Why should Martin Schulz be the next president of the European Commission? SPÖ Presse und Kommunikation

(Read the German translation here: Warum sollte Martin Schulz Kommissionspräsident werden?)
This article is the first of a series of pro and con writings on the candidates for the European Commission presidency, Martin Schulz and Jean Claude Juncker. This project is the result of a partnership between OneEurope and treffpunkteuropa.de.

Next May 25th, 500 millions of European will be asked to choose their 751 representatives at the European Parliament (EP), for the next five-year term. 

This year’s elections are the 8th of this kind, after the direct and universal suffrage for the European Parliament was first introduced in 1979. However, this year, following the recently approved Lisbon Treaty and pursuant to the provisions of article 16 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU), these elections will bear a direct influence on the nomination of the next president of the European Commission (EC). 

This institution, by promoting the general interest of the European Union (EU) and holding the power of legislative initiative, ensures the implementation of the Treaties and the Law of European Union, under the supervision of the Court of Justice of the European Union. 

According to article 16 of the TEU, the president of the European Commission should set the guidelines within which the Commission is to work; decide on the internal organisation of the Commission; ensure that it acts consistent and efficiently and as a collegiate body; and appoints Vice-Presidents, other than the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, among the members of the Commission. This has been thought as a way to bridge the perceived gap between European citizens and European elites, reconciling the “idea of Europe” with the expectations of its citizenry.

This year’s European elections empower European citizens more than ever before: the composition of the EP will determine the choice of president for the European Commission, who will be elected through majority vote. Therefore, EU member-state leaders, who ultimately propose the candidate for the EP presidency, will have to take into account the EP’s electoral results.

Martin Schulz, current president of the European Parliament and leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the EP, was put forward by the Party of European Socialists as their candidate for the position of president of the European Commission, in their congress last March, in Rome. 

But who is Martin Schulz?

Martin Schulz was born in Eschweiler on the 20th December 1955. Student in a private high school held by the Congregation of Saint-Esprit, he became member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1974, aged 19. In 1984, he was elected to Wurselen City Council. At age 31, he became the younger burgomaster in North Rhine-Westphalia. 

Schulz firstly entered the European Parliament in the 1994 elections, and was re-elected in 1999, 2004 and 2009. In the 1994 European elections, Martin Schulz was elected and it will be in 1999, 2004 and 2009. Featuring an increasingly prominent role, Martin Schulz was nominated by the S&D as their candidate for the presidency of the European Parliament and won the election in January 2012.

What program for this new Europe? 

Martin Schulz reasons that, nowadays, the European idea is being held back by heavy bureaucracies, frustrating its democratic values and aspirations. Alike Angela Merkel, he wishes to place the European Commission at the center of the executive power, constrained and held accountable by the European Parliament. Clearly, an institution such as this, holding the monopoly on legislative proposals, should be backed by solid democratic legitimacy. Moreover, Schulz argues that the Commission should act in areas where member-states are faced with certain limitations, such as the fight against tax evasion, tax havens, climate change and the implementation of a banking union.

The choice of Martin Schulz will imply a new economic thinking for the EU: seeking to combine budgetary disciple and economic recovery, Schulz wants to establish youth unemployment as the economic priority of his mandate. He would also not be against the creation of a budget specifically for the Eurozone countries, provided it is placed within a wider European budget, although he remains concerned with the issue of member-states contributions.

Another top priority of his presidency would be the fight against Euroscepticism and stirring a livelier and nuanced European debate, which will not be reduced to a standoff between its “pros” and “cons”. He wants to provide the floor for different models for Europe to debate constructively and cooperate, combining a center left and a center right Europe, a liberal and a socialist Europe. In summary, Schulz supports an active Europe, where public argumentation and debate contribute to improve and deepen its efforts of integration, instead of destroying it.

Why does Martin Schulz possess the right skills?

This candidate has the necessary quality to ensure the successful undertaking of such responsibilities. We all remember the diplomatic incident dating back to the 2nd July 2003, involving the then Italian Prime-Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, where Martin Schulz showed remarkable calmness and charisma. Even though his supporters are the first to acknowledge his impulsiveness, Schulz has been consecutively impressing American leaders, who hail him as a wise person who is trying to improve the ties between the European Parliament and the Congress of the United States of America (U.S.A). It is equally noteworthy that Schulz currently enjoys good relations with both the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President François Hollande, often playing a mediating role.

Thus, Martin Schulz is the President of the European Commission we need. A man who is aware of, and genuinely concerned by, the everyday struggle currently faced by many European constituents. History has shown how contexts of crisis, war and suffering have proven to be windows of opportunity for the redefinition of ideas and the creation of new hopes and expectations. It happened after the Second World War, and since then the European Union has been synonyms of peace and security.

Now, the current economic crisis and the rise of Euroscepticism must encourage a new redefinition of this idea of Europe: one more democratic and with greater social concerns, closer to its citizens. Martin Schulz can embody this change.


Edited by:
Margarida Hourmat
Photo credits:
SPÖ Presse und Kommunikation via Flickr