The PES Congress in Porto has steadily drawing to a close; the fringe meetings are over, and the final session is about to start. So what are the overall impressions, and what should happen now?
First and foremost it has been a fascinating experience to be present here. I do not understand or necessarily appreciate all of the dynamics of an event like this. The relentless pursuit of consensus – often to the detriment of the quality of the content – of the political debates was striking. However the opportunity to hear speeches from such a range of high level politicians and have the freedom to write my observations about those has been very welcome.
Secondly, the role of the PES Activists remains extremely unclear after the 2 days here. It seems that we are at best tolerated here. We pay our own travel, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even get any food in the conference centre, and we of course have no political representation in any of the decision making structures. Yet as a group of politically motivated, committed and experienced people that is not a status quo that the Activists are going to be happy living with in the medium term. The very nature of party political activism – especially on the centre-left – is the wish to change things, make things better, gain influence.
The network of activists also needs to reflect on its role and responsibility. Influence is not only something you get, it something you work hard for. We need to make sure that the activist network contributes to a good european debate, organises interesting activities and must not be exclusive. It is up to us as PES activists to reach out and recruit more activists – among members of the member parties, but why not also among the public, with universities as an excellent place to start.
Europe is ever more diverse, so our party political structures must be more diverse and flexible too. Porto has been a good start for the PES Activists. But weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be back in 2 years at the next congress: more demanding, more committed, more organised – thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no doubt about that.