Nicolas Schmidt is the leading candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPE) for the European elections

The European Social Democrats (PES) have chosen Luxembourg EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmidt as their primary candidate for the European elections.


Schmidt, the current EU commissioner for employment and social rights, was sworn in at the end of a party conference in Rome on Saturday afternoon. A 70-year-old politician from Luxembourg was the only candidate.

Schmidt is running against Ursula van der Leyen, the top candidate of the European People's Party (EPP).

Both are part of a system known as the front-runner system, under which parties contesting European Parliament elections must choose a front-runner to head the European Commission, the bloc's most powerful and influential body. Some groups follow the template while others ignore it.

However, the race ahead will be more uneven: Ursula van der Leyen is the undisputed front-runner, thanks to the reputation she has built up during her first term at the commission.

For his part, Smith has kept a low profile since arriving in Brussels in 2019. At that time, van der Leyen gave him the employment and social rights portfolio. Among his most notable plans are a €100 billion plan for short-term work arrangements during the coronavirus lockdowns and a directive to ensure minimum wages are set at “appropriate levels”. His proposal to improve conditions for platform workers operating apps such as Uber, Deliveroo and Glovo is currently stuck in negotiations between member states.

Schmidt's cabinet is one of the committees overseeing the EU funding freeze due to Hungary's current legal deficiencies. The commissioner faced the ire of parliament after the executive released €10.2 billion of cohesion funding for Budapest, despite Viktor Orbán's hostility and pleas from civil society. To date, Hungary has still been denied access to 21 billion euros of cohesion and reconstruction funds.

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In his address to top PES representatives, including Olaf Scholz from Germany, Pedro Sánchez from Spain, António Costa from Portugal and Mette Frederiksen from Denmark, Schmidt sought to expand his power base. He pledged to defend the party's core values ​​and priorities: labor rights, gender equality, climate action and social justice.

Nevertheless, Schmidt is unlikely to take up the commission. The Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the PES group in the European Parliament, is expected to come second in June's elections. The latest assessment by Europe Elects, a polling group, shows a significant gap between the S&D (from 154 seats in 2019 to 140 in 2024) and the EPP (from 182 to 180).

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