Poul Nyrup Rasmussen has today announced he is standing down as President of the PES. Over a period that has been one of relative decline for the left across Europe, Poul has been a voice of determination and reason; I’m sad to see him go, especially as he’s miles better than his counterpart at the S&D Group.

So then, who are the possible replacements?

I write this on the basis of no inside information whatsoever. I have just tried to compile a list on the basis of the names and characters who would be eligible. These would have to be former prime ministers, high ranking ministers or Commissioners. Feel free to add more suggestions or comments!

Alfred Gusenbauer (Former Chancellor of Austria)

Since being replace as Chancellor in Vienna, Gusenbauer has been a regular visitor to Brussels, often popping up at events run by FEPS and the Renner Institut. He’s well known in the Brussels circles, although lacks any star quality. He would be a safe but uninspiring option.
Chances: good

Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Former German Foreign Minister)

A big beast without a role since the end of the grand coalition in Germany in 2009, Steinmeier’s political future has been an open question. He would bring gravitas to the role, but does he still harbour a further shot at Germany’s top job in 2013?
Chances: unknown. Would he want it?

Mona Sahlin (Former leader of the Swedish Social Democrats, former government minister in Sweden)

It didn’t work out for Sahlin as leader of the Social Democrats, but she has respect within her party and the Swedish Social Democrats are well connected and trusted within the PES. The PES also has never had a female President.
Chances: medium

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (Outgoing Spanish Prime Minister)

He probably retains more respect at EU level than nationally within Spain. The most recent Social Democratic Prime Minister of a large EU country. However he backed Barroso for Commission President in 2009 – has everyone forgotten that?
Chances: low. Probably too soon for him.

David Miliband (Former Foreign Secretary in the UK)

Whenever there’s a top EU job available, David Miliband’s name always crops up. Probably the only Brit with the skills, respect and experience to take the job. But would he want it? What are his plans? No-one really seems to know except the man himself.
Chances: if he wants it then the job could well be his

Other possible names: Anna Diamantopoulou, Josep Borrell, José Sócrates?

(All images CC License from Wikipedia: Gusenbauer | Steinmeier | Sahlin | Zapatero | Miliband)


  1. faoust21

    You have to be kidding about Papandreou or Diamantopoulou. Papandreou cannot leave his house without 10men of the riot police guarding him cause he is one the most hated politicians in Greece and Diamantopoulou as a Minister of Education passed a law that abolishes the right of universities to be a safe zone where the police cannot invade and passed a Thatcherist law for education, excluding students and employees from having a say on how Universities are run, cutting by half the money given to Universities, implementing fees and private donors.

    No way these two should have any role in politics any more. Better place Hitler than these two.

  2. Antoine

    and what about George Papandréou ? ex-PM, head of the SI, able to speak English, Greek and Swedish fluently. A Good mix between North-European social-democracy and Southern socialism. The only problem is that he looks more the victim of markets than a solid working class hero… but who knows ?
    D’Alema could also be a good candidate (if he solves his judicial problems in Italy): president of the FEPS, ex-PM and ex- Minister for Foreign Affairs, truly social-democrat in a difficult country, able to speak French, English and Italian, was a candidate for High Representative.. The only problem is that PD is not a full member of the PES….

  3. One serving politician who has huge respect inside the Brussels beltway is Toomas Ilves. If the job is compatible with being President of Estonia I would have thought he stands a very good chance.

    Gordon Bajnai, though not a party man in the traditional way, is actually rather impressive.

    Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg will be everyone’s second choice and so could emerge at the end (which would be a bit depressing).

    You’ve mentioned Sahlin; what about Persson?

  4. European Citizen

    What about López Aguilar? Here is a link: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/expert/committees/view.do?committee=2874&partNumber=1&language=EN&id=96812

    I know him from his work at the LIBE committee and I think he does a good job. He’s also a former justice minster.

    As for David Miliband, I’m not sure he’s given up on the PM position yet despite what he says. I might be wrong though and he might still be regretting not having taken Ashton’s job…

  5. Thanks Ron! So none of my suggestions are any good… so who is then? Also don’t forget that Sweden is outside the Eurozone, so that will count against Sahlin (and Miliband too).

    The former Presidents of the PES have been former ministers (or indeed serving ministers) so that’s the pool I used. Going for someone lower ranking would – in the eyes of national parties already reticent about the EU level – diminish the PES still further.

  6. If I had to bet, I’d bet against at least all the men on this list. Don’t think that Gusenbauer has any chances of getting nominated and don’t see Steinmaier, Zapatero or Milliband dealing with a European Party on a day-to-day basis.

    Don’t know Salin.

    And by the way, why do you only consider former prime ministers, high ranking ministers or Commissioners? In the PES statutes there is no such limitation.

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