Schulz back as centre-left leader, but only for one month
By Benjamin Fox
Socialist Spitzenkandidat Martin Schulz will take back his old job as leader of the Parliament’s centre-left S&D group on Wednesday (18 June), but only for a matter of weeks.
He will be re-elected unopposed to lead the parliament’s second largest group, which he already headed between 2004 and 2012. But his second stint as group leader comes with a July deadline, by which time the EU’s top jobs are due to have been decided upon.
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The S&D will then hold fresh elections for their long-term leader.
The Socialists hope Schulz will be appointed by Angela Merkel as Germany’s next commissioner and will bag a major economic or foreign affairs portfolio in the EU executive. But this is far from guaranteed, with Merkel’s christian democrat party unwilling to give their social democrat coalition partners another major post.
“There's at least one plan B for Martin Schulz,” the group’s outgoing leader, Hannes Swoboda, told reporters on Tuesday.
“We fought with Schulz as our candidate … and it’s no secret that we would like Schulz in the commission,” said Swoboda, adding that Schulz, who was widely recognised as having performed strongly during the campaign, “would have got more support if [the commission presidency] had been elected directly” and “must have recognition”.
The S&D is the last major Parliament group to resolve its leadership questions.
Last week, the centre-right EPP group, which with 221 seats remains the Parliament’s largest political group, elected Bavarian christian democrat Manfred Weber as its leader.
Meanwhile, Guy Verhofstadt remains leader of the Liberal MEPs, while Syed Kamall is the new leader of the eurosceptic Conservative and Reformist group. Philippe Lamberts has joined Rebecca Harms as co-president of the Green MEPs.
His election to the group leadership means that Schulz will stand down with immediate effect as the parliament’s president.
In a quirk of the system, this means that Italian deputy Gianni Pitella is promoted from his post as vice-president of parliament to become the acting president.
Pitella, whose delegation of 31 MEPs is now the largest national bloc in the S&D bloc, has been touted as the likely long-term replacement of Swoboda, as well as a candidate for the leadership of the parliament. By recent convention, the centre-right EPP group, the largest in the assembly, and the Socialists have kept the parliament presidency between themselves.
The carve-up of the parliament’s internal posts, including the chairmanship of its legislative committees, will be decided within the next two weeks before MEPs convene in Strasbourg in early July for the assembly’s constitutive session.