Parliamentary President of the S&D Group Iratxe Garcia Perez (L) speaks with European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen (R) EPA-EFE/JULIEN WARNAND


Socialists warn von der Leyen ahead of State of the Union speech

Coming a week ahead of von der Leyen's much-hyped State of the European Union speech on September 13, the letter touches on what S&D says are emerging cracks in the EU 's “grand coalition”.


The European Parliament’s centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) Group has sent a warning letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Coming a week ahead of von der Leyen’s much-hyped State of the European Union speech on September 13, the letter touches on what S&D says are emerging cracks in the EU ‘s “grand coalition”.

As the S&D finds itself increasingly at odds with its larger centre-right partner, the European People’s Party (EPP), the Left is now adopting a more adversarial stance.

“The support of the S&D Group to Ursula von der Leyen has always been conditional to a series of progressive policies that we wanted to see in the Commission working programme,” said the Group’s president Iratxe Garcia in a press release on September 6.

In a letter addressed to von der Leyen, Garcia took a confrontational and assertive tone, criticising the EC’s overall performance and outlining the centre-left’s expectations for the remainder of the European Union’s legislative term.

With the next EU elections scheduled for June 2024, Brussels is in a rush to get its major projects over the finishing line. With a rising Right and increasing polarisation within the grand coalition of the centre-left and centre-right, many are uncertain about how the next term will turn out.

“Green” policy issues were a cause of a major split between Right and Left in the European Parliament over the summer of 2023. In one of the first instances of the EPP taking the same side as the populist Right, there was uproar as it voted against the EU’s Nature Restoration Law.

“We cannot understand your damaging silence on this issue,” Garcia wrote to von der Leyen, before urging her to “send a clear message of unambiguous support for the continuation of the Green Deal project”.

The letter continued: “We deplore the rightwards and populist drift of the EPP Group towards an anti-Green Deal position and its increasing shift away from our collective pro-European and progressive endeavours.”

While the EPP’s rightward shift has been pushed by its leader Manfred Weber, von der Leyen has yet to comment. Sensing a pending split, many have appealed to her to condemn her fellow EPP member.

The letter also highlights the S&D’s expectations for economic and social progress, saying: “more remains to be done on tax fairness” and emphasising the need for “a permanent Eurozone fiscal capacity”.

Regarding gender equality and women’s rights, it notes achievements but urges further action, saying, “more remains to be done”.

“We look forward to hearing your explicit support for this during your speech,” the S&D’s letter then adds in bold type.