Germany's SPD adopts manifesto for EU elections

Germany's Social Democrats have adopted policies they want to campaign on in EU parliamentary elections in May. But polling suggests voters won't be very kind to Germany's biggest center-left party.

Some 200 delegates from Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Saturday adopted an EU electoral manifesto calling for EU-wide reforms to social security, taxation and migration policy.

The move came ahead of EU parliamentary elections in May and is the party's latest attempt to win back voters after a disastrous result in the 2017 German parliamentary elections.

The SPD manifesto's core proposals

  • A minimum wage in all EU member states. Each country would set it at 60 percent of the average national wage.
  • Harmonization of corporation tax rates across all EU countries and an EU-wide financial transaction tax.
  • A bloc-wide distribution system for refugees and an end to border controls within the Schengen visa-free zone.
  • A reduction in EU funds for member states that contravene the rule of law.
  • The creation of an EU foreign minister post and an EU seat in the UN Security Council.

Read more: Could Germany see a new left-wing coalition in government?

'Europeans with heart and soul'

SPD leader Andrea Nahles railed against right-wing European leaders who she accused of trying to undermine the EU. "We won't let ourselves be talked into breaking Europe — not by a Salvini. Not by a Gauland. Not by an Orban," she said.

She was referring to Italy's Interior minister, Matteo Salvini, AfD chief Alexander Gauland and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The SPD's lead candidate for the European elections, Justice Minister Katarina Barley, accused Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of the SPD's coalition partners, the Christian Democrats (CDU), of prioritizing banking and business interests.

"This is what Europe looks like for CDU," Barley said.

Read more: Germany's SPD focuses on welfare as way out of poll misery

SPD's electoral angst

Support for the SPD has been plummeting since Germany's 2017 parliamentary elections, when it had its worst electoral result in the post-war era.

The party got 27 percent of the vote in the 2014 European parliamentary elections, but polls suggest it will struggle to reach its target of 20 percent in 2019.

Udo Bullmann, a member of the European Parliament, told delegates: "Don't let them talk you into thinking it is all gloom for Social Democrats. We'll be back."

jcg/amp (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

Germany's major political parties — What you need to know

Christian Democratic Union (CDU)

The CDU has traditionally been the main center-right party across Germany, but it shifted toward the center under Chancellor Angela Merkel. The party remains more fiscally and socially conservative compared to parties on the left. It supports membership of the EU and NATO, budgetary discipline at home and abroad and generally likes the status quo. It is the largest party in the Bundestag.

Germany's major political parties — What you need to know

Christian Social Union (CSU)

The CSU is the sister party of the CDU in Bavaria and the two act symbiotically at the national level (CDU/CSU). Despite their similarities, the CSU is generally more conservative than the CDU on social issues, with CSU leader Horst Seehofer among the critics of Merkel's lax immigration policy. The CSU premier of Bavaria, Markus Söder, more recently ordered crosses in every state building.

Germany's major political parties — What you need to know

Social Democrats (SPD)

The SPD is Germany's oldest political party and the main center-left rival of the CDU/CSU. It shares the CDU/CSU support for the EU and NATO, but it takes a more progressive stance on social issues and welfare policies. The party is currently in a coalition government with the CDU/CSU and is trying to win back popular support under leader Andrea Nahles after losing votes in 2017.

Germany's major political parties — What you need to know

Alternative for Germany (AfD)

The new kid on the block is the largest opposition party in the Bundestag. The far-right party was founded in 2013 and entered the Bundestag for the first time in 2017 under the stewardship of Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. It is largely united by opposition to Merkel's immigration policy, euroscepticism, and belief in the alleged dangers posed by Germany's Muslim population.

Germany's major political parties — What you need to know

Free Democrats (FDP)

The FDP has traditionally been the kingmaker of German politics. Although it has never received more than 15 percent of the vote, it has formed multiple coalition governments with both the CDU/CSU and SPD. The FDP, today led by Christian Lindner, supports less government spending and lower taxes, but takes a progressive stance on social issues such as gay marriage or religion.

Germany's major political parties — What you need to know

The Greens

The Greens, led today by Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, emerged from the environmental movement in the 1980s. Unsuprisingly, it supports efforts to fight climate change and protect the environment. It is also progressive on social issues. But strong divisions have occasionally emerged on other topics. The party famously split in the late 1990s over whether to use military force in Kosovo.

Germany's major political parties — What you need to know

The Left

The Left, led by Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger, is the most left-wing party in the Bundestag. It supports major redistribution of wealth at home and a pacifist stance abroad, including withdrawing Germany from NATO. It emerged from the successor party to the Socialist Unity Party (SED) that ruled communist East Germany until 1989. Today, it still enjoys most of its support in eastern Germany.

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.