Sunday

26th May 2019

Schulz to run against Merkel in Germany

The former European Parliament president, Martin Schulz, is to be the candidate of the Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) in its bid to unseat chancellor Angela Merkel in this year's election.

Schulz should be officially confirmed at a meeting on Sunday, after the party's leader, Sigmar Gabriel decided to stand aside.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Leaving the EU stage, Schulz peldges to fight populism in the German elections as Merkel's main challenger (Photo: European Parliament)

The SPD has been in government with Merkel’s Christian-Democrats (CDU) since 2013, with Gabriel as vice-chancellor and economy minister.

It will attempt to gather enough support to lead a different coalition after the vote, which will likely take place on 24 September.

The 61-year old Schulz is more popular than Gabriel, but has a slim chance of beating Merkel at the ballot box, however.

A recent poll by the Emnid institute for Bild, a German newspaper, said that in a direct vote Schulz would win 38 percent against 39 percent for Merkel.

It said Gabriel would only receive 27 percent of the votes against 46 percent for Merkel.

Merkel’s CDU party leads the SPD by an average 15 percentage points, according to other polls cited by the Reuters news agency.

At a joint news conference in the SPD headquarters in Berlin on Tuesday (24 January), Gabriel praised Schulz for taking a tough stance against right-wing populism across Europe, and said he would fight for social justice and democracy.

Schulz said he would fight the easy solutions offered by populists and extremists.

"With me, there will be no Europe bashing. There will be no hounding of minorities," he said, adding that Germany needed a new leadership in difficult times.

EU credentials

Schulz once wanted to be a footballer and later sold books in Aachen, a German town. Before moving to Brussels, he served as the mayor of the town of Wuerselen near the French border.

He announced in November that he would return to German politics. A member of the European Parliament since 1994, he is a relatively fresh face in German national politics.

He grabbed media attention when former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi likened him to a Nazi camp supervisor in 2003.

He became the EU parliament president in 2012, helping to make it into a more forceful and visible political actor in Brussels.

In 2014, he also ran, unsuccessfully, against former Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker to become president of the European Commission.

Ironically, while Gabriel feels politically tainted by the grand coalition he helped to steer with the centre-right in Berlin, Schulz was instrumental in building a grand coalition between the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists in Brussels.

Schulz’s European credentials might also be his weak spot.

The leader of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Frauke Petry, said on Twitter about Schulz: “Symbol of EU bureaucracy and a deeply divided Europe as chancellor candidate?”.

Gabriel will soon step down as economy minister and become foreign minister, while the current SPD foreign affairs chief, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will become Germany’s president.

Europe’s strongest leader, Merkel, who is running for a fourth term, still seems untouchable.

But she has come under fire from the right over migration, with the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, threatening to run separately, and the far-right AfD gaining momentum while criticising Merkel for welcoming refugees.

EUobserved

Schulz: the end of a one-man parliament

Martin Schulz has been widely credited for raising the profile of the European Parliament during his terms at its helm. But he didn't do much to raise transparency and political accountability of the EU institutions.

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, says the defeat of his social-democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia is "difficult". The elections showed that a "Schulz effect" does not (yet) exist.

News in Brief

  1. Former EU climate chief cheered by 40,000 activists in Denmark
  2. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  3. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  4. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  5. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  6. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  7. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  8. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Turnout up in Slovakia, with pro-EU liberals scoring high
  2. Belgium votes in hybrid EU-national election
  3. Irish greens take Dublin in second EU exit poll
  4. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  5. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  6. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  7. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  8. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us