Thursday

30th Mar 2017

MEPs upset over Schulz's double role as president and candidate

  • Schulz (r) wants to become the next European Commission president (Photo: europarl.euroopa.eu)

A majority of MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday (16 April) said Martin Schulz must explain how he is able to run a campaign and fulfil his role as European Parliament President at the same time.

The outgoing leader was already under fire after he censored a paragraph critical of his stewardship in the budgetary control committee's discharge report earlier this month.

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But MEPs on Wednesday in an article in the report are asking the centre-left chief to clarify the separation of tasks in his bid to become the next president of the European Commission.

A large majority of 365 MEPs with only 190 against (and 82 abstentions) then approved the report.

Internal parliament rules require that the office of the parliament president be "politically neutral".

But the report suggests Schulz may be using parliament money to foot the bill of his campaign, which includes travel expenses and salaries of staff in his cabinet and in the parliament's information offices.

The article notes that "no distinction has been made between the two roles; calls for clear segregation of office holders' functions, following the Commission's approach, so that Union taxpayers do not have to pay for the election campaigns of European list leaders".

German centre-right Ingeborg Grassle, who is the group's co-ordinator in the budgetary control committee, is asking him to resign as parliament chief.

"Martin Schulz must get off the pitch and lay down his office in order not to confuse the role of politically neutral parliament president with that of lead candidate of the European Socialist Party," she said in a statement.

Going to court

German Liberal Michael Theurer, who chairs the budgetary control committee, told this website he would not rule out taking Schulz to the EU's top court in Luxembourg.

The committee's vice-chair, Green MEP Bart Staes, said he would back Theurer.

The threat was already announced Monday, when Theurer challenged Schulz at the opening of the plenary.

Meanwhile, Theurer told the plenary the President does not have the legal right to remove a paragraph from the committee report that accused him of obstructing the committee's work.

The deleted paragraph notes members of the committee had been invited by the Belgian court to stand witness in a case involving the former Maltese commissioner for health, John Dalli. Schulz withheld the invitation for several months.

He also postponed committee hearings on the case, which involves accusations against senior officials at the European Commission.

Schulz struck back.

He pointed out other critical amendments about his role in the report have not been removed.

"I get the feeling that maybe you are wrong about this as well because the amendments referring to me have been accepted," he told Theurer.

He said the decision to remove the paragraph on Dalli was taken by the party group leaders in the so-called Conference of Presidents.

"These are on-going proceedings, proceedings that the Maltese state has opened against a commissioner of the European Union," he said.

In a letter sent last week to Theurer, Schulz also noted that the Dalli case took place in 2013, while the discharge report is for 2012.

Theurer, for his part, said the Dalli case dates back to the end of the 2012.

Agenda

EU top candidates debate twice this WEEK

Campaigning for the EU elections gets in full swing this week, with two debates scheduled among the four top candidates of the main political groups.

Eurozone bank needs more scrutiny, says NGO

Transparency International says eurozone's central bank is not subject to "appropriate democratic scrutiny" and should have no say on EU bailout projects.

Analysis

From Bratislava to Rome: Little more than a show of unity

The so-called Bratislava process of reflection for the EU came to an end on Saturday, but there were few tangible results that citizens could take away from the soul-searching. Despite that, unity among the EU-27 has been maintained.

Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

EU 27 leaders in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Rome, in bid to counter rising challenges after Brexit. But new ideas are scarce.

Opinion

Birthday wishes to the European Union

With the EU soon to celebrate its 60th birthday, there are still lingering questions about the bloc's future and whether there can be a change in fortune.

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