Martin Schulz has been confirmed by the Party of European socialists (PES) as candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission which will be renewed in autumn 2014. This is not really a surprise as the current European Parliament chairman and the former PES than Socialist and Democrat (S&D) group leader from 2004 to 2012 was, within the socialist family, the only candidate to the succession of José Manuel Barroso, the current President of the European Commission.
Martin Schulz is going to the conquest of the Berlaymont (the EC headquarter in Brussels) and hopes to put an end to the former Portuguese PM’s current policy he considers as not really efficient. According to the German leader, it is more than necessary that Europe takes a new direction and a new strategy, giving up the “all-austerity” policy which reached its limits and favoured the rise of populisms throughout Europe. To sum up, going to a leftist policy must be the priority to re-launch the European integration, which supposes a strong and full-fledged European Commission.
Considering such a speech, the EP President wants to politicise European elections with a focus on the role of the EC President who would lead a real “government” of the European Union. Indeed, the Lisbon Treaty states that the European Council (which gathers the EU national leaders) takes into account the outcome of the European elections when appointing the next EC leader, which supposes that political groups in the EP and EU parties nominate a head of list. On this point, all the EU parties have started a reflexion aimed at choosing a candidate for the European Commission’s Presidency with the purpose to defend a project and a vision for the European Union in the next years.
Mr Schulz has such a strategy, a federalist strategy, to compensate some weaknesses. Indeed, the current EP leader has never been minister in Germany and, so far, he only has a local experience as mayor. This is a point which should be considered when it is known that usually the European Commission’s leader is chosen amongst people who were minister or head of government before, such as Jacques Delors (French minister of Economy and Finances before becoming EC President in 1985) or José Manuel Barroso (Portugal PM from 2002 to 2004 before being appointed). Nonetheless, his real and perfect mastering of the European Parliament (he has been a member since 1989) and of the “European machine” may be a precious asset in case of a hypothetic socialist victory on the next May. Martin Schulz is clearly aware of it and wants to put his knowledge of the institutions to be credible and considered as a serious challenger vis-à-vis potential rivals such as the Finnish liberal Olli Rehn, the Luxembourgish Christian-democrat Viviane Reding and the French conservative Michel Barnier, all three current members of the European Commission and potential candidates for the succession of Mr Barroso.
So, it is clear that Martin Schulz is the challenger, not to say the outsider for the next EC Presidency. What is more, he will have to be authoritarian and find his place within the socialist family during the upcoming campaign, if he wants to politicise it and appear as a serious and solid candidate especially. At last, he will have to work with socialist national parties in some Member-States harshly hit by the crisis as in Spain, Portugal and Greece especially, which clearly won’t be easy!