Schulz: Merkel-Sarkozy, the couple of contradictions

Going for a treaty change is unnecessary and the proposal submitted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, being discussed at the EU summit today (8 December), shows the disaccord of the German-French couple, Martin Schulz, leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, told EURACTIV in an interview. 

Tomorrow (9 December), European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek will bring to EU leaders a message from all political groups in the assembly stating they are all against a treaty change, which they find “not necessary", said Schulz.

There is a contradiction – Sarkozy wants more flexibility for the ECB and Merkel doesn't, Merkel wants more budgetary discipline and Sarkozy doesn't. “The so-called German-French couple is in reality a German-French disaccord and in a permanent way,” he said.

“It was just seven weeks ago, when we endorsed the so-called six-pack [on economic governance], that we heard from the European Council: 'This is a historical breakthrough'. And now, seven weeks later, the same people tell us the markets didn’t accept the historical breakthrough, now we need a treaty change,” said the soon-to-be president of the European Parliament.

According to Schulz, the budgetary discipline measures to solve the sovereign debt crisis and restore confidence in the euro are already available. Instead of talking of treaty change, EU leaders should instead decide on the role of the European Central Bank.

Schulz favours to turn the ECB into a lender of last resort. Since taking office, the new ECB president, Mario Draghi, has indicated a willingness to consider greater intervention if plans for a fiscal union and tighter budgetary controls among national governments were on the table.

A treaty change makes sense, he said, unless member states agree about a stability mechanism in the form of a European Monetary Fund through which money is lent to troubled countries.

“If such a decision is taken in the European Council, then a treaty change for more budgetary discipline, especially for those countries which now get the money – let’s say for 2% instead of 7%, and to avoid this money being spent for consumption and used to reduce sovereign debt – then it makes sense,” he stressed, adding that what is currently on the table in unbalanced.

Schulz pointed to his country’s leader, who is acting with a lot of power. “I wonder whether one person can be so strong, only because she is so strong, or because the others are perhaps not strong enough?” he said.

I will raise my voice

Germany is dominating much of the European scene at the moment, Schulz conceded, but he also said this needs to be redressed by responsible EU leaders.

“The so-called communitarian method on which the EU is built upon is not an invention to torture people or to reduce the importance of countries. It was created because within the communitarian institutions, big, middle-sized and small countries can balance their very heterogeneous interests,” he said.

Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy giving orders to others is short-lived, insists the incoming European Parliament president. “The German-French couple acting beside the institutions and then sending letters to the institutions and not asking, but giving more or less instructions on what they have to do. This is for the time being possible, because the others are so weak, but on the long run, this is completely counterproductive,” he argued, promising the Parliament to be more hands-on in the future.

“I think I will raise my voice in front of the 27 powerful or less powerful people in Europe by saying: ‘We are the place of the European democracy,’”  he said, adding that dealing behind closed doors should end.

Martin Schulz was speaking to EURACTIV's managing editor Daniela Vincenti.

Click here to read the full interview.