Presidents of the European Parliament are usually self-inflated town mayors with pastoral skills. They perform solemn speeches on stage and they are affable and pleasing. But not the current President Herr Schulz, Martin Schulz to be precise. Although he started as mayor of the German town Würselen, he lacks pastoral qualities. Schulz is a man who wants power and who, if necessary, ruthlessly imposes his will. His next ambition: President of the European Commission.
The 27 EU leaders who reached an agreement on the European Multiannual Financial Framework do not yet fully realize who they are dealing with in the person of Schulz. They see the village mayor from Würselen and the celebrated Rhineland carnival orator. In short: the farcical Provinzprinz. The European Council, however, faces a man who led his Socialist Group in the European Parliament in - according to a former member of the group - a "tyrannical manner". He ruled with an "iron fist". Some group members felt that the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had a point when in 2003 he jokingly depicted Schulz as prison camp guard. With that comment, Berlusconi also made Schulz world famous. German Chancellor Schroeder immediately pushed Schulz forward as leader of the European Socialists.
Even before the agreement was reached in the European Council, Schulz bluntly stated that he would not sign a multi-annual budget with a "deficit", even if the European Parliament was in favour. His signature is the legal requirement. The word 'deficit' is also misleading because the European Union has never been able to actually pay all its commitments. There is always money left because projects are cancelled or postponed because co-financing by the Member States is lacking. Schulz calls this difference a "deficit" in order to be able to call upon the doctrine of fiscal discipline in the monetary union. He then presents himself as the "guardian of fiscal discipline". Convenient, but deceptive. Schulz knows his files, but he twists some details and those who do not agree with him are then accused of being 'anti-European'. As Chairman of the Socialist Group, he often advised EU critics to report to an Irrenanstalt, a madhouse. His intellectual tolerance is located close to zero. He was elected as President of the Parliament with 387 of 680 votes. Not a large, loving majority. In the vote on the seat of the European Parliament (Strasbourg, Brussels, or like now, both?) Schulz 'forgot' to vote.
The life of Schulz is colourful. For a man who did not finish high school he has come a long way on willpower. He trained as a bookseller and had a bookstore. Little is known about that time. Schulz is also a fan of football. His political style of play is more reminiscent of the kicking Toni Schumacher, former goalkeeper of his favourite team FC Köln, than of Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer. Schulz is primarily a self-made man, which is a good tradition in the SPD, the mother of European social democracy. He is a Macher, not a Denker. One time (for example in the Dutch De Volkskrant of 18 October 2012) he speaks out for an EU that through a certain competence catalogue limits itself to: international trade, monetary union, migration and the environment. The next time he condemns the return of powers to Member States as 're-nationalization'. Apart from the compulsive mantra 'more Europe' he lacks consistent vision and empathy. Signore Schulz called on Italians 'not to vote for Berlusconi'. The opposite happened.
He does not lack Wille zur Macht. Schulz rejects the agreement on the multiannual budget. The European Parliament will undoubtedly follow him in majority. Then he must negotiate with the European Council. The budget is his Chefsache. He will, however, be cautious in view of his next ambition: the Presidency of the European Commission. Groups in the European Parliament may put forward candidates from within their own ranks to succeed the current Commission President José Manuel Barroso next year. The European Council shall decide on the candidates, after which the European Parliament has to ratify this decision again. Because of all the austerity policies, European socialists have the opportunity to achieve a good election result. Schulz will then be their candidate. If in the meantime the SPD is part of the government in Berlin, Schulz is in.
Herr Schulz from Würselen as head of the European Commission? A man who rules with an iron fist leading Europe. A man with a willpower that far exceeds his intellectual insight and judgment, let alone his pastoral gifts. Reine Macht; wenig Vernunft. It is an uncomfortable thought. Schulz has many qualities, but a Brussels bridge comes into view. A bridge too far.