More than 350 leaders and representatives from some 110 political parties and organisations gathered in Athens for the Council meeting of the Socialist International (SI) on 30-31 January 2006. (List of participants)
Hosted by the organisation’s member party in Greece, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK, the two-day meeting was held under the main theme "Peace, Democracy, Solidarity - among peoples, across cultures", underlining the commitment of the global social democratic movement - a movement which takes strength from its very diversity - to reinforce international cooperation based on common values and principles, and its belief in a common humanity.
The Council, which includes all SI member parties and organisations, had on this occasion the specific and important task of electing the President of the Socialist International. The members of the Council, completing a process of nominations which began in June 2005, elected George A. Papandreou, leader of PASOK, as President, who declared to the assembled members in Athens: "With your help, we will all work hard to keep the flame of social democracy burning. A flame of hope for this challenging world."
The discussions on the main theme were led by a number of keynote speakers, who addressed the Council in the morning session of the first day: Prime Minister of Portugal, José Socrates, General Secretary of the Socialist Party, PS; President of the Malian National Assembly, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, President of the Assembly for Mali, RPM; François Hollande, First Secretary of the Socialist Party of France; Mohamed Elyazghi, First Secretary of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, USFP, Morocco; Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the Party of European Socialists; Deniz Baykal, Chair of the Republican People’s Party, CHP, Turkey; Alfred Gusenbauer, Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Austria; Rolando Araya, National Liberation Party of Costa Rica; Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven, Dutch Labour Party; Piero Fassino, National Secretary of the Democrats of the Left, DS, Italy; Elio Di Rupo, Chair of the Socialist Party, PS, of Belgium, and special guest Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation. Other party leaders and speakers also participated in this debate. (Speakers on the main theme) (Statement)
Three panel discussions under the main theme then followed. The first one in the afternoon of the first day entitled ‘For a peaceful, stable and integrated Balkans: the Social Democratic approach’ was introduced by Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and by the President of the Romanian Social Democratic Party, Mircea Geoana, and had as panellists, the President of Serbia and Leader of the Democratic Party, Boris Tadic; the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi; and the leader of the Socialist Party of Albania, Edi Rama, with contributions on the way forward for the region, a discussion in which several other delegates participated. (Speakers on the first panel) (Statement)
The second panel had the title 'Working for peace and democracy in the Middle East’ and counted with panellists from the member parties of the region, including Amir Peretz, leader of the Israel Labour Party, Ilan Halevi from Fatah, Palestine, and Roby Nathanson from Yachad, Israel, followed by further contributions. (Speakers on the second panel) (Statement)
The third and final panel debate on the morning of the second day focused on the issue of ‘Overcoming poverty and inequality: global priorities for our movement today’ with the former Prime Minister Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Party for Democracy and Socialism of Niger, PNDS; Minister of Development Cooperation, Carin Jämtin of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, SAP; and the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Leader of the Mauritius Labour Party as panellists. Several other party leaders and delegates contributed to the discussion. (Speakers on the third panel) (Statement)
At the conclusion of its debates, the Council meeting adopted specific resolutions on each theme on the agenda. On other matters, four new Vice-Presidents were elected to positions on the Presidium which were due for decision by the Council in accordance with SI statutes: Prime Minister José Socrates, General Secretary of the Socialist Party of Portugal; Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Denmark; Eero Heinäluoma, Chair of the Finnish Social Democratic Party; and Amir Peretz, Leader of the Israeli Labour Party. Equally, the Council took decisions regarding the Chairs of two of its regional committees: Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and Mircea Geoana were elected Co-Chairs of the SI Committee for South Eastern Europe; and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of the Norwegian Labour Party and Piero Fassino were elected Co-Chairs of the SI Middle East Committee. On matters relating to membership, the Council agreed to recommend full membership in the Socialist International for the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Social Democratic Party, Serbia, and the Socialist Party of Ukraine. In addition, the Council adopted the organisation's budget and membership fees for 2006.
The meeting also received a report by the Secretary General of the Socialist International, Luis Ayala, on the activities and initiatives of the organisation since the last Council.