The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament are set to continue shaping their identity by focusing on a clear left-right cleavage, especially following the parliamentary elections in Austria and the regional elections in Germany’s Lower-Saxony.

“Austria has turned to the right. This is the result of an electoral campaign where fear and looking inwards dominated,” said Gianni Pittella, president of S&D. “In this difficult situation, the Austrian Social democratic Party and its leader Christian Kern have stayed strong and performed better than predicted.  I want to thank them for their hard work.”

But Pittella said he is “deeply worried by the mutation undergone by the Austrian conservatives”. He accused OVP leader Sebastian Kurz of using euroscepticism and fear to transform the Austrian conservatives into a hard right movement.

“He is playing with fire and in the end the real winner is and will only be the extreme right,” said Pittella. “As social-democrats we will always be a stronghold against far-right forces.”

As regards the regional elections in Lower-Saxony, Pittella said: “The victory of the SPD in the elections in Lower Saxony in Germany shows that social-democrats in Europe win if they embody a clear alternative to the right.”

“The timing of our Together initiative and large-scale event this week to discuss ‘Building the progressive future TOGETHER’ is perfect,” he added. “It allows us to debate with progressive leaders and thinkers as well as all those interested, in the way ahead for Social Democracy in Europe. Together we can and will be strong.”