European socialist leaders meet in Prague, praise PM Paroubek's leadership ahead of national election

Photo: CTK

The Czech press has called it the biggest pre-election event of the Social Democrats - the meeting of the Party of European Socialists (or PES) that was held in Prague on Friday. Co-hosted by its President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen of Denmark and the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, the conference discussed three major issues: economic growth in Europe, a sustainable energy policy for the continent and peace in the Middle East.

Jiri Paroubek and Tony Blair,  photo: CTK
PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen spoke at a final news conference:

"The first question and challenge is jobs and growth. In the Czech Republic here, under the leadership of Jiri Paroubek you are doing very well but in the rest of Europe, in many of European cities and countries we simply need more growth."

Mr Rasmussen was not the only one who had words of praise for the state of the Czech economy, now three months before parliamentary elections. Here is what British Prime Minister Tony Blair had to say after a separate meeting with Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek:

"There have just been some economic figures here today in the Czech Republic and it shows how strong and well your economy is doing and yet at the same time, there is obviously a strong level of social provision and that's what we aim for in Britain, too."

Photo: CTK
Although analysts say there are considerable differences between the policies of the British Labour Party and the Czech Social Democrats, it was the similarities that were highlighted on Friday. Tony Blair brought the Czech Social Democrats a special present - a London double-decker bus for their campaign tour, which the Social Democrats immediately repainted orange - their new corporate colour that was also ubiquitous at the PES conference in Prague's Municipal House on Friday. There, Radio Prague spoke to an MEP for the Social Democrats, Libor Roucek, about the significance of this event for his party.

"Not only the double-decker bus but, I think that at today's meeting with Tony Blair and the leaders of the German and Italian Social Democrats we could demonstrate that we belong to a larger European, or global, political movement and I do hope that the voters will take this into account. In other words, both the double-decker bus and today's meeting will help us."

What do you think are your chances in the upcoming elections?

"As you know, in the opinion polls we are still lagging behind. By the way, we were in a similar situation four years ago, so now we have to work hard, even harder than we have been up to now so that in those remaining three months we can catch up and win again."