Schulz attacked over political appointments

  
Martin Schulz. Berlin, 2006. [Shutterstock]

Green MEPs have rallied against appointments in the European Parliament administration involving its president, Martin Schulz, in the run-up to the EU elections, in which he is a candidate for the Commission presidency.

The Green faction in Parliament protested against a number of of high-ranking appointees in the EU Parliament administration that were approved by the EU Parliament bureau late on Monday (14 April), claiming they were politically motivated.

“In bulldozing through the appointments of his aides to high-ranking posts in the Parliament’s administration […] Martin Schulz has demonstrated a disdain for this house and the democratic process,” Belgian MEP and Green transparency spokesperson Bart Staes said in a statement.

Earlier, a majority of MEPs had criticised the appointments, saying the Parliament president had outpaced MEPs in reforming the procedure for such decisions.

Schulz’ cabinet confirmed that the appointments agreed on Monday included 7 persons close to the centre-right EPP, 3 to the socialist S&D, 2 to the liberal ALDE, 1 to the conservative ECR group and 1 to the Greens. The Greens, however, contest this information (see positions below).

In his statement, Staes said: “Political nominations by the two largest groups have gotten out of hand […] There is an urgent need to properly reform the process of recruiting positions in the administration.”

Controversy over Schulz campaign

As the campaign for the May EU elections moves up a gear, Schulz faces fierce criticism for combining his Parliament president role with that of a campaign figurehead for the socialist PES party.

In the April plenary session, members of the European Parliament called on Schulz to resign, requesting the president leaves office to take on his campaign for EU Commission presidency. MEPs also requested information on how Schulz will separate his duties as Parliament president from his political tour across Europe to campaign for the EU executive’s lead role.

On Wednesday (16 April), MEPs are expected to repeat their call for him to step down, in a paragraph added to a resolution on the EU budget discharge.

So far, Schulz’ entourage declined to comment on whether the president should step down, stating that Schulz “is president of the EP until 1 July 2014”.

Earlier, Schulz was scorned because he transformed his European Parliament President Twitter account with some 80,000 followers into a campaign account, and opened a second Parliament President account where he has only gathered some 4,000 followers so far.

EU campaign tour opens on Friday

With less than six weeks to go before polls open across EU member states, the German socialist is in full campaign mode. After this week’s plenary session, he is set to kick-start his grand tour across Europe at an event in Paris.

Martin Schulz is still fulfilling his duties as Parliament president during the tour, his campaign team admitted. The German socialist will represent the EU Parliament on a trip to Italy on 24 April, in Slovakia on 30 April and in Germany on 8 May, just hours before appearing in an election debate on German television.

Julian Priestley, who manages Schulz’ election campaign, said “there will be a clear distinction between his activities, the costs and resources” as Parliament president, and those incurred as the PES EU election candidate.

His main contender to get the EU Commission presidency is Jean-Claude Juncker, who travels to Helsinki and Riga this week. Other party figureheads for the EU election include Guy Verhofstadt (liberals), José Bové and Ska Keller (Greens) and Alexis Tsipras (Left).

Positions: 

[Update: 16/4, 12:30] Belgian MEP and transparency spokesperson for the Greens group, Bart Staes, reacted to Schulz' cabinet's statements in the article, saying: "Martin Schulz is distorting the debate by saying one appointment is linked to The Greens group. Our own secretary-general informed me he has no knowledge of any links between an appointee and our group. The president should let us know who this one person is - we are simply baffled by this claim."

Timeline: 
  • 14-17 April: Last plenary session of the 2009-2014 European Parliament.
  • 28 April: (Provisional) date for a presidential debate at the Maastricht University, The Netherlands.
  • 8 May: Debate between PES and EPP, organised in Berlin by ORF and ZDF.
  • 15 May: Date for a presidential debate in the EP in Brussels, organised by the EBU.
  • 20 May: Debate between PES and EPP, organised by ARD.
  • 22-25 May: Elections for European Parliament
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