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03 November 2013

Schulz: Why I am running for President of the European Commission

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In an interview with Le Monde, EP President Schulz explained his reasons and vision for running as candidate to succeed José Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission.

Translated from the French

Why have you chosen to run for the presidency of the Commission, having become the leader of the Socialists in the European elections of May 2014?

The purpose of my candidacy is trying to put Europe back on the right track. Recent developments concern me a lot: We are seeing increasing distrust between citizens and institutions, whether national or European. This discomfort is related to the situation in Europe. People have the feeling that Europe is not fair and that it makes promises that are not kept. I am stepping up to help reconcile the European idea with the citizens' expectations.

What would be the outline of your programme?

We need a combination of sustainable fiscal discipline and an economic stimulus project through strategic investments, as well as fighting against youth unemployment. This will not be done by Europe alone - I am aware, for example, that there will be no fully integrated fiscal policy in the foreseeable future. But we could introduce the principle that taxes are paid where the income is earned. Such a European rule would generate new revenue for states.

What do you think should be the role of the European institutions?

I support the idea of many, including Angela Merkel, that the European Commission should be placed at the executive centre. In that case, the European Parliament would have to control it. Every decision needs parliamentary legitimacy. Whenever you give competences to the Commission, competences for the Parliament have to follow. Each measure decided for the euro area must also be approved by the European Parliament. It is also necessary that the Commission, who has the monopoly of initiative, is democratically legitimised. That is why I am running for this position. 

David Cameron has proposed repatriating certain powers to the states. Do you agree with this idea?

Europe should not do everything. I agree with the idea of repatriating certain powers. Water supply, for example, should be managed regionally, as well as local and regional transport. The closer the level of decision is to the citizens the better. In contrast, Europe needs instruments to act effectively, for example to fight against tax evasion. Agriculture, climate change, taxation, international trade, monetary relations, supervision of financial markets and Banking Union are areas where the capacity of a single state reaches its limits.

Are you, as François Hollande suggests, in favour of a euro area budget that could fund for example an unemployment insurance?

If such a budget existed, it should be integrated into the EU budget. This is who will fund this budget, while most states seek only to reduce their contribution.

Why are you trying to politicise the choice of President of the European Commission?

Major political forces need competition to compare their visions of Europe. The debate should not be reduced to a clash between pro- and anti-Europeans. We must offer a choice between a Europe of the centre-left and the centre-right, between a liberal and a socialist Europe to further its democratisation.

Full interview (in French)

On 6 November, Schulz was confirmed as the Party of European Socialists' (PES) ‘candidate designate’ for Commission President. In spite of earlier promises to organise a primary election, Martin Schulz, who is currently speaker of the EU Parliament, was the only candidate. Out of a total of 32 member parties in the PES, 19 supported him. Among the 13 parties who voted against him figures most notably the French Socialist party.

PES-press release

Comment on Schulz's election by Policy Network

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