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GUE/NGL MEPs share experiences of the Left in government

GUE/NGL MEPs are gathered today in the Landtag of Thuringia in Germany as part of their annual external bureau meeting where they are sharing their experiences of being in government.

The German federal state of Thuringia is led by Minister-President Bodo Ramelow of DIE LINKE, as part of a Red-Red-Green coalition.

Ramelow explained the political basis of his government:

“The Erfurt declaration, which I worked on, forms the political basis of our alliance in the Left that has placed us in government after the 2014 elections. We preserve our individual party identity but we recognise the need to work together with parties that share our vision of social justice. For a long time it was impossible to think that the Left would govern in Germany but today this is a reality.”

Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, chair of the DIE LINKE parliamentary group and party chair in Thuringia said that important progress is being achieved, particularly in the area of education, which is a priority for the Thuringian government:

“We want an egalitarian education system where every child has a chance to succeed and no pre-selection or social filtering takes place.”

“One of the achievements of the DIE LINKE-led coalition was a law that allows for workers to take time off to enrol in professional training. Other policies include efforts to guarantee affordable housing and a move to reform the regional constitution.”

Henig-Wellsow pointed however that challenges remain since certain laws are made in Berlin over which the state has no influence such as refugee policy:

“We want the refugees to feel at home in Thuringia, we want to welcome them with open arms but we are not in control of this aspect of policy-making, which is legislated at federal level.”

GUE/NGL MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis, a member of the Syriza party currently in government in Greece, said that the Right expected them to last only for a few weeks:

“We must overturn this conservative narrative that the Left is not fit to rule. We must show that the Left has ideas, projects, plans and proposals for a progressive way forward to improve society and empower the people. Is this easy? No, but it is possible.”

Papadimoulis pointed at existing challenges in Greece such as bureaucracy, corruption, nepotism and infiltration of the far-right in the military and secret services saying that it is important for Syriza to work with its allies across Europe to overcome them.

Speaking of AKEL's terms in government, beginning with a victory in the legislative election of 2001, GUE/NGL MEP Neoklis Sylikiotis said that the government's priority was the resolution of the Cyprus issue:

“We are not like other countries, we have a military occupation in part of our island, our priority in government was to solve this and we made significant progress. Nevertheless, we have a record of achievements also in other areas. We improved Cyprus’ transport system, reformed water supply and governance, improved health services and renovated public infrastructure. We are also proud to have resisted a memorandum on Cyprus during the financial crisis and fought against privatisation.”

GUE/NGL MEP Merja Kyllönen spoke via video link as a former cabinet member of the Finnish government for her party Vasemmistoliitto emphasising the importance of staying true to the Left’s message while in government:

“If you join the government without a realistic plan, you have already lost. We wanted to show change in the first days of our coalition government to avoid falling into a Stockholm syndrome, where we become hostage to the bigger parties. We fought hard to gain concessions which are benefiting our citizens until today. Above all, we did not praise decisions in the coalition that we were opposed, we remained true to our principles.”