Left and untamed | TIME ONLINE


Frans Timmermans gets in Warsaw from the subway, an escalator
      It takes him up to Nowy Świat, a boulevard in the city center. Suddenly
      Two dozen young people surround him with European flags. Like a squad of cheerleaders
      she flagged him on his short tour of the city. In front of a cafe where
      Takes Timmermans place, the young people form a trellis; from there it goes on to one
      Memorial plaque commemorating a deceased Social Democrat and feminist. Is that still
      Election campaign or satire? The Jubeltrupp is obviously organized by supporters.
      Puzzled, the passers-by look after the candidate and his cheerleaders.

Frans Timmermans, 58 years old, is currently deputy to Jean-Claude Juncker, now he wants to become president of the European Commission. In the upcoming European elections, the Dutchman is the top candidate of the European Social Democrats. The election campaign of such a top candidate has to be imagined as a game of simultaneous chess – a game in 28 countries. Timmermans has two big advantages. He commands seven languages ​​and he can over Europe speak so vividly and vividly as almost no other. But Timmermans also has a serious disadvantage: he is a Social Democrat.

Warsaw, beginning of April

After all, he is one of the few Brussels politicians who are also recognized outside of Brussels, especially in Poland. As vice president of EU Commission In recent years he has been responsible for the rule of law. The Commission is conducting a rule of law procedure against Poland, accusing the national-conservative government in Warsaw of undermining the independence of the judiciary. For the supporters of the government Timmermans is therefore a constant provocation, they see him as the spawn of a presumptuous Brussels bureaucracy, which disregards the independence of their country. In front of the Palladium, a theater where Timmermans performs after his city tour, they parked a billboard with a picture of him. "They think they are Europe" is written in big letters: "It's time to stop them!" You – these are Timmermans and the Brussels bureaucrats.

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For the Polish opposition, however, Timmermans is a bearer of hope. In the Palladium, spectators celebrate him as an upright fighter for freedom, the rule of law and democracy. Timmermans responds to her sympathy and assures: "I can never imagine an EU without Poland." But at the European elections To be successful, he depends on the success of the social-democratic parties in Europe. They currently hold a quarter of the 751 seats in the European Parliament. According to polls, they could lose up to 50 seats. In Poland, the Social Democrats are not even represented in Parliament at present.

Timmermans is performing in Warsaw together with Robert Biedroń. The former mayor of Slupsk has founded a new party, it is considered progressive and left. Biedroń himself is a pretty upset guy. On the stage of the Palladium, he hops around like a showmaster on coke, sweeping away his jacket, giggling, he prances through the rows of spectators. Timmermans does not quite know what's going to happen to him, but he has no choice but to join the strange show. Biedroń wants to support him, his party could join the European Social Democrats after the European elections. And Timmermans needs every voice.

Madrid, end of February

The candidate, who is supposed to give the Social Democrats a new impetus, has especially enjoyed traveling to Spain in recent months. The Social Democrats are called socialists here, their world seems to be still in order on the Iberian Peninsula. In Spain they have just won the parliamentary election; In Portugal, they have been governing since 2015 and are still close to 40 percent in the polls. Beyond the Pyrenees, Timmermans is looking for what he needs for his campaign more than anything else: hope and confidence.

In the magnificent Teatro Coliseum, the audience is greeted with joyful fervor
Bella ciao,
the song of the Italian partisans. For two days, the Party of European Socialists (PES) will meet in the Spanish capital to discuss electioneering to ring in and vote for their top candidate. Timmermans, as so often in the election campaign in jeans, starts his speech in Spanish and does what he usually does when he speaks in public, he tells a story.

This story is about Frieda Menco. In childhood she had been a friend of Anne Frank, and though she was a Jew herself, she had survived the Shoah. Now she died in Amsterdam at 93. It hurts him, Timmermans says on stage in Madrid, that in her last years the old lady had to watch how anti-Semitism in Europe had grown again. And he promises her posthumously, as it were, to fight against any form of anti-Semitism. Because: "If our Jewish sisters and brothers do not feel safe in Europe, there is no Europe."

The audience is gripped, Timmermans can do that: talk about values ​​and arouse emotions without being embarrassing. In the summer of 2014, when he was still Dutch Foreign Minister, he spoke, even noticeably moved, after the launch of the MH17 scheduled flight over the Eastern Ukraine in the United Nations Security Council. Nearly 300 people died, most of them Dutch. His speech lasted only six and a half minutes, but the papers then wrote that Timmermans "made the world cry." Now, in the election campaign, he faces a much more difficult task: he wants to make his listeners dream.

"Fear has perhaps become the greatest driving force of politics," wrote Timmermans years ago in an essay. Therefore, nothing is more tempting for a politician than to exploit the fear. He wants to try it the other way around, he wants to oppose the fear and the fear makers optimism. "Let our children dream again," shouts Timmermans in Madrid. From Spain and Portugal, he says later, one can learn what constitutes a solidary society: "A society in which everyone participates, in which nobody is discriminated against, in which women and men have the same rights." He would like to transfer this image to the whole of Europe.

Emotions, optimism and some pathos – this is the first part of the answer that Timmermans gives to the current challenges of European politics. And on the crisis of his own party.