These are testing times for progressive Europeans. Moving Europe forward requires a programmatic revitalisation of Social Democracy. Sustainability should play a crucial part. This means we have to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN Agenda 2030. This move has to come from the bottom up, driven by cities and regions to ensure a high quality of life everywhere in Europe. A consistent long-term strategy (rather than short-term tactics) must be devised and it should, in my opinion, include the following: 1.) Clear measures to battle social, economic and territorial inequalities, specifically providing the most vulnerable people with opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty and social exclusion. 2.) Empower local and regional communities to achieve our strategy. Local and regional governments should be given more leeway in funding and decision-making, supported in a coordinated effort by national and European authorities. We must give the people on the ground the chance to participate in the debate and be the driving force of this social and ecological transformation. 3.) An energetic transition shifting to renewable energy sources, away from fossil and nuclear power. This must include a comprehensive jobs program in the clean energy sector, with significant investment in the building of energy infrastructure, training and social protection measures for those who are affected the most by this transition. 4.) Promote low-emission mobility by extending and improving the functionality and sustainability of affordable public transport solutions in urban and rural areas. Again, this demands investment in infrastructure like bike lanes, low-emission buses, train lines and charging stations for electrical vehicles. 5.) Build a circular economy and help build a new corporate responsibility culture. Large-scale waste reduction is both economically and ecologically viable. We must strive to build a business culture that encourages the re-use of goods and renounces single-use production patterns. Only if production patterns (such as plastic packaging) become more eco-friendly, consumption patterns can follow suit. State of the art eco-efficient recycling and waste management facilities should become the standard of European cities and municipalities, creating jobs and saving natural resources.
Social Democracy has recently struggled on the European and national level. In the cities, however, we are alive and kicking. Cities like Paris, London, Berlin, Milan and Vienna are great examples for that. Let’s trust our people on the ground and help them achieve tangible results. Let’s build a truly progressive Europe from the bottom up. Then, I’m sure, European Social Democracy will pass this test of time!