German leadership warfare in the European Parliament

EPA / Hannibal Hanschke

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) and European Parliament President Martin Schulz pose during the opening of the 'Europa Experience' exhibition in the European House in Berlin, Germany, 12 May 2016.

The European Parliament looks more and more like the hunger games these days, with an unprecedented power struggle in the administration for control, and the political level for the next Parliament Presidency.


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The battle for control

 

Tensions are high in the upper echelon of the European Parliament, where the clash between Secretary-General, Klaus Welle and the President, Martin Schulz seem to be escalating. The latest escalation on this German-on-German confrontation was caused involuntarily(?) by the European Commission Secretary-General, Alexander Italianer.

An insider told Kassandra that Welle was looking to see certain peers promoted, and discussed this desire to his counterpart in the Commission. Italianer, who seemingly did not want to get involved. Italianer allegedely communicated with Schulz to ask him his opinion on the matter.

Schulz is also favoured by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker to stay on for an unprecedented third term in office, so Italianer’s move may have been more political tactics than tact.

Needless to say, Schulz was furious with the matter, and expressed his discontent. Schulz, who is not new to the game, has recently appointed his chief of staff and longtime aide, Markus Winkler,  as deputy secretary general of the institution in a move that has raised a lot of eyebrows (and concern).

The Schulz-Welle personal rivalry aside, the real issue question to be asked is who should take the decisions for the day-to-day life of administration. The issue of the theoretical independence of the administration from politics needs to be examined more thoroughly.

Welle, in this case, holds the moral high ground.

The war for the Presidency and the German battleground

With the two frontrunners for Schulz’s position, Alain Lamassoure, and Antonio Tajani, having lost much of their moment (each for different reasons), Schulz has only few opponents to fear. One such opponent, the fourth German to join this story, is Manfred Weber, whose power as the leader of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, is considered too much for the Socialists.

While NE’s Alexandros Koronakis had named Weber a contender, he ruled Weber an unlikely successor in January due to “the implausibility of yet another term under a German President”, yet the UK referendum and shifts in European politics have fundamentally changed the balance of power, and Weber ticks all the boxes.

Were deals made to be broken

Athough the S&D Group have committed to an alternating Presidency of the European Parliament, Kassandra is told that the Socialists would potentially break the deal in the case the EPP Group supports a candidacy of Weber. In that case, Kassandra learns that the S&D is considering pushing their own candidate with the support from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

Schulz personally is increasingly pushing to stay on for a third term. Vice-Chancellor and SPD Leader Sigmar Gabriel and Foreign Affairs Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, are both signalling that it is not the right time to come back home.

Indeed, a key position like the one of the EP president is considered a key asset in view of the next German general elections, which is why German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s party members are also pressing in this direction.

Juncker favouring Schulz and the current institutional balance of power is an important factor, particularly for those who follow the mantra ‘never change the leadership at a time of crisis’.

In may, EPP secretary General, Antonio López-Istúriz White, was adamant about the next Parliament President being from the EPP, and told New Europe that:

“Schulz has … been a very political President of the European Parliament if compared to his predecessors. And, although I don’t agree with many of his political initiatives, I must recognize that he has added a political dimension to this position. This is good for the visibility of the institution. I hope that the next candidate for president of the parliament from the EPP will work on the same line”.

 

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