German socialist Martin Schulz elected EU Parliament chief

German socialist Martin Schulz elected EU Parliament chief 

 Wednesday, January 18, 2012 Print this article Forward this article
Click here to read the original article in The European Jewish Press

The European Jewish Press


Schulz won 387 of 670 votes, including those of the parliament’s biggest group, the European People’s Party (EPP), which had agreed to share at mid-term the five-year president’s mandate with the group of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) headed by Schulz.

In a statement after the vote, Schulz told members that „for the first time since it was founded, the failure of the European Union is a realistic possibility.”

He said Europe needed a „shared understanding that the EU is not a zero-sum game, in which one person must lose so that another can win. The reverse is true : either we all lose — or we all win.”

Schulz was elected with a lower score than Buzek, having faced opposition from two English MEPs campaigning against the agreement among the main Brussels political groupings.

Nirj Deva of the eurosceptic conservative ECR group polled 142 votes, and Diana Wallis of the centrist Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), garnered 141 votes.

Leading eurosceptic MEP Nigel Farage said Schulz was „snarling, angry, intolerant, contemptuous of free referendums,” and topped „two-and-a-half years of political fanaticism.”

Schulz, 56, is a longtime politician who joined Germany’s SPD at the age of 18 and was elected to the European Parliament in 1994. He took the helm of the Socialist group in 2004.

He shot to prominence in 2003 in a row at the assembly with Silvio Berlusconi.

The then Italian premier said Schulz, who had vexed Berlusconi in questions over his media empire, would be perfect in the film role of a „kapo,” a prisoner who worked for the Nazis in concentration camps.

The incident triggered a diplomatic spat between Italy and Germany.

Schulz can express himself in French and English with ease, an asset in a 27-nation assembly of 736 lawmakers.

„He is a staunch European,” the co-leader of the Green group, Franco-German lawmaker Daniel Cohn-Bendit, told AFP.

Schulz will be able to defend the role of EU institutions „in the face of attempts to renationalize” policymaking in the 27-nation bloc, Cohn-Bendit said.

Schulz has vowed to „fight” EU states to defend the powers of the Parliament and reduce the union’s „democratic deficit”.

He is credited with having helped to ensure that the new job of EU foreign and security policy chief be given to a politician from the left in 2009, a post since held by British Labour politician Catherine Ashton.

He does not smoke or drink and is as quick to denounce „casino capitalism” as Franco-German domination of European policymaking.

Regarding Israel, he recently told the Israeli daily Haaretz that Israel “cannot become a member of the EU, but may certainly be granted maximal access to the European markets.”

„As long as the Netanyahu-Lieberman government is in power, even those who theoretically favor Israel’s membership have no chance of persuading others to back the move,” he added.

Asked if the European Parliament would continue under his presidency to block the ratification of agreements aimed at upgrading relations between the EU and Israel, Schulz responded :. „Yes. The Parliament’s decision to block the agreements with Israel stems from the lack of progress in the peace process and from our ambition to pressure the Israeli government to alter this situation.”

He added :” If Israel would seriously act to get out of the dead end, the European Parliament would respond accordingly. As president, I will work to find compromises. Right now, it is my impression that the desire to find these sorts of compromises is greater in the European Parliament than in the government of Israel.”

„As for Israel and Palestine, the EU is absolutely divided, as it always was.”