2. For whom the bell tolls in Germany
Germany France EU
Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat candidate for chancellor in Germany’s election this fall, paid a visit to Paris with a message for French President Emmanuel Macron: I’d be a better partner than Angela Merkel.
In a speech at Sciences Po university on Thursday, the former European Parliament president called for a “new political departure, an impetus for the future.”
“Germany and France — not alone, but of course with other partners — should be that impetus,“ Schulz said. “And I am addressing the French president directly.“
“After the presidential election in France and the Bundestag election in Germany in the autumn, there is a time window that must be used,” he added, offering his support for a series of EU reforms proposed by Macron.
Schulz’s visit to the French capital was in many ways the mirror image of a trip Macron — then a mere presidential candidate — took to Berlin in March, when he participated in a panel debate at a university (box checked), gave interviews to newspapers (wait for Le Monde to publish) and was received by the country’s leader for a private conversation (box checked; Schulz spent an hour and a half at the Elysée Palace after his speech and debate).
Schulz also has a bigger mountain to climb at home than Macron did.
In another echo of Macron’s strategy, he offered words likely to be music to the ears of his hosts. Just as Macron promised French budget discipline, Schulz pledged more German public spending, potential transfers to other countries included.
“We urgently need more investment in Europe,” Schulz said. “For me, this also means that Germany needs to invest more.”
Schulz’s election manifesto calls for an “investment obligation” to be placed on the German government, because, he said, “Germany, if it invests more, can contribute even more to growth and prosperity in Europe” and could also contribute to “the economic imbalances in the eurozone being wiped out.”
There are, however, important differences between Schulz’s pre-election position and that of candidate Macron.
The German political elite was moved to embrace Macron out of fear that far-right leader Marine Le Pen could be elected president. Now, President Macron can afford to sit and wait to discover who will be his partner outre-Rhin after the German election in September, Merkel or Schulz. (Or possibly both if they form a coalition again).
Schulz also has a bigger mountain to climb at home than Macron did. Opinion polls show his party is 14 percentage points behind Merkel’s conservatives.
Schulz, presenting himself as a “convinced European,” said that as chancellor he would deliver on EU reforms others failed to implement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron as he arrives to attend the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017 | Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images
Even though his SPD has been part of the German government for the past fours years, there was little chance to do much on this front, Schulz said, due to “the resistance of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, with the backing of Chancellor Merkel.”
He accused both of slowing down reform efforts outlined in papers such as one on economic and monetary union tabled two years ago by the presidents of European institutions. Schulz was one of those presidents at the time, as head of the European Parliament between 2012 and this past January.