Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats | Party of European Socialists

History - Leadership - Policy - Prospects

A Series on Party Groups in the European Parliament

Part 1: Socialists & Democrats (S&D)


By Dominik Rehbaum

A Social Democratic History in the European Parliament

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D group) is the political party group in the European Parliament (EP) of the Party of European Socialists (PES). The then-called Socialist Group was founded on 29th June 1953 in the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community and is the second-oldest European political party group. The Socialist Group consisted primarily of deputies from social-democratic groups and constituted thus the principal political force of the centre-left.

Only five years before the first European elections to the European Parliament in 1979, national parties began to organise themselves outside the structures of the European Parliament, which led to the creation of the Confederation of Socialist Parties of the European Community in 1974. While the Socialist Group remained the largest party group in the EP until 1999 it began to coalesce with the European People’s Party (EPP) as of 1987 to secure majorities in the Parliament, which led to the convention of distributing the post of the Commission President and the EP President between the two-party groups.


Following several name changes, the former President of the Socialist Group, Martin Schulz, suggested today’s name Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in order to distinguish the S&D group from the PES and to display a more inclusive nature of the party group. On 23rd June 2009, the name was officially adopted. Despite the EPP taking the top spot of the largest political party group in 1999, the S&D group remained up until today the only group with representatives from all 28 Member States and indeed the second-largest political party group in the EP. With currently 187 members and 8 out of the 28 heads of state and government in the European Council, the S&D group is the leading centre-left political group in the EP.

The Origins of the S&D’s Political Agenda

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Socialist Group was among the chief forces that denounced the destructive forces of nationalism. Socialists and democrats wanted to enhance peaceful cooperation between European countries – and it remained on their agenda until today. With nationalism and populist narratives experiencing once again more resonance in European societies, the S&D group is among the leading forces against populism and extremism in the 21st century.

Furthermore, the social-democratic political parties are historically characterised by close collaboration with trade unions, civil society organisations and progressive social networks. The S&D groups together with its partners aim at establishing a social and sustainable economy that secures decent and well-paid jobs for all Europeans.

Election Prospects (05/05/2019): 19,5% (-5,5%) = 147 seats (-41)

After the Brexit chaos, it seems like Britons will participate in the 2019 elections to the European Parliament. Despite all the Labour MEPs who will continue to be part of the S&D group in the European Parliament, Socialists and Democrats are predicted to suffer significant losses in comparison to the 2014 EP election. The most recent polls suggest that the S&D group enters with about 40 fewer MEPs into the 2019 Parliament. Given the fact that polls suggest a similar loss for the EPP, the current alliance of the two party groups is expected to forfeit its majority in the European Parliament. At the same time, liberals and right-wing groups are expected to gain votes from the two centre-parties. The ECFR prediction for the 2019 EP elections shows that left parties are very far from obtaining any sort of majority which forces them to coalesce with other party groups. In doing so, it remains to be seen how strong ALDE (+LREM) will turn out and whether they decide to join a leftist or rightist block in the European Parliament.


Source: ECFR (Cunningham, Hix & Marsh, 23 April 2019)

Figureheads - Statesmen - Leaders

Current PES Commissioners in the Juncker administration (8/28)

  • Frans Timmermans (First Vice-President for Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights)

  • Federica Mogherini (Vice-President and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

  • Maroš Šefčovič (Vice-President for the Energy Union)

  • Pierre Moscovici (European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs)

  • Corina Crețu (European Commissioner for Regional Policy)

  • Vytenis Andriukaitis (European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety)

  • Neven Mimica (European Commissioner for Competition)

  • Karmenu Vella (European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries)

Current S&D government leaders (5/28)

  • Pedro Sánchez (Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Spain)

  • Stefan Löfven (Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Sweden)

  • Peter Pellegrini (Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic)

  • António Costa (Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic)

  • Joseph Muscat (Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta)

S&D Fact

The S&D group is the only Parliament group of the current 8th European Parliament Assembly with MEPs from all 28 EU member states. While Estonia, Ireland, Slovenia and Latvia are presented with exactly one MEP in the S&D Group all other countries are represented with at least two or more MEPs in the political group.

Frans Timmermans and the S&D’s Policy Platform for the 2019 Elections

Frans Timmermans is the Spitzenkandidat of the PES for President of the European Commission . Previously, Timmermans had served as Undersecretary for European Affairs, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and finally Foreign Minister in the Second Rutte cabinet. Since 2014 he is the First Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Frans Timmermans, who initially stood in competition to the current Slovak Vice-President of the Commission Maroš Šefčovič, was nominated by the S&D Group after Šefčovič announced his withdrawal and endorsed Timmermans as Common Candidate in November 2018.

Together with the S&D group, Frans Timmermans and the PES laid out a new social contract that is at the heart of a solidary and sustainable Europe that seeks to preserve our planet and to build a more sustainable way of life together (PES Manifesto).

The S&D group aims to establish a new economic model for a progressive Europe in social, economic, political and territorial dimensions (Link Progressive Society). According to the S&D group, Europe must guarantee workers the same rights, decent minimum wages all across the continent. Therefore, deputies envisioned a new Social Action Plan with a long-term investment strategy and a larger budget to ensure cohesion and solidarity between citizens, regions and countries, improve living standards throughout Europe and to reduce inequalities.

In order to invest into social inclusion, the preservation of our planet and to combat all sorts of inequalities, the S&D group envisioned a long-term budget for just transitions in all sectors across European societies - green and digital transitions! This includes a circular model of production and consumption that respects our planet’s limits. S&D strongly endorsed a CO2 emission tax to preserve clean air, water and energy.

The S&D group encourages progressive forces to forge proud and resilient democracies.

Another central argument of the 2019 PES Manifesto presents protecting the integrity of democracy. The S&D group encourages progressive forces to forge proud and resilient democracies – defending the rule of law and fundamental rights wherever needed – in our institutions, in the streets and online. A free and democratic Europe is a feminist Europe with equal rights for all with an EU Gender Equality Strategy and a Youth Plan.

Timmermans repeatedly laid out his vision of a comprehensive reconciliation with Africa. The S&D group proposes a strong investment plan for African countries to modernise their societies - economy, education, rule of law. Finally, Europe needs a fair common asylum and migration policy, based on shared responsibility and solidarity among member states to curb the humanitarian tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea.