In a pivotal announcement on Sunday, the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) in Graz unveiled its line-up of candidates for the upcoming European Union elections scheduled for June 2024. With an overwhelming mandate of 88.76 percent, Andreas Babler secured his position as the party leader of SPÖ, setting the stage for a dynamic leadership role. The confirmation of the EU election candidate list followed this, with Andreas Schieder emerging as the chosen leader, garnering an impressive 89.8 percent of delegate votes.
Schieder, a seasoned 54-year-old, has been a member of the European Parliament since 2019, where he also leads the SPÖ delegation. His extensive experience includes a stint as State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance from 2008 to 2013. Within the European Parliament, Schieder actively participates in the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as a deputy in the Transport and Tourism Committee.
The second position on the SPÖ list was secured by Vice President of the EU Parliament, Evelyn Regner, who obtained a resounding 96.9 percent of the delegate votes.
Both Schieder and Regner, in their speeches, underscored the unity of their party as the real European force. They emphasized the importance of a strong and cohesive EU internally to project strength externally. Schieder highlighted the need for a social and fair Europe, stating that EU policy is akin to a challenging mountain tour rather than a straightforward sprint.
Addressing the low satisfaction with the EU in Austria, Schieder attributed it to the mishandling of various issues in recent years. He criticized the government for its inadequate response to the crisis, leading to a loss of trust in the political system and creating an opening for right-wing extremists and populists. Schieder emphasized the party’s commitment to defending European democracy against such forces.
Referencing the turbulent 2019 election campaign and the subsequent Ibiza video scandal, Schieder expressed a determination to demonstrate the SPÖ’s capability to fight for a socially just Europe and win elections. He predicted that the upcoming election would mark the end of the turquoise-green federal government.
On the topic of Middle East politics, Schieder condemned Hamas and expressed concern about the potential escalation of the conflict. He questioned the absence of European involvement compared to active US politics.
Regner highlighted her work on initiatives such as the introduction of the European minimum wage and efforts to address gender pay gaps through the EU directive on wage transparency. Additionally, she expressed her commitment to increasing transparency in corporate taxes and combating tax evasion.
Party leader Babler emphasized that the SPÖ considers the European Parliament elections as their primary focus, viewing the EU as a social democratic project. He stated that being part of such an international organization is a privilege and highlighted social democracy as a counter-model to “Fortress Europe” and the aspirations of right-wing figures.
The announcement, however, was not without its challenges, as disagreements over the positions on the candidate list led to the Burgenland state organization withdrawing candidates. Despite internal disagreements, the SPÖ appears united in its commitment to contesting the EU elections with full passion, seeing it as a crucial step in shaping the future of a socially just Europe.