Wednesday

23rd Aug 2017

Focus

Schulz approved as Socialist candidate for commission presidency

There will never be a United States of Europe, according to the newly-crowned top Socialist candidate for the European elections.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz was endorsed by the Party of European Socialists (PES) at a congress in Rome on 1 March. He will be the PES’ election frontrunner and its first-ever official candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.

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“Speaking from my experience of 20 years in the European Parliament, I know that we will never have a United States of Europe,” Schulz said on the eve of his nomination, at a meeting with young voters organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

He also lashed out at EU regulatory overreach, singling out last year’s botched attempt by the EU commission to ban refillable olive oil bottles from restaurant tables.

In his acceptance speech the following day, Schulz said he would want the EU executive “to focus on the important worldwide challenges,” delegating minor issues to national and local authorities.

“I strongly believe that everything that can be better done on a local, regional or national level, should be done on a local, regional or national level. I don't want Europe to do everything,” he said.

He spoke as The Guardian newspaper reported that the British Labour Party refused to back his candidacy because he was seen as “an arch federalist and fiscally irresponsible.”

The German-born politician focused on more orthodox centre-left themes in the rest of his speech.

“My first priority will be jobs – good jobs,” he pledged. “During the next five years, for every action we take in the European Union, we must be able to answer a simple question: How will this help to create jobs?”

He promised tougher action against tax evasion, stricter regulation of the markets – including a financial transaction tax and caps on bankers’ bonuses – a European system of minimum wages, a “Bill of Digital Rights” to safeguard online privacy, an innovation-based “smart and sustainable reindustrialization policy,” and socially- and environmentally-conscious international trade deals.

Schulz is banking that EU leaders will accept to be constrained by the outcome of the EU elections, endorsing the principle that the next commission president should come from the party that wins the vote. The PES’ main rivals – the conservative European People’s Party - are to name their frontrunner at a March 6-7 congress in Dublin.

But in the past, top EU jobs have been allocated on the basis of back room deals. It is seen as unlikely that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others will want to break with tradition.

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