The EU on the world stage
The S&Ds are keen to develop the EU’s relations with its strategic partners in the world, through improving transatlantic dialogue and building on our relations with Russia and China on a constructive but critical basis. At the same time, we are actively creating new dialogues with emerging powers such as Brazil, India and South Africa.
The EU and the US are key allies, share common principles and values, and play a crucial role in multilateral global politics. However, the nature of the transatlantic partnership is changing: Europe is no longer the main strategic preoccupation of US foreign policy. We support stronger EU-US trade and investment relations to provide much-needed economic growth and new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. However, we also believe that a comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment partnership must include conditions and guarantees to ensure we make the most of our mutual interests without compromising European standards.
Strategic partnerships – Russia and China
The S&Ds support a constructive, trust-based relationship between the EU and Russia, and while we are critical of negative trends in Russian domestic politics, we also recognise shared interests. We continue to call for a genuine partnership between European and Russian society, including a gradual phase-out of visas. We believe that the EU-Russia relationship should be about shared responsibilities in our neighbourhood and globally, and we continue our efforts to promote critical engagement and dialogue.
The EU is China’s biggest trading partner while China is the EU’s largest source of imports. This is a major source of wealth, jobs, development and innovation on both sides, but EU-China relations also have a global significance. We consistently highlight the significant challenges China has to overcome – including on social security, workers' rights, trade union activities, environmental protection and human rights – and these issues are a priority during discussions with our Chinese counterparts. On regional tensions involving China, the S&Ds emphasise the need for dispute resolution following international rules and standards.
The political situation in Iran is an international issue where the EU should speak out more strongly. We have taken a consistent position, favouring dialogue with Iran, to defuse tensions and resolve disagreements, aiming for a step-by-step normalisation of relations. US and EU sanctions have a negative social and economic impact on Iranians and we remain convinced that diplomatic means rather than military options are needed to solve the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme. We also backed the Iranian human rights activists, Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi, who won the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 2012.
Few regions in the world have so much in common with Europe as Latin America. The S&Ds understand the plural, diverse and changing political landscape in Latin America, and its ongoing challenges of social inequality, poverty and social injustice. We continue to work towards ambitious and constructive dialogue and deeper strategic alliances with Latin America. Our aim is to promote social cohesion and tackle inequality, to support democratisation and human rights, and to encourage sustainable development, environmental protection and regional co-operation.
Therefore, we have constantly pushed to include binding rules on social, working and environmental standards in trade negotiations. The S&Ds successfully fought to ensure the EU's free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru also included a roadmap on improving human rights and labour standards. We support the ongoing negotiations for an ambitious, balanced and comprehensive agreement with Mexico, to make sure both parties benefit fully.
The S&Ds play a leading role in the European Parliament in supporting the people of Africa, addressing humanitarian and development needs, and promoting the values of democracy and good governance. At the beginning of the new millennium, the EU launched a new dialogue with Africa which aimed to build a strategic partnership with the continent. In recent years, the EU has also been active in responding to the Arab Spring in North Africa and to serious challenges in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa regions. Actions intended to address instability in these regions must form part of a broader strategy involving good governance, development, humanitarian action and restoring the rule of law.
Rapid economic growth and progress on reducing poverty has brought improvements for Africa. The S&D Group has worked hard to ensure the Sustainable Development Goals agreed at the UN Summit in September 2015 were as ambitious as possible. We believe the EU should lead with one strong voice on international development and EU countries must deliver on committing 0.7 % of their income to Official Development Aid. Sustainable development and eradicating poverty must be global priorities.
Promoting gender equality is of great importance, especially when it comes to education and health. Women can play a crucial role in fighting against discrimination and for development, for example on improving maternal health and reducing child mortality rates. Promoting universal access to drinking water and sanitation should also be a priority.