Top candidate: Barley should lead the SPD in the European elections

Top candidate
Barley should lead the SPD in the European elections

Katarina Barley (SPD) is currently Vice President of the European Parliament. photo

© Philipp von Ditfurth/dpa

In the last European elections, the Social Democrats performed worse than ever. Nevertheless, the top candidate from back then should run for the German SPD: Katarina Barley.

The Vice President of the European Parliament, Katarina Barley is expected to lead the SPD as the top candidate in the 2024 European elections. The 54-year-old was unanimously nominated by the party leadership on Monday. “You are a convinced European, a passionate European,” said party leader Lars Klingbeil in Berlin about the SPD’s top woman in Brussels. Barley should once again become the face of the party in the European elections.

Klingbeil emphasized that the European elections would be a directional decision. “Europe has come under pressure in recent years,” he said. There are attacks on European values ​​by right-wing populists, right-wing extremists and sometimes even conservatives. Barley himself warned against a move to the right. The political debate is becoming more and more intense, reason and decency are playing less and less of a role. But Europe needs exactly the opposite. The SPD is always firmly on the side of democracy, she assured.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz emphasized: “Europe is important for peace and security.” That is why it is so important that one can rely on the European institutions. That’s exactly what Barley stands for. “We are fighting for every single vote,” emphasized Scholz.

15.8 percent in the 2019 European elections

This is the second top candidate for the lawyer Barley; she also ran as German number one for the SPD in the 2019 European elections. At that time, the Social Democrats achieved their worst result ever with 15.8 percent.

Barley has operated relatively quietly in Brussels and Strasbourg over the past four years. As Vice-President of the European Parliament, she is automatically a member of the Bureau, which decides on financial, organizational and administrative issues. In addition, she can be commissioned by Parliament Speaker Roberta Metsola to represent Parliament on official occasions.

Politically, the 54-year-old has advocated, among other things, decisive action against violations of the rule of law in the European Union during her time in office. She is calling for a tough course against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is accused of restricting media freedom in his country.

Barley recently criticized the CSU European politician and head of the Christian Democratic European party family, Manfred Weber, several times for his willingness to talk to right-wing politicians. Weber “consciously opened the flank to the right and makes no secret of it,” she recently told the “Augsburger Allgemeine”. After the European elections, the CSU politician wants to work with right-wing populists and those even further to the right.

Barley has made a name for herself as a legal expert “who is committed to fighting against the nationalists’ dismantling of democracy and the rule of law in the EU,” emphasized the chairman of the SPD MEPs, Jens Geier. The list for the European elections should be decided in January by an SPD European delegate conference.

Before her career at the European Parliament, the lawyer Barley was Federal Minister of Justice, previously Family Minister and SPD General Secretary. For several years she worked as a research assistant at the Federal Constitutional Court.

“I am European through and through,” Barley assures on her website. This is mainly due to her family history: the Cologne-born mother is German and her father is British. She studied in Paris, among other places. The last name, as Barley often has to explain, is pronounced like Bob Marley. “It’s easy to remember,” she says.

Career as a lawyer

The mother of two has been a member of the SPD since 1994. However, she initially pursued a career as a lawyer until she entered the Bundestag in 2013. After that, her political career went quickly: Secretary General, Minister in several departments. She once described herself as the SPD’s all-purpose weapon. In 2019, she was the first in the federal government to give up a ministerial office for a top European candidate.

The SPD is not the first party to stand for the European elections: Defense expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann is running for the FDP. Party leader Martin Schirdewan, currently co-group leader in the European Parliament, wants to get involved again for the Left. In addition, the party leadership has suggested refugee activist Carola Rackete, among others, for the top places on the list.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, on the other hand, has not yet commented on whether she is seeking another term in office after the European elections. In order to be able to remain at the head of the EU Commission for another five years, the CDU politician would, as things currently stand, have to be nominated as the top candidate of the European EVP party family. In addition to the German CDU and CSU, this includes the Austrian ÖVP, the Italian Forza Italia and Spain’s conservative People’s Party PP.


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