Merkel's party asks EU parliament chief to go when term ends
By Eric Maurice
European Parliament (EP) president Martin Schulz should leave his post at the end of his term and give way to a center-right MEP, officials from chancellor Angela Merkel's party in Germany have said.
Schulz, a German social-democrat, has been head of the EP since January 2012. His current term runs until the end of the year.
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While MEPs are elected for five years, an EP president's term is two and a half years long and the parliament's two main parties, the center-right EPP and the social-democrat S&D, traditionnally alternate the presidency.
But Schulz, who was a candidate for the European Commission top job in 2014, got a second term as a consolation prize after his defeat by current commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
He has not yet announced that he would run for a third term, but this is the general expectation in Brussels.
"There is an agreement, which is to change when his term ends. And given that Mr. Schulz is a man of honour, I assume he will stick to his own commitment," Julia Kloeckner, a vice-president of the CDU, the christian-democrat party of chancellor Merkel, told Die Welt newspaper on Wednesday.
The call for Schulz to step aside comes after the Brexit vote in the UK drew criticism from Germany towards EU institution leaders.
Some German media, including Die Welt, and unnamed ministers have called for Juncker to resign over his personal behaviour, some of his policy ideas and his handling of Brexit.
Schulz's is also being targeted by CDU officials, as disagreements between coalition partners in Berlin increase.
"The SPD stands for everything that makes people angry at Europe," CDU secretary general Peter Tauber said also in Die Welt, referring to Schulz' Social Democrat Party, which governs in a coalition with the CDU.
Since the British vote to leave the EU, several SPD politicians, including foreign affairs minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have called for more EU intregration.
The CDU, including Merkel and finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble have warned against such a move in the face of public distrust towards the EU.
Schulz himself on Monday called for a "genuine EU government" that would be directly elected and under the control of the European Parliament and a second house that would represent member states.
"We must clearly define what citizens can and must expect in certain areas of the EU,” Schulz wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
So far no MEP from the centre-right EPP group has openly said he would be a candidate to succeed Schulz.
The obvious EPP candidate would be the group's leader, Manfred Weber. But as a German member of the CSU, the Bavarian branch of the CDU, it could prove difficult to install another German at the parliament helm for a third term in a row.
A source in the EP told EUobserver on Wednesday morning that Schulz' succession has not been discussed yet but that some EPP MEPs have started to speak about it.
"Some says that Schulz should rather inform us about his retirement plans than talk about the future of Europe," the source said.