Status: 25/09/2023, 17:39 p.m.
Katarina Barley (SPD) is still Vice-President of the European Parliament. © Philipp von Ditfurth/dpa
In the last European elections, the Social Democrats did worse than ever. Nevertheless, the top candidate of the time is to run for the German SPD: Katarina Barley.
Berlin - The Vice-President of the European Parliament, Katarina Barley, is to lead the SPD as the top candidate in the 2024 European elections. The 54-year-old was unanimously nominated by the party presidium on Monday. "You are a convinced European, a passionate European," said party leader Lars Klingbeil in Berlin about the top woman of the SPD 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 by right-wing populists, right-wing extremists and sometimes conservatives on European values. Barley himself warned against a shift to the right. The political debate is becoming more and more glaring, reason and decency are playing less and less of a role. Europe, however, needs exactly the opposite. The SPD always stands firmly on the side of democracy, she assured.
Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed: "Europe is important for peace and security." That is why it is so crucial that one can rely on the European institutions. That's exactly what Barley stands for. "We are fighting for every single vote," Scholz stressed.
15.8 percent in the 2019 European elections
For the lawyer Barley, it is already the second top candidacy, and in the 2019 European elections she also ran as Germany's number one for the SPD. At that time, the Social Democrats achieved their worst result of all time with 15.8 percent.
In Brussels and Strasbourg, Barley has been relatively silent over the past four years. As Vice-President of the European Parliament, she is automatically a member of the Bureau, which decides on financial, organisational and administrative matters. In addition, she can be mandated by the President of the Parliament, Roberta Metsola, to represent Parliament on official occasions.
Politically, the 54-year-old campaigned during her term of office, among other things, for decisive action against violations of the rule of law in the European Union. For example, it is calling for a tough course against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is accused of restricting media freedom in his country.
The CSU European politician and head of the Christian Democratic European party family, Manfred Weber, recently criticized Barley several times for his willingness to talk to right-wing politicians. Weber had "deliberately 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.
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Barley has earned a name for herself as a legal expert "who is fully committed to opposing the dismantling of democracy and the rule of law by the nationalists in the EU," emphasized the chairman of the SPD MEPs, Jens Geier. The list for the European elections is to be decided in January by an SPD European delegates' conference.
Prior to her career at the European Parliament, Barley was Federal Minister of Justice, previously Minister of Family Affairs and SPD General Secretary. For several years she worked as a research assistant at the Federal Constitutional Court.
"I am a European through and through," Barley assures on her website. This is mainly due to her family history: the mother of the native of Cologne is German, the father British. She studied in Paris, among other places. The surname, Barley has to explain more often, 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 first made a career as a lawyer until she entered the Bundestag in 2013. After that, her political career went fast: secretary general, minister in several departments. It once described itself as an all-purpose weapon of the SPD. In 2019, she was the first in the federal government to give up a ministerial office for a top European candidacy.
Petra Köpping (SPD) is currently Saxony's Minister of Social Affairs. © Sebastian Kahnert/dpa
The SPD is not the first party to stand for the European elections: Defense expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann is running for the FDP. For the Left, party leader Martin Schirdewan, currently co-leader of the parliamentary group in the European Parliament, wants to run again. In addition, the party leadership has proposed, among others, the refugee activist Carola Rackete for the top list places.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, on the other hand, has not yet commented on whether she will seek another term after the European elections. In order to be able to remain at the helm of the EU Commission for another five years, the CDU politician would have to be put forward as the top candidate of the European EPP party family according to the current state of affairs. 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. dpa