Martin Schulz stepped down as European Parliament president on Wednesday (18 June), after two years and five months in office. Schulz will continue as group leader of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the EU Assembly.
The first vice-president, Gianni Pittella, takes over as acting president until a new one has been elected during the Parliament’s inaugural plenary session in July.
Schulz has been a socialist member of the Parliament for 20 years and became leader of his political group 10 years ago. On 17 January 2012, the German social democrat assumed office as Parliament president. He was elected with 387 votes in favour out of 670 cast.
Among the most memorable achievements during his presidency, Schulz together with EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU Council President Herman van Rompuy collected the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, on behalf of the EU.
In the Spring of 2014, Schulz was the top candidate for the European Socialists (PES) in the European elections, in an attempt to become the next President of the European Commission.
“I want to win back the citizens’ lost trust in the EU,” Schulz said at the time.
His political campaign focused mostly on fighting youth unemployment, tax fraud, fiscal dumping and gender pay gaps, as well as promising to markedly increase the EU’s investment quota and further develop the European Investment Bank (EIB) into a European Growth Bank.
In Germany, the Social Democrats gained substantially compared to the 2009 European elections, winning 27.2% among German voters, 6.4% more than in last year’s Bundestag elections.
But overall, the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) and their candidate Jean-Claude Juncker won the largest number of seats in Parliament, with Schulz urging EU leaders to listen to the electorate.
The European elections were held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament shall elect the commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, Paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.
The European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for European political parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns. This will make the European elections a de facto race for commission president, politicise the campaigns and could increase voter turnout, they say.
But others have argued that the European parties’ push for their own candidates may not be the best solution. Raising expectations could easily lead to disappointment, Herman Van Rompuy has repeatedly said, calling for caution in case the council chooses another candidate than the winning party’s frontrunner.
- 1 July 2014: Election of the new Parliament president in Strasbourg.