiative, it was fascinating and heartening to see how positively the Spanish people responded to our presence, even where ideological differences existed. Quite apart from making contact and exchanging ideas with our local colleagues, these were also two weeks of valuable debate and argument within the group of European activists itself. It’s hard to put a concrete value on such intangible benefits of European cooperation, but in my experience to date this project has been unique in its ability to demonstrate the potential of political action at the increasingly important European level.” (Asa Cusack, Ireland).
Look out very soon for an inspiring voxpop at Compass Youth's recent PES Manifesto conference from Alejandro Olmos Marcitllach, Spanish Socialist Youth (JSE) and all Spanish citizens in London are invited to mobilise to re-elect Ken Livingstone here. Watch out for a flyer in Spanish.