Party of European Socialists (PES): Assembly, Position & Party Size

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  • 0:03 Party of European Socialists
  • 0:37 History
  • 2:26 Politics
  • 4:33 Performance
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the politics and history of the European Parliament's currently second-largest political party, the Party of European Socialists.

Party of European Socialists

In the United States, the world 'socialism' is charged with all sorts of negative meanings. For some, it conjures images of the 20th century's corrupt and inefficient Soviet Union, and many consider the word synonymous with communism. Often, the only time it is used is as a smear or insult during a particularly heated political campaign. Well, 'socialism' does not have those same connotations everywhere. In fact, one European political party is even so bold as to proudly put the term in its name: the Party of European Socialists.


Ever since the beginning of pan-European cooperation after WWII, socialists have been a key part of European governance. Indeed, socialists that sat on the boards and assemblies of the European Coal and Steel Community and European Economic Community encouraged the growth of socialism in Europe and tended to vote with other socialists rather than with other delegates from their own country. This philosophy helped create the broader European-based politics which were and remain largely independent of national politics.

In the 1970s, when European leaders decided the European Parliament should be elected directly by the people of Europe, Europe's socialists realized the importance of creating a formal political party with stated goals and a platform which could compete for seats and votes. In 1974, they created the Confederation of Socialist Parties of the European Community. In the historic first direct election in 1979, the socialists scored a major victory, winning 27.6% of the vote and more seats than any other party, narrowly edging out its European People's Party rivals, 113-107. Though this was far short of the 206 seats needed for a majority and total control of European Parliament, it gave the socialists a major voice in the direction of European government.

In 1992, the Confederation simplified their name for branding purposes, becoming the Party of European Socialists (or PES). The PES continued to be a major player in European politics and, in 2009, joined forces with several left-leaning democratic parties, changing the title of its parliamentary group for election purposes to the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (known as S&D), though the PES party itself remains a distinct organization.


The PES is a large umbrella organization with 32 parties as its members, all in either EU countries or Norway. In the spectrum of European politics, the PES is considered a firmly left-of-center party. Its broad goals are strengthening socialism and social democracy in the EU, acknowledging and expressing the political will of EU citizens, and creating a legitimate plan and platform for each election which will help the PES win seats and thereby implement socialism in EU institutions.

In particular, the PES is concerned with jobs and job growth in Europe. Several EU countries were hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, and youth unemployment is particularly high as of 2014. The PES believes that putting Europe back to work and especially ensuring high-paying jobs for young adults entering the job market is particularly important. In the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, the PES began advocating for a European Youth Guarantee, which would broadly guarantee that European young adults would be guaranteed a job offer within four months of leaving professional training or higher education.

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