European Parliament President Martin Schulz said Thursday that he will not seek a new mandate and instead go into German politics, where he could become the main opponent to Chancellor Angela Merkel in next year’s elections.
Schulz, a Social Democrat (SPD), made the impromptu statement at the EU legislature.
He has been European Parliament President since 2012 and said that deciding against seeking a third term, “didn’t come easy.”
The 28-nation EU has come under increasing pressure since the 2008 economic crisis and Schulz said “a lot of trust was lost.”
Yet, since Germany is ever more the fundamental cornerstone of the EU, Schulz feels the EU cause can be served from Berlin, too.
“My commitment to the European project is unwavering. From now on I will be fighting for this project from the national level, but my values do not change,” he said.
His decision leaves open who will succeed him. Most likely, it would be someone from the Christian-Democrat EPP group, the largest in parliament. The EPP, however, already has the EU Council presidency with Donald Tusk and the EU Commission presidency with Jean-Claude Juncker.
In his statement to reporters in Brussels, Schulz gave no further details on whether he might seek the post of German foreign minister or run as a candidate to succeed the conservative chancellor in the parliamentary elections due in September.
Schulz’s SPD is currently a junior partner in the coalition led by Merkel, who announced last week she would seek a fourth term as chancellor.
The party is badly in need of a strong candidate since Merkel has reigned supreme in national politics since 2005. Party chairman Sigmar Gabriel still has to decide whether to run against Merkel, opening the way for Schulz to make a challenge. Schulz is a strong speaker, rarely shy to speak his convictions.
The 60-year-old has been an SPD member for over 40 years and was mayor of Wuerselen, near Aachen in western Germany, before moving to the European Parliament.