PES elected Martin Schulz as their candidate to be the next President of the EC

So is Schulz the right one? For example British  Labour Party rejects him. What is his biggest weakness and what about his greatest assets? Read few comments by Christian SchweigerLecturer in Government, Department of Politics, Durham University

The question if Schulz is the right candidate for the job depends on your point of view. If you agree with the criticism of the agenda of the Barrosso Commission as having been to liberal, Schulz would be the ideal candidate to offer a fresh start with a new focus on social issues beyond pure market liberalisation. I do not believe that Schulz actually wants to push the EU towards federalisation. In the many recent interviews he gave (including with BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’) he acknowledged the intergovernmental character of the EU and the fact that countries such as the UK do not want to transfer further powers to Brussels. The problem for Schulz is that centre-right leaders like Merkel and Cameron do not share his vision of instilling a new social agenda in the EU. Both made clear during their joint press conference in London this week that the priorities for the new Commission should be to promote growth and jobs, which is essentially the same approach the EU has pursued for more than a decade under the Lisbon Strategy. I would therefore suggest that Merkel and Cameron will promote Juncker as a compromise candidate, although Merkel may come under pressure from her coalition partner SPD to support Schulz.

The Labour Party’s stance to a certain extent surprises me but then again it shows how much even Labour is starting to adapt to the Eurosceptic mainstream opinion in the UK. I do not think that this matters much as I am convinced that the majority of the British public will vote to leave the EU in a public referendum in 2017. The UK is therefore now a member state on the way to the exit and will increasingly lose influence which will boost the influence of countries like Poland (as we have seen in the joint French, German and Polish efforts to mediate in Ukraine with the UK once again opting out).

For Schulz the biggest challenge beyond getting the essential support of member state governments in the Council will be to ensure that the May elections to the European parliament will result in a centre-left majority.The new regulation under the Lisbon Treaty says that the Commission president should chosen by the member state governments ‘taking into account the elections to the European Parliament’ (Article 17, paragraph 7) which is widely interpreted as the need to ensure that the chosen candidate reflects the political majority in the EP. If the centre left dominates the EP after May Schulz and his supporters would have a strong case to argue that he is the person who should lead the Commission, provided that no other centre-left rival candidate emerges. If the the centre-right has the majority in the EP after May I would think that Schulz has little chance to be appointed as Merkel, Cameron and other centre-right leaders will argue that Juncker or another Conservative/Christian Democrat needs to lead the Commission.

Overall I think Schulz has recently conducted himself well by trying to adopt a pragmatic approach to many issues, including Cameron’s demands for treaty negotiation.


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